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Four-Syllable Names: A whole lotta name

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Maybe it has something to do with Harry Potter attuning our ears to long Latinate names like Bartemius and Xenophilius—after that, suddenly the four syllables of Tiberius and Cornelius or Persephone no longer seem too weighty for a modern little babe.

After all, Isabella is the Number 2 girl’s name– and other four-syllable names like Penelope, Amelia, Cecilia, Seraphina and Valentina are standing right in line to join her. So clearly, many parents today are looking for just such substantial names, just as others are seeking them out to balance a short, brisk surname.

Here are our Nameberry Picks of the 20 + freshest four-syllable choices on the table. (But do note that variations in pronunciation and/or speedy speech can sometimes elide four syllables into three.)

GIRLS

Araminta—a delicate and lovely name long used in England and just now making a limited debut in the US. Refreshing nicknames: Minta and Minty.

Calliope—an upbeat, energetic name combining an ancient Greek heritage—Calliope is the mythological muse of epic poetry–with the cheerful musical sound of the carousel instrument.

Dorothea and Theodora are reverse mirror images of each other, both meaning ‘gift of God’ and both newly stylish, both more feminine versions of  rising three-syllable names—Dorothy and Theodore.

Fiorella—Not only are individual flower names more popular (and exotic) than ever, but so too are the more generic names like Florence and Flora. While brother name Fiorello became known via long-term New York Mayor LaGuardia, the lovely Fiorella has never crossed cultures. She could join Arabella as a post-Isabella ella choice; another possibility is the shiny Mirabella.

Isadora –I is emerging as a vowel du jour, yet the graceful Isadora—who would seem like another logical successor to Isabella—has been sadly neglected.  But perhaps she will slipstream along behind the newly rediscovered Theodora.  Leonora is another pretty possibility.

January—We’re definitely seeing a trendlet for cold-weather names like Snow and Frost and North and Winter. And while we don’t expect January to ever be as popular as the recently revived May and June, it has become, thanks to Mad Men’s glamorous January Jones, a viable option.

Magnolia—When it comes to newly blooming, more exotic blossoms, there’s a whole gardenful, but this is probably the most fragrant and evocative of all, with its strong but gentle Southern accent. Some others in this category: Azalea, Amaryllis and Camellia.

Olympia—A strong name with an athletic, goddess-like—yes, Olympic—vibe. O-starting runners-up: Octavia, Odelia, Ophelia

Persephone—Though definitely perceived not so long ago as too much name for a baby girl, we’re hearing a lot more parents considering this Greek goddess name, attracted by its rhythmic sound and pleasant associations via being the goddess of Spring. Two other intriguing ancient Greek girls: Ariadne and Andromeda.

Valencia—A strong contender in the place-name category is this charming Spanish city name, a possible fresher alternative to Valentina. Other attractive four-syllable place names: Catalina, Columbia, Alabama, Bolivia

Wilhelmina suddenly went from clunky little Dutch girl in wooden clogs to viable possibility when recently chosen for their fifth child by Taylor and Natalie Hanson.  Suddenly we can see her joining her more popular Wil siblings William, Will, Willa and Willow.

BOYS

AdrianoAdriano provides a perfect solution for the parent who likes Adrian for a son but finds it too confusable with the girly Adrienne. Among the scores of other recommended o–ending four-syllable Latin boys: Alessandro, Leonardo, Luciano, Octavio, Valentino.

Amadeus—You’d have to be a pretty serious classical music lover to use Mozart’s name for your child—even in the middle– though Amadeus does have the increasingly popular us ending and an amatory beginning. Tennis legend Boris Becker boldly put it up front for his son born in 2010.

Emmanuel –Spelled with one m or two, this is a name that has been long devalued by its reduction to the nickname Manny, but in its full form it has much to recommend it. Emmanuel currently ranks Number 147, Emanuel 261.

Horatio—Its upbeat final ‘o’ makes Horatio more accessible than a lot of other four-syllable Latinate names. Literary cred: Hamlet’s loyal friend, Historic: dashing British naval hero Lord Nelson, Pop culture: charismatic Horatio Caine in CSI: Miami.

HuckleberryYes, Huckleberry. We all smiled when Kimberly Williams and Brad Paisley gave their son William this middle name in 2007, but by the time Bear Grylls put it in first place on his son’s birth certificate a couple of years later, Huck was starting to sound pretty cute, and appealingly evocative of rafting down the river.

ObadiahOne of the most amiable of the multi-syllabic Biblical boys. And it comes with its own even friendlier Mayberry-type nickname, Obie, which is also the name of the off-Broadway theater award.

Olivier —With Oliver scrambling up the popularity ladder—it’s climbed 227 places in the last decade to Number 78–why not consider this sophisticated Gallic version—which also happens to be the surname of one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century?

TheloniousOne of the jazziest of names, thanks to the iconic pianist T. Sphere Monk, who inherited this Latin-sounding German name from his father. Thelonious has begun to morph away from single-owner occupancy, but with just a sprinking of boys being given the name each year, it remains distinctively cool.

Vittorio –A perfect example of how latinizing a name instantly romanticizes it (cf Victor and Vittorio). A common name in Italy, Vittorio is a name to compete here with Valentino for charm and allure.

Zebadiah –This is just one representative of a whole group of long, distinguished Old Testament names with great diminutives: Zedekiah, Jedediah, Zachariah, Zephaniah, Zacharias, Jedediah and Jebediah.

What are your favorite four-syllable names–on this list or off?

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