Name Alternatives: The Up-and-Comers

Jul 9th 2010

"I've always loved that name, if only it weren't so popular."

It's a familiar baby namer's lament. You fell in love with Olivia at age 10 when it felt classic but fresh; now that you're 30 it's still lovely, but the freshness is gone.

Olivia, though, has been in that style holding pattern for years. A new crop of names is now on the cusp of widespread popularity. The new refrain for name-aware parents is "I've always loved Lila...."

Have no fear, a list is here. Below are some less common alternatives to the up-and-coming hit names. The goal is to reflect both the sound and style of the popular name in a separate, independent name -- not just a watered-down version of the original. In each case, the suggestions are listed in declining order by current U.S. popularity, from the moderately uncommon to the genuinely rare.

Amelia: Helena, Celia, Beatrice, Adela, Aurelia
Arianna: Arabella, Alessandra, Iliana, Ariella, Allegra
Lila: Luna, Isla, Lana, Mira, Calla
Marley: Presley, Laney, Ellery, Everly, Marlowe
Peyton: Teagan, Leighton, Madigan, Paxton, Larsen
Piper: Ivy, Sawyer, Juniper, Wren, Briar

Carter: Porter, Archer, Ramsey, Calder, Seaver
Levi: Tobias, Cyrus, Jericho, Boaz, Wiley
Liam: Finn, Callum, Cian, Ewan, Teague
Maddox: Paxton, Hendrix, Lennox, Saxon, Hawkins
Oliver: Edgar, Julius, Everett, Alistair, Benedict
Wyatt: Sawyer, Walker, Abbott, Winslow, Crockett


By Beth the original (not verified)
July 9, 2010 9:17 AM

I'm first! I'm first! I'm first!

Now what?

By Beth the original (not verified)
July 9, 2010 9:26 AM

OK then. So for girls, the only real surprises are Lana, Celia, Larsen, and Adela. The rest are definitely on the map over here. The boys' names were much more unusual -- maybe because everyone seems to choose from a smaller pool of trendy boys' names. Only Finn is already omnipresent.

I myself would pause before naming a child Saxon. One, the "sex" jokes seem too obvious. Two, it sounds like Anglo-Saxon, which is rather a freighted term, retooled in the 19th century to designate a chosen "Aryan" people (see Reginald Horsman, *Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxons*).

But I like Edgar! And Julius, as opposed to the also omnipresent Julian.

By FloweryFriend (not verified)
July 9, 2010 9:26 AM

If you do a follow up to this post, please also include alternatives for "Isabella" and "Evelyn". Thank you!


By Manda (not verified)
July 9, 2010 9:35 AM

I like many of these names, and considered Calla and Isla before settling on Willa for my daughter.

I know a Wren- however he is a boy, named after Christopher Wren. Briar? As in Briar patch?

How about Asher as an alternative to Levi and Carter?

By Gee70 (not verified)
July 9, 2010 10:40 AM

I like anyone who has the balls to name their boy Saxon.

Maybe it's appealing right now because I'm reading Ivanhoe.

Can a Jewish boy be named Saxon? ;)

July 9, 2010 11:18 AM


Would Idalia or Lavender be of interest?

By DEH (not verified)
July 9, 2010 11:27 AM

For some reason, these lists didn't really do it for me. I love the name Arianna but the others just seem blah to me. Same with Lila (perhaps with the exception of Isla) and Oliver.

Maybe the things I love about these names are different from what other people love about them.

By melanie1 (not verified)
July 9, 2010 11:32 AM

I think of the popular girls names, the only one I could see wanting to name my girl that is Amelia. I like Celia and Adela so I think the suggestions seem to work for me. Hmmmm, maybe it is time to let the boys get some pets since I seem to be running out of my own baby naming opportunities. But then, I doubt they'd let the family dag be named Celia even if I decided not to listen to all the people regretting pets named people names here on the blog :)

July 9, 2010 11:53 AM

Following the rules above, here are a few more names for both Isabella and Evelyn:

Isabella: Cristabella, Donatella, Iolanthe, Isadora, Petronella, Xiomara

Evelyn: Avonlea, Beverly, Emerson, Eowyn, Guinevere, Vivian

Would these help?

