Names, Exotica, and Scrabble, Part 2

Sep 26th 2004

The previous post showed how parents are gravitating toward exotic letters in names -- particularly letters like Q, X and Z that score highest in the game of Scrabble. So what does that trend look like on an individual name level?

Any traditional name with a Q, X or Z now has a shot at the big time. Axel, Ezekiel, Felix, Maximilian, Quinton, Xavier, Zane and Zoe were obscurities a generation ago, but all are top-500 choices today. Zachary, once a biblical oddity, is now an everyday standard name:

To broaden the field, parents are also juicing up standard names with an extra shot of Scrabble power. Some popular choices:


(Jazmyn also illustrates another Scrabble-friendly trend, the mass substitution of Y for I in names like Kaitlyn and Madelyn.)

So what's up next? Here are 10 names with Scrabble mojo that have yet to break through:

Ajax - Think of the ancient Greek hero, not the srubbing bubbles
Beatrix - A sassier turn on Beatrice, with distinguished forbears
Jabez - The biblical Jabez had his prayers famously answered
Lazar - Eastern European form of Eleazar or Lazarus
Lennox - A tough, sophisticated Scottish surname
Quinlan - From the Irish surname, it also works as an elaboration on Quinn
Rex - From the Latin for "king," a promising alternative to Max
Xanthe - A traditional Greek name with the popular strong -e ending
Xristina - Eye-catching Greek form of Christina
Zilla - A thoroughly neglected Old Testament choice for girls


By Anonymous (not verified)
September 28, 2004 2:14 AM

This is fascinating! I like Ajax and Xanthe. --jmP.S. The polka dots are very pleasant and relaxing.

By Anonymous (not verified)
January 18, 2005 5:10 AM

Of those names you mentioned as being on the verge of breaking through, I can vouch for Beatrix as already being well on its way. I'm in NYC and know 4 little girls with that name (3 are called Trixie and 1 is called Bea), all under the age of 3 years.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 11, 2005 12:48 AM

I am so excited that you mentioned Zillah! I think it is a great name worthy of being used

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 12, 2005 12:07 AM

I work for an early childhood music education program and am constantly telling my friends about the ridiculous names rich people bestow upon their children. Xanthe and Alexa are sisters. Poor Xanthe. Even more unfortunate is- no joke- Holden Johnson.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 14, 2005 8:01 AM

My son's name is Quinn and I love it. He is the only boy with that name that I know which is the way I wanted it to be. I wonder for how much longer.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 15, 2005 3:18 PM

Want any funny Dutch names? Klaas is a very nomral boys name. Or Piet, Kees or Flip. For girls Greet and Joke are very normal names in Dutch. Ajax is also a well known Dutch soccer club and Beatrix is our queens name.Floor, Hermine and Zwaan are also girls names. I know of a man whose first name is Sjhonny. You would need to know how Johnny is pronounced the Dutch way to appreciate this spelling.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 15, 2005 7:44 PM

bummer for a kid named "Zilla"....I can just hear the fouth graders calling her Godzilla...that's just too cruel people!!!

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 16, 2005 2:55 AM

I'd like to throw in the name Tirzah to the list. Fits several trends ... Biblical, unusual, and has the Z.

By Anonymous (not verified)
February 19, 2005 3:26 AM

Ajax - Greek myth or not, scrubbing bubbles will always come up. Just go ahead and name him Comet or Windex...Beatrix - PotterLazar - Lasers, enough saidLennox - porcelain knicknacks you get through magazines. I know I spelled knicknacks wrong.Rex - tyranasaurus... Xristina - Zristina? wth? X does NOT make a Ch sound in American. Zilla - God...

By Faustina (not verified)
February 23, 2005 4:39 AM

I think Floor is Dutch for flower. It makes sense when you think of Fleur and Flora. Zilla would be very bad: Godzilla, Mozilla...I think Lennox is also on some air conditioners and heaters.I can see Xristina. think of Chi and Rho in the Greek alphabet.

By Marieke (not verified)
March 6, 2005 5:25 PM

@ FaustinaFloor definitely isn't the Dutch word for flower, that word is "bloem" (pronounced "bloom", compare this to "to bloom"). Floor is a very common(top 10) nickname for Florence or Florentine (see: ). Most people who name their daughter (and sometimes son) Floor, are aware of the meaning in English, but still really like the sound and meaning.

By Anonymous (not verified)
March 10, 2005 4:39 AM

Know a few Xanthe's here in Australia (but then there are lots of Greeks living here).

By Anonymous (not verified)
March 23, 2005 2:33 AM

My grandfather's name is Rex -- after his father -- and he's always hated it... said it was a name fit only for a dog. His son and grandson carried on the tradition of being named Rex, but went by their middle names.(BTW, I've noticed that the coffin nail for a lot of formerly popular names is that people start to use them to name their puppies... there might be an entry in this, if only there was data on dog names!)

By Anonymous (not verified)
March 29, 2005 8:30 AM

Anonymous said... My daughters name is Abrina and i have yet to this duplicated. She is now 14 and loves her name. I feel it has made her very popular. 4:29 AM

By Anonymous (not verified)
May 5, 2005 12:13 AM

I am a Scrabble player with a nephew and nieces with high-scoring names: ZACHARY; JESSICA; SAMANTHA; and ALEXA.

By Anonymous (not verified)
May 6, 2005 7:53 PM

To the person above who said "X does NOT make a Ch sound in American," I was not aware that there was an American language.Also, besides its length, how on earth is "Samantha" a high-scoring Scrabble word? My name, Elizabeth, is actually longer and includes the Z for high points.

