Alijah Mary and Future Zahir: New Sources for Meaningful Names

May 25, 2014 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel, Appelation Mountain

Between Kendra and Ciara, it was a busy week in the world of out-there celebrity baby names.

Both new arrivals names’ are definitely distinctive, and at first glance, it might seem that they wouldn’t have much impact on what the rest of us name our children.

But high profile birth announcements – even the most extreme examples – do change the way that we think about possible names, often for the better.

Let’s start with one of my favorite trends, and one very much in evidence lately – the way that our options for honoring loved ones have expanded.  Not so long ago, you might have a junior, or maybe pass down grandma or grandpa’s name, probably as a middle – hello, Joshua Alvin and Allison Blanche.  More recently we’ve seen names that honor places, events, and people significant to a child’s life, in ways that are far more inventive than ever before.  And junior is definitely not the only way to acknowledge dad.

The pool of middle names is growing, too.  Remember when every girl was Ann, Anne, or Marie?  Celebrity choices, from Miro to Maru, Nouvel to Fuego, have encouraged us to take risks with the middle spot.  Chosen wisely, a middle name can tell a story.

The take-away? Even when the names themselves are jaw-droppingly different, the freedom they give us to explore a more diverse set of options is welcome.

The nine most newsworthy, boundary-expanding baby names in the news last week were:

Teddy May Valentina – Dutch television personality Fabienne de Vries is a new mom.  She’s not likely to get a lot of press in the US, but the name she chose for her daughter is interesting: the boyish Teddy, followed by the vintage May, and the romantic Valentina.  Boyish choices like Billie and Johnnie used to serve as feminine forms of William and John.  With girls named Charlie and Frankie, could Teddy catch on?

Vesper Irissa – Blogger Chelsea Ingram has traveled the world with her family.  Now they’ve returned to the US, and welcomed their first daughter.  Nature name Vesper has a spiritual side, and a Bond girl tie-in, too.  Irissa is especially meaningful – it refers to Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow.  Vesper is the family’s first child after the loss of their son, Trek Atlas.  It’s a quiet, but powerful way to honor their experience.

Georgia – Country music’s Joe Nichols and wife Heather have added to their family – a daughter with an appropriately Southern appellation.  Big sisters are Ashelyn and Dylan.  With the newest British royal answering to George, will Georgia get a boost?  The name has climbed over fifty spaces in the past two years in the US, compared to George’s modest climb from #166 to #157.

BlueGeorgia Nichols’ middle name is far more daring.  With a conventional classic like Georgia in the first spot, Blue is sparky and unexpected.  Here’s guessing that Rose and Grace will remain the go-to middles for most parents, but Blue seems to be gaining, especially for girls, though colorful names work for both genders.

June Joanne – Actors Marshall Allman and Jamie Anne Allman have twin sons at home, Asher James and Oliver Charles.  They chose a vintage name with modern appeal for their daughter, the gentle June.  Like Georgia, this is a name that is climbing quickly – and like Blue, it could be another great choice for the middle spot.

Alijah – Reality star Kendra Wilkinson isn’t exactly secretive, and she chatted freely about names she and Hank Baskett III considered for Hank IV’s little sister.  Addison came up, as did Maxwell – a name ruled out thanks to the arrival of Jessica Simpson’s daughter.  The name the couple finally chose – Alijah – appears to be a feminine spin on the very popular Elijah, though the ‘A’ spelling has ranked in the US Top 1000 for boys for more than a decade.

MaryAlijah grabbed headlines, but I was more intrigued by the impeccably classic middle chosen by the former Girls Next Door star.  Could it honor the late Mary O’Connor, long-time secretary to Hugh Hefner, and unofficial house mother to the women of the Playboy Mansion?  (Thanks to Janine for pointing out the connection!)  Regardless of why the Basketts settled on the traditional choice, she’s so underused these days that I’m always delighted to see Mary in a birth announcement.

Future – Musical couple Ciara and Future passed on dad’s stage name to the next generation.  The elder Future was born Nayvadius Wilburn, and there was widespread speculation that some part of dad’s name would be given to their baby boy.  It’s not exactly a junior, but it is a meaningful choice, reminiscent of David Arquette’s recent choice of Charlie to honor his grandfather’s most memorable character.

Zahir – Let’s end with my favorite name of the week, the Arabic Zahir.  In an age of Xander and Xavier, Zoe and Zara, Zahir sounds right at home.  Plus, the meaning – shining – is appealing, and an appropriate choice for the high profile couple.  Will Future Zahir answer to his first or second name?  I’m hoping for Zahir, and would love to see this one catch on.

Have you taken an unconventional route to honor a loved one, or to add meaning to your child’s name?  Or do you prefer to start fresh, with names that belong to your child alone?

About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at

View all of Abby's articles


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