By alr as guest (not verified)
July 9, 2010 12:11 PM

Isabella: Gabriella, Lucia, Ariel, Catalina, Ilana, Annalise

Evelyn: Ivy, Hazel, Alina, Lydia, Audrey, Ramona

Based on both, I like: Lisette, Genevieve, and Rosalie

By C C & B's Mom (not verified)
July 9, 2010 12:12 PM

I know a high school girl named Saxon!

July 9, 2010 12:25 PM

nice one, laura!

the suggestions for oliver are excellent, but i still love oliver. :]

By MeganMarie (not verified)
July 9, 2010 12:27 PM

Allegra? Really? A year ago we were carefully talking a friend out of that name. The immediat response to it was usually, "You mean the Allergy drug?" and a surprising number of people knew it was a drug but had it confused with Viagra.

It's sad, because it is a cute name.

I'm also holding my breath because I LOVE a couple of the names on the alternate's list and hope they don't become popular soon.

By talia_bl (not verified)
July 9, 2010 12:47 PM

I have friends with a daughter named Allegra (8 yrs old) and I always thought it was different but nice sounding. I don't they've had any people associate it with the allergy medication or confuse it with Viagra (although perhaps you wouldn't tell them that either!)

I really like Celia. The boys names aren't as great alternatives for me but I guess I like more traditional boys names anyways.

July 9, 2010 12:55 PM

What about other names in the top ten? Samantha, Sophia, Madison?

I think some of these alternate names should be considered, but I doubt that they will ever be as popular as the top names.

July 9, 2010 1:09 PM

MeganMarie: Allegra isn't a worldwide allergy medicine. The association bothers some, but it doesn't even exist in most places.

By EVie
July 9, 2010 1:22 PM

I have a cousin named Allegra in her early 20s. She was born before the allergy meds came out, so it wasn't an issue then, but I've never heard her complain about it at all. She occasionally gets called "Legs," but it's rather appropriate because she's a tall blonde knockout. My mom actually considered the name for me, but my dad vetoed it - I kinda wish I'd gotten it. My aunt then used it (after my mom was done having kids). I really wouldn't consider the allergy meds a problem, it's a great name.

By Rachel Yel (not verified)
July 9, 2010 1:42 PM

Sure, why not! I mean, we WASPS have been using old Testament Jewish names for years ;)

By hyz
July 9, 2010 1:56 PM

First, thanks Miriam for the two possible explanations on Jewish nature surnames yesterday. Whatever the true source, I find these names both fun and interesting (although unfortunately some of them aren't as lovely in English as they are in German--I particularly think that the -blatt names suffer greatly with an American accent--a pity).

Second, I never realized how many (relatively) famous Hermiones there were, both real and fictional, until I put the name into wikipedia to see some of these British actresses. Of possible interest, the actress Hermione Norris named her son and daughter Wilf and Hero, respectively. Now that's a distinctive pair!

Third, I will say that I obviously think that several of the Oliver alternatives are dead-on, since several of them are on my list, or are near misses (Alistair, Everett, Julius/Julian). Edgar and Benedict seem off to me--both too stuffy, not as friendly as Oliver and its kin, and I find the latter too religious these days--but maybe they fit for other people. I'd have definitely put Silas on the list, though, since it's another antique-sounding, soft male name with a nature meaning, and those are hard to come by. I also have my doubts re: Ivy as an alternative to Piper, but maybe that's just me. These are fun lists, though!

By ADY (not verified)
July 9, 2010 2:16 PM

I didn't realize that Piper was such an up and comer! Just named my daughter that (now 5 months old)...

Certainly didn't think it was as popular as Marley or Peyton.

By sdh
July 9, 2010 2:32 PM

I know 2 Briars, both in their thirties. Also a thirties Allegra, but she always goes by Ali.
I loved the name Isabelle growing up, but now of course I think it's too popular. I saw the name Arabelle on a family tree the other day and thought it would be a great alternative to Isabelle! Hopefully it won't become too popular before (if) I have a baby girl, but it looks like it's on the way up...

July 9, 2010 2:41 PM

Bryony is a lovely botanical alternative to Briar. Not common -- and less prickly! ;-)

By Guest (not verified)
July 9, 2010 3:10 PM

I love lists like this "If you like this name, you might like"!! Thanks for posting it. There are definetly some interesting options there.

By hyz
July 9, 2010 3:13 PM

Oh, and I feel like Finn is slightly off as a less common alternative to Liam. While this may statistically be true, I think it's another variety of "stealth" name. It seems like every 10th kid I meet these days is named Fin- something, whether it's Fin, Finn, Finnian, Finley, Finnegan, etc. I do, however, think it's dead on as a sibling choice for Liam--those names definitely seem to appeal to the same set of folks.

