Spice Names: Zesty choices beyond Saffron and Sage
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.
- Cassia— Cassia 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?
- Poppy– the 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: email@example.com.
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on July 15th, 2011 at 8:37 am
There’s also a Dill in Rugrats! I have cousins & cousins by ‘marriage’ who are named Cassia, Poppy, Saffron, Lavender & Rosemary. I love food names and have been thinking of adding to the group, possibly with a Fennel or Reusing one of the coins names. Saffron, Lavender & Rosemary are my favorites from the cousins, so I’d probably use their names. I really love food names. 😀
on July 15th, 2011 at 8:40 am
I really like the names Cassia and Bay.
In the tree category, I’ve always loved the name “Alder.” I can’t really understand why it’s rarely considered?
on July 15th, 2011 at 9:08 am
Lavender has been one of my name crushes lately. Love it to death. I love Fennel, I’m not a big nickname fan but I love Fenn. Another one that catches my eye is Saffron. I thought of some other name possibilities:
Paprika- poss nn. Rika?
Coriander- (is this a herb?) I think it would be best for a boy but could go both ways
on July 15th, 2011 at 10:17 am
I met a little boy named Thyme . . . I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. A unique and very nice name. The downside would be that it would be mostly mistaken with the word time.
on July 15th, 2011 at 11:33 am
I’m pretty sure I read a novel where the main character was called Coriander, nicknamed Cori, and the character was female. I love it as a name! Very cute and out of the ordinary without being a difficult name. I have a hard time thinking of it as a male name, but to each their own.
on July 15th, 2011 at 11:53 am
What about Paprika, and Pepper! Both so cute.
on July 15th, 2011 at 1:26 pm
My sister is a Coriander! Goes by Corrie most of the time. We were discussing names before she was born and my dad looked at the spice jar and said “How about Coriander?” and it was unanimous. He’s a chef btw.
Surprised it wasn’t included in the list.
on July 15th, 2011 at 1:29 pm
Sorry I wanted to also say that as far as I know, Coriander is the seed and Cilantro is the herb.
Love these names, intrigued by Ajowan, and idea how to pronounce? I’m thinking boy?
on July 15th, 2011 at 1:32 pm
I love Cassia, Lavender and Rosemary! Some of the others seem usable, but not by me. I wouldn’t blink if I met a child with any of those names, though!
on July 15th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
This list intrigued me to stroll through the list of spices on Wikipedia and find even more fun ideas from both the common and Latin names.
Leslie Owen Said
on July 15th, 2011 at 5:41 pm
Don’t forget Veronica and Pennyroyal!
Personally, I’ve always loved the name Rosemary, and the name Keziah means cassia in Hebrew. Poppy is adorable, but I don’t think I could picture an adult named Poppy.
I do think Basil Rathbone was named for St Basil, a church founder and the patron of the Orthodox Churches, not for the plant.
on July 15th, 2011 at 8:20 pm
all these are on my list:
Basil – love this for either, but its on my list for boys.
Bay – boy
Cayenne – boy
Cinnamon — boy
Curry — not on my list but cool for a boy
Ginger — not on my list but cute for girl
Juniper – on my list for both genders
Lavender – on my list for girl though I like for both
Poppy – on my list for both, as I’ve heard both genders named Poppy.
Rosemary — love this for girl
Saffron – love for both
on July 16th, 2011 at 4:38 pm
I like Maori tree names here in NZ such as Rimu, Kauri and Nikau.
on July 18th, 2011 at 12:15 am
Cassia, Lavender, Poppy and Saffron are all on my most recent list. Saffron with the nn Ronnie is a love!
on August 26th, 2011 at 8:52 am
I’ve known 2 Cinnamons and both were women so it’s firmly in the girl category for me. I like Tansy for girls too or Marjolaine which is the French spelling of marjorum as well as being a type of dessert (but so are madeleines!)
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on September 5th, 2013 at 9:43 pm
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