From Skyler to Van, Americans have embraced modern Dutch names for their simplicity and style. Many choices translate well into the English-speaking world, and work especially well as cross-cultural picks.
Fresh and fashionable, these names have a sweet sound all their own. Check out these gorgeous Dutch choices that haven’t yet made it into the top 1000!
Image via Pexels
Fenna. This accessible, feminine choice rhymes with Jenna, but has a softer, more stylish sound. It has been embraced wholeheartedly by the Netherlands and Belgium, where it ranks in the top 100. Fenna comes from a word meaning “peace,” and it’s gentle vibe embodies that well.
Cas. A short form of Casper, concise and dynamic Cas works well for modern boys. It’s the masculine answer to Cassandra or Cassidy, but still feels new and uncommon. The character of Castiel on TV’s Supernatural has generated Cas some attention, but this cool name has a more diverse personality.
Saskia. Already popular in the United Kingdom in Australia, sweet and sassy Saskia could well appeal to the American population. It’s an attractive alternative to Sasha, and the name has quite a few bearers on various television shows. Artist Rembrandt van Rijn entitled a portrait of his wife “Saskia”, giving this name a creative connection, too.
Niels. Niels is best known as a Danish name, and is the name name of three Nobel Prize-winning Danish scientists. But it's also a Dutch nickname for Cornelius/Cornelis, and stands up well as a full name. If you’re looking for a name that feels smart but unusual, Niels might be right up your alley.
Cilla. While enchanting Cilla ranked once on the top 1000 in the US, it’s been underused since, giving this name some historical credibility without being overly familiar. It’s a short form of Priscilla or Cecilia, but has a crisper and more elegant sound. Late English singer Cilla Black has brought this name some notoriety, but Cilla’s vibe is more timeless than specific.
Roel. This handsome variation of Roland has a kind and substantial feeling, fitting in well with classic masculine choices like Joel, Cole, and Noel. It ranked in the top 1000 briefly in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but remains under the radar today. Actor Robert Downey Jr. and his wife gave their daughter the name Avri Roel, giving this winsome name a unisex spin.
Anouk. Though this darling variation of Anne remains popular in French- and Dutch-speaking countries, Anouk’s fame hasn’t extended across the pond - it was only given to fourteen American babies last year. Some awareness of the name comes from French actress Anouk Aimée, as well as the main character in Chocolat. Also spelled Anouck, this name feels both delightful and different.
Tygo. A name that’s bound to be a hit on the playground, Tygo is a Dutch favorite that would translate well to English-speaking communities. It fits in with names like Tyler, Ty, and Tyson, with a trendy O-ending. Still, Tygo seems like an energetic and unique name, especially for active boys.
Sanne. Pronounced “SAH-nuh,” this diminutive of Susan has a simple yet sophisticated vibe. It has the meaning of “lily” - a plus for fans of the botanical - and could be a novel alternative to names like Anna or Savannah. Pleasant and polished, Sanne would make a graceful choice for a modern girl.
Bram. This Dutch variation of Abraham is also linked to the Ireland and the UK, most notably by Irish author Bram Stoker of Dracula fame. It feels hip and lively, fitting in stylistically with names like Bryce, Brent, and Sam. With both Biblical and literary associations, Bram is sure to work for all kinds of name tastes.
Lotte. While Charlotte and Charlie have risen up the girls’ popularity lists, this Dutch and German diminutive hasn’t yet gained such an audience. But lovely Lotte - pronounced “LAW-tuh” - could appeal to fans of the former picks who want a name that’s more offbeat and fun. Notable namesakes include early German animator Lotte Reiniger and Austrian actress Lotte Lenya, giving the name a more artistic angle.
Sander. Softer than Zander but less common than Alex, Sander is a friendly short form of Alexander. It sounds like both an occupational name and a surname, but Sander is less faddish than other popular picks. This summery pick is well known in Scandinavian countries, too.
Merel. Though it’s pronounced like Meryl, stylish Merel comes from the Dutch word for “blackbird,” adding a subtle natural element to the name. Merel could work as an unexpected honorific for a familial Marlene or Marilyn, as well. It’s virtually nickname-proof, and has a smiling and sincere vibe with a unique feeling.
