Pop culture names have reached a new height in recent years. We're reaching beyond everyday sources to realms of fantasy and imagination with names like Khaleesi (from Game of Thrones) and Leia (from Star Wars).
With this newfound appreciation for the fantastical realm, let’s check out some ideas for girls' names that haven’t yet reached playground ubiquity. Some of the names below are modern inventions, while others are as old as Greek myths. What all of them have in common is a feminine sound and heroic vibe - perfect for any future #girlboss.
Morgan le Fay, by Frederick Sandys, 1864
Morgana. Despite the popularity of gender-neutral Morgan, its variant Morgana has never made it onto the top 1000. The Arthurian enchantress Morgana le Fay is one notable namesake, but this lovely name can be found in dozens of books, films, and video games. Morgana is aristocratic and feminine, perfect for a confident personality.
Elora. With the trend towards Liquid Names rising each year, it’s no surprise that this ethereal pick has gained followers. It’s also a part of the El-names group with Eleanor, Eliana, and Ella. Elora is the name of the baby princess in cult classic Willow, a fantasy novel and film, and the name is accessible enough to work for all kinds of little princesses.
Hermione. Many names from the Harry Potter series have made the leap from the page to the birth certificate with grace, but Hermione hasn’t quite achieved that yet. Now that a bit of time has passed since the series’ debut, this noble and uncommon name deserves another look. Hermione is mentioned both in Greek mythology and a Shakespearean romance, giving it further literary and cultural credibility.
Merida. The striking Scottish heroine from Disney/Pixar’s Brave actually has a Spanish name; Merida relates to the Latin for “respected” or “esteemed.” A few cities boast the name of Merida, too! While it’s still relatively under the radar, Merida is a pretty choice that exudes both friendliness and creativity.
Eilonwy. Lloyd Alexander introduced audiences to this charming, Welsh-inspired name with the publication of The Chronicles of Prydain beginning in 1964; Princess Eilonwy made another appearance later in Disney’s The Black Cauldron. This name, however, has only been given to real little girls in recent years - five each in 2012, 2014, and 2015. Could Eilonwy ride the coattails of Welsh names into notoriety?
Arwen. A half-elven queen in Lord of the Rings, Arwen is known for her insight and dignity. It’s fitting, then, that JRR Tolkien created a name for her that means “noble maiden” in the invented language of Sindarin. While Arwen has yet to reach the top 1000 in the United States, it did briefly rank in France. Such an attractive, compelling name may entice American fans in the next few years.
Galadriel. Another Sindarin name from Tolkien’s series, Galadriel translates to “maiden crowned with a radiant garland” - emphasizing the character’s blonde hair. But blondes and brunettes alike can appreciate this elegant choice, a kind of embellishment of popular Gabrielle. Galadriel has been bestowed upon dozens of baby girls since 1969, and more are sure to appear.
Minerva. The Roman goddess of wisdom, war, and art, Minerva’s image can frequently be found on school campuses and other institutions. Perhaps that’s why JK Rowling chose this bewitching name for the character of Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter. Though Minerva was popular at the end of the nineteenth century, it’s never reached the height (or delight) of diminutive Minnie. Both forms would be charming vintage options for girls today.
Daenerys. This literary invention was brought forth by George RR Martin in the Game of Thrones series, using both Korean and Welsh elements to create a name meaning “greatness.” Daenerys is celestial and delicate, a graceful alternative to courageous Khaleesi or energetic Arya. Though the spelling may initially trip one up, the name is bound to achieve national attention.
Xena. Now that the eponymous television show about the warrior princess has begun to fade, Xena may soon be a viable option in today’s name landscape. It comes from the Greek for “foreigner” and can also be connected with xenia, the concept of hospitality in Ancient Greece. This bold choice has a sympathetic sound, ideal for socially-conscious individuals with pizzazz.
Carmilla. Before Dracula, there was Carmilla - an 1871 Gothic novella about a young female vampire. This story set the stage for Bram Stoker, and introduced the English-speaking world to a new, glamourous name. Since then, romantic Carmilla has been used in the world of Marvel Comics and vampire video games, and it’s been on birth certificates for over 100 years. Still, this name has more sophistication to offer than its connection to the morbid.
Eowyn. Beautiful and approachable Eowyn has never ranked in the top 1000 despite consistent use and similarities to popular Owen and Evan. The name is another Tolkien creation, inspired by Old English, adorning a brave and spirited character in the Lord of the Rings series. Now that unusual spellings are becoming more commonplace, Eowyn could be an excellent contender.
Brienne. This gorgeous option has roots in medieval France, along with a namesake in Game of Thrones, making it both attractive and substantial. It shares a suffix with fashionable Adrienne and Vivienne and a beginning with trendy Brianna. While the long form of the name is appealing, nickname Bree is a cute choice, as well as a favorite of many fantasy series, including the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and even Twilight.
Cressida. Melodramatic and moralizing, Troilus and Cressida relates a Greek myth through the pen of Shakespeare - and offers today’s audiences a lovely alternative to Cassandra or Cassidy. Cressida also features in The Hunger Games trilogy; it’s elegant but not pompous, and unusual but not unheard-of. The name was given to ten little girls last year.
Korra. A thoroughly modern choice, Korra’s notoriety can be attributed to the popular Nickelodeon shows Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. The character’s name was inspired by the name Cora, and many may assume this name is a creative spelling variation. But Korra - a fearless and inspiring woman - is a fabulous twenty-first century namesake in her own right.
For more fantasy and sci-fi names, check out these relevant articles:
Toby, Tobiah, Tobias. According to most baby name dictionaries, the three are identical: just different ways of writing the same biblical name. But in terms of fashion and impact, one stands apart. Tobias is a fast-rising hit, far more popular than the other two names put together, thanks to the power of that final -s.
