Names for Spice Girls (and Boys)

Dec 22nd 2016

Flowery botanical names are on the rise, from classics like Rose and Lily, to modern picks like Azalea and Dahlia. But what about picks from other kinds of gardens - namely, herbs and spices? With increasingly individual options, it’s no surprise to find parents going this route already!

All of these names were used for children born last year, and many have an extensive historical record. Here are a few pretty options that are outside the top 300 - but still delicious!

Image: Oksana Kuzmina/

Pepper. Thanks to the fabulous character in Marvel’s Iron Man reboot, the name Pepper has more than quintupled in popularity in the last six years - a superhuman feat! The name ranked once on the top 1000, in 1975, but has long been a nickname for names that start with P. Along with Piper, Poppy and Pippa, Pepper is an upbeat choice for any little one. 

Cicely. Another variation of Cecilia, Cicely is a lovely name that fits in with modern trends while maintaining a historical uniqueness. The most famous Cicely is actress Tyson, though the name has also been used in classic literature. The cicely plant was eloquently praised by John Gerard in his 1597 book, Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes - “it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth... lust and strength.”

Sorrel. Both a colorful and botanical choice, Sorrel is a rare find that works for both boys and girls. It could be a unique alternative to Sawyer or Laurel, though it may take a bit of explaining. The name has been used a few times for characters in children’s books - once brought into cultural consciousness, it would be a beautiful option.

Ginger. A vintage nickname for feminine Virginia, Ginger adds more personality and flair to a classic. It peaked in 1971, but quickly declined - could the recent trend towards retro names bring it back? Nickname Ginny could be a great option for a Harry Potter fan, but Ginger on its own is friendly and fun.

Curry. Today, the name Curry is usually preceded by Steph in conversation, but increased attention to both names has made Curry a first name option. Though it sounds like a modern savory choice, Curry has actually been recorded as far back as 1896! It’s close enough to unisex Corey or Carey to fit in on the playground, too.

Thyme. A flash-in-the-pan option chosen by parents searching for uniqueness, or a strong successor to classic herbal names like Basil and Sage? Only Thyme will tell! This name has been in recorded use since 1995, and was used for six baby girls last year.

Saffron. Stylish and sophisticated in sound, Saffron has been used quite a bit by celebrity parents and in popular culture. From Absolutely Fabulous to My Little Pony, television writers love Saffron! The saffron plant has long been used in traditional medicine and cuisines all around the world, and it’s one of the most expensive spices worldwide. 

Cassia. This variety of cinnamon is far more appetizing than Cinnamon, at least in this decade - Cassia has been rising up the charts, while Cinnamon has disappeared entirely. The beautiful feminine sound, the similarities to Cassie and Cassandra, and the Biblical connection (Cassia is a variant of the name of a daughter of Job) make this choice deliciously attractive to modern parents.

Basil. From the Greek basileus, meaning “king,” Basil was a well-used choice for a long time in English-speaking countries, partially due to its connections with a few early saints. Though it’s now associated with actor Basil Rathbone and upper-class British characters in television and film, recent trends towards the retro could bring Basil back to the table. 

Juniper. A worthy successor to iconic Jennifer, Juniper holds onto the name’s brisk melody but adds a natural element besides. Quite a few Juniper namesakes abound, from popular songs to children’s television shows. Plus, the nicknames June and Junie are lovely vintage options.

Rosemary. Incredibly popular from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, parents today are returning to this lovely floral name for all sorts of reasons: it aligns with the “hundred year rule,” it combines two other classic choices, and it’s botanical without being overly embellished. Rosemary (and nickname Romy) may rise to the heights of Violet! 

Sage. Both a common houseplant and an adjective meaning “wise,” Sage is a simple yet memorable choice. It currently ranks at #370 for girls and #649 for boys, a unisex pick that will flatter all kinds of personalities. It also appears in Gerard’s Herball - “it quickeneth the senses and memory” - and has long been used in alternative medicine.

Cayenne. A final spicy name, and this one packs some heat - Cayenne was given to nine baby girls last year. It’s been used for both genders sporadically since 1978, and does share some aural traits with Cheyenne and Kaia. Though it will be doubtful to find two Cayenne’s in one classroom, we may see more in the future as parents seek out rare names!


December 23, 2016 3:27 AM

I love these! What about Anise? Another pretty name.

December 23, 2016 6:33 PM

I recently saw a Kroger employee whose nametag said Thyme. She was probably in her mid-20s.

December 29, 2016 12:53 AM

I've thought for a while that Henna would be a cute herbal/botanical name. I think it is already used as a nickname for the rarely used Henrietta.

December 31, 2016 1:23 PM

Firefly definitely had my favourite Saffron!

Coriander has the stylish -er ending and a blending-in nickname of Corey. Likewise, a Tarragon could go by Tara.

I knew a girl named Marika, so Paprika seems like a very short leap to usable.