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Classic Names with a Twist: Anika, Adelina and Davina

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Last month, two high profile birth announcements both featured Bodhi within days.  Not Mason, not Noah.  Bodhi.  Proof that choosing a different name is no guarantee that it will actually be different.

But here’s a strategy that might work – pick a name that qualifies as a twist on a classic.  It works for Swedish royals, Olympic gold medalists, and Hollywood types, too.

Need proof?  Try the Zato Novo baby name visualizerElizabeth consistently turns the map various shades of blue, showing a long and steady history of use.  But try Elsa or Bess or Elizaveta, and suddenly, she’s far more rare.

All too often, the names that strike us as outlandish are on their way to the top of the popularity charts.  Remember when Top 100 picks like Harper and Trinity were surprising? Now names like Haven, Skyla, and Aspen are on the rise, slowly transitioning from “what an unusual name” to “oh, my cousin/co-worker/neighbor’s sister named her baby that.”

Twists on classics elicit a very different response.  They usually can’t be dismissed as trendy or fleeting.  Of course, some – like Nora, Eliza, or Kaitlyn – can become very popular.  But many of them occupy a middle ground – pleasing names that show their history, while still standing out on the playground.

This week’s baby name news was all about twists on classics, from a new princess to a fictional mermaid, and more:

Leonore – Let’s start with the new Swedish princess, Leonore Lilian Maria, daughter of Princess Madeleine and her British-American husband, Christopher O’Neill.  The choice was a surprise.  Gossip favored AdeleLeonore is a form of Eleanor, but she’s just as rare in Sweden as the US.  A Swedish court official described the name as “cute,” and noted that “not everyone can be called Pelle and Lisa.”

Miriana – From Sweden let’s go to Lake Como, Italy, where DesignMom’s latest Living with Kids house tour profiled a family of five.  Their younger kids’ names would be right at home in the US – son Noa and daughter Zoe.  But the name of their firstborn is the stunningly different Miriana.  She seems to be a recent Italian innovation, a twist on Miriam, Mary Ann, and Marianna.

Anneka, Anika For Real Baby Names spotted two spins on the evergreen Ann this week – Anneka and Anika.  Neither is common in the US, but both could wear well, fitting in with Annabelle, Anneliese, and all of those other Ann- names.  Not only are they already fashionable, but Frozen’s Anna could have more parents looking for an elaborate Ann- name these days.

Coralie Ariel, Madison, and … Coralie?  The newest Alice Hoffman novel features a mermaid-like character called Coralie.  It’s a fitting name for a girl who spends her days near the ocean.  It’s not quite a classic, but with the rise of Cora and the style of Emily, doesn’t Coralie feel like she could be?  Other Cor- names that might be ready for consideration include Cordelia (out of the Top 1000 since 1950, believe it or not!), Coraline, and Corisande.

Louise – No to Ermentrude and Ingeborg, and I have my doubts about Bertha and Richilde, but here’s one that could work from this list.  The Beauty of Names series on French consorts made me think about Louise.  There’s also the Latinate Louisa, as in May Alcott.  They’ve got that great L sound, oodles of appealing nicknames, and, best of all, they’re quite rare – Louise last charted in the US Top 1000 back in 1991, and Louisa in 1969.  If you’re after an under-used classic, Louise is worth a look.

Davina – A feminine form of the enduring David, Davina should be a sister for Charlotte, a successor to AlexandraRoses and Cellar Doors pointed out that there are no girls’ names starting with D in the US Top 100, making any feminine D name distinctive.  But I think Davina is the choice most likely to read as an overlooked traditional.  She’s more distinctive than nearly any A name you could dream up.

Adelina – That’s not to dismiss A names.  Just think of Adelina Sotnikova, the gold medal winner in women’s figure skating from the Sochi games.  We love to love figure skaters: Sonja Henie became a Hollywood star. Dorothy Hamill inspired a haircut.  But other medal winners – like Tenley Albright and Katarina Witt – have seen their given names catch on.  Russia’s first gold medalist in women’s figure skating will almost certainly inspire some parents in her home country, but how ‘bout in the US?  Adelina is more classic than Addison, less popular than Madeline or Natalie.

Constance Kelli wrote about names from the BBC’s The Musketeers, the most recent reboot of the enduring Alexandre Dumas tale.  If you’re looking for a literary name with a courageous reputation, how about Constance?  She’s as timeless as virtues like Grace, and Hope, plus there’s the lovely, fearless Constance Bonacieux.

Luca – After eight girls’ names, here’s one for the boys!  Actors Gabriel Macht and Jacinda Barrett welcomed son Luca last week.  Luca proves that twisting classics isn’t just for girls.  The Biblical Luke is big, thanks to a mix of Star Wars and Paul Newman.  The romance language Luca is just the tiniest bit different.  Colin Firth has a Luca and Tom Colicchio has a Luka.

What are your favorite twists on classic names? 

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