Classical -s endings appeal to parents with a distinguished antique style, accented with a pinch of mystery. Depending on the name, the effect can be scholarly (like Atticus), mythic (Atlas), saintly (Matthias), or downright dangerous (Barnabas). Even in a short, simple name like Jonas or Silas, the -s ending lends a sophisticated edge.
The ending has worked its magic on dozens of names in recent years, reviving neglected classics and turning mythological and biblical obscurities into contenders. Names like Silas, Elias and even Maximus now rank among the top 200 names for American boys.
Additional antique -s options are below, arranged by number of syllables. As a rule of thumb, the longer names tend to sound more aggressively antiquated.
Read More: 20 "Quirky Classic" Names for Boys
Known as the “land of song,” the country of Wales has contributed quite a lot to the world of names - from Megan to Owen, Americans have historically embraced the Welsh sound with enthusiasm. These names have their own spirited style that manages to fit in with current trends without feeling faddish or dated. Whether you’re looking for an established heritage choice or something unfamiliar and uncommon, you’re sure to find it among these Welsh picks!
Dylan. The quintessential Welsh boys’ name, Dylan has been an American standard since the 1980’s and 1990’s. While it may strike some as overly popular - it currently ranks at #27 - there’s quite a few positive traits backing up its esteem. From the literary Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan connections to its derivation from “son of the sea,” Dylan is a name that will remain classic and attractive for decades to come.
Tarian. On the other side of the popularity scale, Tarian is a handsome choice that’s only been used a handful of times in U.S. name records. It’s a unisex name in Wales, but will work better for boys in the states due to its aural similarities to Darian and Terrance. Tarian also resembles popular names in fantasy fiction, from Tyrion in Game of Thrones to Tirian in the Chronicles of Narnia.
Bowen. While Bowen fits in with modern surname trends and the ever-popular “bell tone” crew, it manages to feel understated and fresh. It comes from the Welsh for “son of Owen” and works as an alternative to its root, too. Nickname Bo is a friendly moniker; still, the full form of Bowen manages a pleasant balance between familiarity and individuality.
Dawson. In the 1990’s, Dawson’s Creek and Titanic brought this name to national attention, and a plethora of actors and athletes have kept it in the pop culture spotlight. Yet Dawson isn’t just a fad - it has a kind of warm and appealing Southern charm that grows right along with its wearer. Dawson is derived from David, making it an excellent honorific pick as well.
Sulien. Another rare find - Sulien has never been recorded in the United States - this boyish name is a fantastic option for those who want a name with history and substance. It’s pronounced “SIL-yen,” and comes from the Welsh for “sun born,” making it perfect for a summer baby. A few St. Sulien’s appear throughout Celtic and Welsh history, giving the name religious and scholarly significance.
Emrys. This dapper, stylish name is one to watch! Though Emrys was only bestowed upon fifty-three boys in 2015, it’s got a lot to lend itself to future prevalence: Emrys is similar to favorites Emmett and Emerson, it’s connected in folklore to the powerful wizard Merlin, and it has a unique sound without being kooky or unpronounceable. Originally a variant of the dated Ambrose, Emrys could definitely catch on in a post-Emily world.
Griffith. While it’s more often associated with places - such as Griffith Park and Griffith Peak - or celebrity surnames - following Andy, Melanie, and DW - Griffith deserves a chance as a first name. It’s derived from the Welsh for “strong lord,” and holds a touch of elegance and sophistication lacked by the beloved Griffin.
Wyn. Short yet smart, Wyn works well either as a dashing nickname or as a brilliant first pick. It sounds like a trendy, engaging verb name (think Chase or Lance), but has a fascinating history in the United Kingdom. Wyn has long been a suffix meaning “fair,” and English speakers will connect it to success and triumph. Only ten boys were given the name in 2015.
Idris. Thanks to English actor Idris Elba, this stunning name has captivated American ears. Though it hasn’t been given to more than 150 boys in any single year, Idris has greatly increased in usage over the last decade. In Welsh lore, Idris was the name of a giant and king; the name also has origins in Arabic, with distinguished Muslim individuals bearing the name.
Gareth. A brave and noble knight of Camelot, Sir Gareth hasn’t reached the same notoriety as his compatriots Lancelot or Gawain. But his charming name merits a closer look. It’s softer and more understated than Garrett or Jared - fitting that it’s meaning relates to “gentle” - while maintaining a suave and refined air. One drawback - it may be mistaken for the less-elegant Garth.
Maddox. This fashionable choice owes its prominence to Angelina Jolie: after she named her eldest son Maddox in 2003, the name rocketed from relative obscurity to the top 200. However, Maddox is a kind of adaptable name that works for many types of personalities and backgrounds. It’s similar enough to Madison or Max to stay current, but has enough stamina to feel timeless.
Rhys. Though Rhys feels worldly and charismatic, it’s been rapidly gaining followers in the United States - it’s already reached #513 in the top 1000, making it uncommon but familiar. Fitting, since it comes from the Welsh for “ardent”! Rhys works better for boys than homophones Reese or Reece, especially thanks to actors Rhys Ifans and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Trevor. Now an American classic, Trevor dominated popularity rankings throughout the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s. It’s been declining in recent years, which could be a plus for parents looking for something that’s established but not overly used. Dozens of Trevor’s have appeared in both factual and fictional pop culture phenomena, with Daily Show host Trevor Noah being a current example.
Brychan. This Welsh variant of Bryce may have some pronunciation issues in the U.S.; most purists pronounce the name “Bruh-KAN,” but “BRY-chan” is a common mistake. Still, this strong, masculine option was originally made famous by a legendary king, with ties to Ireland as well as Wales. It’s also never been recorded on this side of the Atlantic, making it a unique pick.