Exotic Lite: Boys’ Edition

Exotic Lite: Boys’ Edition

We recently looked at girls’ names popular around the world yet exotic-sounding in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, and today we turn to the boys’ version of this kind of name.

If you’re looking for a name for your son that has an international flavor yet is not too obscure or difficult to understand and pronounce, you might want to consider these choices.

ALESSANDRO – A top name in Italy, makes Alexander both softer and sexier to the American ear.

ALEXEI – Russian spin on Alex or Alexander popular there, pronounced Alex-ay or (less popular) Alex-ee. Down side: Its similarity to the very popular girls’ name Alexa.

ALFIE – While Alfie is far from unknown in the U.S., it’s vastly more popular in England, where it’s in the Top 10. In the U.S., not even in the Top 1000 – though the name’s cuteness and friendliness is likely to change that before long.

AMIT – A simple yet exotic name popular in both India and Israel. Virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, yet since we’re hearing more from the girls’ version Amity, why not this friendly name too?

ANDERS – To the American ear, one of the classic Scandinavian names, still very popular in Sweden.

AXEL – Tough-guy name that’s the tops in Finland.

DAAN – The Scandinavian short form of Daniel is the number one boys’ name in The Netherlands and is also in the top 10 in Belgium.

DMITRY – Pronounced dih-MEE-tree and also spelled Dmitri, the double-consonant beginning makes it feel both more foreign and more intriguing.

EMIL – A 1960s German film based on a 1920s German novel, Emil and the Detectives, introduced this name to the U.S. It’s very popular now in Finland and its similarity to the mega-popular Emma and Emily may give it fresh life in America.

ENZO – A cross-cultural surprise, this Italian version of Henry and short form for several names ending in –enzo is the top name in France. Actress Patricia Arquette chose it for her son.

FABIAN – Ancient saints’ name that means “bean grower” last got widespread exposure in America via the doo-wop singer. Today, stylish in Austria. While Americans pronounce the first syllable fayb, in Europe it’s fahb.

FLORIAN – Popular boys’ name in Germany and Austria still considered a bit too flowery for their sons by many American parents. But with more boys’ names inspired by female trends (Emmett from Emma, for instance), Florian just may stand a chance.

FRANCESCO – The number one name in Italy, more familiar in the U.S. in girls’ version Francesca.

HANS – Classic Scandinavian name popular in Denmark.

IVAN – This form of John is popular in Belarus while Ivano is stylish in Croatia. If you have Eastern European roots, this might be an inventive way to honor an ancestral John.

JAVIER – Thanks to actor Bardem, this Spanish favorite and variation on Xavier is familiar to English speakers as hahv-ee-ayr.

KILLIAN – Another cross-cultural surprise, this Irish name meaning “church” is trendy in France and is just beginning to be heard more in the U.S. too.

LACHLAN – Pronounced lock-lan, this Scottish name is a favorite in Australia and has a surname feel trendy in the U.S.

LARS – Americans see this Scandinavian name as having an Old World feel, for better or worse, but it’s popular in present day Netherlands, Sweden, and Flemish Belgium.

LAZAR – This version of Eleazar, meaning God helps, is popular in Serbia. While other forms of the name – Lazaro, Lazarus, Laszlo – are cutting-edge stylish in the U.S., this streamlined version is virtually unknown. Pronounce it la-ZAHR, not laser.

LEON – A top name in Germany that’s fallen far from favor in America, but with the resurgence of all names lion-related, this one has a chance.

LINUS – This musical mythological name is popular in Finland, but yes, there are all those blanket jokes (we restrained ourselves, but barely).

LUCA and LUKA – Very popular boys’ name throughout Europe that’s just starting to be heard in the U.S. as a substitute for Luke and Lucas. Yes, it does feel a tad feminine and is sometimes used for girls.

MATHIS – If you love Matthew but just can’t let yourself pick a name that’s been in the U.S. Top Ten for decades, consider this version, popular in Belgium and France. Pronunciation: Mat-TEES, like we say the name of the painter Matisse.

MILAN – Italian city name – and first name of author Kundera – popular in Belgium. Streamlined and urbane.

PER – Sweden loves this Scandinavian variation of Peter, supremely simple yet extremely exotic, a wonderful combination.

RASMUS – Variation on the ancient name Erasmus – he was a Dutch philosopher – popular in Estonia, Finland. Takes hipster Rufus and Remus one further.

REN – Unisex name popular in Japan, meaning water lily. Eminently usable in the west, except for the Stimpy association.

SANTIAGO – Spanish name that means “Saint James” and is popular in Argentina as well as among Hispanic parents in the U.S., it’s also a place name and a vibrant surname.

SEM – Dutch favorite that’s a variation on the Biblical Shem, who was a son of Noah. Up side: It can be an alternative to Sam. Down side: It will forever be mistaken for it.

SOREN – Popular in Denmark and starting to be heard here, it’s a variation on the Latin Severus, a Harry Potter choice.

THIJS – Its pronunciation is simpler than the spelling suggests: it rhymes with nice. Popular in the Netherlands, it was chosen by the Today Show’s Matt Lauer for his son.

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.