15 Fresh Celtic Girls' Names

Nov 17th 2015

 baby name roundups by theme

With a dash of Ainsley, Kennedy, and Brynn, and a splash of Finley and Isla, this country's top names for girls are heavily peppered with Celtic choices as the perfect counterpart to Liam and Aidan. The wealth of names that herald from Celtic nations (Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) offer a very broad variety beyond what we're used to seeing in the top ranks of today's names. That's why we're exploring the unexpected with these refreshing Celtic girls' names that could be tomorrow's trends.

  1. Madigan: It's two letters away from the contemporary star Madison, making this rare Irish surname a sweet little secret for those in search of an alternative. Madigan also allows for the nickname Maddie, giving girls with this name the option to fit in or stand out a little bit from the crowd.

  2. Ailsa: Distinctively Scottish and full of charm, Ailsa has its roots in Scotland's Ailsa Craig, a rocky island inhabited today only by birds. Puffins and gannets aside, this sweetly gaelic name is unicorn twins with Frozen's Elsa, but it hasn't received any of the sort of attention a Disney princess can garner. Last year there were only 11 baby girls given this name.

  3. Carys: Some parents are beginning to rediscover this Welsh standout meaning love, but it's far from the top 1,000. Carys sounds like a sweet alternative to Paris, and with its charming meaning we think this name should be getting a bit more love. Last year, 113 girls were given this name, and it was chosen by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas for their daughter in 2003.

  4. Bevin: Actress Bevin Prince brought more awareness to her name while playing the character Bevin Mirskey on One Tree Hill. And yet, this intriguing Irish name is collecting dust in the US while the English form Vivian rides a wave of popularity all the way to the top 100.

  5. Rhian: This modern Welsh name isn't too far from today's hits like Mia or Regan, but it's much more unique. It has an on-trend sound with an uncomplicated cadence that makes it a breath of fresh air, all supported by its modern Welsh heritage.

  6. Teagan: Coming from the Irish gaelic male name Teague, this name transformed into a fashionable choice for girls. It's been near the 250 mark for about six years, proving that Teagan is has a charming image and some reliable staying power.

  7. Carrigan: Two things happened in the ‘90s that put this Irish surname in the spotlight—Nancy Kerrigan was the face of figure skating in two Olympics, and a character from the movie Casper helped some parents envision it for their daughter. Today, this name is still a unique choice that allows for the darling nickname Carrie (though some still see Carrie as a child of the ‘80s).

  8. Keeva: Heralding from the Irish gaelic name Caoimhe, this name means “lovely, grace” and is a definite head-turner. While not in the top 1,000 names, it seems there are more baby girls named Keeva born each year. It's a rare Celtic gem with an energetic personality.

  9. Tierney: This loveable Irish gaelic choice is, sadly, not on most parents' radar. But that makes it an undiscovered gem that will meet with a bit of surprise as well as approval. The late actress Gene Tierney adds some timeless Hollywood glamor to the name as well.

  10. Enya: Ethereal singer Enya, born with the original Gaelic spelling, Eithne, made the anglicized version of her name accessible to Americans. It's still a rare choice in the US, but with similar names Arya and Ayla in the 200s, we say Enya is pleasantly on-trend.

  11. Tamsin: This cheerful English form of Thomas comes to us via Cornwall, a Celtic nation that championed the name for centuries. The name is very rare here in the US, but it has an easy charm that makes us want to steal this name from across the pond.

  12. Mirren: The fact that Mirren is a top-100 choice in Scotland stands in stark contrast to the mere seven American girls who were given this name in 2014. While Mirren may cause a few (hopefully delighted) raised eyebrows in this country, it's a Scottish form of Marian with an easy appeal that capitalizes on the -en endings we're loving lately. The actress Dame Helen Mirren's last name was anglicized from Mironoff, but she gives this name both elegance and familiarity.

  13. Emlyn: It may look a bit made up, but Emlyn is actually a traditional Welsh name used for boys. Here in the US, it has loads of potential to sit alongside feminine choices like Kaitlyn, Evelyn, and Emmalyn. But Emlyn will catch most by surprise, as it's rather rare in this country.

  14. Wynne: This simple, one-syllable name is elegant and charming, and has potential for the sweetly old-fashioned nickname Winnie or Wynnie without the frills of Winifred. It's a Welsh name, also spelled Wyn, that's been around for an extremely long time.

  15. Maisie: A reliable top-100 choice across the UK, this Scottish pet name derived from Mairead and Margaret leaped onto the US charts last year at a rank of 658. We can see why—it has a sweet, Victorian feel that easily rivals its more contemporary sound-alike, Macy. The young Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams likely has a lot to do with this country's newfound interest, boosted along by characters in the bestselling novel series Maisie Dobbs and the CW's Arrow.

Love these names? You are bound to love names from our recent article Romance! Adventure! Surprising, Overlooked Celtic Baby Names.

This Robot Reveals How We Name Our Fantasy Selves

Nov 17th 2015

Millions of Americans use alter egos every day. We spend hours conversing, negotiating, and battling under names we've dreamed up for ourselves in the richly constructed worlds of video games. And now, thanks to the game Fallout 4, we have a glimpse of how we choose those names.

