January 2015

The Timeless Baby Names You've Overlooked

Jan 28th 2015

If you could shop for baby names in the grocery store, today's parents would all flock to the produce aisle. Everyone's looking for the freshest, most colorful options. Yet baby name shopping is a future-looking business. The name you choose has to stand the test of time, sounding as good thirty years from now as it does today.

That means "shelf life" may be as important as freshness. What would be the naming equivalent of a jar of honey -- long-lasting and eternally appealing? The answer is names that have already stood the test of time for generations. Names like James and Elizabeth don't go in and out of fashion like hem lengths. They're timeless, and happily, they're not alone. You can find timeless names at all levels of popularity, even some with the potential to surprise.

All of the names below have been given to at least 5 American babies per year every year since 1900, without any sharp popularity peaks that would date them. [For you hardcore name geeks, my criterion was SQRT(maximum normalized frequency)/SQRT(minimum normalized frequency) ≤ 3.] These names are all over the style map but they're all timeless, and not a James or Elizabeth in the bunch.

Timeless Boys You Might Have Overlooked:


Timeless Girls You Might Have Overlooked:


32 Beautiful Baby Names With an 'X' Factor

Jan 25th 2015

Stirring Up Baby Names

Originally appeared on The Stir.

Not too long ago, the letter X was avoided like the plague when it came to naming babies. But no more: X is now the the letter many parents strive to include. And while Angelina Jolie is partly responsible,  -- with kids Maddox, Pax, and Knox -- the X trend has been slowing gathering steam since long before Brangelina's babies were born.

"Since the 1870s, the percentage of babies getting x-names has risen tenfold," says Laura Wattenberg, founder of the baby naming site Baby Name Wizard. "The overarching reason is that X is the letter of the alphabet with the most attitude."

Toss in the X-games, X-Files, and X-Men, and that only reinforces the idea that X is edgy and special, that something "x-tra" parents crave in a name. Here's how you can hop on this trend yourself. 

Boy names

Alexander: The ancient Roman conquerer Alexander the Great gives this name a noble ring; in the U.S., it's been one of the top 25 baby names since 1991. It's also spawned a ton of nicknames, like Alex, Zander, Xan, even Sasha (what parents Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber call their own Alexander).

Max: This name is often short for longer verions -- Maximus, Maximilian -- but is also a popular name in its own right, chosen by celebs from Cynthia Nixon to Christina Aguilera. Meanwhile skater Scott Hamilton doubled up on the X-factor by naming his son Maxx.

Xavier: Long popular as a middle name (often following Francis), Xavier is increasingly getting first name status (just ask Donnie Wahlberg and Tilda Swinton). The X-men comics also introduced a hip new spelling: Xzavier.

Jaxon: This name is part of a new trend where parents sub in "x" where it's normally not -- Jaxon instead of Jackson. In certain areas of the southwest, Jaxon has even surpassed the popularity of Jackson and becomea a top five baby name! Plus it comes with a cool nickname: Jax.

Axel: This name has that heavy metal rocker sheen, thanks to Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose. Will Ferrell picked this name for his third son; Tiger Woods chose it as a middle name for his son Charlie. And get this: in spite of its rock 'n roll roots, it means father of peace.

Dexter: This is the name of a serial killer in a popular Showtime series, but that dark reference only seems to add to this name's edgy appeal. Diana Krall and Elvis Costello named one of their twin boys Dexter, which can be shortened to Dex.

Rex: Natascha McElhone, Niki Taylor and Coldplay's Will Champion and have Rexes in their families, and for good reason: this name means "king" and carries a cool yet regal air.

Phoenix: Named after a mythic bird that symbolizes immortality, this name has the celebrity sheen via Joaquin and the later River.

Xerxes: If you want double the X-power, consider this name, which means "hero of heroes" and once graced not just one, but two Persian kings.

Maddox: After Jolie chose this masculine name for her adopted son in 2003, Maddox has skyrocketed in popularity. It's also fueled the craze for all names with 'x,' in both Jolie's family and in general.

Pax: Jolie's Vietnamese-born son was given this name, which is Latin for peaceful.

Knox: Jolie and Pitt (whose great-great-grandfather was named Hal Knox Hillhouse) gave their son this name, wich is Scottish for "round hill," althoug you're probably more familiar with the more modern reference of Fort Knox.

