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Novel New Names for New Babies: From Briar Rose to Titan Jewell

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

I’m a sucker for tradition.

My personal shortlist is packed with moldy oldies: Caradoc and Marguerite, Edith and Asa.  If forced to choose Jaxon or James, Eden or Elizabeth, I’d go with James and Elizabeth, no question.

And yet there’s something appealing about the idea of choosing a completely novel name for your new arrival.  This week’s high profile birth announcements were all about the modern and the new.

It’s fitting for children who are going to grow up in a new world, one where tablets have always been digital, instead of stone.

Choosing a brand new name for your brand new baby is forward-looking, but there’s more than one way to go about it.  There are truly novel names, invented by the parents.  Others are older, rare names that feel fresh.  And some are word names can combine the best of both approaches.

This week’s fresh, new baby names in the news are:

Avri Robert Downey, Jr. sure does love those high value Scrabble letters!  He and wife Susan Levin recently welcomed Avri, a sister for Exton.  Downey is also dad to older son Indio.  Avri is a respelling of the popular Avery, emphasizing a two-syllable pronunciation.  It’s a sleeker look, one that reminds me of Hebrew masculine names like Avi and Ari.  The spelling was given to 30 girls in 2013, and we’ll likely meet even more in the future.

Roel – While Avri is simply a four-letter version of a stylish name, the new Miss Downey’s middle is four letters packed with meaning.  Ro honors Robert’s dad, Robert Sr., as well as his stepmother, Rosemary, and Susan’s mom, Rosie.  The -el comes from Robert’s mom, Elsie, plus Susan’s dad, Eliot.  It’s an awful lot of meaning wrapped up in a short, unexpected, and completely invented name.

Marlowe Jenna von Oy was a child star, appearing on Blossom as Blossom’s BFF Six in the 1990s, and she’s been acting ever since.  Now she and husband Brad Bratcher are parents to two daughters: toddler Gray and new arrival, Marlowe.  Team Marlowe is a popular one with actors – Eva Amurri, Jason Schwartzman, and Sienna Miller have all chosen the name in recent years.  Blogger Heather Armstrong has a Marlo, and so does comedian Rob Corddry.  Jenna credits Gray with choosing her little sister’s name.

Monroe Marlowe’s middle is Monroe.  Two surname names with ‘o’ endings might clash, but there’s something charming and quirky about the combination Marlowe Monroe.  And Monroe – as in Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon’s daughter – is another name rapidly gaining.  It first cracked the US Top 1000 for girls in 2012.

Briar – Something old, something new.  Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen’s daughter is Briar Rose.  If that feels familiar, it’s probably because of the Brothers Grimm.  Their Briar Rose was the basis for Sleeping Beauty, though thanks to Disney, we usually think of her as Princess Aurora.  Briar has yet to chart in the US Top 1000, but has been gaining for years.  It’s the kind of under-the-radar nature name ready for use.

Titan Jewell – Speaking of names with history that still scream modern innovation, Destiny’s Child alum Kelly Rowland and husband Tim Witherspoon recently welcomed their firstborn, son Titan, as in Clash of.  Just like Marlowe, Titan first charted in the US Top 1000 in 2012.  In Greek mythology, the titans were the ruling gods before the rise of Zeus and the Olympians.  Gemstone middle Jewell softens the powerful first.

Beau – Once upon a time, Beau was a Southern gentleman, a rarity put on the map by 1936 bestselling novel turned 1939 blockbuster Gone With the Wind.  Now Beau is among the most stylish of choices, with that vibrant, twenty-first century ‘o’ ending.  Coronation Street’s Tina O’Brien chose the name for her son with Adam Crofts.  Speaking of Gone With the Wind, O’Brien also has a daughter called Scarlett.

Duncan – Let’s stick with names made famous by books and their adaptations for a minute.  A Series of Unfortunate Events debuted in 1999.  Author Daniel Handler published the series under pen name Lemony Snicket – who also serves as the books’ narrator.  Now Unfortunate Events is set to become a Netflix series.  As a given name, Duncan has never risen higher than #377.  Of course, long before Mr. Snicket came long, Duncan was worn by two Kings of Scotland – one of whom appears as a ghost in MacBeth.