Pim. With Liam the William nickname du jour, forward-thinking parents may be on the lookout for something a bit different. Pim, the Dutch nickname for Willem, might fit the bill: it’s short and sweet, with a bright energy akin to that of Jack or Max. It’s in the top 100 in the Netherlands but has yet to make waves in the US - perhaps we’ll see it in the next decade!
Cato. Many known this name as a masculine Latin choice, but Cato also developed as a nickname for feminine Catharina in the Dutch-speaking world. It’s a worthy successor to Kate or Katie, with a light and contemporary vibe. Might Cato join Harlow and Margot in the girl’s name rankings soon?
The hottest nicknames of today sound like yesterday. Even as the familiar, everyday nicknames that parents grew up with disappear, a new set of quirky-cute throwbacks is rising. A newborn boy today is more likely to receive the given name Gus than Mike, Dave, or Tom. For girls, Sadie is more popular than Kate, Kim or Jessie…or, for that matter, Katherine, Kimberly or Jessica.
Looking for more new-old ideas? The options are surprisingly plentiful. The early 20th Century was a nickname extravaganza, especially for girls. The trick is that for every old-time name with the revival appeal of Sadie, there are a slew of less promising prospects like Fronie and Mossie.
To hit the bullseye a nickname should be old-fashioned, but not bound too tightly to a formal name that's still stuck in the past, like Gertie and Myrtie. It should be cute, but not quite as cute as Lolly or Pinkie. It can be boyish, but not so distinctly male as Louie and Eddie. It should be a little quirky and surprising, but not as surprising as Leafy and Mintie.
I've identified 29 likely prospects below. All remain uncommon today, with only Hattie and Millie ranking among the top 1,000 given names for American girls.
For parents who wish to use these names purely as nicknames, I've listed their traditional formal sources. You can choose from among them for a full throwback package, or pair the old-fashioned nickname with a more contemporary formal name. For instance, a young Winnie today may formally be Winter or Winslow rather than Winifred, and a young Effie is likely to be…well, just about anything rather than Euphemia.
THE QUIRKY-CUTE ANTIQUE NICKNAMES
(with their traditional formal sources)
Billie: Wilhelmina; also Belinda, Sybil
Birdie: Bertha, Bridget, Beatrice, Elizabeth
Bizzy: Elizabeth, Beatrice
Dillie: Delilah; also Cordelia, Dahlia, Daffodil, Bedelia, Odelia
Dovie: Dove, Deborah; often just an affectionate nickname not linked to the given name
Essie: Esther, Estelle, Estella
Etty: Henrietta, Loretta, Annette, Marietta
Georgie: Georgia, Georgina, Georgiana, Georgette
Goldie: Golda; also often given in reference to blond hair
Hattie: Harriet; occasionally Henrietta
Hettie: Henrietta, Hester; occasionally Mehetabel
Letty: Letitia, Lettice, Violetta
Libby: Elizabeth; also Isabel, Olivia
Lottie: Charlotte; occasionally Lieselotte, Carlotta
Mellie: Millicent, Carmela, Melanie
Millie: Mildred, Millicent; occasionally Camilla, Camille, Emily
Minnie: Wilhelmina, Minerva; also Jessamine, Araminta, Arminda, Dominica
Nellie: Helen, Eleanor, Ellen
Polly: Mary; also Pauline, Paulina
Sudie: Susanna, Susan and related names
Sukey: Susanna, Susan and related names
Tessie: Theresa and related names
Tibby: Tabitha; occasionally Elizabeth
Tilly: Matilda; occasionally Ottilie, Clotilde
Trixie: Beatrix, Beatrice; occasionally Patricia
Vinnie: Lavinia, Vincenza; occasionally Lovina, Lavina, Davina
Winnie: Winifred; occasionally Winona, Edwina, Gwendolen, Rowena
Looking through the annals of ancient history, today’s explorers can find inspiration for art, literature… and names. Some classical choices are ripe for today’s trends, balancing historical substance and modern style.
