I recently released an e-book called International Baby Names for Australian Parents, to help Australian parents find names that are uncommon, but not strange. My theory was that was a name that had never ranked here, yet was on the charts in other countries, would fit the bill of being seen as both “unusual” and “normal”.
Here are some names from the book that have never ranked in English-speaking countries, but are in the Top 100 elsewhere in the world.
Anouk (Top 100 in the Netherlands)
Hip and quirky while still having substance. As a short form of Anna, provides an alternative to that and related names.
Only registered as a baby name after the 1997 movie, The Fifth Element, starring Milla Jovovich as Leeloo – short for Leeloominaï, meaning “precious gem” in the invented Divine Language of the film. Often viewed with disdain in France, this seems charming to Anglophones, fits in with the L-L trend for girls, and has a fashionable OOH sound.
Sunniva (Top 100 in Norway)
This Scandinavian saint’s name is Anglo-Saxon in origin, and has a lovely meaning – “sun gift”. Depending on how you choose to pronounce it, Sunniva can have such diverse nicknames as Sue, Sunny, Evie, Neve, and Zuzu.
Vega (Top 100 in Spain)
Bram (Top 100 in the Netherlands)
A Breton saint’s name which has become popular in France but little known elsewhere. It’s handsome, and its meaning is disputed, but two possibilities are “help” and “hurricane”, which are both appealing in different ways.
Roc (Top 100 in Catalonia)
This Catalan form of Rocco might seem like its brisk short form to Anglophones. There was a 17th century Dutch pirate with the pseudonym Roc Brasilianos, offering this a bloodthirsty piratical namesake. The name may also remind you of the mythical giant bird. All in all, it’s pretty badass.
Best known from handsome Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen, this combines a fashionable V initial with a trendy O ending. It’s also a celebrity baby name, chosen by Taylor Hansen. With so much going for it, it’s surprising this isn’t seen more often.
Zoltan (top 100 in Hungary)
A Hungarian name whose trendy initial Z makes it sound almost science-fictionally cool to Anglophones, while fitting in with Zeke and Zander. Everyone seems to know what Zoltan “sounds like” – to me it sounds like a superhero name. Zoltan to the rescue!
So do you think my theory holds up, or does it need refining?