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Exotic Lite: Girls’ Edition

exotic baby names

There are some names that are not quite English, or American, but not quite not English either.  These include international variations of classic English names – such as Katarina for Katherine – and names that are widely heard around the world but remain unusual in English-speaking countries.

The list below – we’re just doing the girls today – is taken from the most popular names rosters throughout Europe and South America and, in a few cases, further afield.  If you want an exotic name for your daughter that sill feels familiar, this list is a good place to start.

ADI – Israeli favorite meaning jewel, pronounced ah-DEE and used for boys as well as girls.

ALBA—Pronounced AHL-bah, this means dawn and is popular in Spain.

ANNIAnne diminutive used as a full name in Finland.

ANNIKA – Golfer Sorenson has made this one more familiar in the U.S., but it’s most popular in Denmark.

AURORA—This lovely name meaning dawn is growing in popularity in the U.S., but is most widely used in (odd pair) Finland and Italy.

BEATRIZ – Form of nameberry favorite popular in Portugal and Brazil.

CHIARAClaire equivalent – it’s pronounced kee-ahr-ah – popular in Italy and Switzerland.

FREJA – While Freya is popular in the U.K., this form of the name usually pronounced fray-ah is number two in Denmark.

GIULIA – That’s Julia, spelled the Italian way becoming trendier in America.

INES – Pronounced ee-nez, this form of Agnes is popular throughout Europe but right now, especially in Belgium.

KATHARINA or KATARINA – So many forms of Katherine, Kaitlyn, and Kate have been heard in the U.S. in recent years that it’s definitely time for an update, perhaps to one of these forms, popular in Austria and Eastern Europe.

KAYA – This popular name in Malta, which may be pronounced ky-ah or kay-ah, also has roots in Japanese, Turkish, Zulu, and Hopi Indian, and is also connected to a Jamaican slang term for marijuana.

LEA – Very popular in Germany, Switzerland, and France, this form of Leah may be pronounced as the original or as lay-ah.

LENA or LINA – This simple name is extremely popular in its Lena form in German-speaking countries and is popular as Lina in Belgium and Lithuania.  It can be short for such names as Carolina or Polina, but it most fashionably today stands on its own.

LEONIE – L names dominate many of the European popularity lists, and this lion-like name is number one in Germany, two in Austria. Pronounciation is LE-o-nee.

LILIT – This fresh spin on the whole Lily/Lilian genre is from Armenia.

LISETTE – This delicate French diminutive of Elisabeth has an old-fashioned feel, but is popular in Estonia and charming anywhere.

LORE – Popular in the Flemish region of Belgium where it’s considered a short form of Eleanore, another form of the name means  “flower” in Basque.

LOTTE – This short form of Charlotte – very popular throughout Europe, though hardly exotic – is well-used in the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium.

MAJA – Cognate of Maya or Maia, found most often in Sweden and Poland.

MARIAM or MARYAM – Arabic form of Mary found throughout the Muslim world.

MATHILDE – The French pronounce this mah-TEELD, but the Danes and the Dutch, where it’s also popular, say it like Matilda.

NADIA – Popular in Morocco and Pakistan along with Eastern Europe.

NOA – The number one girls’ name in Israel has different biblical roots from its male cognate, Noah.

NOOR – Familiar internationally as the name of the (American-born) former queen of Jordan, this lovely choice meaning light is on Belgium’s top ten.

PETRA – Feminine form of Peter popular in Hungary and Croatia.

SEREN – Gorgeous name that means “star” in Welsh and is popular in Wales.

SHIRA – Popular for Jewish girls in Israel, pronounced SHEER-ah.

TEREZA – Most forms of Theresa have not been fashionable in recent years, but this Czech number one name has zest and freshness.

VALENTINA – A name popular in Switzerland as well as Argentina and Chile, also stylish among Latino families in the U.S.

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