By cheap insurance guru (not verified)
July 9, 2010 3:18 PM

I like this list a lot - nice alternatives that I would not have thought of.

Porter. What do you all think of that for a boy's name?

I like the sound of it, but I keep thinking "Bellhop".


By hyz
July 9, 2010 3:27 PM

mmm... makes me think of tasty beer....

By Birgitte (not verified)
July 9, 2010 3:45 PM

Definitely beer here as well. :D

July 9, 2010 3:57 PM

Love this post. There are definitely some good alternatives listed. I like posted choices above for Isabella and Evelyn too. I think my instead picks would be these:
Amelia: Aurelia
Arianna: Alessandra
Lila: Calla
Marley: Ellery or bettr yet Mallory
Peyton: Yuck, don't like this name or any of the other choices.
Piper: Juniper

Carter: Calder
Levi: Again don't care for it or choices listed
Liam: Callum
Maddox: Lennox
Oliver: Still like Oliver!
Wyatt: Walker

For Porter I might turn to Preston, Sawyer, Peter, Hortense (lol) or Piper (hmm maybe not for a boy?)

Isabella: Isla, Arabella, Rosabella, Sabine
Evelyn: Ivy, Eva, Ava, Avalyn, Evangeline, Adalyn, Avery

This is fun. I will have to think of some others.

By Allison (not verified)
July 9, 2010 6:20 PM

Okay, I admit it, I'm the one who is saying "I've always loved Lila..." and I'm due to have a baby girl in September. Oh no, what do I do? The name Lila is top on my list. This is my last child and I want a special name for her! I'm not thrilled with the suggested alternatives to Lila except I do really like Lana, but unfortunately my husband (who is a total traditionalist when it comes to naming children) doesn't.
Our list so far includes:

What about the name Ada? Any reactions?

July 9, 2010 6:43 PM

re: Porter: Yes, I think bellhop too. sorry! Like all names though, I'm sure I'd get used to it on a person!

Allison: I like Ada! I think it fits into today's trends without being too popular (afaik). There is also Adah. I associate this name with the character in The Poisonwood Bible; iirc she was a great character!

July 9, 2010 7:08 PM

Okay, NE's -- what about alternatives for the original name posed: Olivia?

I may still wind up using it someday, regardless of popularity, because though it may sound a bit date stamped at some point, it's never going to sound as trendy as all of those -aiden names, etc.

I have to admit-- Isla is really, really growing on me!

July 9, 2010 7:17 PM

Allison-Lila, Charlotte and Claire are fabulous names. Don't be afriad to use them if you really like them. The fact that they are the names you love and are given especially to YOUR daughter will mean more than any popularity chart in years to come. However, if popularity bothers you and you don't want your daughter to be Lila Lastinitial or such, then let me introduce you to
You input up to 6 names you like and it gives you other options. You can specify girl, boy, or both. The name suggestions are helped along by Laura by the way. Based on your likes above
it suggests:
Beatrice; Elyse/Elise; Claudia; Celeste
Louise; Grace; Lucille; Stella; Adeline; Olivia
Leanna/Liana; Caroline; Noelle; Eleanor; Sylvia; Madelyn/Madeline; Chloe; Talia; Alice; Violet; Audrey and let me throw in my own idea of Lydia
Basically, the sky is the limit because those are such wide-open classic choices stylistically speaking. Good luck!

By HMF not signed in (not verified)
July 9, 2010 7:41 PM

Olivia alternatives: Julia, Claudia, Dahlia, Odilia

I'm curious everyone's thoughts on Ida. It's been one of my favorite names for as long as I can remember — and, if you can forgive this bit of self-promotion, I've even published an essay on my love of the name (see: — but it seems to have made little impression on Ava- and Isla-lovers. Is it the "d"? Yet that hasn't hurt Addison, et al. Would Ida be a viable alternative for Ava fans, or is too "grandmother" (i.e., not "great-grandmother")?

July 9, 2010 8:02 PM

Could anyone with easy access to beyond the top 1000 data tell me where Cecily stands and which direction (if any) it's been trending? Thanks! In terms of this dicsuccion Cecily could be a nice sub for Emily.

