By Linda Rosenkrantz
Unusual names attract attention for the stars who bear them and often inspire hundreds of baby namesakes. But which uniquely-named celebrities have the biggest influence on baby name trends?
Some celebrities here have already turned their rare monikers into baby name hits. Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams has propelled her charming nickname-name into the Top 600 in the US and The Top 60 in the UK, for instance. And the African Zendaya rose into the US Top 1000 thanks to the singularly-named actress, singer, and social media star, with 43 million Instagram followers.
New stars with rare names we predict you’ll be hearing a lot more of include:
Sometimes it can just take the addition of a single letter to make a name seem brand new, as in the case of this actress, best known for portraying Rue in The Hunger Games. It’s actually a name that means power or strength in two South African languages, IsiXhosa and Zulu.
She began as a Disney Channel teen star, playing both parts in Liv and Maddie. She traded her birth name of Chloe Celeste for the soft, sweet symbol-of peace name Dove, which, along with Lark and other bird names, is poised to take flight.
A sensation as the latest Wonder Woman, this lovely actress was born and raised in Israel. Her name means ‘wave’ in Hebrew, is pronounced to rhyme with ball, and is unisex in its native habitat, but we can see it more as a powerful inspiration for girl babies here.
Named British International Model of the Year, the high profile Hadid dropped her birth name of Jelena Noura in favor of the spunky nickname Gigi, which is remembered as the heroine of a classic Hollywood movie, based on a novella by Colette. Gigi is well liked on Nameberry, ranking at #469–and could go higher.
The single name of a seminal 1970s fashion designer is now equally associated with a young up-and-coming TV actress. Halston has many qualities that could lead to baby name success as a future classmate of Hadley, Harper, Harley and Harlow.
We watched her grow up as Sally Draper on Mad Men for nearly eight years from child to teen, and fans of the show have had an emotional attachment to the young actress. Will it carry over to her boyish Irish name?
This young actress plays Arya in the iconic Game of Thrones, and both her name and that of her character have struck a chord with baby namers. The sweet old-fashioned Maisie made a return to the Top 1000 in 2014, and there’s no doubt that this actress played a role in that.
If ever there was a self-defining badass word name, this is it, and this outspoken, uproarious Australian actress-comedian fits it to a T. We’re not sure how many parents might see it as a risky self-fulfilling prophecy, even in this more tolerant era of daring choices. It’s been used for boys as well.
Two key roles have brought this actress to public attention—as Poussey in Orange is the New Black and Moira in The Handmaiden’s Tale, for which she just received an Emmy nomination. Her shiny Arabic name, meaning ‘companion in evening conversation,’ is one that could easily catch on with name-seeking parents.
Before her breakthrough appearance in Brooklyn, Ronan spent much of her time and energy explaining the pronunciation of her name (“rhymes with inertia”), but now Americans have fallen in love with this Irish name enough to bring it into the Top 1000 this year.
Tavi Gevinson became a sensation as a widely read fashion blogger at the age of 11 and now, at 21, is a feminist writer on pop culture, a magazine editor and Broadway actress. Her lively name feels like an appealing blend of her Jewish and Norwegian roots.
Zendaya Maree Stoermer Colman, who goes by just her first name, got her start (as so many young actresses and singer do) on the Disney Channel. Her rhythmic African name means ‘to give thanks’ and thanks to her popularity, as well as parents’ love for the initial Z and the intriguing nickname Zen, Zendaya entered the US Top 1000 in 2014.
In his short career Alden Ehrenreich’s already worked with such iconic directors as Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and the Coen brothers, and next he’ll be starring as the young Han Solo in a Star Wars spin-off. A surname dating back to Pilgrim days, Alden became one of the hottest names of last year, up 73%, partly due to this dreamy dude.
This hot young star has been featured in such hit movies as the Divergent Series, The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver. The son of a photographer, Elgort’s name was inspired by that of famed Western photographer Ansel Adams. (BTW, his middle name is Marie.) Ansel is a German name that had some popularity a century ago, and is ready for a comeback.
Born Armand, Armie Hammer has, since 2010, starred in films ranging from The Social Network to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He is the namesake of his oil tycoon/philanthropist great-grandfather Armand Hammer. While Armie now seems like a one-person name, it could catch on a la Archie and Alfie.
British-born Asa Maxwell Thornton Farr Butterfield was acclaimed as Young British Performer of the Year at the age of 11 and has had major roles ever since. He’s brought new attention and a more youthful image to his short but strong biblical name, which now ranks at #518, the highest it’s been since 1910, and we predict it will move even higher.
This charming actor-rapper originated the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the smash musical Hamilton, for which he won a Tony and a Grammy, and is now moving into film and TV. His parents named him the Hebrew pronunciation of David because his father “liked the look of it” and we think other parents might too.
Best known for his roles in Slumdog Millionaire and Lion, Dev Patel was born in London to Indian parents. Dev—also the lead character name in Master of None—with its appealing simplicity, could well catch on here. Three other names in this category: Aziz Ansari (Master of None), Riz Ahmed (The Night of) and Ramni Malek (Mr. Robot).
In the real-time film Boyhood, we were able to watch the actor evolve from a six-year-old to the age of 19. Ellar is a rare name with Scottish roots that is also used for girls. But with the El- beginning so trendy (Eli, Elijah, Elliot, Elvis), Ellar has some potential to rise.
Yes, Hannibal is the real name of this stand-up comedian and actor, named for the legendary ancient military leader; he called his first album My Name is Hannibal. Let’s hope these two positive references will be able to finally overcome the scary memory of Hannibal Lecter.
The British have long used Kit as a nickname for Christopher and in fact this Game of Thrones heartthrob has Christopher on his birth certificate, named for Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe who was also called Kit. Another plus: Kit is what Benedict and Sophie Cumberbatch are calling their first son Christopher.
The name of this basketball star with the Cleveland Cavaliers and also the winning US Olympic team, Kyrie is a unisex Greek name used in the church refrain “Kyrie Elieson.” Thanks to the popularity of this athlete, it has risen to Number 285 for boys.
From the exploding world of alternative media comes wildly popular, sometimes controversial, internet teen star personality Nash Grier (born Hamilton Nash), known for his online Vine videos starting in early 2013. The name Nash has been steadily climbing and has now reached #286
This Irish singer is one-fourth of the popular band One Direction. Niall (pronunciation varies, but Horan uses NYE-uhl) was the name of a legendary Irish king of Tara and is currently very popular in both Ireland and England. Has a lot cooler image than the dated Neil.
Niall Horan’s One Direction bandmate goes by his first name only. Though this —and his birth name Zain— appear to be alternative spellings of Zane, both are Arabic names meaning beauty and grace. And thanks to this Zayn, his name has zoomed up the popularity charts in the past three years, now at #421. (Trivia tidbit: his current partner Gigi Hadid is on our girls list.)