You’ve wondered yourself. You’ve read about a Sherlock or Django or Caillou and thought, "what IS that name, anyway?" This list is designed to satisfy your curiosity.
Image via Riccardo Cesari / Splash News
To identify the names people wonder about the most, I've turned to visitor statistics for our own Namipedia. Most of the top-visited name pages are hot baby name choices, like Amelia and Liam. But mixed in among those are names you'll seldom encounter in real life.
When the ratio of web searches to actual babies is sky high, that's a point of mass public curiosity. Where does the name come from? What does it mean? Is it a "real" name, or did the author invent it? And does anybody actually dare choose it for their baby? Read on.
The most wondered-about names for boys:
Atreyu. Writer Michael Ende invented the name Atreyu for a young hero in The Neverending Story. In the book, the name is translated as "son of all" in Atreyu's fictional native language, meaning that the boy was raised by his whole village.
Atz. Atz Kilcher is the patriarch of the Kilcher clan chronicled on the reality series "Alaska: The Last Frontier." Kilcher's full given name is Attila Kuno Kilcher, but he's settled so fully into the nickname Atz that he passed that name on to his son.
Baelfire. Even if you don't recognize the name Baelfire as a character from the enchanted world of "Once Upon A Time," you doubtless pegged this as a fantasy name. The "ae" combo is the favorite vowel of fantasy authors, and the spelling Baelfyr is the name of a Celtic Folk Metal band. (A "balefire" was a bonfire or funeral pyre.)
Caillou. The Canadian cartoon character Caillou (kiy-OO) is named after the French word for "pebble." Caillou is not traditionally used as a baby name.
Castiel. This name struck a chord from the moment the Angel Castiel first appeared on the tv series Supernatural. It was an artful choice: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael are angels, and Castiel seems to fit right in. But there is no Castiel in Judeo-Christian traditions. If you stretch the point you can track down a Kafziel/Cassiel among the dozens of names identified as angels in mystical texts have over the centuries.
Django. Gypsy guitarist Jean-Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt is a jazz legend. His nickname comes from the Romani word for "awake." In the 1960s Django became a popular character name in spaghetti Westerns; apparently the Gypsy name sounded like a cowboy to Italian screenwriters. Director Quentin Tarantino paid homage to those films by choosing Django as the unlikely name for his avenging African-American slave in the film Django Unchained.
Finnick. An etymology hunter may find the name Finnick as an occasional variant of the place name/surname Fenwick. As a given name, though, it's the invention of Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins. Her full character name Finnick Odair manages to be unfamiliar while giving off Irish vibes. Some parents are drawn to the name as an extension of Finn, despite the "finicky" sound.
Jebediah. Nope, there's no Jebediah in the Bible. The Simpsons dreamed up this pseudo-pioneer name for their city founder Jebediah Springfield. If you like the nickname Jeb, it can be a contraction of Jacob or an acronym from the initials J.E.B. Alternately, if you like the biblical pioneer style there's always Jedediah.
Kenai. The 2003 animated film Brother Bear featured native Alaskan names which continue to spark curiosity. At the top of the list is Kenai (KEE-niy), a Tenaina word for field which is also the name of an Alaskan city. Kenai's cinematic brother Sitka also bears a city name, based on the name of a native Alaskan tribe.
Niklaus. Niklaus is a Swiss form of Nicholas, but that's not what sends hordes of visitors to Namipedia. We're talking vampires, people! Niklaus Mikaelson is a powerful supernatural hybrid character from the tv shows The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.
Roxas. Roxas is a literally heartless character in the Kingdom Hearts video game series. The character came into being when protagonist Sora briefly lost his heart – note that Roxas is an anagram of Sora + X. (Sora is a Japanese name from a word for "sky.") Both names have seen occasional use in the U.S. since Kingdom Hearts became popular.
Sherlock. Sherlock is an uncommon surname from roots meaning "bright hair" or "shorn hair." Nobody knows why Arthur Conan Doyle chose the name for his great detective Sherlock Holmes, but its spiky idiosyncrasy suits the character. (Consider that Holmes' more ordinary companion Watson was christened John.) Sherlock's big brother Mycroft also bears a rare surname. Mycroft has the form of a place name, meaning roughly "the field by the stream mouth," but there's no Mycroft to be found on the map.
Tarek. An alternate form of the Arabic name Tariq, which refers to a night visitor or guiding star. Tarek El Moussa, the host of the real estate reality series "Flip or Flop," was born in Egypt.
Zidane. In the world of humans, Zidane is an Algerian surname associated with soccer legend Zinedine Zidane. In the world of video game Final Fantasy IX he's a charming thief with a prehensile tail. One or both of these heroes boosted Zidane to become an occasional American baby name choice since the year 2000.
Come with me, down into my secret Mad Name Scientist laboratory. On my workbench are piles of baby name popularity stats, and letters from A to Z. From these, we shall build the statistically ideal name!
