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Not-So-Different Baby Names: Elena, Caroline, Matteo

February 1, 2015 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Would you pay tens of thousands of dollars to have a crack team of experts develop a one-of-a-kind name for your baby?

If you’ve got the cash, a Swiss firm has assembled the creative linguists prepared to do just that.  It isn’t clear just how many bespoke baby names the firm has created.

Here’s my guess: the number is small.

Because while many parents crave meaning, and want their child’s name to stand out, we don’t hear a lot of truly unique names that seem pulled from thin air, even in Hollywood.

Well … maybe Suri Cruise.

Week after week, high profile birth announcements are filled with the kinds of names that would fit right in on any playground.

Even when it comes to naming fictional characters, we tend to prefer the slightly familiar over the never-before-heard.

If one-of-a-kind is your thing, and your pockets are deep, well, there’s a service for that.  But most of us probably want something that’s much more accessible.  Something like the choices in this week’s high profile birth announcements and name news:

Matteo Stanley Tucci and his late wife Kate highlighted dad’s Italian heritage with their children’s names: twins Isabel Concetta and Nicolo Robert, and daughter Camilla. Now Stanley and new wife Felicity Blunt have chosen a name for their firstborn that’s equally Italian: Matteo. It’s also nothing new in Hollywood. Colin Firth and Ricky Martin both have boys called Matteo. Tom Colicchio and Benjamin Bratt went with the Mateo spelling for their sons.

Oliver Matteo’s middle name is downright mainstream. After years of feeling quirky and offbeat, Oliver returned to the US Top 100 in 2009, and shows no signs of departing.

Olivia – Speaking of popular names, Olivia has been in the US Top Ten since 2001 – and like Oliver, seems likely to remain in heavy use for the foreseeable future. But this week, Olivia is also in the baby name news as a middle rather than a first. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and wife Abby welcomed a little sister for Ava Frances and Lucy Thomas.

Caroline – The newest member of the Manning family? Caroline Olivia. It makes for a rather appealing trio. All of the names are popular today, and each has some history, too.  But none of them is too expected, and it’s fun to see a longer name like Olivia in the middle spot.

Keira Keira Knightley is expecting her first child this spring, but it’s her given name that was in the news this week. Knightley’s parents named her after a Russian figure skater, Kiera. Only there was a blunder on the birth certificate, and her name was registered as Keira instead.  All these years later, the British actor’s misspelled version of the name is far more popular than Kiera, Kira, Kyra, or Ciara in the US.

JulianneOne more celebrity name in the news: Julianne, as in Moore, mother of the nicely named Caleb and Liv, isn’t Julianne at all. She’s just Julie, born plain Julie Smith. As a young unknown, Moore took pieces of her parents’ names to create a more memorable moniker. It works, too. Julianne feels like a common name, but it isn’t. Julianne ranked an obscure #819 in 2013, and has only spent a few years in the US Top 500.

Elena – From real women to pretend princesses, let’s turn our attention to Disney’s announcement that popular Disney Junior series Sofia the First would be getting a spin-off. Latina-inspired Princess Elena of Avalor will debut of Sofia before moving to her own show next year. Elena has been worn by real princesses over the centuries, and is a Spanish cousin to Helen. The name is currently at its most popular in the US. Should the series be a success, could Elena be the new Isabella?

Avalor – The name of Elena’s kingdom is equally intriguing. It’s been mentioned previously in Sofia the First, but hasn’t been used as a given name. Ava, Aveline, Avalyn, Avila, Avelie, Avalon, Avonlea, and lots of other Av- names have seen some use. I’m keeping an eye on Arendelle, too, the fictional kingdom inhabited by Frozen royalty Elsa and Anna. Like Avalor, it combines sounds popular in girls’ names to come up with something just a little bit different.

Sasha – Let’s end on a truly international note! Colombian-born songstress Shakira and Spanish footballer Gerard Pique have welcomed a second son. Big brother Milan is joined by Sasha. Sasha is a Russian nickname for Alexander. This is also the second high profile birth announcement to feature this name in less than a year – Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky also used the name. It’s another suggestion that parents are willing to consider names for boys even after they’ve been popular for girls – and a great ends-in-a possibility for a son.

Would you prefer to choose a truly unique name, or do you fall somewhere on the OliverSasha, CarolineKeira continuum?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

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