By Sophie Kihm
German baby names fell out of favor in the US during World War II and never really recovered. But now a new generation of German names are softer and more lyrical than the Hildas and Heinrichs of yesteryear—think Emma, Amelia, Liam. I’ve included some smooth and lilting names as well as some German hits that could fare well in the US. Do you think German names are ready for resurrection?
Anke– If you’re looking for a slimmer, more exotic version of Annika, Anke could be your girl. It’s pronounced much the same—AHN-ka—though it is actually the German form of Agnes. It could also work as a nickname for any Ann– name of your choosing.
Ida– Sweet Ida is due for a comeback. Americans love short vowel names ending in -a—Eva, Ava,, etc. —and Ida seems like a logical next step. Ida is delightfully vintage—let’s hope she can shake off the dust. It was a Top 10 name in the 1880s.
Isa– Isa is Ida‘s more modern-sounding cousin, thanks to Isabel and Isabella being so trendy. Pronounced EE-sah, this is a cross cultural choice, with roots in German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic (where it’s a male name).
Lotte– A helpful hint with German pronounciations: e-endings have an a-sound. Therefore, the gorgeous Lotte is pronounced Lotta (which is the Swedish form). Though originally a nickname for names like Charlotte and Liselotte, I think Lotte is wonderful on her own.
Minna– Minna is a lovely, sophisticated name with a sweet vintage sound—it’s astonishing she isn’t more popular! Originally a nickname for Wilhelmina, Minna was on the US list at the turn of the last century, as high as Number 368 and is still popular in Sweden.
Romy– How lovely is Romy? By origin it’s a nickname for Rosemary (Actress Romy Schneider was born Rosemaie), although Romilly, Romina and Roma work as less common full forms, though Romy would be just as dashing in her own right. Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars, and Matt Lauer have daughters named Romy.
Tilda– With Matilda gaining in popularity these days, it’s surprising we don’t hear the nickname Tilda—there were only 18 Tildas born in the US in 2015. The -da sound isn’t all that trendy right now, but with Tilda Swinton as a glamorous muse, this wouldn’t be an outrageous choice for a daughter.
Zelma– Speaking of sounds that aren’t very stylish right now, how about the -elma names? Thelma, Nelma, Selma, and Velma still have the faint aroma of mothballs, but or some reason, Zelma feels fresh: the zippy Z beginning adds a faux-modern touch to a very old-fashioned name.
Alaric– For those of you looking for a robust, masculine, unusual name, put Alaric on your list. He means “all powerful ruler,” and has ties to ancient kings. Alaric has plent of modern associations too, ranging from Alaric Saltzman, a character on The Vampire Diaries to British journalist Alaric Jacob.
Ansel– With teen heartthrob Ansel Elgort making his way into the mainstream, are we going to see more baby Ansels? It’s certainly possible. People are loving softer names for boys lately, and Ansel is just that, with ties to famed photographer Ansel Adams, after whom Elgort was named..
Arno– The strong, sophisticated Arno has never been that popular (he peaked in 1897 at #728), but could he become so? The generation of children who grew up watching Hey Arnold! are transitioning into parenthood—might they be inspired to drop off the last two letters and be left with a trendy o-ending name?
Benno– The adorable Benno is a livelier version of the stylish classic Ben, making it a great alternative if you’re turned off by popularity. Benno means “bear” in German, and is the name of celebrity chef Mario Batali’s son.
Fritz– Fritz a lively choice that can be used as a nickname for Frederick or on its own. Out of the Top 1000 since the 1970s, it was given to only 43 boys last year. However, with Fritz’s spunk and zesty charm, I predict we will be seeing more of him in the coming years.
Humphrey– The big question here: is Humphrey a dog name? The short answer is yes. Currently, you will meet a lot more dogs than humans with the name. But if it’s true that that the dog names we choose are often just ahead of the curve for humans, in a couple years, we might all be on board with Humphrey. Trust me. By the way, iconic screen star Bogart was named for his mother, Maude Humphrey.
Ivo– Ivo is a short, unusual name that’s used globally, yet has never caught on in the US. It originated as a nickname for Iv-names in Germany, before evolving into a stand-alone name. Ivo is gentler than Ivor and more modern than Ivan, sounding smart and sophisticated, making it an all-around great choice.
Rainer– Nowadays, Rain has gone completely to the girls (though Reign is up for grabs). If you’re disappointed by this, I suggest you take a look at the traditional German name Rainer, which blends nature and er-ending-surname-style perfectly. Most Americans will associate it with Mount Rainier in Washington State, and history buffs will recognize it as the name of three rulers of Monaco.Two notable namesakes: poet Rainer Maria Rilke and director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Till– This contemporary nickname is all over the place in Germany. He’s in the Top 100 on his own, but was commonly used as a short form of Dietrich or Theodoric in the past. If it seems too short to stand on his own, Till could make a unique nickname for Theodore.