Bronx: This rough-n-tough borough of New York made baby name fame when Rockers Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son this.

Lexington: This is a "place name" (a town in Massachusetts and Kentucky), but also has a cute nickname, Lex. 

Baxter: It means "baker" but sounds so much cooler.

Felix: Latin for "happy and fortunate," this name was picked by Gillian Anderson and Elizabeth Banks for their baby boys.

Girl names

Alexandria: This turned the ho-hum Alexandra into a more distinctive "place" name, after the ancient city in Egypt. David Bowie and Iman named their daughter this name, which was shortened to the sweet nickname "Lexi."

Alexis: This name shot to popularity with Dynasty's Alexis Carrington in the 1980s, and has had staying power ever since as a sleek, sexy name. One popular variation is Alexa.

Maxwell: Long considered a boy name, Maxwell has become equally popular among girls after Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Sloane chose this name for their daughters.

Maxine: A more feminine "Max" name with political clout, thanks to California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Moxie: Penn Jillette named his daughter Moxie Crimefighter... which is a bit much, but Moxie has, well, a lot of moxie in its own right. 

Beatrix: It's "Beatrice" with an edge, with respectable roots thanks to children's book author Beatrix Potter. It also doesn't hurt that Quentin Tarantino's trendy Kill Bill movies starred Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) kicking butt.

Bellatrix: J.K. Rowling gave this name to an evil witch played by Helena Bonham Carter in her Harry Potter books; plus it means "female warrior" and is one of the stars in the constellation Orion. Plus you can shorten to Bella.

Pixie: So cute -- and it's also Swedish for sprite or fairy.

Roxy: Also spelled Roxie, this name has showgal glam (think Roxie Hart from Chicago) but has also appeared in kid shows like Hannah Montana and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Xena: It's TV's famous warrior princess! It's also Greek for welcoming.

Dixie: This sassy name is also a "place name" for the states south of the Mason Dixon line, but it's more than that going for it: Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill and wife Lily Aldridge named their daughter Dixie Pearl in 2012.

Oxsana: A snazzier spelling of Oksana, the name came into our consciousness due to Ukrainian figure skater Oksana Baiul. It's also Russian for "praise to God."

Calixta: A more exotic form of Calista -- and also a character in the short story "The Storm" by Kate Chopin, so it has some literary appeal.

Lux: It means "light" in Latin... and also just begs for this baby to be pampered with cashmere booties and jewel-encrusted pacifiers.

Roxana: She was the wife of Alexander the Great, and the name is Persian for "little star."

Nyx: In Greek mythology, Nyx is the goddess of night... and a very daring name for a girl.

What do you think of baby names with an 'X'?


The 16 Girls’ Names Everyone Wonders About

Jan 22nd 2015

Is Bellatrix a traditional name, or did J.K. Rowling make it up? Is Sookie short for something? And how do you pronounce Quvenzhané?

Image via Photo Image Press / Splash News

Let this list satisfy your name curiousity. I've compiled a list of the girls' names that everyone wonders about -- the names that send us scurrying to the internet to learn more, or to settle a bet. I identified those hot-button names based on the ratio of visitors the name attracts on Namipedia vs. its popularity as a baby name. If everybody's looking it up and nobody's using it, that's wonder-land.

The most wondered-about names for girls: (See the boys' list)

Abcde. Nope, it's not just an urban legend. Since the late 1990s, about 20 American girls each year have been given this alphabetical name, pronounced "AB-si-dee." The wordplay isn't for everyone, but it does lend Abcde a spirit of fun that stands out in the sometimes self-important realm of contemporary names.

Bellatrix. From the Latin for "female warrior," Bellatrix is the name of a star in the constellation Orion. It wasn't considered a given name until Harry Potter introduced the wildly villainous Bellatrix Lestrange, who was part of a celestially named family tree (e.g. Andromeda, Sirius, Regulus). This could be a smashingly stylish name if it weren't for the mad murderatrix.

Eilonwy. Writer Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, including The Black Cauldron, drew on Welsh myths. Ultimately, though, the stories, characters and names were his own creations. That includes the name of Princess Eilonwy, which resembles Welsh names like Aeronwy and Eirwen but is the stuff of dreams.