Image via Ollyy/shutterstock

The hugely successful new role-playing game features a robot character that will call you by your own custom-chosen name. (In the past, the practicalities of voice acting ruled out this level of name customization. The game Mass Effect 3, for instance, allowed players to choose a first name and sex for their protagonist Commander Shepard, but other characters would simply address them as "Shepard.") The Fallout 4 robot is a butler by training, named Codsworth and voiced with an English accent. Addressing the player politely by name adds a grace note of oh-so-personal service.

The constraint of pre-recording voice lines remains, though, so Codsworth has a set repertoire of names available – about 1,000. This means that the game's developer, Bethesda Softworks, had to choose names they knew could represent the fantasy alter egos of millions. Given the data they have from past productions, that name list should represent our collective gaming id. As it happens, one resourceful fan dug up the complete list of name options, so I've attempted to take a peek inside that collective id.

First, I had to wade through the id of Bathesda Softworks itself. The names of dozens of the company's developers and executives make the list, which is good news if you want a robot butler to call you Hasenbuhler, Tresnjak, Moonves or Purkeypile. The team's personal obsessions shine through as well: the list is jam-packed with characters from Mad Max: Fury Road, the action movie that would have been in theaters just when game development hit the home stretch.

Even if we grant a big chunk of names as perks for the sleepless development team, that still leaves hundreds more to target the public. A breakdown of those names reveals some patterns in our fantasy selves. It appears that our alter egos are:

- '80s movie heroes. We save the world in guises like Venkman (Ghostbusters), Deckard (Blade Runner), Plissken (Escape from New York), Indiana (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and McFly (Back to the Future).

- Lewd and crude. If you crack up at the idea of a robot butler calling you "Boobies," "Assface" and more, you're in luck. Codsworth will only let you transgress so far, though; the list is wisely free of ethnic and sexual slurs.

- Exalted. We answer to King, Queen, Prince and Princess, along with Sir and Ma'am.

- Lazy. One name says it all: Asdf. (Try typing it.)

- Animals. Not surprisingly, we take on the mantles of fierce and noble beasts like Eagles, Cobras and Dragons. More surprisingly, Ferrets.

- Borrowed from other games. After living in the skin of characters in other role playing games, we're loath to give them up. Fallout 4 lets you take on names like Walker (Spec Ops: The Line), Corvo (Dishonored), and Hawke (Dragon Age II).

- Tough. Names like Spike, Brick, Blaze and Crash show up throughout comics and games as signs of damage to come.

- Creators. More homage than alter ego, some of us tip our caps to action and imagination with names like Asimov, Clarke, Bruckheimer and Corman.

- Personal. The top hundred given names and surnames are almost completely represented, suggesting that many of us simply want to be called by our proper names. Or to put it another way, we want to be our own fantasy heroes and save the world ourselves.

What Names Make You Swipe Right? They're Not What You Might Think.

Nov 12th 2015

You're drawn to some names, and turned off by others. I know that about you, because you're human. All of us react to people's names, consciously or unconsciously. Now, a dating app has tried to tally our reactions in the form of "right swipes."

If you've never browsed for beaux on your phone, here's what you need to know about right swipes. In the age of the popular Tinder service, mobile matchmaking has been boiled down to bare bones ingredients. Input is just a name and photo, and response a single finger swipe: to the right for a "thumb's up," left for "no thanks." Now a Tinder competitor, The Grade, has broken down swiping rates by name.

Here are their most right-swiped names:

1   Brianna   Brett
2   Erika   Tyler
3   Lexi   Corey
4   Brooke   Andy
5   Vanessa   Noah
6   April   Shane
7   Natalie   Jeffrey
8   Jenna   Rob
9   Molly   Frank
10   Katie   Jeff
11   Laura   Zack
12   Rebecca             Brandon


As a Laura, I was surprised to see my own name on the list. Not because it's unattractive – all Lauras are naturally irresistible, of course – but because the typical Laura was born more than 40 years ago. Along with names like Jeffrey, Rebecca and Frank, it's a sign that The Grade's list isn't just signaling youth.

Instead, the names seem to follow two distinct style threads. The first, not surprisingly, is sexiness. Double letters abound, a feature common in names perceived as sexy. Brianna and Vanessa are lacy and sinuous, Jenna is associated with a prominent porn star, and Lexi just plain rhymes with sexy.

But the second style that leaps out is niceness. Short, friendly names and especially nicknames are generating great responses from would-be dates. These are the approachable names that draw people in, as salespeople and politicians know. In particular, the names Katie, Molly, Laura and Andy were all top suggestions when I asked users for the most likeable names they could think of.

In other words, even in a photo-dominated swipe-hookup interface, we're drawn to people who seem friendly, approachable and nice; people who seem like they'd smile and like us back. That's an encouraging sign for the app dating world. It suggests that plenty of users are thinking of those photos as real people, and possibly hoping to make real connections. It's also a good reminder to parents to take friendliness seriously.

Friendliness is a powerful social force that's undervalued in the baby naming process. As we get caught up in the race toward creativity and distinctiveness, the friendliest names remain simple, informal and familiar. That may not be a recipe for high fashion, but it's a great way to make a first impression.