Spice Names: Zesty choices beyond Saffron and Sage

July 15, 2011 Linda Rosenkrantz

In the build-up to the Beckham baby name announcement, one of the wilder suppositions thrown out was that Posh might go for a Spice Girls-related name.  Well, we all know that didn’t happen, but guest blogger Kitty Holman used that premise as a take-off point for looking at some of the many possibilities lurking on the spice shelf and in the herb garden, from the common to the rare.

More and more, parents are searching for nature-related names for their babies. Many will turn to the florals for baby girls, and there are plenty of gorgeous names to be had there; for boys, there’s the option to turn to trees which have a sense of strength and masculinity, with names like Oak, Ash, Aspen, Cypress and Teak.

But trees and flowers certainly aren’t the only possibilities for those seeking earthy baby names—there are those representing stones, seasons, the elements, birds (Wren, Dove, Lark) and other animals.  Or, you could look to your own spice cupboard or herb garden for inspiration. Here are some examples of both common and unusual spice names:

  • Ajowan– a seed and a spice used in Indian cooking; can also be spelled Ajwain. As an alternate, you could drop the opening “A” and go with “Jowan.”
  • Aleppo– as in Aleppo Chili Pepper, which is found in Northern Syria, near the town of Aleppo– it’s used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes.
  • Anise– a spice with a flavor resembling licorice, fennel and tarragon.
  • Basil – this aromatic herb name has been a common male appellation for centuries, long associated in this country with Sherlock Holmes-portrayer Basil Rathbone .
  • Bay– as in bay leaves– is both an herb name and a water name. Bay is starting to be used as an evocative middle name, as Lucy Lawless did for her son.
  • Caraway– you’ll more often see this with two R’s as an Irish surname, but it can be adapted to a first name or shortened to Cara.
  • CassiaCassia buds are the unopened flowers of the cassia or cinnamon tree. This Latin name is beginning to be considered as a baby name option.
  • Cayenne– a peppery possibility, and not so far removed from Cheyenne.
  • Chili– this spice name took center stage a while back via the eighties band Red Hot Chili Peppers—it’s more often heard as a nickname, though, as in the Elmore Leonard character Chili Palmer, played by John Travolta in Get Shorty..
  • Cinnamon— comes from the fragrant inner bark of laurel trees; Cinnamon Carter was a femme fatale character on the old Mission:Impossible.
  • Clove—a fragrant middle name possibility
  • Curry—a spicy British surname name
  • Dill- this feathery herb plant makes a unisex possibility; there is a boy named Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Fennel—an herb name that would be more usable in its shortened version Fenn, as an alternate to the mega popular Finn
  • Ginger—a long-time nickname name, usually reserved for redheads; Ginger Rogers was born Virginia
  • Juniper –the juniper berry is a spice also used to flavor gin.  Once unisex, Juniper is now being used more and more for girls.
  • Lavender—one of the most fragrant of plants; the color name Lavender is beginning to be considered as an alternate to Violet
  • Marjoram—a possible namesake for Marjorie?
  • Poppythe seeds of the poppy plant impart a nutty flavor.  This is a name making inroads, partially due to the influence of actress Poppy Montgomery.
  • Rosemary—a fragrant herb with needle-like leaves that is thought to jar the memory. It was a popular name from the 1920s to the sixties.
  • Saffron—a spice used in Spanish and Indian food, also an appealing name; publicized by British-born actress Saffron Burrows
  • Sage—an increasingly popular unisex name used by Toni Collette and other celebs

Kitty Holman is a freelance writer and blogger from Texas who regularly writes on the topics of nursing colleges, and on health, parenting, environmental, and education related topics.  She became interested in names when she began searching baby name books for meaningful names for characters in the book she’s writing.  She enjoys connecting with her readers, who can direct any questions or comments to:


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