Greer. Greer became a girl's name thanks to 1940s film star Greer Garson. Greer was originally her second middle name, from the maiden name of her mother; it's believed to be a form of MacGregor. Actress Greer Grammer has carried on the name's Hollywood tradition. Fittingly, it's Ms. Grammer's middle name as well.

Kinga. Kinga is a classic Polish and Hungarian name honoring St. Kinga, a medieval queen. The name's standard-bearer in the United States is television host Kinga Philipps, born Kinga Szpakiewicz in Poland. Pronounce it with a hard g.

La-A. Yep, this one IS an urban legend. It's impossible to prove the total non-existence of the "dash don't be silent" name, but the many circulating versions of the tale are classic examples of urban legend, and often nasty-minded ones at that. For a deeper look, please see the past post "Ledasha, Legends and Race."

Malala. By the age of 17, education activist Malala Yousafzai had been the subject of a documentary, survived an assassination attempt, written a best-selling autobiography, and received the Nobel Peace Prize. Not surprisingly, this remarkable young woman's name has attracted attention as well. Malala is a Pashto name meaning "grief stricken." Ms.Yousafzai was named after after a Pashtun hero who rallied troops in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand.

Paget. This old English surname is a diminutive of page, pronounced to rhyme with gadget. As a first name, it's all about actress Paget Brewster. Her parents were reportedly inspired by 1950s starlet Debra Paget, née Debralee Griffin, who in turn took the stage name from an aristocratic ancestor in her family tree.

Phryne. The epicenter of Phryne curiosity is Australia, home of the roaring-twenties Phryne Fisher mysteries. The Honourable Phryne (FRY-nee) is beautiful, wealthy, stylish and adventurous. She's named for a legendary courtesan of ancient Greece, who was similarly known for her beauty, wealth and boldness. Phryne was the courtesan's nickname, meaning – brace yourself – "toad."

Quvenzhané. Quvenzhané Wallis was the youngest person ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and she also turned heads with her mega-Scrabble-value name. Her parents built it off of parts of their own names, Qulyndreia and Venjie. If your curiosity is about the pronunciation, it's kwa-VEN-zha-nay.

Rapunzel. We all know the second half of the fairy tale Rapunzel, with the tower and the hair. But the key to the name comes earlier in the story, before the titular heroine is born. Her pregnant mother is beset by cravings for greens she spotted in a private garden: rapunzel, or mâche. It has never caught on as a baby name.

Sansa. The most-researched names from Game of Thrones are fashionable-sounding girls' names. Many parents are hoping to find that an appealing name exists outside of the fantasy realm as well, making it an easier sell as a baby name. While you can hunt down examples of women named Sansa, realistically this name is pure Westeros. If it helps, Arya is a traditional Sanskrit name meaning "honorable."

Sookie. Year in and year out, True Blood's Sookie Stackhouse is name-curiosity royalty. Sookie is just a good old-fashioned nickname, a pet form of Susan. Creator Charlaine Harris knew the name via a friend of her grandma's, and felt it had a nice Southern feel to it. Outside the supernatural realm you'll usually see the spellings Sukey and Sukie, as in the nursery rhyme "Polly put the kettle on/Sukey take it off again."

Taissa. Actress Taissa Farmiga comes from a large Ukrainian-American family, and her six older siblings all have names that cross over smoothly from Ukrainian to English. Taissa (tah-EE-sə) also fills that bill, though it's more often written as Taisia or Taisa.  The usual origin cited for the name is "dedicated to Isis."

Veruca. A veruca (or verruca) is a wart. We're only discussing this as a name thanks to the marvelously twisted mind of writer Roald Dahl, who named the spoiled brat in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory "Veruca Salt." An alt-rock band later named itself after the character, and Buffy gave the name Veruca to an alluring werewolf. But Dahl's wicked little joke remains the name's essence.

Zuzu. "Zuzu’s petals!" Those two words from the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life represent the joy of everyday life itself. Zuzu was the main character's daughter, but how did a small-town girl with siblings called Pete, Janie and Tommy end up with such an exotic name? Probably the same way Sookie Stackhouse got hers: as a pet form of Susan. Zuzu comes from Zuzana, a Czech/Slovak form of that name.

