Category: International Baby Names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
If you’re looking for an unusual baby name, you don’t have to go to the extreme of inventing a new name or creating a novel spelling when there’s a whole world of unique international baby names out there to browse and choose from.
We’re not suggesting extreme, challenging global examples like Järnsaxa (Scandinavian) or Orfhlaith (Irish), which would be strictly tied to members of their own ethnicity, but rather to the countless others that are accessible and could be worn comfortably by any child anywhere.
The following are just a few examples for girls that boast both appealing foreign flair, accessibility and solid histories. And just as you don’t have to be Scottish to name your daughter Fiona, these unique international baby names for girls may (so much the better) or may not reflect your own ethnic heritage.
Victor Hugo, the nineteenth-century French writer best known for Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, was a keen observer of people and society. I’d wager he was something of a name enthusiast, too.
His books contain not just memorably-named characters, but also a lot of comments on names.
If someone has an unusual name, it usually has a back story. For example, Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, was named after the first word in the liturgy on the day he was found as an infant.
Hugo’s characters talk about names, their own and others, just like we do in real life. In Notre-Dame, a group of women laugh at Esmeralda’s outlandish name (although they can hardly talk, with names like Amelotte, Colombe, Mahiette and Oudarde). Elsewhere, a man called Félix complains that his name is a lie because he is not happy.
With Valentine’s Day upon us, we turn to thoughts of love and romance. Today we look at some of the names that have love embedded in their meaning, bringing an extra measure of tender feeling to your own little lovebug, names that go beyond the more obvious Amy and Aimee, with some international flair.
Amanda — A longtime favorite that retains its delicacy and popularity, Amanda rocketed to stardom in the 80s and is still at #316. Her countless notable bearers include characters in Tennessee Williams and Noel Coward plays; her adorable French diminutive is Amandine.
Carys — Cara means dear, and several names embody that meaning, including this sweet Welsh example that became known in the US when Catherine Zeta–Jones and Michael Douglas chose it for their daughter in 2003.
Davina — All names related to the Hebrew David mean beloved, and this includes the feminine forms Davida and Davina, the latter having appeared on the US list from 1968 to 1984. It is currently heard on the TV show Transparent.
Davis — Another member of David’s family, the more distinctive Davis is a surname form for boys that is currently climbing in popularity—possibly as a David namesake. It now ranks at #474 nationally, and 222 on Nameberry.
Esme – This wonderful Salinger name gets its beloved meaning from a relation to the French Aimee. A Twilight saga vampire name, it’s a celebrity favorite, chosen by Michael J. Fox and others; Esmé ranks at a high #35 on Nameberry and 38 in England.
Milena — Popular in Italy and several Slavic countries, and the birth name of actress Mila Kunis, Milena entered the US Top 1000 in 2012, and is now Number 760. Letters to Milena is a book of –yes—letters by Franz Kafka.
As we greet the new year with big goals and big dreams, let’s not forget some of the big names that closed out 2016. In December, we celebrated and remembered many a bright and brilliant star, if the origins of many of last month’s newsy names are any measure.
On December 9th, acting legend Kirk Douglas turned an impressive 100. His birth name was Issur, a Yiddish variant of Israel, Hebrew for “he who strives with God” and alluding to how the biblical Jacob wrestled with an angel. Issur took the name Kirk Douglas before he joined the Navy during World War II. Like Issur, Kirk also has a religious root: It began as a northern English and Scottish surname, taken from the Old Norse word for “church,” referring to families who lived near them.
As this year draws to a close, it’s time once again to look back at the most prevalent trends that have influenced baby names in Britain in 2016.
It looks like Oliver and Olivia will be the big hits of 2016. Oliver has been #1 in England and Wales since 2013 and is set to keep his crown. Olivia has taken second place to Amelia since 2011. But the births for Amelia have been steadily going down, and Olivia creeping up. Olivia has also taken the #1 spot in Scotland this year according to provisional data for 2016.
Both Olivia and Oliver are names with a lot of history, but were both quite rare in use up until the 18th and 19th century respectively. This gives them the same elegant, grounded feel as many “classic” perennial favourites, without feeling too tired or commonplace.