In English, the suffix -er spells action. Those two letters point to a doer: a mover and shaker, or at least a butcher, baker or candlestick maker. That -er energy and industry fueled a generation of popular baby names based on tradesman surnames. Today, though, a new wave of names is picking up on the action sound while leaving the trades behind.
Take a look at some of the hottest -er baby names of the year 2000, and their occupational origins:
Carter (hauler of goods)
Chandler (candle maker)
Cooper (barrel maker)
Hunter (hunter or birder)
Parker (gamekeeper/keeper of a manor's hunting park)
Spencer (dispenser, who distributed the goods of a grand household)
Tanner (tanner of animal hides)
Tucker (cloth finisher)
Tyler (roof tiler)
Image via Sandra Gligorijevic/Shutterstock
Now look at the -er names that have soared in popularity since then:
As a group, they're a far cry from the traditional tradesman of the earlier list. Yes, there are some occupational names among the new hits, but even those come across more like action heroes (Gunner, Ryder) or literary homages (Sawyer, Harper) than village smithies.
Now a new, up-and-coming generation of -er names advances the trend. These new names may take their style cues from the -er tradesmen, but they're not "doers." They carry their own meanings and associations, from nature (Juniper) to Star Trek (Ryker), from prayer (Vesper) to rock & roll (Seger), all with an energy boost from the action -er ending.
40 NEW -ER BABY NAMES
Read More: 66 Fresh Masculine-Sounding Surnames
Harmony, Melody, Lyric - chances are you’ll find these euphonic musical terms all over birth announcements these days! Musical names are more often than not cheerful and lively, so why not think about some of the rarer options available? Let’s look at names guaranteed to put a song in your heart!
Image via Pixabay
Allegra. This lovely name is ultra-feminine and fits in well with the current A-a trend with Ava, Amelia, and Aria. Allegra feels vintage - perhaps due to the many classic writers who have used the name in their work - but its scarcity in history makes it more daring than dated. As for Allegra’s musical connection, the word allegro tells musicians to play at a brisk tempo, making this name perfect for the upbeat!
Alouette. Alouette, gentille alouette goes the adorable French children’s song about a lark - but this name is more than just a lyric! Alouette has a bunch of cute nickname options - Ally, Lou, and Etta, for starters - and it has hardly been used in history, if you’re looking for something original. The name might prompt the song more often than not, but its French sound and pretty, natural meaning far outweigh any negatives. Allons-y, Alouette!
Hosanna. Though it sounds like a combination of Hannah and Susanna, Hosanna is known among the religious as a praising word - it literally means “deliver us”, and it’s found in quite a few hymns. Hosanna’s length and musical quality liken it to Savannah or Julianna, but it’s not quite as trendy. The first syllable might turn off some, but the name as a whole is breathtaking! Note: though up-and-coming Shoshana sounds similar, the names come from two different places.
Jazz. With short, snappy names getting popular for boys - Jack, Jett, Max - why not try the concise style on the girls’ side? Princess-inspired Jasmine is starting to decline, but its first syllable is exciting, spunky, and… well, jazzy! The name has been in use since the 1980’s - a male character named Jazz appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air - and this name is unisex without really leaning one way or the other. The double Z’s at the end add even more flair!
Lyra. This name jumped into public consciousness in the early 2000’s with the publication of The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, which features the main character Lyra Belacqua. Lyra comes from the ancient Greek instrument, the lyre. Between the literary connection, the musical link, and the fashionable L-a form, Lyra has many positive traits to consider.
Madrigal. Looking for a unique route to the nickname Maddie? Look no further than Madrigal! Meaning “a song for unaccompanied voices”, this name will allow your little one to stand all on her own with grace and confidence. Bonus points to this name for the “regal” sound at the end. While Madrigal is most often seen as a Spanish surname, its sound is friendly enough to inhabit a first name slot.
Rhapsody. Quite possibly the most romantic of these rhythmic names, Rhapsody ranks with Destiny and Serenity in the dramatic word name category. This name also lends itself to many different musical pieces - Bohemian Rhapsody, Rhapsody in Blue, and even the music-streaming website, Rhapsody. While the name may raise some eyebrows, it definitely has its own personality!
Rhiannon. Most of the United States was introduced to Celtic goddess Rhiannon through the eponymous song by Fleetwood Mac. While the name itself means “divine queen”, and its most notable connection is to the rock song, the goddess was also known for her flock of birds with magical singing powers. If you’re looking for a royal name with a groovy vibe, Rhiannon “rings like a bell through the night”!
