It will be tough to narrow it down to just my top 12, but here are some names that I will always love, but most of them I may never use.
Alexander: This has been my favorite boy's name ever since I learned about Alexander the Great. Up until quite recently, I was determined to use it at a first name, regardless of the popularity, and use the nn Xander, but then a close friend got engaged to an Alexander who I'm not that fond of, and it sort of ruined it for me. I'm still set on using it for my first son's middle name, regardless of my SO's opinion!
River: I have always been in love with this name ever since River Phoenix. I still think he had the coolest name of any celebrity I've ever heard, and at one point I actually wanted to name my son River Phoenix. I just think it's a beautiful name and reminds me of a long, flowing river. It's my favorite nature name.
Miranda: I am also a huge fan of Miranda. It's still on my list, but I know two women named this, one spelled Myranda, and I have such a strong association with them that I don't think I'd use it. I just think it's beautiful, with a great meaning, and love the Shakespeare connection.
Isabel: I've always loved this name. It's just beautiful and classic, but at the moment is too popular for me to use.
Lucian: I fell in love with Lucian quite recently. I love the meaning, and love the "loo-shen" pronunciation, but I don't know if I'd use it because it does have two different pronunciations and I think "loo-see-an" sounds too girly. I love the nn potential: Luc, Lou, and Ian.
Vincent: As in Van Gogh. I'm a huge fan of his work, and also love the song Vincent by Don McLean, which is about him. I would use it in the middle.
Atticus: Also as a middle name only. I remember watching TKAM with my father when I was very young, and falling in love with Atticus Finch. For me, he's the type of person that I wish everyone could be. Later, when I read the book in 9th grade, I was just as in love with him. They re-released the movie in theaters for the 50th anniversary last year, and I brought my dad to see it. We both cried. I will always have a lasting connection with this name and character, and I would love to use it. It irritates me so much when people call it a "pretentious" name because of how much it means to me.
Minerva: I love all of the associations I have with this name, including Harry Potter, and I love the meaning.
Cordelia: This is currently one of my top girl's names, and although I am a huge Buffy and Angel fan, I didn't fall in love with the name until just recently, when I re-watched Buffy with my sister. My love of it has nothing to do with the character, or with the Shakespeare character, because I've never read King Lear. I just think it's beautiful and has several good nicknames, which I also love in a name.
Phoebe: I think Phoebe is cute and spunky, and I love the meaning. If you can't tell by now, meanings are important to me. I loved Phoebe Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye and Phoebe on Friends.
Nate: I don't know why I love it so much, but Nate is one of my favorite names. I would use it as a nn, but I don't know if I'd use the longer form of Nathan or Nathaniel because I like them both. I probably wouldn't use it anyway though, because I already used it as a character in a book I wrote with a friend.
Rose: I love Rose as a first name and middle name. It's just a short, sweet name, and the flower is beautiful. It would also honor my mom. She hates her name (Phyllis Edith) but my dad has always called her Rosey because she has rosie cheeks. So I thought one day that I could use Rose to honor her, and I love it.
Runner up names: Riley, Rhys/Reese, Adrian, Maddox for boys, and Juliet, Harlow, Indigo, and Ramona for girls.
I have pretty boring taste in names, but heck, I'll give it a go.
Daisy - So beautifully charming. A name that brings a smile to my face, perhaps too cutesy for some but I can see it on any type of girl of any age.
Lucy - A sturdy, beautiful, classic. A very strong name steeped in history but also oozing elegance, sophistication, and glamour.
Rosalind - A formal, serious name. I can picture a little Rosie wearing pastel colours with fair skin.
Evelyn - A timeless classic. Familiar, friendly, and approachable, yet cool, sophisticated and classy.
Madeline - So sing-songy and wonderful! Long and luscious, formal enough to be taken seriously but sweet enough to be approachable.
Layla - I shouldn't like this, but I do! Its trendy, modern, and a tad repetitive but I love how it rolls off the tongue. Its sassy and beautiful.
Ivy - Short and sweet, definitely a name I can imagine on a little tomboy.
Annabel - Frilly without being sickly sweet. Uber feminine and classy at the same time - a winning combination.
Other honourable mentions: Anastasia, Victoria, Lillian, Eva, Alice.
Philip - Regal, a total gentleman. Dependable, sturdy, and classy.
Noah - Light and airy, Free spirited and steeped in history.
Isaac - Charming and dashing, I love the soft sound.
William - The ultimate "mans man" name imo. Charming, strong, classy, yet elegant, fierce and friendly nicknames such as Will and the handsome Liam.
Honourable mentions: Daniel, Henry, Samuel.
This is tough, but I'll give it a go. In no particular order:
Elliot - This name has been with me since I was 12 years old. It's masculine, handsome, and has a hint of refinement. It would work just as well on a rogue as it would a gentleman. It is bar none my favorite boy's name.
Flynn - To my ears, it's dashing, friendly, and a bit roguish.
Adam - This name just so pleasant and approachable. There are a wealth of men on my family tree called Adam, which makes it even more of a draw.
