The X Factor: Some x-cellently x-otic X names

July 5, 2010 Linda Rosenkrantz

The nameberry contributor known to us as “Auburn” ruminates here on that most powerful and mysterious initial: X.

We all know this naming business is tricky, especially if your aim is to find unusual monikers which still have history — and if you’re browsing Nameberry then it probably is. You think you’ve found one, you get excited … and then you meet five Violets in a day and realize that perhaps #141 is too popular for you after all.

The letter Y has lost some of its magic after various incriminations recently, involving either the addition of Y’s to perfectly Y-free names (looking at you, Addysyn), or the apparent abhorrence of Y’s by others (Ashleigh). What about its generally ignored neighbor, though? Every time I see an X name it catches my eye. I think “Wow, X? Crazy!” X is daring and attention-grabbing; it’s a shortcut to awesome in the baby naming world.

The Jolie-Pitts clearly realized the power of this not-so-humble letter when they used it to round off their three sons’ names: Maddox, Pax and Knox. In the same vein, Max is hot at the moment, but it is X in front that is still that Holy Grail of naming: rare.

According to the site, which searches the records to find people in Britain aged over 18 with a certain name, the top 10 X names include 7 Chinese names (Xiao, Xin, Xuan, Xiu, Xue, Xiang and Xing, for the record). The others are Xavier (795 of them), Xenia (330), and Xanthe (309). In contrast, the top A name, Andrew, can boast 508,320 bearers across the British Isles.

X names are few and far between in the popularity rankings as well, with just two charting in both the US and the UK top 1000s :
Xavier – #68 in the US, #234 in the UK
Xander – #244, #354.

Due to the large Hispanic population of North America, Ximena and Xiomara also chart at #311 and #909 respectively. Ximena is the feminine version of Ximeno, a Spanish name alternatively claimed to be a version of Simon or from the Basque for son, seme . Xiomara is the Spanish version of Guiomar, a name for either gender that belonged to a male character of Arthurian legend who was banished for his affair with Morgan le Fey.

The UK has its own pretty, feminine X name, Xanthe, which currently stands at #778. It should be noted that that means it was only given to 44 babies, though, due to the relatively small size of Britain. Xanthe is a lovely Greek choice meaning ‘fair hair’ and can also appear in the variation Xanthia.

Strangely enough, the US can also claim many a little Xzaviers, which comes in at #586. In my opinion it’s preferable to use unusual letters in moderation, readers. Just one in a sea of A’s, E’s, and R’s looks so much more striking than Xyzvyq, which gives the impression you were leaning on the keyboard.

Casting aside the more inaccessible examples, such as Xenocrates of Greek mythology, here are some X names which don’t chart in either country :

Boys :

Xabat – variant of Salvador
Xabi – at first glance it looks like this sweet Basque diminutive for Xavier could translate well into the English-speaking world; unfortunately, correct Basque pronunciation makes it sound like ‘shabby’.
Xenon – a Greek name meaning ‘foreigner, stranger’, and consequently a possibly politically sensitive choice.
Xerxes – a double helping of X makes this one cool name, further helped by the meaning ‘ruler over heroes’. Unfortunately, these heroes let the Persian king of the same name down, and in the 5th century BC he failed to take over Greece.

Girls :

Xanthippe – Socrates’s wife
Xavia – modern feminine form of Xavier
Xena – she’s already a Warrior Princess; can she be a cute baby name, too?
Xene – feminine version of Xenon
Xenia – possibly the most unusual saint’s name, it also means ‘hospitality’ in Greek.
Xenobia – another Greek choice meaning ‘of Zeus’; try Zenobia if you’re worried about the similarity to xenophobia.
Xolani – a Zulu name meaning ‘peace’
Xylia – a modern name, although it is probably derived from the Greek genitive ‘of the forest’.

But if those choices are a little too X-treme for you, other names containing a prominent X include not only the previously mentioned a la mode Max and his variants, but also :

Boys :

Alexander, Alexei

Girls :

Alexandra, Alexandria, Alexa
And the -ixies, Dixie, Pixie and Trixie.

Do any of these choices X-cite? (Not my wittiest moment, I agree.)

Auburn” is a name-obssessed British teen, whose real given name is woefully popular. Aside from names and general etymology, she loves theatre, mythology, film and cooking.


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