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Romantic Names for Girls

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Romantic names for girls – loosely defined as creative and elaborate names that suggest an earlier era and a Latinate emotionality – have become more fashionable in recent years.  As we grow more comfortable with the notion of equality for girls, we may also become confident enough to give our daughters elaborately feminine names rather than having to make our point with androgynous, modern monikers like Blair or Blake.

Of course, not every romantic name is a feminist statement.  These names may just feel fresh again after decades of sleeker, more straightforward girls’ names like Mary and Betty, Karen and LisaEven Jennifer and Ashley pale in the face of these flagrantly feminine names.

The rise of Isabella and Sophia to the Top 10 means that Romantic Names are now mainstream.  Some choices further off the beaten track:

ADORIA

ANASTASIA

ANGELICA

ANTONIA

ARABELLA

ARTEMESIA

AURORA

CELESTIA

EVANGELINA

FORSYTHIA

GABRIELLA

ISADORA

JULIANA

LILLIANA

MAGDALENA

MARIELLA

MELISANDE

NATALYA

PALOMA

RAFFAELA

RAMONA

SERAPHINA

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Guest blogger JILL BARNETT ponders the reinvented names that work magic on our lives….or do they?

I stood in front of the mirror backstage, proudly inspecting my makeup and blue and white gingham costume. Granted, I was in the midst of the most unfortunate awkward phase in the history of adolescence (my parents truly should have kept me indoors as a public service), but on that night, opening night of our middle school musical, The Wizard of Oz, I was too excited about my debut as Dorothy to notice that my skinny body and giant hair made me resemble a human Q-Tip. As I saw my gangly13-year-old reflection staring back at me, only one thing entered my mind: stardom!

I couldn’t deny that dress rehearsals hadn’t been pretty–the Stryofoam rainbow prop had a habit of crashing to the ground as I sang about troubles melting like lemon drops, and then there was that pesky issue of my ruby slippers shedding chunks of red glitter with every step I took, but in my mind, this elite middle school production of The Wizard of Oz (complete with an orchestra consisting of a pianist, a flatulent flautist, and a drummer who smelled like Velveeta cheese) was my launching pad to certain fame. Who cared that many of the Munchkins were taller than I was, that our Toto was missing in action, or that the stage crew had never gotten around to actually building a set? Not I! I was too busy daydreaming about seeing my name in lights.

WAIT! My name in lights? Jill Barnett in lights? I didn’t even like my given name for everyday use, and certainly had no desire to see it on the marquis of the Gershwin Theatre or to hear it read aloud upon the win of my first Tony Award. Nope, Jill Barnett simply wouldn’t do, and in my opinion, it had even less star quality than a name like Frances Ethel Gumm, who happened to be my favorite actress and singer.

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vintage film names

Maybe they didn’t have voices then, but lots of the silent screen stars did have intriguingly exotic looks and equally exotic names–even if many of them were invented by studio publicists.  Theda Bara, for example, the quintessential vamp, was not the Egyptian-born daughter of a French actress and an Italian sculptor whose name was an anagram of Arab Death, as the PR people proclaimed to the public, but was actually Cincinnati-born Theodosia Goodman, daughter of a Jewish tailor. Likewise,  Nita Naldi’s real last name was Dooley, Olga Petrova was born Muriel Hardy and Alla Nazimova’s birth name was Miriam Leventon.

But real or concocted, these names–primarily short, with two-syllables and heavy on the vowels–still retain vestiges of that sultry  1900’s-1920’s glamour, and  could have  some vintage appeal today:
ALLA

ASTA

GRETA

ISA

JETTA

LEDA

LEILA

LINA

LITA

LOLA

LYA

LYDA

NEVA

NITA

OLGA

ORA

ORMI

POLA

RIA

THEDA

TORA

VALLA

VILMA

VOLA

ZENA

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Girly Baby Names

girly names

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s choice of the name Seraphina for their second daughter has put the spotlight on ultra-feminine names. Lots of syllables, ending in a vowel: Those are the classic earmarks of the girly baby names.

When I had my first — and as it turned out, my only — daughter, I was afraid of girly-girl names. I wanted my child to be the kind of girl who could compete with boys in the classroom and on the playing field, who was adventurous and spirited, not bound by any outmoded female conventions.

And so I rejected all kinds of girly-girl names that I otherwise liked — Susannah and Flora and Carolina and Daisy — and picked the anything-but-girly name Rory.

But something surprising happened over the years. I came to not only like the girly names, but to love them. To not merely accept them, but embrace them. Maybe what changed was not entirely within me but in society at large: Why couldn’t a girl combine the frankly feminine with the formerly masculine and end up with an identity and an image that transcended any old gender stereotypes?

In fact, I began to think it was almost revolutionary to choose a girly-girl name but raise your daughter to be whoever she wants: To wear tutus and play lacrosse, to be great in math and grow her hair to her waist. To defy the stereotypes that led to one study showing that girls who’d been given girly baby names did worse at math and science, mainly because teachers expected them to do worse.

