We recently looked at girls’ names popular around the world yet exotic-sounding in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, and today we turn to the boys’ version of this kind of name.
If you’re looking for a name for your son that has an international flavor yet is not too obscure or difficult to understand and pronounce, you might want to consider these choices.
ALFIE – While Alfie is far from unknown in the U.S., it’s vastly more popular in England, where it’s in the Top 10. In the U.S., not even in the Top 1000 – though the name’s cuteness and friendliness is likely to change that before long.
AMIT – A simple yet exotic name popular in both India and Israel. Virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, yet since we’re hearing more from the girls’ version Amity, why not this friendly name too?
AXEL – Tough-guy name that’s the tops in Finland.
EMIL – A 1960s German film based on a 1920s German novel, Emil and the Detectives, introduced this name to the U.S. It’s very popular now in Finland and its similarity to the mega-popular Emma and Emily may give it fresh life in America.
FABIAN – Ancient saints’ name that means “bean grower” last got widespread exposure in America via the doo-wop singer. Today, stylish in Austria. While Americans pronounce the first syllable fayb, in Europe it’s fahb.
FLORIAN – Popular boys’ name in Germany and Austria still considered a bit too flowery for their sons by many American parents. But with more boys’ names inspired by female trends (Emmett from Emma, for instance), Florian just may stand a chance.
HANS – Classic Scandinavian name popular in Denmark.
LACHLAN – Pronounced lock-lan, this Scottish name is a favorite in Australia and has a surname feel trendy in the U.S.
LAZAR – This version of Eleazar, meaning God helps, is popular in Serbia. While other forms of the name – Lazaro, Lazarus, Laszlo – are cutting-edge stylish in the U.S., this streamlined version is virtually unknown. Pronounce it la-ZAHR, not laser.
LINUS – This musical mythological name is popular in Finland, but yes, there are all those blanket jokes (we restrained ourselves, but barely).
LUCA and LUKA – Very popular boys’ name throughout Europe that’s just starting to be heard in the U.S. as a substitute for Luke and Lucas. Yes, it does feel a tad feminine and is sometimes used for girls.
MATHIS – If you love Matthew but just can’t let yourself pick a name that’s been in the U.S. Top Ten for decades, consider this version, popular in Belgium and France. Pronunciation: Mat-TEES, like we say the name of the painter Matisse.
MILAN – Italian city name – and first name of author Kundera – popular in Belgium. Streamlined and urbane.
REN – Unisex name popular in Japan, meaning water lily. Eminently usable in the west, except for the Stimpy association.
THIJS – Its pronunciation is simpler than the spelling suggests: it rhymes with nice. Popular in the Netherlands, it was chosen by the Today Show’s Matt Lauer for his son.