Spicy Baby Names

April 9, 2015 upswingbabynames
spicy baby names

by Angela Mastrodonato of Upswing Baby Names

Finding the perfect seasoning blend for this recipe was challenging. The goal was to find names that not only ranked mostly outside the Top 1000 on the U.S. Social Security list, but also seem under the radar on the inter-webs.

The big challenge was finding spice and herb names that were both surprising and appealing. Therefore I widened the “surprising” filter to include some names that might seem less surprising to name fanatics, but are still considered surprising among the general population because, considering their style, we aren’t hearing them as often as we should in real-life.

Here are some contenders that didn’t make the cut:

Anise – This makes me sad, but sounding like a part of the anatomy dampens this name’s potential. Otherwise, this flowering plant, native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia sounds pretty, like a hybrid of old-school Denise, and fashionable Anneliese.

Cinnamon and Paprika – are difficult to take seriously. These are the names of Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper’s children on the toddler TV show, Blues Clues.

Cayenne – never appeared on the Social Security top 1000 list, but still seems dated. This is probably because Cayenne has a ’80s-’90s feel, being so similar to Cheyenne, a name that peaked in the 1990s.

Sage – has an androgynous appeal but is also past-peak, reaching its all-time popularity high (on girls) over 10 years ago. Sage is not surprising enough for this list.

Here are the five winners chosen for their unexpected flavor.

Basil – is derived from the Greek basileus, which means “king.” The herb is derived from the same word. Basil also has Arabic origins, meaning “brave, valiant”, and happens to be a the name of a few Saints. As a baby name, Basil was at its peak in the upper 300s to lower 400s for the first three decades of the 20th century. Basil has been absent from the top 1000 since 1983. In 2013 there were 56 boys and 20 girls named Basil in the U.S. Exotic forms such as Vasil (Bulgarian and Hungarian) and Vassily (Russian) are also fresh possibilities.

Cassia – also called Chinese Cinnamon, is from the bark of an evergreen shrub. Cassia is also the feminine form of Cassius, a Roman family name and the name of several saints. A lively name with roots (literally and figuratively), Cassia is a lot less popular than it should be. Surprisingly there were only 45 girls named Cassia in the U.S. in 2013.

Clove – While the similar Clover is still not in the top 1000, it is making inroads. If more parents begin to consider Clover for their daughters, why not Clove? Clove might also work on boys being not too far removed from Clive, which is surprisingly outside the top 1000 as well. For the moment, however, parents aren’t considering Clove for boys or girls. There were fewer than 5, if any, babies named Clove in 2013.

Pepper – Full disclosure, Pepper is the name of my cat. The name isn’t reserved for pets though. Sounding so much like breakout hit, Piper (which has been rising steadily and hit the top 100 in 2012), Pepper could appeal to parents with modern tastes. Last year there were 152 girls named Pepper.

Saffron – This high-end spice, which comes from the Saffron Crocus flower, is the name of British actress Saffron Burrows, and a character on the BBC sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous. There were only 16 Saffron’s born in the U.S. in 2013. The ‘60s vibe may appeal to parents looking for a mid-century modern name.

It took some exploration, but I feel I found a spice blend with the right combination of sweet and savory, and maybe one of them is right for a soon-to-be born baby.

Which surprising spice cabinet name is your favorite?

This post was revised from a post originally run on Upswing Baby Names, 5 Surprising Names: The Spice Cabinet.  

Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022, which she updates every year in May once the newest U.S. name rankings become available. 

About the author


Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.

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