These fourteen names for boys take insight from the records of Ancient Rome, decorating emperors, philosophers, and everyone in between. If you’re looking for a name with both strength and smarts, you’re sure to find a handsome option here.Image via Wikimedia Commons
Cicero. Bright and bold Cicero has an appeal on multiple levels, from its association with the master of Latin prose to its modern melody and O-ending. From a Roman surname meaning “chickpea,” this choice has an intelligent and unexpected sort of flair.
Albus. Today’s audiences may link this lovely name to Albus Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame, but Albus originated as an ancient surname. It has a nature connection as well - “Albus” is a type of rosemary plant - giving this geek-chic name more real-world substance.
Rufus. A stylish standard in the United Kingdom for centuries, sweet Rufus has its roots in the Latin language. Namesakes abound throughout history, from musicians to politicians, and it’s no wonder - Rufus has a dashing sensibility all its own.
Vitus. A Roman praenomen meaning “lively,” Vitus is spirited and handsome to boot. The Christian Saint Vitus is the patron saint of actors and dancers, making this choice a subtle way to honor an artistic loved one. Dapper Vitus has only been recorded by the SSA twice in history, in 1929 and in 2010 - it’s sure to feel fresh for years to come.
Caius. With short favorites Kai and Cai rising up the charts, why not choose a longer choice that has a more sophisticated vibe? Caius is an elegant Roman variant of Gaius, used in Shakespeare’s work and adorning a college at Cambridge. Friendly yet noble, Caius is sure to appeal to many tastes.
Junius. A celebrated family in Ancient Rome bore the name Junius, and this charming choice endured as a first name through the early 20th century. It’s a novel alternative to Julius or Jude, with the cute and boyish nickname Juni (of Spy Kids fame).
Fabius. Though it sounds like dramatic Fabio or Fabian, Fabius adorned a tough general in the third century BC - an excellent namesake for a strong little one! The name comes from /faba/, meaning “bean,” which adds a fabulous idiosyncrasy to strapping Fabius.
Quintus. This unexpected choice was a popular praenomen in the Roman era, often bestowed upon the fifth child (or a child born in the fifth month). But Quintus can be more versatile than just a “number name” - it’s a cool and quirky option that is similar to modern Quinn and Quentin, and it’s been used in the US sporadically since 1917.
Augustus. The most popular name on this list, Augustus ranks at #457 in the US top 1000, and for a few good reasons: it has the powerful meaning of “magnificent,” it fits in with the trend for title names like King or Messiah, and it has an extensive historical record that helps it feel usable. Plus, the nickname choices for Augustus are superb, with Gus, Gusto, and Augie among the possibilities.
Marius. Beloved across Europe, Marius has never achieved such prominence in the US, making it perfect for those who want something accessible yet uncommon. Marius Pontmercy is the name of a heroic character in /Les Miserables/, and the /prenom/ could make an attractive honorific for a familial Maria or Marilyn.
Seneca. Both a Roman cognomen and the name of a Native American tribe, Seneca is a refined multicultural choice. While this antique name is historically male, it’s now given to boys and girls almost equally - 33 girls and 29 boys in 2016. Serene and unique, Seneca is bound to soar - especially since it features prominently in the /Hunger Games/ series.
Tiberius. Derived from the Tiber River in Italy, Tiberius is a powerfully masculine choice - it was worn by one of Rome’s greatest generals and emperors. Tiberius is connected with both the Star Trek and Harry Potter universes, giving the robust name a fun pop culture spin.
Marcellus. Polished and pleasant, Marcellus is a lively diminutive that sprung from classic Marcus. It’s been rising rapidly in popularity since 2013, and may soon break into the top 1000! With so many namesakes - religious, athletic, political - Marcellus is a name that surely inspires greatness.
Cassius. Ranking at #602 for boys, Cassius is an energetic name with historical significance: Cassius Clay (now known as Muhammad Ali) was named for his father, who was in turn named for a nineteenth-century abolitionist. It can be pronounced as either “Cash-us” or “Cass-ee-us,” and the name exudes confidence and courage.