Sonata. Names like Selena and Renata have made it on the name charts - let’s see if the orchestral Sonata would do well on a birth certificate! The melodic cadence makes it fun to say, the poetic meaning exudes passionate charm, and a few nicknames can be found in its form: Sonny, Nat, Nata. No doubt about it, Sonata would make a beautiful first name for a sweet little girl.
Sonnet. Close to Sonata, but with a totally different feeling: Sonnet is spirited and smart, literary and lyrical. The name has more of a unisex vibe due to its -et ending, but that might be a plus if you love gender-neutral names! Watch out - this name has been climbing to the recent peak of 17 baby Sonnet’s in one year. That might be rare now, but it won’t be long before the rhythm of Sonnet spreads!
Starling. While this name would also fare well in a list about animal names, Starling straddles the line between natural and sensational. The bird itself can be found all over the world, and is often noted for its ability to mimic all kinds of sounds. The name, however, is not quite as prevalent, and far more original! While the similarities to “darling” might be a turn-off, the nickname Star is too cute to pass up!
Viola. Olivia and Violet are both in the top 100, but Viola hasn’t even made the top 1000 - an absolute tragedy. This gorgeous name has a Shakespearean background, dozens of fabulous namesakes, and a musical legacy from the sixteenth century. Viola would work for classical name devotees, orchestra aficionados, literary academics, and fans of feminine names. It’s a masterpiece!
You've probably heard the old Yogi Berra line about a popular restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." When it comes to baby names, it's not a joke. Scores of names sit unused precisely because we consider them too common.
For example, I'll take a guess that the names Glenn and Theresa sound super-ordinary to you, while the names Maverick and Paisley sound fresher and more creative, maybe even surprising. Yet Glenn and Theresa haven't ranked among the top 1,000 baby names for years. Maverick and Paisley are now 17 times as common.
The key is that our sense of name popularity doesn't just come from baby name stats, it comes from our our own experience. You probably knew plenty of adult Glenns and Theresas when you were a kid. But your kids are a generation further removed from those names' heyday. How many Theresas will they know, vs. how many Paisleys?
Below is a list of 112 uncommon baby names. These names have roots, are easy to spell and pronounce, and will virtually guarantee that your child will be the only one in her preschool with that name. That's the good news. The bad news is that, as a group, the names are going to seem thoroughly boring and unfashionable to you.
The thing is, it only takes one. If you can find one appealing name on the list -- and I think you will -- you've hit paydirt.
Maybe you're looking for a biblical girl's name, and you're intrigued by Judith as an alternative to Hannah or Abigail. Then consider that there are 43 Abigails born today for every Judith. 43! Or maybe you think Neil has some of the same smooth, trim Celtic style that has made Liam a hit. The tally is 46 Liams for every Neil.
Think of this as a spectacular bargain-shopping opportunity. If a name like Judith or Neil or Sonia or Craig sounds good to you now, it's likely to sound just as good, and far fresher, to the next generation. And won't your daughter be more interested in how her name sounds to her peers than to yours?
Current Popularity Rank: 500-1000
Anne, Bonnie, Bridget, Carla, Carolyn, Denise, Deborah, Eileen, Elaine, Ellen, Erica, Gloria, Gwen, Heather, Joyce, Judith, Kathleen, Kristen, Linda, Meredith, Monica, Natasha, Patricia, Paula, Renee, Sandra, Sharon, Sonia, Susan, Tara, Wendy
Brent, Brett, Byron, Carl, Casey, Chad, Clay, Craig, Curtis, Douglas, Gary, Gerald, Harold, Harry, Heath, Hugh, Lance, Larry, Lionel, Nelson, Randall, Randy, Ray, Reginald, Roger, Roy, Terrance, Toby
Current Popularity Rank: 1001-2000
Anita, Betsy, Betty, Carol, Connie, Constance, Diane, Donna, Janet, Janice, Lois, Pamela, Robin, Shannon, Sheila, Stacy, Tanya, Theresa
Barry, Brad, Clifton, Clint, Dale, Dion, Duane, Dwight, Earl, Fred, Gerard, Glenn, Harris, Kent, Kirk, Kurt, Perry, Ross, Stewart, Stuart, Todd
Current Popularity Rank: 2001-5000
Beth, Christa, Glenda, Joan, Kay, Lynn, Sherry, Suzanne
Cliff, Hal, Ward
Current Popularity Rank: 5000+