Category: Indian baby names

Name Sage: A Baby Name for Two Cultures

Ruth writes:

My husband and I have decided not to find out the sex of our baby. We’re excited about the surprise, but are struggling to pick out both a boy and a girl name.

Our daughter is Leena Gray. We picked Leena because it is familiar to my husband’s Indian family but still accessible to mine, it has some global recognition, and it fit our criteria of being recognizable but not common.

Her middle was going to be Elizabeth (a family name), but a couple months before she was born we decided on Gray instead, after my dad Gary. I’m really glad we did, as I love the juxtaposition between the more traditional and unexpected names. I also really like the family connection. I was named after my great grandmother and have always appreciated having a story behind my name selection.

For the next baby, our criteria are the same, but we’re not necessarily committed to an Indian name.

Despite all that, my favorite right now for a girl is Violet (which my husband is not a fan of). His favorite is Ivy – I’m not sure where the botanical connection is coming from – which I like, but just doesn’t feel quite like “the name”. Perhaps with the right middle or as a middle? I’m also a fan of the Elizabeth nicknames Elsa and Elsie, but worried that they’re too popular after Frozen and that they’re too close to Leena.

For a boy, we’re completely lost. I have some interest in Ezra or Milo, but hubby’s not biting. I feel like it’s harder to find the sweet spot of relatable but not too popular boy names. Maybe this is where we need to dig in deeper to Indian names?

As far as middles for girls from my side, Elizabeth is a family name. My sister is Emily and my sister-in-law is Amelia, so I also like the idea of Amelie or Emilia or some sort of combination, and it’s a bit more unexpected, like Gray.

For boy middles, from my brothers we have Matthew, Michael, James, and John. Also my mom is Dana and has suggested that Daniel would be a great name for a boy.

We’d appreciate any advice you can give. I’m seriously ready to open the envelope to find out if it’s a girl or a boy just to narrow our choices!

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by Chetana Sagiraju of

One of the first big events in your baby’s life, once you have brought the little one home, is a naming ceremony. Most Indian families still follow this traditional custom, where the newborn baby is named on an auspicious day. While certain names are very popular and are used over and over again, there are many unique ones too, which sound more different and interesting.

Here is a list of Indian names that haven’t lost their charm or popularity, putting them squarely in the category of evergreen Indian names.

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Unusual Names: On being named Shanti

by Shanti Knight

In my relatively short lifetime of  23 years, reactions to my name, both my own and those of others, have taken quite a journey. In the beginning, it was one that promised little more than mispronunciation. For the first year of my life, even my own grandpa called me “Shanty.” Before I traveled to the Netherlands, Japan, France, India, and many other places, I spent my childhood in a Midwestern town of 8,000, nestled between cornfields and tucked into the toe of Indiana’s boot.

I read an article recently about the power of our names, which said that name sounds, popularity and meaning can influence the paths we take in life. Shanti is a name that has attached me to a culture (it’s a vernacular and prayer word that means “peace” in Sanskrit and Hindi) with which, partly because of the name itself,  I feel a comfortable connection despite my own very different ethnic heritage of Irish, English and French bloodlines.

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Novelist and guest blogger JULIE BUXBAUM, whose new book AFTER YOU comes out in paperback this week, writes about the difficulty — or is it the impossibility? — of deciding on just one baby name.

My husband and I are both what we like to call, euphemistically, “decisionally challenged.” I’ve been known to become paralyzed when faced with the cereal aisle in the supermarket. He won’t commit to a vacation destination until we’ve looked at a map and exhaustively researched all continents. So it came as no surprise to anyone that two days after our daughter was born we still hadn’t chosen a name.

Sure we had discussed the topic endlessly during the forty weeks of my pregnancy, had read Beyond Ava & Aiden out loud to each other, had plenty of time to come to a mutually agreeable option, but somehow the only thing that had stuck was a nickname. Pippi. Short for pipsqueak. Cute, but I wasn’t putting that on a birth certificate.

In our defense, we were working with too many restrictions. My husband is of Indian descent and was born and raised in London. I’m a Jew from New York. It turned out we had very different ears when it came to names. Oddly, he was into initials–think, EJ, CJ–which to me were more appropriate for a boy growing up on a farm in the Midwest, not a biracial girl being raised in London. Ironically, despite being the American in the couple, I tended towards names popular in England—think Grace, Amelia, Cecilia.

Add to the problems created by our differing ears and accents the fact that I wanted to honor my late mother, Elizabeth, with an E name (or if we got desperate, I was willing to go for an L for Liz). In my novels, I had already used a couple of my favorite E names (Emily, Ellie) for my main characters, so those were off the table. One more rule, as if we didn’t have enough already: both of us thought it would be nice if the name had an Indian feel to it.

Of course, the first name that we came across that we both loved—Skylar (spelled Skylar if I had my choice, Sklyer, if my husband had his way) — fit none of our criteria. Not Indian. Not an E or an L name. Every family member from both sides was unimpressed, and yet, we were in complete agreement, a rare thing in a decisionally-challenged couple. We were decided…until we weren’t.

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We’re all familiar with the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons of mythological deities, from Adonis and Athena to Zeus, but there a number of other ancient names from other cultures with their own pantheons of intriguing god and goddesses.  We’ve delved into the some of the most intriguing mythologies—Egyptian,  Phoenician, Norse, Celtic, Indian, African, et al– and discovered some striking ancient names for the intrepid baby namer.


ÁINE (AWN-ya)– Irish Celtic goddess of love, summer, wealth and fertility

AINO (EYE-no)  —  A Finnish mythological water sprite

ALAAfrican (Nigerian) creator goddess and earth mother

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