On to the boys' names you've been wondering about!

20 Loveably Frumpy Names from the Good Old Days

Jan 19th 2015

 baby name roundups by theme

Some of today's most popular names are what we think of as old fashioned: Noah, Emma, Eva, and Henry were all favorites from the late 1800s. It's in that spirit that some parents have branched out in search of something not just stylishly old, but rare and retro.

If fanciful up and comers like August and Adelaide aren't boldly old fashioned enough for you, these names might be just right. They aren't shy. They are proudly, profoundly, over the hill names worn by generations past and now your little one. These names use a touch of frumpy to their advantage, balking at the lyrical modern choices that are mainstream. But they aren't altogether unattractive. We think some of them may just show more life in the next years as people dig for name relics that show creative spirit and wisdom beyond their years.

  1. Amos: What do you get when you mix biblical, old-fashioned, and questionable cultural associations? An enigma of a name that is waiting for a clean slate. It's possible that Amos is poised to break free from the nursing home and the reputation of a long-ago radio and TV show. It has strong roots, it's simple, easy to pronounce, and it's got an ever-popular "A" beginning. Amos is nowhere near the popularity of names like Aiden and Abel, but it has a sound worthy of consideration.

  2. Bernice: There's nothing modern about this name. But Bernice does have some unexpected glamor, in the form of an ancient Queen of Egypt (spelled Berenice), a famed Hawaiian princess, and a character from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald (whose name may be a homage to the Egyptian queen). The name was at its most popular in 1921, and today it's very unusual. Some may consider Bernice's sound to be outdated, but between its royal heritage and the sweet nickname Bea, there's a certain charm to this antique choice.

  3. Clarence: Some of us would love this name if it was just a little bit, well, altogether different. Similarities to the feminine Claire could have helped this name (like Elliot and Ella), but instead we're just indifferent. The ending of this name adds a bit of a geeky feel, and without any obvious nicknames, Clarence is stuck in limbo. It does bring to mind the angel in It's a Wonderful Life, which adds some feel-good qualities to the name. Creative options for a nickname could include Clark, Larry, or Aren.

  4. Cordelia: We aren't sure why poor Cordelia has never moved past her antiquated image. She's Shakespearean and was used in the name-inspiring TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and yet...she's still sitting in the rocking chair knitting. We love her multisyllabic flow, and with nickname options like Cordie, Delia, and new favorite Cora, this not-so-shabby name should be a no-brainer.

  5. Clyde: Part outlaw, part grandpa, Clyde refuses to be properly categorized like a silvery old man sporting a fauxhawk. We're putting him in the frumpy column just for this post, and the numbers will back us up, as Clyde hit a peak in the 1890s. But Clyde's bad boy image, thanks to notorious American robber Clyde Barrow, combined with its so-out-it's-in sound is giving this name an edge. In 2013, Clyde made a sliver of an appearance in the top 1,000 at a triumphant rank of 999.

  6. Edith: In the 1800s, Edith was living large. An Old English name that means "wealth, fortune," Edith once lived up to its meaning with royal sophistication. But something happened along the way. In today's naming climate, Edith will strike most as either unfashionable and elderly, or hip and vintage. A Downton Abbey character is adding more appeal to this name, and the nickname Edie aims to please. Those who can't quite pull the trigger on Edith can go for Eden, but they may be missing out. Edith is on an upswing in England.

  7. Estelle: Are names like Esther, Stella, Esme, or Isabel on your favorites list? Take a second look at Estelle, a French import that hasn't had a good day since the roaring 20s. While Americans lost interest in this name quickly in the last century, we're just starting to take notice again after a few spunky grandmas have faded from pop culture, including actresses Estelle Getty of Golden Girls, and Estelle Harris of Seinfeld (who shared a first name with her character, Estelle Costanza). We think its only a matter of time before this name tosses the walker in favor of a tricycle.

  8. Frances: Over the past 20 years, the feminine name Frances had not been doing so well. Its unisex sound wasn't helped by one unfortunate nickname from the past: Fanny. But parents have started to see some charm in Fran and Frannie, and when Pope Francis was inaugurated in 2013, it gave the name Frances a bit of a boost. She may be the very definition of a loveably frumpy name, but that's part of her charm.

