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The nameberry contributor known to us as “Auburn” ruminates here on that most powerful and mysterious initial: X.

We all know this naming business is tricky, especially if your aim is to find unusual monikers which still have history — and if you’re browsing Nameberry then it probably is. You think you’ve found one, you get excited … and then you meet five Violets in a day and realize that perhaps #141 is too popular for you after all.

The letter Y has lost some of its magic after various incriminations recently, involving either the addition of Y’s to perfectly Y-free names (looking at you, Addysyn), or the apparent abhorrence of Y’s by others (Ashleigh). What about its generally ignored neighbor, though? Every time I see an X name it catches my eye. I think “Wow, X? Crazy!” X is daring and attention-grabbing; it’s a shortcut to awesome in the baby naming world.

The Jolie-Pitts clearly realized the power of this not-so-humble letter when they used it to round off their three sons’ names: Maddox, Pax and Knox. In the same vein, Max is hot at the moment, but it is X in front that is still that Holy Grail of naming: rare.

According to the site http://yournotme.com, which searches the records to find people in Britain aged over 18 with a certain name, the top 10 X names include 7 Chinese names (Xiao, Xin, Xuan, Xiu, Xue, Xiang and Xing, for the record). The others are Xavier (795 of them), Xenia (330), and Xanthe (309). In contrast, the top A name, Andrew, can boast 508,320 bearers across the British Isles.

X names are few and far between in the popularity rankings as well, with just two charting in both the US and the UK top 1000s :
Xavier – #68 in the US, #234 in the UK
Xander – #244, #354.

Due to the large Hispanic population of North America, Ximena and Xiomara also chart at #311 and #909 respectively. Ximena is the feminine version of Ximeno, a Spanish name alternatively claimed to be a version of Simon or from the Basque for son, seme . Xiomara is the Spanish version of Guiomar, a name for either gender that belonged to a male character of Arthurian legend who was banished for his affair with Morgan le Fey.

The UK has its own pretty, feminine X name, Xanthe, which currently stands at #778. It should be noted that that means it was only given to 44 babies, though, due to the relatively small size of Britain. Xanthe is a lovely Greek choice meaning ‘fair hair’ and can also appear in the variation Xanthia.

Strangely enough, the US can also claim many a little Xzaviers, which comes in at #586. In my opinion it’s preferable to use unusual letters in moderation, readers. Just one in a sea of A’s, E’s, and R’s looks so much more striking than Xyzvyq, which gives the impression you were leaning on the keyboard.

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F-name

Once more this year the list of most popular names—particularly for girls—is vowel –heavy, with six of the top ten names starting with A, E, I or O, and five more filling out the top twenty.

As a result, naturally, there are fewer consonant-starters visible, some letters practically non-existent.  One of these is F, with only a single  representative, Faith, in the top 100, and a grand total of nine girls’ names out of the whole list of top 1000.

If we look back a century—testing the 100-year rule–it was a very different story, with 31 girls’ and 34 boys’ names starting with this initial.  Several of them were versions of the same name (variant spellings are nothing new!); for instance, Freda, Frieda, Freida and Freeda all made the list—but not the current Kahlo-influenced FridaFlorence—no longer visible on today’s list–was represented in 1910 by Florance, Flora, Flossie, Flo, Florrie and Florene, and Frances (which hangs on at #802 today, with Francesca at 470) showed up in such variations as Fannie, Fanny, Francis, Francisca and Frankie, and there were three spellings of Fay/Faye/Fae.

Among the more unusual choices that made the girls’ list a hundred years ago were Fairy, Floy and Fronie.

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