7 Fresh Word Name Rarities

7 Fresh Word Name Rarities

By Anna Otto, Waltzing More Than Matilda

Some vocabulary names are popular, like Poppy and Summer, while others are familiar, like Faith and Melody. Then there are the vocabulary names that are more unexpected. These are ten names I have seen (on Australians) this year – but only once. They are all real names, but comparative rarities.


A breeze is a light gentle wind, pleasantly cooling and appreciated on a warm day. We say that anything easy or effortless is a breeze. The word came into use around the early 16th century, borrowed from the Dutch bries. By the following century it was occasionally used as a name. It has always been rare, and overall evenly given to both sexes, but in both the US and UK is more common now for girls. That might be because it’s similar to Bree, and sometimes girls with names like Brianna have Breeze or Breezy as their nickname. The name has a literary namesake, via H.E. Bates’s novella Breeze Anstey. Breeze was chosen for the daughter of Levi Johnston, former fiancé of Bristol Palin, in 2012, and Vanilla Ice’s daughter has Breeze as her middle name. For a rare name, cool Breeze seems easy to wear.


Chilli or Chilis are spicy peppers from Central and South America, commonly used in cooking. The word comes from Nahuatl, the Aztec language, and has no connection with the country Chile, despite sounding exactly alike. Amusingly for Anglophones, a chilli is exactly the opposite of chilly! Chilies were introduced to Europe and Asia in the fifteenth century, but Chilli and Chili have only been used very occasionally as names since the nineteenth. It’s easier to find it as a nickname or stage name, such as vintage British actress Chili Bouchier (real name Dorothy). I see Chilli every now and again, and this hot name certainly packs a punch.


A halo is a ring of light, the word coming from the Greek, meaning “disc,” It’s probably best known from religious art, where saints and angels are depicted as having an aura of bright light around their heads, called a halo– a common artistic device in ancient Greece and Rome for heroes, and followed in religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. The word has been used in English since the sixteenth century, and in the sacred sense since the seventeenth; it replaced “glory,” the older term for divine light. Being a modern word, Halo didn’t become used as a name until around the nineteenth century. Halo is now mostly given to girls, and has become more common since the Halo video game series was released in 2001, in which Halo rings are huge structures used as weapons, but do have a religious connection. A space age virtue name and possible honour name for Gloria.


Harvest comes the Old English haerfest, which was used for the name of the month we call August, and referred to the late summer/early autumn season when harvesting took place. From the eighteenth century, people began calling the season autumn or fall, and harvest specifically meant the gathering of crops. Harvest has been occasionally used as a name since the eighteenth century, originally as evenly unisex, and in the US data for last year, still looks that way, given to 9 girls and 5 boys. Harvest can be seen as pleasantly archaic, rich and ripe, fitting in with popular names like Harper and Harvey, and is also a fresh take on names like Autumn and August.


Ochre is a naturally coloured clay, ranging in tone through yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown, given these hues by the iron oxide in the clay. The word ochre is from ancient Greek, and literally means “pale yellow.” Ochre has been used in art since prehistoric times, and Australian Aborigines have used it for painting and body decoration. Ochre is an exceedingly rare name, found only a few times since the nineteenth century, and not showing up in any current data. Yet it means much the same thing as popular Sienna (another clay coloured with iron oxide) and sounds similar to fashionable Oakley. A strong earthy nature name that is both unusual and evocative.


Temperance means moderation and restraint, is one of the cardinal virtues of the Greek philosophers, later adopted by Christian thinkers and is also an essential element of the spiritual path in Buddhism and Hinduism. The classic image for Temperance is a woman mixing water with wine, the standard picture on the Temperance tarot card. The word is often connected with the temperance movement, which advocated abstaining from alcohol. Temperance has been used as a girl’s name since at least the sixteenth century, especially connected with the Puritans. Temperance joined the US Top 1000 in 2011, the name rising via the TV show Bones, starring Emily Deschanel as chic geek Dr Temperance “Bones” Brennan. Virtue names are back on trend, and this one is attracting a number of fans.


The word vogue came into use in the sixteenth century, from the French meaning “wave, course of success,” and you can see how what’s in vogue is at the crest of the wave, and how those who follow it are in the swim of things. Vogue is famous as the name of the iconic fashion magazine, which inspired a dance called the vogue, brought into the mainstream by a Madonna song. Vogue has been in rare use as a personal name, mostly since the last century. It doesn’t show up in current US data, but has been rising in the UK since 2013, influenced by Irish model Vogue Williams, whose grandmother suggested her name after an encounter with someone named Vogue. I see this name occasionally, and vaguely wonder how long before it might be in vogue.

About the Author

Anna Otto