  9. Gertrude: With plenty of consonants to stumble over, Gertrude's sound is boldly archaic. After the second world war, Gertrude's strong German roots made it difficult for parents to love this name, and with short and peppy names coming into fashion, it disappeared from the top 1,000 girls' names altogether in 1966. Today, there's not much room for names with a decidedly clunky sound, even though this one does have saintly and literary namesakes. Nicknames Gertie and Trudy don't offer much solace, and your daughter might just insist on going by her middle name if you choose this one.

  10. Gus: Gus just can't get it together. So many of us seem to love this name, but parents are looking to names like August for a longer, formal sound with more options. So while the actual numbers are showing Gus to be an old-time dud, it's really an unexpected hit. If you're looking for a little encouragement to go for a short, old-fashioned name, you got it—use Gus and you'll delight and surprise the masses.

  11. Harold: It's been a century since Harold was last popular. The name literally has "old" in it, which is fitting with the image this name brings to mind for a lot of people. On the flip side, Harold has some classic and kingly qualities, and the nickname Harry is starting to sound cute to American ears once again. While most aren't looking for a name that's been declining in use (Harold is hanging out in the high 800s), this regal, antiquated name could be just the right kind of different for your son.

  12. Hubert: On the whole, Hubert strikes us as a dusty relic of a name. It's been missing from the top 1,000s since 1987 and it doesn't look good for this name to come back. That being said, Hugh has some potential and Bert isn't unheard of. If you want to thumb your nose at today's naming trends, Hubert will make the statement you're looking for.

  13. Iva: As Americans embrace Ivy, a charming nature name that is much more popular now than ever before, the truly vintage Iva has been left in the dusty name chronicles of the 1890s. Iva has the grace of Eva and Ava, but it hasn't experienced any of their modern day success. Its Slavic roots give this name a certain unexpected glamor, and parents who are looking for a more unique take on today's popular old-fashioned choices shouldn't be afraid to add this one to the list.

  14. Millicent: Millicent may be a bit off-beat, but it has a sound that's full of frills and charisma. It's a unique choice that feels boldly old-fashioned, enough for some parents to avoid it and go straight for the irresistible nickname Millie. If the similarity to the word innocent is throwing you off, think of it as a sweet coincidence that makes Millicent on par with virtue names like Felicity or Grace. This one is ready for more use!

  15. Myron: A name with ancient Greek roots, Myron has been around forever. In the US, this name reached a peak in the early 30s, and fell into oblivion by the 21st century. While Myron has some obstacles to overcome, like its grandpa image and a seemingly built-in southern drawl, its sound could be compared to names like Milo, Miles, and even Cameron. We think there could be some hope for this one yet.

  16. Myrtle: In theory, this name should be red-hot. It's a vintage nature name with appearances in books like The Great Gatsby and the Harry Potter series. It shares a name with a Carolina beach and comes from a flowering plant. So what's the problem? The biggest obstacle poor Myrtle has is its lack of flow, jamming one consonant after another together (and a sometimes-vowel), with no relief until a single silent e at the end. It also happens to rhyme with turtle. But Myrtle may be ideal if you're looking for a sturdy name that's a perfect picture of days gone by.

  17. Opal: With gem names like Pearl and Ruby on the rise, Opal is a throwback name worthy of consideration. Despite its "grandma" status, Opal is sophisticated and charming, and manages to carry a tasteful ring to it that more parents are bound to discover.

  18. Otis: This bygone moniker brings to mind an elderly man clad in suspenders, driving a golf cart around the retirement condos in Florida. But that's exactly why this dinosaur of a name is ready for a little excavating. Modern parents looking for freshly fossilized names can add this grandfatherly choice to their lists, alongside Silas, Cyrus, Augustus, and Elias. In case you sense a theme, it's the striking ending of this name that gives Otis potential.

  19. Walter: A cherished choice once considered a classic, Walter has tons of famous namesakes and a dapper sound. It's the most popular choice on this list by far, but it still has a small town soda-fountain feel that makes us think of the good ol' days. Its popularity was at an all-time high in 1892, giving it an antique feel. The nickname Walt feels stylish, while Wally seems fit for a big box discount retailer.