I also came to see that the trappings of conventional little girlhood that made me so nervous — the pink and purple ruffle-y dresses, the glittery shoes and the Cinderella DVDs and the passion for Barbie — came and went as quickly as any other stage of early childhood. Whereas a gorgeous feminine name was an attribute that would last forever.

Several girly baby names have been moving up the popularity list, with Olivia, Sophia, and Isabella heading for the top of the charts. Plus, more of my ultra-feminine favorites:

ANNABELLA
AURORA
CATALINA
CELESTIA
CLEMENTINA
CRESSIDA
DELILAH
ESTELLA
EVANGELINA
GEORGIANA
JOSETTE
JULIETTA
LEONORA
LILIANA
LUCIANA
NATALYA
RAFFAELA
ROXANA
SABRINA
SERENA
TABITHA

And by the way, a big shout-out to Beth Delany of Inverness, Illinois, the winner of the nameberry Jennifer Garner baby name contest! Though no one guessed Seraphina Rose, 16-year-old Beth, a name lover who already has all her children’s names picked out, guessed Susanna Rose. Although Carlie guessed the middle names Rose and Elizabeth first, our email to her bounced back — so if you’re out there, Carlie, let us know and we’ll send you a book too! Beth‘s prize is an advanced signed copy of our upcoming book, Cool Irish Names for Babies, due out in March.

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2008 Names of the Year

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What are the names that gained the most attention this year, symbolizing how far we’ve come and where we’re heading next?   The election, of course, figured heavily in deciding on the most influential names of 2008, as did popular culture and the economy.  Here are our top ten picks for the Names of the Year.

1.    BARACKHow did an obscure Hebrew/Arabic/Swahili name that means thunderbolt, lightning, and/or blessing come to inspire a wave of baby namesakes?  The same way a self-professed “skinny black kid with a funny name” came to be the 44th president of the United States.  Barack is exactly the kind of singular, ethnic, family name that the next generation of parents is bound to celebrate.

2.    MILEY – It may be Destiny (which was her original given name) that little Miley Cyrus adopted the nickname given to her by her father Billy Ray because she was so smiley, which, thanks to the stupendous success of Hannah Montana, has become one of the fastest rising girl’s names, debuting on the popularity charts at number 278.  Over 2,000 baby girls were named Miley, Mylee or Mylie in the last year counted, and boy cousins Milo and Miles are also climbing the charts.

3.    JOEJoe – the Plumber, Six-Pack, and Biden – was 2008’s Everyman, hailed and scorned by candidates on both sides of the election.  The ultimate good guy name, Joe is short for Joseph – an important figure in both the Old and New Testaments – which has been among the Top 15 Boy’s Names since the Social Security Administration started keeping records in 1880.  It was rarely mentioned that the real Joe the Plumber’s name was actually Sam.

4.    RUBY – A new generation of hip mamas and cool dads has given rise to a whole new class of Hipster Baby Names: quirky choices long dormant and only now revived by adventurous baby namers bent on making parenthood and babies stylish.  Tops on the hipster favorites list, along with Ruby, are such choices as Oscar, Matilda, Rufus, and Sadie.

5.    EDWARD – The alluring vampire hero of Stephenie Myers’ Twilight series has single-handedly turned the slightly awkward, old-fashioned classic Edward into an unlikely candidate for the hottest, edgiest name in town.

6.    TRIG — Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was a maverick baby namer, with the choices she made for her five children receiving nearly as much attention as her wardrobe and her televised gaffes.  Place names with personal meaning figured heavily in Palin‘s choices, with oldest son Track named for his parents’ love of running, daughters Bristol and Willow named for favorite Alaska places, and Piper chosen because, according to First Dude Todd Palin, “it was a cool name.” Infant son Trig‘s name is Norse for “strength” and middle name Paxson is another Alaska place name.

7.    JANUARY-  As Betty Draper, the heroine of the TV hit Mad Men set in the early 1960s,  gorgeous actress January Jones introduced her own thoroughly modern name that straddles old and new, a perfect choice as we enter a new age of Camelot.  January is also representative of a whole calendar-related genre of names, such as Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban’s little girl Sunday Rose and such newly-stylish choices as May, June, August, and Winter.

8.    BRONX- – The Crazy Starbaby Name of the Year Award goes to – no contest — Bronx Mowgli, newborn son of rockers Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz.  But Bronx—as opposed to the popular Brooklyn– is about as likely to catch on with non-celebrity baby namers as Kipling-Disney middle name Mowgli.

9.    SASHA- Everyone’s making a fuss over the names of older Obama daughter Malia and power-named mom Michelle, but we think Sasha is more worthy of being a Name of the Year.  In the second First Daughter’s case, Sasha is short for Natasha.  Russian names have quickly gone from heavy-footed to fashionable, thanks to the cadre of long-legged supermodels who’ve imported them to Western Europe and the U.S.  Usually a male nickname for Alexander, it was spelled Sascha by Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld, who used it for their daughter.

10.    CASH—The economy’s tanked and we’re cutting up our credit cards, so where should we turn but to Cash, the baby name choice of almost a thousand parents last year.  It has celebrity cred via Cash (real name) Warren, inamorata of Jessica Alba and baby-daddy of Honor Marie, and as son of actress Annabeth Gish.

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