Classic and Creative Baby Names in the News


By Clare Bristow

This week’s news includes names from the ancient world, Europe and the 1990s, plus some of the most gloriously unusual names you’ll hear this year.


1990s names: not the next big thing

Do you believe everything you read on the internet? Despite the rumors, 1990s names are not about to make a comeback. Yes, many of the names that were big 20 years ago are still in use. But chances are they’re either absolute classics – hello, Michael and Elizabeth – or they’re on a gentle downswing, like Justin and Alexis, which have just left the US Top 100.

If you’re naming a baby now, you might well have a typical 90s name yourself. You probably know that trends have moved on. But if your significant other’s only suggestions are the names of people they knew in school, you may need to steer them towards today’s popularity charts to show them that there are fresher options.


Names from the ancient world: Leonidas and Ulysses

One name you didn’t hear much in the 1990s? Leonidas. It was rare until 2006, when the movie 300 came out and the Spartan king’s name captured parents’ imaginations. It helps that it gives the nickname Leo, which was already getting more popular.

It might have done Leo some favors too. As one mother of a Leo puts it: “in [my husband’s] head, Leo was named after Leonidas, King of Sparta. In reality, his birth certificate just says Leo.”

This article rounds up names from classical civilizations that have been given a boost by the big and small screen. As well as Leonidas, they include Ariadne, Achilles and Maximus. But not all ancient names are equal. The name of King Leo’s opponent Xerxes is still barely used. If you’re looking for an undiscovered name from the ancient world and you love the letter X, it could be the one.

Speaking of classical names, the latest babyberry announcements featured a Perseus – the twin of Pomeline! I swoon.

Of course, baby names from epic tales are nothing new – just ask Ulysses S. Grant. But don’t ask him what the S. stands for: he didn’t know. His birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, and the middle initial was a mistake that stuck. Here are more presidential name facts – some surprising, others less so.


Inventive European names: Giancarlo and Oskar

Have you changed your name or nickname during the course of your life? Many of us use our names to help reinvent ourselves as teenagers or in the workplace, including baseball player Giancarlo Stanton.

This article in the New York Times tells his story. In school he ditched Giancarlo and went by Mike (one of his middle names is Michael) to fit in. As an adult he returned to his first name, after a trip to Europe gave him a new appreciation for Gian– names. It’s a classic trajectory of growing up and coming to appreciate an unusual name.

His mother calls him by another middle name, Cruz, so he’s many names to many people. She herself was an inventive namer: Giancarlo’s siblings are Egidio Carlos Moacir and Kyrice Valivia.

Another European-style name in the news this week is Oskar. Interior design power couple Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent used the German and Scandinavian spelling for their son Oskar Michael, born last week. He joins big sister Poppy (Illustrated).


And the Name of the Year goes to…

Need something to do while you wait for the US name data to be released next month? Never fear, the 2018 Name of the Year tournament is open!

It won’t help you name your baby. It won’t tell you about current trends and favorites (unlike March Madness over at Appellation Mountain – by the way, congrats to the new winners, Rowan and Eliza!). But if you’re looking for a celebration of unusual names in the wild, NOTY is where you’ll find it.

It’s not that they’re bad names, far from it. Some of this year’s seeds have perfectly ordinary first names – like Christine and Adele – coupled with out-of-the-ordinary surnames. Some are the other way round, like Darth Vader Williamson.

And then there are the glorious combinations of unusual first and last names that make winner material. If there’s one thing it teaches us, it’s that names have impact, for better or worse or unintentionally humorous. So on second thoughts, maybe it does help with baby naming.

And we’ll be having our own royal baby name contest coming up next week!

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare Green writes Nameberry's weekly round-up of the latest baby name news, including celebrity announcements, unusual naming stories, and new statistics from around the world . Clare, who has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, lives in England, where she has worked in libraries and studies linguistics. You can follow her personally on Instagram and Twitter.