July 9, 2010 8:15 PM


With the popularity of Eva and Ava, I can't help but wonder about Ada and Ida. I think Ada is terrific, Ida a little less so - it is too close to all those Ima Hogg type jokes for me.

I also have to suggest Sylvia for the Olivia lovers. Not quite as vowel intense, but the "via" is still there.

July 9, 2010 8:55 PM

another laura,
cecily is not in the top 1000:
2005: 100 births
2006: 119 births
2007: 98 births
2008: 111 births
2009: 108 births

so it seems to be holding pretty steady, i'd say.

i can see cecily as an alternate to emily. i doubt i can be objective on the subject though. :] i met a little girl named cecily a few years was fantastically adorable on her.

hmm...i think ida does have a whiff of old lady about it, but it does have that great i sound in there. i'll say it has potential. when i picture it on a little girl, it's fairly adorable.

sara no h,
olivia alternatives:
bianca, cecilia, sylvia, cordelia, ophelia, olympia

in my opinion, olivia is classic enough that you can use it even though it is popular. i.e. it's a name that's been around a very long time, not a trendy creation from a particular time period (like the -aidens or all the kristal/krista/trista of the 70s).

i like your names! i know that some people have grown tired of the popular L-names (lila, lily, etc), but i am not one of them. i think they're all perfectly lovely names. my favorite of your choices is charlotte (charlotte is one of my very favorite names). to me it's just warm and friendly and beautiful and elegant, all at the same time. they're all great names though--you should choose what you like!

cheap insurance guru,
porter doesn't make me think of either a bellhop or beer. bnw2 says, "porter pulls off a nice slight of hand persuading you it's a stately old gentleman's name one moment, a trendy new workman name the next. that kind of versatility can take you far in life." that's about how i feel about it. it feels a lot like the surnames that are popular now (parker, cooper, tucker, spencer, etc) except older and more dignified. that impression is probably helped by the fact that it is my grandfather's middle name.

i agree that edgar and benedict aren't as friendly as oliver, but they fit from other angles, i think. possibly some people do not choose oliver for it's friendliness?
man...i just love oliver. it's old fashioned and dignified and smart sounding, but still friendly and warm and approachable. i love it! okay, i'll stop gushing now.

the allergy medication thing used to bother me, but it doesn't really anymore. possibly because i haven't seen an ad for it in years. years ago, i feel like i saw them all the time, so the association is greatly faded for me. i like it!

By Guest (not verified)
July 9, 2010 9:11 PM

Our 5 y/o boy is Cian. Surprised it's not a bigger mover.

By Jane, Mother of Five (not verified)
July 9, 2010 10:52 PM

About Ida:
I was going through some old pictures with my husband's grandfather the other day, and noticed that a lot of the names of his relatives overlapped with my relatives:
I was thinking, too bad I'm not attracted to any of these names. And then I thought, why not exactly? They are only a shade different from names that are currently very popular and fresh sounding. I mean, how close is Edna to Evelyn, Ida to Isla, Alva to Ava?

By Aziraphale (not verified)
July 10, 2010 12:20 AM

How about Lyra? Like the protagonist from The Golden Compass? Sounds almost the same, and has an, ahem, lyrical quality. And what a great fictional character she was. (I haven't seen the movie, however, and I heard it wasn't fantastic, so perhaps the name has been ruined).

I know two baby Lilas, both under the age of one. So yes, it's probably getting popular.

I like Claire for its clean, no-fuss beauty. We chose it ourselves for our daughter's middle name. It's one of those neat words that sort of sounds like what it means.

July 10, 2010 12:32 AM

I LOVE Ada. Love love love it. I think it fits in with a lot of the other more common names in that it has more fashionable sound than Edna and Alva....but it's much more of a substantial name to me than Ava or Isla. And, it's still largely undiscovered! My immediate association is Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, which is an incredibly awesome namesake to have. Seriously, to me so much cooler than "Ava like Ava Gardner". The reason it is not on our list as a name unto itself- the multiple pronunciations (AH-da or AY-da) and also, it reminds the Spouse too much of the Nabokov novel by the same name. (It's about incest, so it's less of a positive association in spite of being well written.) However, I would not let that stop you from using the name, since it's far less well-known than Lolita. If we have a little Adele, we'd probably call her Ada for short. :)

I also like Ida quite a lot! The Ida I knew was an EE-da, but I realize now that it's probably I-da (like eye) in English? It seems not grandmotherly to me at all - my first association is Ida in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so the name seems very warm and fun to me.