Christopher - I would only use this as a middle name, because it's already in use in my family. But it is gorgeous and handsome, and I have good associations with it.
Evangeline - This name is bursting at the seams with lace and doilies, but it has the rough and tumble nickname Evie. It also has a certain musical quality to it.
Silas - Silas has the S and L sounds that I've noticed I like so well, and it just feels so strong and confident.
Rosalie - One of the happiest-sounding names in existence.
Persephone - If I ever use this on a human child, I'm sure my family will raise their eyebrows, but I think it's musical and feminine.
William - Another family name--it was worn by my grandfather, great grandfather, uncle, and several others. I just have so much love for this name, though I might tuck it into the middle, because of its popularity.
Sophie - Soft, feminine, and approachable. With Sophia and its variations, it's mega-popular, but I would use it in a heartbeat.
Willow - This name is a good mix of femininity, flexibility, and strength. It evokes the beauty and grace of the natural world.
Phoebe - Another family name. This one belonged to a pioneer woman who managed to survive and return to her husband three years after being captured and losing four children during a Wyandot raid. To me, this name is the picture of resilience. And it has a happy, fun vibe via Friends.
It's lovely to see the reasoning behind everyone's favourite meaningful names!
A lot of my favorite names are guilty pleasures. They either are vetoed by my hubby, don't work with our last name, or are just too out there to be used as a first name. For me to really love a name, it has to bring to mind some clear and lovely image. There are plenty names that I like just fine, but they don't capture my interest if they don't have a picture to go with them.
In no order:
Eilonwy: I know I talk about this one a lot, but it will be our daughter's middle name, if we have a girl. Eilonwy is my and my husband's very favorite literary female character. We have both loved this name for 10+ years and there is no way we're letting it go. The character embodies everything I would want my daughter (and myself) to be. Smart, courageous, feminine without being prissy, and funny to boot :-) Way too many things I love about this name.
Cedar: for a boy. I was captivated by an old growth cedar forest in Glacier NP, and ever since I have loved this name. It is such a strong, calm name, and I love the way it flows off the tongue. I'm hoping to sneak it in as a mn for a boy.
Daniel: Can't help it, I just love everything about this name, except that it is a top 5 name here in Texas. I like all the nns, I've never met a Daniel who wasn't great, and I love the Bible reference. It's just so popular...
Holt: I'll be honest, I'm not shot in the head about the sound of this name. It's a bit abrupt. But the meaning is amazing. "Son of the unspoiled forest" Talk about amazing imagery. Can't you just picture a little boy running through an old forest?
Sage: for a girl. This is the female form of Cedar for me, calm and strong. I picture the windswept mountain plains covered with sagebrush, and the wonderful feeling I have when I'm there.
Rhys: I've really been crushing on this one lately. I picture mountains and streams. Plus the Mr. Rhys on Person of Interest (don't know the show spelling of his name) really makes this name seem manly.
Flynn: I picture adventure with this name. A little boy with wild hair, holes in his jeans, and unstoppable energy.
Callie: A family name for me (great grandmother), it also has such a clear image. I picture a little girl with long brown hair, wearing a gingham blue dress, and hanging from a tree behind a farm house. It's too sweet a picture for me to ignore.
Tabitha: Love the meaning and Bible reference of this name. I picture a dark haired, dark eyed athletic girl. We have about a 50/50 chance of having a brown eyed or blue eyed child, so this may fit well.
Taran: for a boy. Again, a name I love because of the same books that Eilonwy is from. Taran is a sometimes confused, often fumbling, but always courageous male character that I think is a great role model. My only concern is the popularity of Taryn for girls. Not too popular now, but used to be. I don't want my sons name to be the same as his peers' moms' names kwim?
Ok, I think I'll have to stop there. It's just 10, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind above all others.
Oh and ottilie, Polyhymnia is the name of one of the main female characters in some of Madeleine L'Engle's young adult books. I love all her books, and Poly (as she is usually called) is a great character.
Loving everyone's names. Some really beautiful, evocative names here!
Here are my top twelve. It's quite nice to just list names you love without worrying about creating combos or sibsets. I know that once I use some of these favourites, the others on the list will become unuseable, due to too many 'ee' sounds, etc.
Sylvie: Love the sound of this name, similar to 'silver'. The meaning 'of the forest' resonates with me.
Juliet: So romantic, but the nickname 'Jet' makes it quite spunky
Fern: One syllable evokes a shady, peaceful place. Fern fronds are beautiful in their delicacy and repeated symmetry.
Rosalind: I love the flow of this name, and its link to science (Rosalind Franklin) makes it sound very smart too me.
Naomi: Beautiful fluid vowel sounds. Feminine yet strong.
Isobel: Has to be this particular spelling! I wouldn't use this name now because it (well, mostly variations on this) has become more popular than I would like, but it is still beautiful.
Barnaby: I love the cheerful and industrious sound of this name, how can you not smile whle saying it! Love the nicknames Barnes and Barney with it too. Laurence: This name is romantic to me, love the nickname 'Laurie'.