  20. Wilbur: It's the fictional namesakes that make this name a lock for a hopelessly rural old-man name, including the owner of famed talking horse "Mister Ed" and the pig from Charlotte's Web. But even without those characters, the sound of this name would still be pretty frumpy to our ears. Perhaps the most famous Wilbur is inventor and aviator Wright, who was born in 1867. So if you're looking for a name that is so old it's new again, Wilbur will express your sense of humor if not your style.

For more unusual baby names from the past, check out 20 Forgotten Victorian Names to Put on Your List.

The 14 Boys’ Names Everyone Wonders About

Jan 14th 2015

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 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.

We Can Build It! The Perfect Name!

Jan 8th 2015

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.

20 Trendy Baby Names Ending in a 'Double T'

Jan 6th 2015

Stirring Up Baby Names

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.

For Girls:

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.

For Boys:

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?

"Frozen" Inspired Baby Names: The Nordic-Chic Names That Are Hot This Winter

Jan 4th 2015

 baby name roundups by theme

Across America, kids and parents alike are still singing the praises of Disney's hit movie Frozen, and it doesn't seem that we'll ever let it go. The characters are magical, relatable, and truly loveable, the story is a fairy tale with a twist, and we love its sentimental throwback appeal. Not to mention the music from Frozen is catchy, heartfelt, and inspiring enough to spawn a countless number of parodies on YouTube.

We've already imagined that the power of this unstoppable animated tale reaches beyond the usual confines of a mundane-but-cute kids movie. Frozen is permeating our culture, including the names we choose for our children. While we won't have stats for 2014 until just before Mother's Day, we could already see the uptick Elsa was showing just after the movie was released. And Elsa was a strong contender for Name of the Year, though in the end the winner was a name influenced by Frozen as well.

The movie did give us a taste of some intriguing Nordic names, but take a look with us at our favorite options beyond Frozen's few characters. You'll find that America has been influenced by names from the North for several years now, and they are bold, charming, and fit for the gilded pages of a fairytale storybook.

  1. Aksel, Axel: This name may sound perfect for a rockstar or a muscle-car mechanic, but it has deep Nordic roots and a grounded history. The Danish form of the biblical name Absolom, Axel has been around Europe for centuries, a favorite in Denmark and beyond. We know and love it from a few modern references, including the main characters in steampunk favorite Journey to the Center of the Earth, and the movie series Beverly Hills Cops, plus Guns N' Roses' rocker Axl Rose. This name goes far beyond a straightforward troublemaker name into the territory of a storied Scandinavian crossover hit.

  2. Astrid: Americans are ready...Aren't we? For some, the bold sound coupled with fears of teasing potential can create hesitation for parents (no thanks to The Office). But don't cross this gorgeous, powerful name off your list just yet. With royal connections including the current Princess of Belgium, Astrid is dignified but not without a sense of cheerfulness. Author of the Pippi Longstocking series, Astrid Lindgren gives the name a sentimentality that we all adore.

  3. Britta, Britt: These peppy names herald from Sweden, home of the celebrated Saint Birgitta. If you love the sounds of these names like we do, be prepared to convince your friends and family that Britt has nothing to do with the name Brittany, and Britta has nothing to do with water filters (spelled Brita). Do America a favor and use these names anyway; we think they are bright and cheerful, with cross-cultural appeal and charm.

  4. Elin: A Scandinavian and Welsh form of Helen, this name was brought to our attention during a messy celebrity divorce. Tiger Woods' glamorous ex-wife, Sweden-born Elin Nordegren, gets credit for earning our sympathies and inspiring our baby names at the same time. It's about time we noticed this lovely name, and since classic favorites like Ellen paved the way, we think Elin can sit comfortably next to Eden and Ella.

  5. Elsa: Before Elsa was a princess of Arendelle and a misunderstood Snow Queen, she was a charming variation of Elizabeth (or a form of Alice in Spanish) gaining more popularity in the US. With use across the globe and a favorite in Sweden, Disney made a perfect choice with Elsa's name. It's easy to pronounce and has a long history, though it's especially famous for a character in Wagner's romantic opera Lohengrin (this opera gives us the “Here Comes the Bride” processional). That's a lot of attractive qualities packed into just four little letters. We predict this name will continue its upward trend, with more parents choosing Elsa for their little princesses in 2014 and beyond.

