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20 Unique Baby Names That Deserve More Love

December 2, 2018 Emma Waterhouse

by Emma Waterhouse

If you could give just one largely unknown and under-appreciated baby name a big PR boost, what would you choose?

We recently stumbled across this intriguing thread topic from the Nameberry Forums, and it got us thinking… As wonderful and wide-ranging as the community here is, Nameberry can still be something of an onomastic bubble. Certain choices beloved of the Berries — like Penrose and Pomeline, Somerled and Soleil — are little-known in the “real world”, and might well be met with a raised eyebrow (or two) in your average American or Canadian or British playground, or really any playground on Planet Earth.

But there are so many more superb, super-rare, unique baby names to be found on Nameberry; names that are still flying far under the radar in real life, despite feeling entirely wearable in 2018.

We’ve rounded up 20 awesome obscure baby names that we think deserve their moment in the spotlight. These were our criteria:

All but unknown in the US outside of name-nerd circles (fewer than 20 uses in 2017);

Historic use as a given name or surname (no newly minted word names);

Accessible and intuitive for the average American (straightforward spelling and pronunciation).

And so, without further ado, on to our PR-worthy picks! Which are your favorites? What would you add?

Alban: Adorable Albie is trending in a big way in the UK, riding the dual wave of “old man” and “cutesy nickname” trends. In formal name-loving America, Alban feels like an ideal way to get there: less stodgy than royal Albert, less daring than Albus or Alberic, and with that fashionable two-syllable, n-ending shape.

Ardith: Sounding somewhat like a mash-up between modern Arden and old-school Edith, this intriguing option is actually related to the Biblical place name Ardath, borne by American author Ardath Mayhar.

Bramwell: If smart surnames are your style but Maxwell feels too expected, how about this genteel British option? Like Maxwell, this one comes with a warm and friendly nickname built in: Bram.

Cyprian: From Julian to Sebastian, Adrian to Fabian, long Latinate names for boys are big. But this handsome option — a Top 100 pick in Poland as recently as 2014 — has been largely overlooked in the US.

Delphi: Another ancient option with a fresh, modern sound, Delphi comes from a Greek place name: site of the infamous Oracle. It’s never charted in the US, but is given to a dozen or so baby girls per year in England and Wales.

Dougray: This distinguished French surname became a dashing first name possibility when it was adopted by actor Dougray Scott, born Stephen. But American parents are yet to follow his lead, despite the potential for white-hot nickname Gray.

Elior: Sister name Eliora is on the upswing, but this handsome Hebrew option remains under the radar… for now. With its fresh, fluid sound and potential for stylish nickname Eli, we can see this gaining traction as an uncommon alternative to the likes of Elliot, Elias and Elijah.

Fenella: A quintessentially British name deriving from the same Celtic root that gave us Finn and Fiona, this is one member of that fashionable family of names that remains almost unused in the US, with fewer than 5 born last year. Cute nickname Nell is another bonus.

Finbar: Speaking of Finn… Here’s a dashing and distinctive way to get there: Finbar (also spelled Finnbar or Finbarr) is an Irish name meaning “fair head” — perfect for a little blond-haired boy!

Idony: A subtle deity name, linked to the Norse spring goddess Iðunn, sweet Idony has the same appealing cadence as names like Avery, Ebony and Emery, but none of the popularity.

Jago: Already a hit across the pond, this jaunty Cornish variant of recent #1 name Jacob has yet to catch on here. Pronounced “JAY-go”, you’d also get the benefit of cool jazz-era nickname Jay.

Kester: Christopher is a classic, Kit’s the hot new comeback kid on the block, but this medieval variant of the same name is still largely unknown. With its cool K initial and its trendy -er ending, we can definitely see Kester catching on.

Kirrily: An intriguing Australian name possibly related to the Aboriginal word kira “leaf” or to the Maori kiri “bark; skin”… or perhaps it’s simply a spin on Kira/Kirra. Either way, Kirrily has a lovely lively sound and is certainly unique over here, having never appeared on the US list.

Lilias: Fans of longer “Lily” names who are wary of the popularity of Lillian and Liliana, or the dark connotations of Lilith, might like to consider this pretty Scottish option, sometimes spelled Lileas.

Morven: Scottish Mirren is light and lively, but poetic place name Morven feels a little bit dark and dangerous — a Scottish Morgan minus the popularity.

Olivet: Olivia is currently a Top 10 choice across the Western world — including in the UK, Australia, NZ, Norway, Sweden and Belgium — and sister name Olive is trending too. But this pretty place name remains largely overlooked, having only charted eight times since US naming records began, most recently in 2015.

Pascoe: Hipster baby namers have fallen hard for rugged Roscoe, but this cool Cornish variant of Pascal remains largely undiscovered, and would be perfect for an Easter baby!

Romilly: Originally a French surname turned masculine first name, Romilly is now found almost exclusively as a girls’ name, given to around 40 babies per year in England and Wales. In the US, only 5 were born last year, despite the potential for fashionable nicknames Romy and Milly.

Tavish: A truly distinctive Scottish option related to traditional Thomas, this could be a striking way to honor an ancestral Tom.

Viveca: Despite the popularity of other Viv– names like Vivian and Vivienne, this vibrant Swedish option is yet to catch on in the US, with fewer than 5 births recorded last year. Vivica is another spelling possibility, as in actress Vivica Fox.

About the author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse — better known as @katinka around these parts — joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from pregnancy and birth to unique baby names from fiction and fantasy. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active Forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks six languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and three young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.

View all of Emma Waterhouse's articles

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