By Anonymous (not verified)
July 11, 2005 9:13 PM

i went to elementary school with a Xanthe in the 80s...

By Anonymous (not verified)
July 24, 2005 7:58 AM

Jaxon? Alexzander? XZavier?! What a spelling nightmare for these poor kids to have to deal with. Inexzcuseable.

By Korie (not verified)
August 3, 2005 7:29 PM

My name is Korinthian. I go by Korie. I'm a girl. I guess it's cool to be unique, but it sucks when everyone spells your name wrong no matter what. I gave up trying to get people to spell my name right a LONG time ago.

By Xanthe King (not verified)
November 11, 2005 9:47 PM

my name is Xanthe and im completly English! My dad just liked the name and i love it too. I have to admit though its pretty cool to have a name that doesnt sound like anything else because then people wont call you names as much. Like if your name was elle you could be called elle the smell or somthing. Im 13 and i havnt had a name called at me once!

By Antoinette (not verified)
November 22, 2005 4:08 PM

I love Beatrix. My boyfriend hates it so I named my hampster this instead of my daughter. The other names are awful. Adding a z to Xavier just shows you can't spell.

By Kseniya (not verified)
January 17, 2006 5:00 PM

I know a girl my age (21) named Beatrix, she is half Dutch, half Siberian. It's a lovely name, and she's a lovely person. I agree that there's an upside and a downside to having an unusual name.Korie, I can totally relate to your comment.I'm an American. My parents (also born here) wanted to keep our Ukrainian family heritage alive, so they gave me, their first-born, a common Slavic (originally Greek) name, but one that is virtually unknown here: Kseniya. I do love my name, and it has a nice meaning, but it's hard for people to say, for there's not a single English word that starts with the "ks" sound. It's impossible to get people to pronounce or spell it correctly. Many friends just call me "K". The Cyrillic spelling is slightly simpler, but that doesn't help me much. :-) --> КсенияIt also didn't help me, in grade school, that my name rhymed with "Insane-yah!" LOLApparently, Mom and Dad soon grew weary of constantly explaining the spelling and pronunciation of my name. I have two brothers, 5 and 7 years younger, named Justin and Michael. LOL :-)

By Tansey (not verified)
January 26, 2006 8:31 PM

In New Zealand there is a popular TV gardener by the name of Xanthe White. Her name is pronounced 'Zanthee'.

By Jan (not verified)
May 5, 2006 12:17 AM

We named our daughter Beatrix in 2002 and everyone thought we were nuts - now all I get are compliments! Esp. after Kill Bill/Uma Thurman came out years later as Beatrix Kiddo!
I love my BeBe!

By Gaiges mum (not verified)
May 23, 2006 10:11 AM

My sons name is Gaige - havn't met another one in person yet :)

By Xanthe (not verified)
September 17, 2006 11:35 AM

My name is Xanthe and I hated it until about 3 years ago! I love it now because it's individual so it always strikes up a conversation. It CAN be annoying though "Thats a nice name. Is it Greek? Yes. Are you Greek? No." and in clubs its impossible! Which is where "Sandy" comes in handy... But to any parent thinking about it I do recommend it.. apart from the woman above (I work for an early childhood music education program ... Poor Xanthe) everybody absolutely loves it

By talulahzoey (not verified)
November 21, 2006 8:08 AM

my daughters name is Zoey and i wouldnt even consider calling her Xoey. Sounds absurd..

By remyjames (not verified)
November 25, 2006 12:15 PM

My husband and I have been considering the name Xzavier for our second born. While I agree that the unusual spelling is asking for problems, I don't know how else to get the desired pronunciation of Ex-avi-er. If we go with the traditional spelling Xavier people will assume he's Zav-i-er. any suggestions?

By rex (not verified)
January 21, 2007 3:29 AM

hey if you spell your kids name weird, like xzavier rather than xavier, then people will just make fun of them. because lets be serious, that is really weird. not cool, just weird. and my name is rex, and it is cool, not just a name fit for a dog. and so is my dad and my grandpa. and none of them hate it. and please don't name your kid xristina. that is just mean.

By kristi (not verified)
March 15, 2007 2:06 PM

Speaking of Tirzah, I know of teenage brothers named Mirza and Rusmir. I've been expecting to see Eastern European names rising in popularity in recent years. I'm guessing there is a treasure trove of Z- and Zh- names out there.

By Margaret (not verified)
March 29, 2007 4:02 PM


By Xanthe (not verified)
June 26, 2007 8:57 PM

My name is Xanthe and I am now in my early thirties. I go by 'Zanth' or 'Zantha', but in Greece they would pronounce it 'ksanthee' or at least that is what I was told by a greek friend. I love my name. Yes, it was challenging sometimes as a child with the mispronounciations and having to explain it to everyone. But now it is a great conversation piece and I have even had people say they loved it so much they were going to name their next girl Xanthe. I am very thankful that my parents gave me an unusual name and will cherish it forever.

By Gemma (not verified)
September 26, 2007 3:10 PM

My daughter is called Xanthe and my son Theo... but myself and my husand are very much english. We just really liked both names.

By anon (not verified)
November 21, 2007 4:17 AM


No. Zachary is the correct spelling. Use please, unless you want people to label your child low class for the rest of his life.

As for "Ex-avi-ar", if you insist upon mispronouncing the name that way, fine. Enough Americans pronounce it near enough to that. DON'T raise your child to be snitty about "Kza-vier" or "Za-vier", and don't do your child the disfavor of misspelling it, too. It will make you seem ridiculous at best and illiterate at worst.

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