  6. Finn: You may think of Finn as having Irish roots, but it's also an Old Norse name referring to a Finn, or someone from Finland. Any way you look at it, it's hard not to love this light-hearted little name that has a sense of boyish independence, bringing to mind Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But Finn is also a modern Hollywood favorite, with notable characters in shows like The Sopranos, Glee, Vampire Diaries, and movies like Cars and The Lego Movie. Finn is even rumored to be the name of the lead character in the upcoming Star Wars film as well. Celebs love it for their babies like the rest of us do, and we're glad this European-styled sweetheart is here to stay.

  7. Freya: Freya's time has come. With a sound as appealing as Fiona or Flora, Freya is a wildly popular choice across the pond, recently ranked as the 20th most popular girls' name in England and Wales. The name heralds from Norse mythology as the goddess of love, beauty, war, and death. Spelled Freja in Sweden and Denmark, and Frøja in Norway.

  8. Greta: This international short form of Margareta has an Old Hollywood feel, with a meaning to match its retro-glam image—pearl. Swedish actress Garbo made this name a hit as she graced the silver screen in top movies during the silent film era and beyond. We love it again today for its global appeal and elegance, though it turns into an adorable name on a little girl. Celebrities like David Caruso and Kevin Kline chose this name for their daughters.

  9. Gunnar: There's no beating around the bush with a name like Gunnar—it's a deadly serious, muscled name meaning “warrior” that strikes us as so tough we can't help but grin thinking of a toddler wearing it. Gunnar has deep roots in Old Norse, borne by a character in Norse legend, as well as a famous Viking. The military-inspired name Gunner is gaining momentum every year, pulling this storied name from its frosty Nordic past into the realm of red-hot modern choices. We're just glad it feels far removed from its clunky relative Gunther.

  10. Ingrid: If you're looking for a name that's sturdy and dripping with feminine glamor at the same time, look no further than the Old Norse name Ingrid. In America, this name takes us back to Hollywood's Golden era, when Swedish actress Bergman was stunning audiences with her role in Casablanca and other classics. Today, American singer Michaelson (who is half Swedish) has lent her indie-pop style to the name, making it one we can see on a modern girl with a flair for the arts.

  11. Kai: People who love this name can commiserate that there are almost too many different potential sources and meanings for Kai. We're interested in its Scandinavian roots, and so were the creators of Frozen, who gave this name to a minor character in the movie. It's a loveable, one-syllable hit that can be counted among the top 200 names for boys in the US. We're just a tad bit behind other countries who already adore this name, including England, Canada, Scotland, and the Netherlands.

  12. Linnea: A Swedish darling, Linnea has been a top girls' name in Sweden and Norway for years. This Nordic classic has yet to make waves in America, as one thing holding it back is the “Lin” beginning that we haven't seen since the days of Linda and Lindsey. But we think its exotic syllabic flow is right on target with choices like Alana, Elena, Selena, and Lucia. Linnea is an intelligent, feminine choice in honor of the heralded Swedish scientist Carl Linneaus, for whom the pink and white Linnaea or “twinflower” is named.

  13. Magnus: No one will accuse you of not thinking big enough if you choose the name Magnus for your son. It's the Latin word for “great,” and the foundation behind words like magnificent and magnify. But Magnus' story is explained further by an incredible list of Nordic royalty, including seven kings of Norway and three kings of Sweden. It's bold, kingly qualities like these that can take a name from international oddity to melting pot favorite. While it's still rare in the US, Magnus is showing some signs of life and recently appeared in the top 1,000 boys' names for the first time. Chosen by Will Ferrell and his wife, Swedish-born actress Viveca Paulin for their son.

  14. Mathias, Matthias: This up-and-coming name hits several sweet spots for modern namers. It's Biblical, international, and its interesting ending puts a spin on the tried-and-true Matthew. With siblings like Jonas, Elias, and Levi in the mix for this name on Namipedia, we can see the charm this name holds for parents with a faith-influenced style. Matthias is a very popular choice in Germany, Iceland, and Sweden.

  15. Niko: It's hard not to love the sound of this Finnish form of Nicholas. With a long o ending like Leo, and a a crisp k in the middle, Niko comes across as an exotic but accessible charmer that Namipedia users rate high on the “sexy” scale. It's one of the most popular boys' names in Finland, and Niko has set his sights on America, quickly climbing the charts each year.

