20 Unique Baby Names That Deserve More Love

Fenella and Finbar

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.

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10 Responses to “20 Unique Baby Names That Deserve More Love”

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vivi_simone Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 1:05 am

I’ve never heard of Idony before and love it! It feels both sweet and strong at the same time and reminds me of favorites Ione and Imogen.

jjayx Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 2:06 am

Cyprian, Tavish and Jago have long been on my favourites list, although as somewhat guilty pleasures. I love Morven, very pretty and one I think would easily grow with a little girl into a young woman. Bramwell and Pascoe are great too, probably more accessible to the non-name obsessed like us, than the likes of Finbar and Kester.

SouthernPeach Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 9:22 am

My favorite long “Lily” name is Lillibet!

IslandMoon Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 12:41 pm

I really like Morven, Romilly, Viveca, Kester, Idony and Elior. I like Fenella and Finnbar, but prefer Fionnuala and Thorfinn, probably even more obscure.

Lo Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Cyprian is a long time favorite of my husband and I’ve come around to it and love it as well. But our other 8 kids have such mainstream names that Cyprian feels off the table. Could a Cyprian really be brothers with such mainstream names as Thomas, James and Andrew?

Kew Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Great list – I would love to see Alban, Finbar, Idony, Jago and Tavish become more popular. Lilias and Pasco are childhood favourites of mine, so I admit that seeing them mount the lists would give me mixed feelings!

The name I would most like to see get more use is Arianwen. Aria, Aurora, Ariana, Ariadne, Arabella etc are all so popular, and fantasy-esque names such as Elowen and Arwen get plenty of attention online, so it seems a shame that this elfin beauty is being neglected!

lesliemarion Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 8:20 pm

This is the best blog!

I love most of these names (though I also love Penrose – and Pendleton – and Pomeline – and Pomme!).

A few thoughts.

I love Kirrily and think Kestrel would make a great sibling name.
Pascoe, Pascal, and Easter are all wonderful names, but I can’t imagine any of them appealing beyond the Christian faith.
Albion I think sounds even more cool than Alban.
Another Maxwell/Bramwell type of name with a great nn is Maxfield. Field is a refreshing nn.
Delphi is a bit oracle-ish for me, but Delphine is a lovely option.
In addition to Dougray, I also love Grayling (a fish) and Dougal.
In addition to Tavish, what about Hamish, Erskine, and Lundy.
Kester I almost like, but it’s a bit too snack food made-up sounding. Also sounds like Keister. But I love Kerr, Keir, Kerouac, and Kenelm (the last with its gorgeous, calm Elm nn).
And then the ones that are just perfect in themselves: Morven, Fenella, and Viveca. Talk about three gorgeous sister names!

ecpt Says:

December 3rd, 2018 at 9:06 pm

Dougray has been on my list for a while now. I also love Vivica.

katinka Says:

December 4th, 2018 at 10:34 am

@lesliemarion I agree on Kenelm! It almost made, the list, but felt a little less in line with mainstream tastes than Kester. And Maxfield is cooool.

@kew Arianwen is indeed a beauty!

jmsouthern Says:

December 4th, 2018 at 2:10 pm

My teenage daughter’s name – Calyssa – is so rare that it doesn’t even appear yet in Nameberry’s extensive name database. I’m conflicted about it; while I wish her name would get the love it deserves, I also kind of hope that it continues to fly under the radar!

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