Really enjoyed everyone's thoughts on Rupert and Hermione in the last thread! Thanks so much for the input!

July 10, 2010 12:51 AM

On name substitutions for Olivia, in addition to the others already suggested would be Octavia. You still have the O and the via, you still have the antique feeling, only with a heady whiff of Ancient Rome as well. I don't think you have to have seven children (or daughters) first to use it!

By Rjoy (not verified)
July 10, 2010 12:47 AM

Isabella: What about Graciella. It is similar but still very fresh sounding to me. If you want to be very distinctive you could use the Italian form (I think) of Graziella.

Allegra: This is one of my favorite names I don't think I could ever use. :(

Other than Allegra, there isn't anything else on the list that fits my fancy.

Ida- I Like it! It is very cute and not too out there.

July 10, 2010 12:57 AM

These are great lists. Anyone have suggestions of alternatives to Hannah?

By Qwen
July 10, 2010 2:18 AM


Funnily enough, I know brand new babies with two of the common names listed and I know that their parents' options included some of the others Laura list here. For example, Oliver's parent's were seriously considering Tobias and Bennett (which is close to Benedict). And Peyton's mom had both Carter and Sawyer on her boy list.

Meanwhile, the parents of the other two new babies in my circle (Jarin and Maeve) never considered ANY of the names on these lists to my knowledge. :).

I adore the name Octavia as a replacement for Olivia. So beautiful. Also, I met a little Olivia this week who's family called her Via (Vee-uh) which I thought was a cute alternative to the usual "Olly" "Liv" or "Olive' nicknames.

July 10, 2010 5:19 AM

HMF: I have to admit that Ida strikes me as a bit grandmotherly. I think maybe the fact that it sounds like "I the" could be a problem? I feel like I've heard this in a joke or something.

re: Cian: This is pronounced with a hard C and rhyming with Ryan? If so, I know two or three, although I think they are all spelled with Ks. Maybe it is more popular out west and not nationwide?

re: Lyra: I don't think the movie ruined it. She was about the best thing about that movie and I don't think many people saw it anyway.

By hmf
July 10, 2010 5:49 AM

You know, the "I the" similarity only serves to endear "Ida" to me all the more... but then, I am very big on word play. And how rich a name that immediately lends itself to soliloquizing!

There's always talk of names that could facilitate nasty nicknames ("Will Ella be called Ellaphant?"), but nicknames can also be a source of fun and even introspection, a way for a child to get to know her name from the inside out. Mark Twain may have called puns "the last and saddest evidence of intellectual poverty," but let's keep in mind that his very nom-de-plume was itself a play on words...

By Beth the original (not verified)
July 10, 2010 9:45 AM

Jane Mo5, I think maybe the reason you're not attracted to Edna, Alva, and Ida has to do with Laura's theory about why certain old-fashioned names are not popular -- she said once that consonant clusters are out. So Bella = in, Bertha = out. Mira = in, Myrtle = out. And so on.

I like Ida. The "Ida" jokes are all "I'd-a," though, like "If I knew you were coming I'd-a baked a cake." I've never heard "I the."

Alternatives to Hannah: Hannelore, Susannah, Channah, Zaynah, Hanae, Hagar. Is Hannaliese a name or a mash-up?

July 10, 2010 10:15 AM

So off topic but I saw Despicable Me yesterday with my kids and the sib set of girls in the movie are Margot, Edith, and Agnes. I thought that it was interesting to see Agnes again because in Fantastic Mr. Fox there is a pretty teen-age fox named Agnes (not sure if she's in the book or not, I haven't read it since I was a child).

July 10, 2010 10:39 AM

Yes, Cian is pronounced with a hard C and rhymes with Ian. It's Irish.

I have seen it with a K but we used Cian.

July 10, 2010 10:58 AM

Hmf-I don't care for Ida. Ada (Ay-da) is okay but (eye-da) just rubs me the wrong way. I think that it is just too strong of an I sound for me coupled with such a short following syllable. I feel this way a bit about Eva and Ava too. Ay-va sounds better because the A sound is better than the I sound (I have know idea why!).

Hannah alternates:
anything with hannah/anna on the end like Susannah or Johannah or even just Anna; Channa or Chaya; Frances; Tanya
I get the same feeling from Hannah (plain but not so much) that I do with names like Jennifer, Jacqueline, Kimberly, Theresa, etc.