It's not just Grace and Lily any more. Words like Serenity and Genesis now rank among America's top 100 baby names, and options from Willow and Winter to Maverick and King are rising fast. Are there still attractive, inspiring meaning names that haven't been discovered?
I've gone hunting and come up with 41 prospects, with styles ranging from antique to ultra-modern. To make my list, a word/name had to be:
Meaningful, in the right way. I focused on popular realms of word crossovers, like nature names and positive concepts.
In step with name style. No matter how uplifting a word's meaning is, it needs the right sound to work as a name. You'll never meet a little girl named Pulchritude.
All about the word. Word names are the one baby name category where meaning is style. A word that's too familiar as a name, like Constance, or a name that's too arcane as a word, like Ataraxia, loses that meaning/style fusion.
Rare. No name on this list was given to more than a hundred boys or girls last year.
CREATIVE WORD NAMES:
Read more: Baby Names Are Getting Ready to Rule
The substitute teachers who mangle the pronunciation. The oh-so-obvious bit of wordplay you hear over and over. The last initial that seems glued to your too-popular first name. Do any of these name indignities sound familiar? Thanks to a trending Twitter tag, we now know they're part of growing up with a name -- any name.
The topic #growingupwithmyname has brought out a flood of reminiscences, most of them painful. Anyone with a super-popular name can relate to childhood experiences like these:
Everyday in class someone would say Jennifer and 4 of us would answer. #GrowingUpWithMyName
— RoseyJen (@6CentsRose) July 19, 2015
My name is so popular that i knew another girl with my first AND last name #GrowingUpWithMyName
— ✧☽ emily ☾✧ (@insomnicatt) July 20, 2015
And anyone with a super-unusual name knows feelings like these:
#growingupwithmyname never EVER finding a souvenir with your name on it from anywhere
— ❁Maryn (@MarynNason) January 24, 2016
Knowing you're next on roll call because the teacher stops & hesitates to say your name #growingupwithmyname
— Asj (@PRVFranchise) January 25, 2016
But those are just the tip of the iceberg. Dumb jokes, teasing rhymes, awkward initials, gender mixups…the list of potential problems is as long as the list of potential names:
when your name is mostly considered as a male name- so you can't even get a keychain without a football on it #growingupwithmyname
— taylor (@imactuallytay) January 24, 2016
#growingupwithmyname Gary without the r spells gay. Thank you childhood and thank you for pointing out the obvious. Idiots.
— Gizzy (@gizzy14gazza) January 24, 2016
#GrowingUpWithMyName YES I'M AWARE MY NAME IS SPELLED THE SAME FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS
— Hannah (@thats_groovy321) December 1, 2015
Teacher: Jemima Me: it's Jemma Teacher: Sorry Jenna Me: iT'S JEMMA Teacher: Oh sorry Emma lol Me: *cries* #growingupwithmyname
— jemma (@sippycupcaylen) January 24, 2016
#GrowingUpWithMyName "Hey, I'm Ryan." "Wait, really? I mean, that sounds awfully... white. Are you sure?"
— Obi-Huang Kenobi (@HuangAsian) July 20, 2015
I don't know where Toto is, and I will NEVER know where Toto is. #growingupwithmyname
— Dorothy S (@PicassoBlue) January 24, 2016
In other words, we're all part of the great fellowship of the frustrated. Name-based aggravation is just a part of life. Yet when we're choosing baby names, we like to think otherwise. Parents scrutinize names from every angle, hoping to weed out the slightest teasing potential.
The most common impulse is to shield our kids from the slings and arrows we suffered ourselves. "I don't want my kid to have to use her last initial to set her apart," says a Sarah. "I don't want my kid to have to constantly have her name misspelled and mispronounced," says an Aoibheann. They push their name choices in opposite directions and just end up swapping problems.
No name is tease-proof. No name is uncommon AND universally attractive AND easy to spell and pronounce AND free of awkward associations. (Or if it is, don't expect it to stay uncommon for long!) That's ok. It's just one more reason to focus on what you love about the baby names you're considering, rather than prodding them for flaws. Substitute teachers and name-alike classmates come and go, but a name's essential strength and beauty is forever.
Z is the ultimate letter, in more ways than one. It's the end of the alphabet; the 10-point Scrabble hit; the mark of Zorro; the epitome of cool. In baby names, Z is a little extra oomph you can't ignore. But are we running out of Z names?
In theory, a letter is an infinitely renewable resource. You can always invent new names, import foreign ones, or adapt common words or place names. In practice, though, not every innovation works. The same turbo boost that makes Z so appealing can push a creative name over the edge to cartoonishness. That has put a premium on traditional Z names like Zachary and Zoe, and even internal Z's like Hazel and Ezekiel. All have soared in popularity in the past generation.
Are there any hidden gems remaining for Z lovers? Here are 14 best bets for established but uncommon Z names:
Zara: This name is staple in England, but in the U.S. it remains surprisingly uncommon. The Spanish clothing retailer Zara is a primary association here.
Aziza: Two separate Z's surrounded by vowels give this name a uniquely snappy flow. It's Arabic, meaning "powerful" and "precious."
Zanna, Zuzu: In many languages of Eastern Europe, the name Susanna is spelled with Z's. The resulting nicknames like Zanna and Zuzu can be used as given names, or as Z-powered nicknames for any form of Susan/Susannah.
Ziva: This rare Hebrew name meaning "brightness, radiance" became familiar to Americans via a character on the tv series NCIS. It's quite smashing in English, but remains rare in Hebrew because of a sound-alike disease.
Azalea: This flowing floral name is a natural as a baby name. Some may think of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, but that association doesn't overwhelm the name's botanical essence.
Zora: Zora is a Slavic name meaning "dawn," but like many short and simple names it has other lives as well. Some will think of the Harlem renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston; others of aquatic humanoids in the Legend of Zelda games.
Zeb, Zev: Zeb is a nickname for the biblical names Zebediah, Zebedee and Zebulon. As a given name, it is now more popular than any of them. If you like the short punch of Zeb but want a "whole" name, Zev is Hebrew for wolf.
Enzo, Renzo: These names are both used as short forms of Lorenzo, though Enzo has a longer, separate history as a given name. If you're choosing between the two, Enzo comes across as a bit more classic and global, Renzo a bit saucier.
Raz: This modern Hebrew name means "secret" or "mystery." It's simple but energetic.
Zayd: This Arabic name's strong single syllable sets it apart. It means "growth, abundance" and is also commonly spelled Zaid.
Zeno: A name of several ancient philosophers, Zeno is unquestionably classic yet as stylistically bold as any modern invention.