Wolfram: Very unusual name, its meaning refers to both wolves and ravens. A dark, brooding handsome name
Dashiell: This name sounds intellectual, but I love the nickname Dash, and so it seems fun as well.
Griffin: Strong name. I like the reference to the half lion-half eagle creature. "Griff" seems like a nice nickname.
Bruno: this name just seems so strong and handsome to me.
Briar - Have loved it since reading Tamora Peirce's Circle of Magic series when I was a kid. It's a nature name, which isn't something I normally go for, but I love it. The princess Briar Rose means that it's stuck in the middle spot, because to me it's all boy, but I just can't see a boy appreciating sharing his name with a princess.
Kendrew - Enough that I think is stuck in the middle name slot. I first heard it hear on nameberry, and feel in love with it on the spot. I haven't had a lot of positive feedback on the name, but I love it all the same.
Edmond- Love it and the nickname Ned. It's feels vintage and sweet and makes me think of Narnia and Sir Edmond Hillary, two pretty cool namesake for a little boy.
Casper - Ghost aside this name i perfect, in my opinion. It's got history and isn't popular but everyone knows it. Plus it sounds cool.
William- One of the most classic names ever, and still going strong, so I'm hardly the only one to love it. The populartiy worries me, but it's so handsome and honours a lot of men in my family. Love the nickname Wim.
Ashley - For a boy. It's handsome and sweet, but the fact it's so popular for girls means that it's more of a guilty pleasure than a name I would actually use. For now anyway, who knows what will happen in the future =)
Rebekah - Rebecca was my first ever name crush. After reading the Beka Cooper series I fell in love with it again, this time with the Rebekah spelling.
Gwendolen - It's spunky and firey with some cool nicknames, Gwen, Wendy and even Doe which I think is sweet.
Charity - My ultimate guilty pleasure name. I love it's sound, and the old fashioned imagine it brings to mind. I also love it's meaning even though I'm normally not a fan of virtue names
Elisabeth - A sweet twist on a complete classic, I love Elisabeth. I love it's countless nicknames, my favourite being Beth. It honours heaps of women in my family, which is just the icing on the cake.
Ruth - Ruth is sweet and vintage, and I just love it along the (Hunger Games inspired) nickname Rue
Abigail - It's 10 ten popularity means that I'm not sure if I will ever use it, but I love Abigail. I also love the nickname Gail, despite how that it's dated. I love that it's strong and cheerful.
THANKS! It was really hard to narrow it down.
Isaac: The perfect compromise between Isaiah and Zachary. Familiar enough that people know it but there's not a million little Isaac's running around. Plus it means laughter. What could be better for the son of pranksters?
James: Handsome and underused even if one did steal my lunch money in grade school. Plus with a bit of imagination I could call him Jiminey after my dad's favorite Disney character.
Markus: Too many names involving the god of war? Not in this military family. Marcus is a great way to incorporate Martin into a son's name and the "k" is my small attempt at getting Martin to use a "German" name.
Gabriel: What can I say. This name is epitome of perfection to me. Alas, I will forever be associated to a boy that was taken too soon.
Simon: Just the right amount of nerdy and Sye/Si/Cy is a great nickname.
Tate: Curse you American Horror Story! I don't want to always think of the serial killer in the show but I will.
Blaire: Just the right amount of spunk. Much more tomboyish than Claire but has the same emergence when needed.
Milena: Exotic but familiar. And I adore the nickname Lena.
Lilith: The first bad girl. Despite all that she has a great sound and the nickname Lilly.
Delilah: "Hey there Delilah, what's it like in New York City?" I would love to use Delilah, she's so light and airy. But the whole Sampson thing and the song has OH permanently vetoing her.
Paige: This name screams tomboy to me. However Paige Baker doesn't seem like a good idea to me.
Sage: Much girlier than Paige but has the same problem.
Leonora - I picture an old soul who's friends with everyone. It sounds so feminine, yet smart and honest.
Sybil - This name feels very sophisticated and mature to me. I picture a classy, smart girl with this name.
Alessandra - I picture a worldly girl with cultivated tastes. I love the feminine, exotic sound!
Frances - I see a spunky, bright girl. I also love the idea of calling her France or Francie.
Charlotte - I wish this name wasn't so popular! It sounds innocent and charming to me. I picture a sweet, down-to-earth girl.
Delilah - I 'd use it if it weren't for the biblical connotations. It sounds delicately feminine to me. I picture a sensitive, friendly girl with this name.
Nathaniel - I also wish this name wasn't so popular! It sounds adorable and has a cool nn (Nate).
Wendall - Love the maturity of this name. I picture a bright, studious young man with a good head on his shoulders.
Sebastian - Again, too popular, but I think it sounds cool. I imagine he'd be a lover of the arts and be an interesting conversationalist.
Rowan - I picture a spunky boy who's well-rounded. I love it's familiar yet unique sound.
August - Another name I think sounds cool. I can only picture an artsy, smartsy type, who's outgoing and knows a little about everything.
Calvin - I find this name really quirky and cute! The nn Cal is adorable too :)