  16. Odin: Odin is another sizzling name pulled straight from the folklore of the icy North. Norse mythology tells of the supreme god Odin who reigns over wisdom, art and creativity, war, and death. This powerful name comes from an Old Norse word meaning both “wit, poetry” and “frenzy, rage”. But any foreboding overtones this name has is downplayed by its charming sound, with some parents using Odie as a nickname.

  17. Olaf: Do you wanna build a snowman? In the US, Olaf is rare and forever connected with characters like Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events, and now the zany snowman from Frozen. But more exposure to this Old Norse name with kingly and saintly associations only makes us more familiar with its distinctive sound. Can Olaf triumph over our quirky caricatures to become a name worth considering? Only time will tell.

  18. Soren: Americans tend to drop the umlaut on the traditional Norwegian Sören, but no matter how it's written this name is fresh and catchy. This Nordic gem has been quietly gaining popularity, recently reaching the 600s after it first appeared in the top 1,000 US boys' names back in 2003. And that's when the first book in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series was published, featuring tales of a young barn owl named Soren. The Danish Søren is linked to the philosopher Kierkegaard.

  19. Thea: A beautiful name that sounds familiar and comfortable even though it's rare, Thea is an enigmatic surprise used often in Norway and Sweden. While it's pronounced TAY-ə in Europe, Americans will read it as THEE-ə. And we happen to love it either way.

  20. Thor: The Old Norse god of war, thunder, and strength, Thor is another intense name from the land of the Vikings. He's usually depicted in shades of gold (Hair? Check. Optional wings? Check. Helmet? Check. All gold.), with a red cape, though the most important accessory he bears is his hammer. He was transformed into a superhero by Marvel comics, and became a big screen heartthrob played by Chris Hemsworth in a series of movies. Thor is really unusual in the US, but we couldn't create this list without this iconic Nordic superstar.

Point your browser Northward with a few of the Baby Name Wizard's posts.

All the Fins in the Sea

Authentic Ethnic Names, Baked Fresh Every Day!

Names in Translation: Astrid Lindgren Edition

The First Step to Finding Your Perfect Baby Name

Jan 1st 2015

This may be the most general piece of advice I've ever given. It applies to parents who like classic names and to parents who want to get creative. It applies to short names and long, popular names and rarities. It applies whether you're looking for an Irish name to sound good with the surname O'Flanagan, an "R" name to honor your grandpa Rodney, or a cowboy name that's like Colt but not exactly Colt.

No matter what your criteria are, you can start your name search by ignoring them altogether.

Choosing a baby name isn't like shopping for a new refrigerator. A practical checklist of requirements can't pinpoint the right model. That's because the ultimate test of a successful name choice isn't function, but emotion: the feeling in your heart every time you say your child's name, and the emotional response of other people who hear it. If you're looking for a name with right gut impact, why not start your search by listening to your gut?

Try this. Brainstorm a list of names that you're drawn to, even if you can't possibly choose them for your own child. Just focus on your emotional impression -- names that make you smile, or make you feel predisposed to like the person. If you hear a name and instictively go "ooh," it makes the list.

It doesn't matter if Elliott sounds terrible with your last name, or your cousin already named her daughter Piper, or you could never really pull the trigger on Bellatrix. For now, you're just aiming for that warm, happy tingle of name love.

With your "list of love" in hand, you can turn back to the practical criteria you set out with. If a name on the love list actually satisfies the criteria, hurrah, you may be done! If not, let the list be your emotional anchor as you set out to find the perfect name. Look it over: do any common elements or impressions emerge? Perhaps a bunch of the names feel "sparkly" to you, or sound like they're posed for a handsome ancestral portrait. Carry these emotional filters with you as you review lists of Irish saints' names, or names starting with R.

You can also use the "list of love" as your starting point for the Baby Name Wizard name-finding tools. Type your favorites into the Name Matchmaker and tell it what other qualities you're looking for. Or use the sibling name suggestions in the Baby Name Wizard book to find names that capture some of the same elusive magic as the names on your list.

No matter your approach, hang on to the positive feelings and don't let your head override your heart. When it comes to names, first impressions matter.