Dinah – Along the same lines, Lifetime is set to make a mini series out of Anita Diamant’s bestselling 1997 novel, The Red Tent.  It’s the story of Dinah, a minor Old Testament figure who becomes the main character in the book.  Dinah feels a little bit like Briar or Beau – there’s history to this name, but it’s been long dormant.  Just fifty newborn girls were called Dinah in 2013.  Could a successful mini series change that?  I’m hopeful!


What are your favorite new names –  truly new, newly revived, or newly become names?

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9 Responses to “Novel New Names for New Babies: From Briar Rose to Titan Jewell”

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spotlightstarlit Says:

November 10th, 2014 at 8:28 am

I love them name Dinah so very, very much.

maggiemary Says:

November 10th, 2014 at 10:03 am

I love Beau and Dinah.

Briar Rose is too much for me, I dislike it. Briar Something Else would have been fine.

Avri is an interesting choice, as Robert Downey Jr. played Paul Avery in Zodiac (one of my favorite films), so I find it quite novel they have gone for that. I wonder if it’s a nod to that role in anyway!

emilybk Says:

November 10th, 2014 at 11:25 am

I surprised myself by loving Briar Rose! I keep telling myself that naming a baby after a fairy tale princess is a bit much, but it’s such a lovely name and I love the story of Sleeping Beauty. I wonder if baby Briar Rose’s parents will call her by both names, like in the fairy tale. I think I would – they just sound so nice together.

skizzo Says:

November 10th, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Nameberry needs to make Briar yellow, considering its a unisex name – and its more common on boys. Especially if you add all the alternative spellings.

Xanthikleia Says:

November 10th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Sorry, but these are mostly hideous. I don’t think a boy called Titan or Jewell or a girl called Roel would have an easy time of it unless their parents were amongst the rich and beautiful, and so these name choices are just silly flights of fancy from people who can afford to be silly more than something a real person could use. Blah.
And even if they weren’t, Roel, Titan and Jewell are all horrible name choices in my opinion.

I absolutely hate Avri. It’s a cute nn for Avraham, as the link suggests, if a bit soppy, but other than that.. no. That said, the inspiration, Avery, is one of my least favourite names too, so I suspect I’m a bit biased.

Briar Rose is sickly as hell. Nope. It’s frilly and fussy. Gross. Also, a lot of the older forms of the fairy tale, as with all tales, aren’t as cutesy as our daft modern versions (thank god!), so maybe not an association someone who’d call their child such a sugary name would want.

Dinah’s okay, but I wouldn’t use it. Might be cute on a cat, not on a kid.

Duncan is decidely uncute. Save it for Macbeth!

eveyalecia Says:

November 10th, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I completely agree with @skizzo. Briar is very masculine to me– it’s so close to names like Brian, plus Briar is the name of a popular male character in Tamora Pierce’s ‘Circle of Magic’ series. I’ve never been fond of Briar Rose… The two names together seem so contrived to me, regardless of their fairytale history.

Abby Says:

November 11th, 2014 at 10:05 am

Good point about Briar – I’d file it with Rowan. Both only seem masculine or feminine to me when I’m standing in front of a boy called Rowan or girl called Briar. Reverse the genders, and I have no problem imagining a boy Briar or a girl Rowan.

I suspect that Rachel + Hayden might not even be aware of Briar Rose, the fictional character. I do love a fairytale, and I’ve read both the gorier originals and the Disney versions over the years, so Briar Rose instantly screams Sleeping Beauty to me. But that’s not true for everyone, and Rose is such a popular MN, that maybe they settled on Briar and thought, “Well, she’ll need a more conventionally feminine middle name” – a good thought, I think – and landed on Rose.

vito208 Says:

November 21st, 2014 at 1:42 pm

I love Briar Rose – especially said together . I don’t think that it’s to frilly even if it’s related to Disneys fairy tale – eveb better !

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