Unexpected Name Ideas from the German Top 100

Feb 26th 2018

The most popular names in Germany today are far from the old standards like Franz and Helga. Romantic Italian options, quirky nicknames, and vintage gems can be found in the top 100 names for both genders. Sehr toll!

German parents have embraced the fourteen names below, but they remain undiscovered by many American parents - none of them rank in the US top 500. If you’re looking for a name that’s stylish and unexpected (with a range of accents), check out these Deutsch delights.

Image: iStock.com/fotografixx

Leonie. This smooth name fits in with modern Leo and Leah trends, but it feels more down-to-earth. It’s well-known throughout Europe these days, but one notable namesake is American poet laureate Leonie Adams, who was active in the early twentieth century. Toeing the line between quirkiness and accessibility, Leonie will interest fans of “sweet spot” picks.

Emil. Now that the girls have thoroughly explored Emily-Emma-Amelia territory, it’s time to give the boys a chance. Emil is a handsome and dignified option, appealing especially to those who want a cross-cultural name. It may be on the top 100 list in 10 countries around the world, but Emil has yet to make waves in North America.

Nele. An adorable nickname for Cornelia, nifty Nele has become a star in its own right. There’s a lot to like: its accessible “lee” ending, its succinct form and style, and its many connections to historical Cornelius’ and Cornelias. Though the pronunciation may initially trip up some English speakers, that hasn’t deterred Saoirse or Rhys!

Lenny. While many mid-century nicknames seem passe, Lenny is just offbeat and energetic enough to rise above the rest. Famous namesakes like Bruce and Kravitz give Lenny an edge, but its diminutive sound helps it fit in with other nickname-names, like Charlie or Joey. In a world where Leos are set to take over, Lenny could work as an unexpected alternative.

Ida. Today’s parents already love short names like Ava and Isla, and Ida is just ripe enough to join her style sisters across the pond. Though it ranked on the top ten during the late 1800’s, Ida has yet to be revitalized. From Old German for “industrious,” Ida is sure to work its way back onto the American name landscape.

Anton. Variants to classic Anthony range in style from gregarious Tony to romantic Antonio, with Anton bringing its own smooth and refined flavor. Well-known wearers include playwright Chekhov and late actor Yelchin; indeed, Anton’s cultural links extend through decades and across continents.

Finja. Pronounced “FIN-yah,” this lovely name could work for parents who love boyish nickname Finn but want a longer, more feminine name on the birth certificate. Finja is similar to Freja or Sonja in its melody and warmth, but it’s incredibly rare - it’s never been recorded in US name records. Might Finja be the ideal combination of familiar yet uncommon?

Linus. Once tethered to the Peanuts character, Linus suddenly seems like a cool name choice for a modern boy. After all, style siblings Atticus and Lucas have certainly gained fans for their smart reputations. Linus also comes from a distinguished source - in Greek mythology, he was the son of Apollo and associated with language and music.

Romy. A nicknames for a wide variety of names - Rosemary, Romeo, Roman - sociable Romy would fit in well with other popular choices like Ruby or Lily. Quite a few celebrity parents have picked this tomboyish choice for their daughters, but Romy has yet to rank in the US for either gender. Simple and sweet, Romy is a marvelous choice for a modern little girl.

Timo. As the ends-in-O trend begets newer and bolder options for boys, Timo stands out as an approachable and versatile name. It’s a form of Timothy (handy for those looking for a unique honorific) and comes from Greek for “honoring God,” an inspirational religious connection. It’s familiar in Scandinavia as well as Germany, with a dapper sound to boot.

Magdalena. This older form of Madeline may interest those who want an uncommon formal name to lead to cute nicknames Maggie or Maddie. This elegant choice became globally known thanks to Mary Magdalene, of course, and continues to jump on and off the US Top 1000. It’s also been historically found in royal genealogies across Europe, giving the name some noble flair.

Moritz. A German variant of Maurice, modern audiences are bound to associate the name with the ski resort - not such a bad thing when one considers the amount of place names on birth certificates! Moritz is at once old-fashioned and avant-garde, dynamic and serene. Short forms like retro Morrie or edgy Ritz make the name even more attractive, as well.

Tilda. Strong and beautiful Matilda, with its literary links and worldwide renown, becomes quite a different name when its first syllable is removed. Actress Tilda Swinton is the preeminent wearer, imbuing the name with grace and personality. Whether this name appeals as a nickname or full choice, Tilda is sure to make a memorable impression.

Alessio. It’s not only the Germans who have embraced this romantic, Italian name - Alessio, a variant of Alexis, ranks highly on French, Swiss, and Belgian name lists. It has an unforgettable melody and a dashing sort of style, with similarities to modern Alyssa and Alexander. Now that pop musician Alessia Cara is in public consciousness, the masculine form of the name may mesh more easily with American sensibilities.

Luisa. Since Louisa reentered the US top 1000 in 2014, variation spelling Luisa is expected to follow suit. The Latin spelling lends itself to nicknames Lulu or Lula more easily, and it makes a wonderful option for a multilingual family. Another positive trait is Luisa’s powerful background, from the Old German for “renowned warrior” - an excellent name for a independent little one.


February 27, 2018 1:53 PM

What "accessible 'lee' ending" on Nele? It's pronounced roughly /NAIL-eh/.

February 27, 2018 4:56 PM

I know a young Fritz.  On him the name seems young and fresh and ends in a high-Scrabble value Z.