Little Names with Big Personalities

Oct 9th 2017


While long and luxurious names have been the favorites of the past decade - Isabella, Alexander, even Charlotte - parents are beginning to gravitate towards names with smaller sounds - Noah, Ava, and Mia, for example. These names may only have a few letters, but they’re no less extraordinary!

If you’re looking for a name that packs a lot of punch, these fifteen short-and-sweet choices are sure to intrigue. Some have connections to the natural world, some are unique cross-cultural options, and some strike a vintage chord - but all of them prove that good things come in small packages. 


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Nim. Author Wendy Orr is often credited with creating this energetic name for her 1999 book, Nim’s Island, but this name was actually recorded for boys in the early twentieth century a number of times. Dynamic and daring Nim is also the name of a programming language and a strategy game, further linking it to creative and intellectual pursuits. 

Daya. Beautiful Daya has been gaining notice in recent years thanks to the eponymous pop star, who chose as her stage name this Sanskrit moniker meaning “compassion.” The name is used for both boys and girls in India and Sri Lanka, though American parents may find it more feminine due to its similarities to popular Maya and Anaya. 

Rio. Vibrant and vivacious Rio fits with a number of modern trends in naming: it works as a place name (for Rio de Janeiro or the Rio Grande); it has a cool O-ending, like Leo or Diego; its concise form parallels Eli or Kai. Yet Rio has an engaging personality all its own, with added Latin flair and pop culture connections. 

Isa. Though it’s likely to be heard today as a nickname for Isabel, pretty Isa has an interesting history - it’s an Arabic variation of Jesus, and a Germanic name element meaning “iron.” A few Isa’s have recently popped up in children’s television as well, giving it extra kid cred. If Bella can take off on its own, why not Isa? 

Lux. Light and lovely Lucy is a current favorite, yet edgy Lux could be an alternative for parents who want a name with attitude. Latin for “light,” Lux is well-known as the name of a character in League of Legends as well as in the book and film, The Virgin Suicides. Boys’ names have been monopolizing the X-factor - Max, Jax, Axel - but Lux could be the girls’ answer to this trend. 

Io. A figure in Greek mythology and a moon of Jupiter, ethereal Io is on her own unique astral plane. This two-letter choice may prove daunting, but Ty and Bo have made it work! Dazzling Io could work well as a nickname for longer forms Ione, Iolanthe, or even Violet, but as a first name choice it’s sure to impress. 

Alba. Today’s audiences might associate the name with actress Jessica Alba, but this gorgeous choice has been on the books for over a century - it ranked on the top 1000 a few times between 1880 and 1923. From the Latin for “white,” Alba is an adorable choice with a compelling sound and a friendly vibe. 

Sol. Another celestial pick, Sol has long been a diminutive of the biblical Solomon, but by itself could make an intriguing and sunny choice. When pronounced “Sohl,” the Spanish way, it calls to mind both independence (“sole”) and inner spirit (“soul”), making it an unexpected and inspirational name for your little one. 

Pax. This peaceful choice was helped into the public consciousness by the Jolie-Pitt family, but longer surname pick Paxton got the popularity. Simple Pax is a handsome option with its optimistic sound and Latin background, and could also be a subtle honorific for other names meaning “peace,” such as Irene or Frederick. 

Halo. A modern word name, hearing Halo is likely to conjure up the well-known video game or the Beyoncé power ballad. But Halo’s draw also has a religious angle, connecting it to familiar choices Angel or Trinity. If you’re looking for a name that recognizable but not exhausted, and meaningful but not sentimental, Halo may be the choice for you.

Kay. Retro Kay got its start in the United States as a nickname for Katherine, but its Arthurian history shows a Kay that’s far more masculine: it’s a spelling variation of the Welsh Cei, from the Roman Gaius (“to rejoice”). Today, it’s a striking choice for either gender - a swinging forties name for girls, or a romantic knightly name for boys. 

Rue. Connected with “regret” both in its etymology and its botanical namesake, Rue is a serious and thoughtful choice. Older generations may associate this name with Golden Girls actress Rue McClanahan, while younger generations are sure to think of Rue from The Hunger Games. Indeed, Rue began rising in popularity after the latter series was published, making this name a contemporary option with historical gravitas. 

Lake. With Brooke and River making waves, why not add Lake to the list? It’s a pleasant and mellow nature choice that works for both boys and girls, though its most notable namesake is actress Lake Bell. Lake also vibes with boyish Blake and Lane, cementing its image as a name that both fits in and stands out. 

Una. From the Latin for “one,” attractive Una has also been used as a spelling variant of Irish Oona, meaning “lamb.” Smooth and euphonic, Una is aurally reminiscent of ideas like unity and union, with an additional feminine lilt. Well-used in the early twentieth century, Una is already on its way back up the charts. 

Cleo. A vintage alternative to trendy Chloe, Cleo is at once both sophisticated and sensible. It has the elegant connection to royal Cleopatra, but the diminutive form makes it far more sociable and fun. Cleo comes from the Greek word for “glory,” giving it extra substance on top of its style.