Alternatives to Every Popular Baby Name

Dec 3rd 2015

You’ve always loved the name Sophia, but you know four little Sophias. Now what?

If you're in that bind, here's help. I've sought out less common alternatives that match the style and impact of Sophia, and every other top baby name.

It's easier said than done. Every name is its own world, with it's own unique combination of look and style, history and cultural imagery. The balance among those elements varies, too. Sound is more central to Jayden than to William. Biblical style is more upfront in Elijah than Andrew. And any match for Alexander should contract neatly to nicknames.

Then there's the constraint of popularity itself. Some styles, like biblical patriarchs, have been so thoroughly explored that most of the remaining rarities are rare for a reason. And for many names, popularity is style. No obscure name can sub in for Elizabeth or Joseph, since timeless, steady familiarity is at their essence.

So no name is a perfect match, but the suggestions below may just fill that Sophia-shaped hole in your heart. Each alternative is less than a quarter as popular as the original name. 


Rank    Hit Name          Alternative          Alternative
1 Emma Cora Willa
2 Olivia Lavinia Miranda
3 Sophia Lydia Josephine
4 Isabella Arabella Liliana
5 Ava Ada Lana
6 Mia Ria Ivy
7 Emily Daphne Laura
8 Abigail Rosemary Annelise
9 Madison Emerson Carrigan
10 Charlotte Georgia Juliet
11 Harper Marlowe Larkin
12 Sofia Lucia Marina
13 Avery Emory Verity
14 Elizabeth Susannah Dorothy
15 Amelia Eleanora Eliza
16 Evelyn Marian Cecily
17 Ella Lena Reba
18 Chloe Phoebe Isla
19 Victoria Anastasia Veronica
20 Aubrey Darcy Bellamy
21 Grace Rose Hope
22 Zoey Zara Esme
23 Natalie Marjorie Noelle
24 Addison Ellison Campbell
25 Lillian Helena Marian


Rank    Hit Name          Alternative          Alternative
1 Noah Jonah Theo
2 Liam Eamon Callum
3 Mason Lawson Pierson
4 Jacob Jules Simon
5 William Elliott Harris
6 Ethan Rowan Abel
7 Michael Paul Mitchell
8 Alexander Benedict Theodore
9 James Graham Philip
10 Daniel Joel Martin
11 Elijah Tobias Gideon
12 Benjamin Harrison Gregory
13 Logan Bowen Keegan
14 Aiden Kieran Egan
15 Jayden Kylan Jamison
16 Matthew Timothy Spencer
17 Jackson Paxton Beckett
18 David Jared Reid
19 Lucas Jonas Micah
20 Joseph Simon Peter
21 Anthony Victor Gregory
22 Andrew Bennett Alec
23 Samuel Saul Louis
24 Gabriel Raphael Gideon
25 Joshua Judah Tobias


These Twin Names Match, But Aren't "Matchy-Matchy"

Nov 24th 2015

Is naming twins different from naming any other two siblings? For some parents, the answer is no. They simply choose the two names they like best, in two nearly independent choices. For other parents, "twinness" defines the naming experience and they want to revel in it. They turn to thematic pairings like Hope and Faith or Jaylen and Jayden that mark their kids as a set.

Is there a middle ground? Can you acknowledge the special bond that twins share while letting each name stand alone? And can you do it with an eye toward style, so that each name can win the same parents' hearts?

For parents who seek that middle, here's a starter list of names with a meaningful connection and compatible styles, but independent spirits.

(While most of these names are traditionally gender-specific, some are unisex in usage. Rather than separating the lists by gender, I leave it to parents to decide how they'd like to use these names.)

Alice/Celia: This subtle anagram yields two charming classics with completely different sounds.

Beckett/Marlowe: Two playwrights representing two of the hottest contemporary name styles, double-t names and hidden-o names.

Zoe/Eve: These Greek and Hebrew "life" names look similar on paper, but not spoken aloud.

Orion/Lyra: These twins would share the night sky as constellations.

Matthias/Nathanael : Two apostle names that mean "gift of God"/"God has given." Both names balance a scholarly biblical flavor with simple, unassuming nicknames.

Rima/Amir : These mirror-image Arabic name make a smooth, trim pairing.

Laurel/Daphne : Daphne is the Greek form of Laurel. Both names are thoroughly familiar, but neither has ever been common.

Tristan/Gavin: Two Knights of the Round Table, but far less conspicuous than Lancelot and Galahad.

Aydan/Nadya: These alternate "y" spellings bring the classic mirror image names Aidan and Nadia closer together.

Indigo/Sienna: Straight from your local Crayola 64-pack, these color names share a creative spirit.

Shira/Ronen: Two Hebrew names derived from words meaning "song."

Tyler/Austin: Two Texas cities, two snappy surnames.

Skye/Iona: While these names have different spirits, they're both short, bold and striking – and Scottish isles.

Jules/Edgar: You can honor pioneers of science fiction and mystery, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe, with these gentlemanly throwback names.

Phoebe/Rhea: These twins pair old-fashioned sweetness with the power of Greek Titans.



Related post: To match or not to match

What's Your Choice for Name of the Year?

Nov 19th 2015

Every December, honors one name that shaped, and was shaped by, the year that's been. And the nominations all come from you.

Your past suggestions have ranged from Renesmee to Pope Francis. They've including baby names, not-quite-names, and not-quite-human names. Each selection is a miniature time capsule that reminds us of how names are woven into our lives and our culture.

What name do you think captures this moment in time? Please post your nominations in comments here -- or tweet them to @BabyNameWizard, or comment on Facebook. Feel free to second others' nominations, too.

As you're thinking about the year in names, keep a lookout for these criteria:

- A dramatic change in the name's usage or social meaning
- A reflection of a broader cultural theme, or influence on broader style trends
- The "naminess" of a story or issue. How essential is the name to the story?

And remember that your comments themselves count! The number of nominations factors into in the NOTY choice, and compelling arguments in support of your candidate count most of all.