We want a stylish name, tuned to current tastes. Let’s start by limiting our input to names that are rising in popularity (a score of at least .2 on the Baby Name Wizard hotness scale). That still leaves data on more than 20,000 names to work with, representing well over a million babies. Next, we’ll split the data for boys' and girls' names to zero in on trends for each sex.
Now the real fun begins.
We need to give our names shape. In our collection of millions of fashionable babies, six letters is the most popular length for both boys’ and girls’ names. But which six? To find out, we can take apart all those trendy little names letter by letter, then try reassembling them.
Looking at the girls’ pool, we could simply put the most popular first letter first, the most popular second letter second, and on until we have a whole name built of only the choicest parts! Here’s the result:
Hmm. Not quite what we’re looking for. But hey, that Dr. Frankenstein didn't hit it out of the park on his first swing either.
The problem, of course, is that letters aren't independent of one another. Trends are about arrangements and flows of sound. To capture the trendy flow, let’s anchor the name with the top first and last letters (name endings carry a lot of style power). Then we can work in toward the middle conditionally, choosing the trendiest letters based on their neighbors. That experiment produces:
Now we're geting somewhere. Arilia could be pronounced like Amelia with an r, or like the combo Ari-Lia. Either way it's a "liquid name" with stressed long vowels, a smooth creation that flows off the tongue.
Turning to the boys’ side, the final letter is obvious: N, the defining sound of this whole generation of boys. The top initial is J, the timeless favorite across eras from Joe to Jaxon. Moving in letter by letter, we’ll build the statistically ideal boy:
This one looks like a perfect strike. I’ve never come across the exact name, but last year Jayceon was America’s fastest rising boy’s name, with Jase #2. Then there’s Jackson, and Mason, and on and on.
Even if you don’t plan to run out and name twins Arilia and Jacion, there’s plenty to learn from this little experiment. Arilia and Jacion represent the name-sound environment that your child will be trying to fit into – or stand out in. If you’re worried that the name Aurelia sounds stuffy or “old-ladyish,” this should be good news. But if you’re counting on the unusual spelling Gracin to make your son’s name distinctive and memorable, you might want to think again.
Originally appeared on The Stir.
Scarlett. Bennett. Elliott. Notice a trend? Baby names with a double "T" are where it's at these days.
"Even if parents don't like the same style of name, we're liking the same sounds," says naming expert Laura Wattenberg, founder of Baby Name Wizard. And right now, ending a name with a crisp, clear "T" is sounding pretty good.
The reason why isn't clear, but "more than ever before, parents are looking for fresh names," Wattenberg says. "We don't want to name our kids 'John' and 'Mary.' We want to sound creative. Standing out from the crowd has become more important than fitting in."
Read on for names ending with a "double T" sound that you'll want to consider for your baby boy or girl.
1. Alliette: Beautiful without being precious. Try "Allie" or "Ettie" as a nickname.
2. Britt: A more athletic, confident version of Brittany.
3. Charlotte: This Old German name continues to be hot right now, and for good reason. It's elegant without being fussy.
4. Claudette: Claude's a hard sell. But add the ending "TT" sound and you suddenly have a light, musical name that trips off the tongue.
5. Johnette: Derived from the French name "Jeannette," Johnette has an endearing tomboy charm.
6. Merritt: It means "boundary gate" in Old English, but we think Merritt has far-reaching appeal. Smart, steady, and sweet.
7. Olette: A unique gem of a name. You'd never guess it originated from the Norwegian "Olaf."
8. Scarlett: Strong on Southern charm and beauty. Try Carly or Scout for short.
9. Violette: A delicate flower of a name, with just a hint of mischief.
10. Viviette: An unusually pretty name for a baby girl. Plus, you get the bonus of "Viv" or "Vivi" as a nickname.
1. Abbott: Derived from the Aramaic "abba," which means father. But we just like how it sounds: friendly and approachable.
2. Beckett: Whether this name makes you think of writer Samuel Beckett or one of the main characters on the TV show Castle, you have to admit, it has far-reaching appeal.
3. Bennett: A snazzier version of Benjamin, Bennett continues to rise in popularity.
4. Elliott: Equal parts smart and sweet, this name is inherently lovable.
5. Everett: Thoughtful and steady, Everett's a solid choice for a baby boy.
6. Hewitt: A common English last name, we think Hewitt has enough charm to also come first.
7. Padgett: An unusually strong, serious name.
8. Prescott: Although it comes from the English name for "priest's cottage," we think Prescott sounds like a leading man.
9. Riott: It's not for everyone, but if you're looking for a strong, unique name that guarantees your son will stand out, Riott's the natural choice.
10. Witt: The natural (and adorable) successor to another "double-T" name: Wyatt.
Which name ending with a double-T is your favorite?