U Name It: Utterly unusual, unique and underused ‘U’ names

While A, E, I and O-starting names abound, increasing  in popularity all the time, poor little step-sibling vowel U tends to get neglected. Of course there are many fewer names starting with that letter, and even fewer that would appeal to the modern baby namer, but there are definitely a few that are at least worth a look, most of them with a touch of the exotic.

GIRLS

ULLA, ULA —  Seen in several cultures, this stong name (it actually means strong-willed in Norse), is sometimes used as a pet form of Ursula or ULRICA/ULRIKA.  Most recently associated with the leggy Swedish secretary character in The Producers.

UMA —  Thanks to Ms. Thurman almost a one-person name, this throaty, exotic appellation is a name of the Hindu goddess Parvati–which surely inspired her father, a renowned expert on Eastern religion, to bestow it on her.

UMBER —  A highly unusual color name, dark and mysterious, which could be used for either gender.

UMBRIA  —  Richly evocative, shadowy Italian place name–a neighbor of Tuscany known for its wines, olive oil and truffles.  Could be a possible replacement for the rapidly becoming overused Siena/Sienna.

UNA —  An ancient Irish name, also Anglicized as Oonagh or Oona, used by Edmund Spenser for the heroine of his classic The Faerie Queene; she’s the daughter of a legendary king and the quintessence of truth and beauty (it was for her that St. George slayed the dragon).

UNDINE  —  A German mythological water sprite, better known in its Ondine form.

UNIQUE  —  Not any more.

UNITY — One of the newly appealing, lesser used Puritan virtue names, with an admirable meaning.

URANIA —  One of the nine Greek Muses, whose special area was astronomy.  This one is not recommended, for obvious reasons.

URBANA — An unusual  possibility for a city girl.

URSULA —  Kids today will probably associate this martyred saint’s name with the campy, corpulent octopus sea witch in The Little Mermaid,  while others might tie it to  a character in Shakespeare‘s Much Ado Ursula Brangwen  in D. H. Lawrence‘s The Rainbow, novelist Le Guin,  60’s Bond Girl sex goddess Andress, or the character on Friends.  Novelist/style icon Plum Sykes chose it for her daughter, which puts it on trend alert.

UTA —  Pronounced OO-ta, this medieval German name is one of several rarely used three-letter U names.

BOYS

UGO  —  (OO-go)  The Italian Hugo probably looks better than it sounds.

UILLEAM/UILLIAM  —  These Scottish and Irish variations of William could cause pronunciation problems–they’re both spoken as if they begin with a ‘W’.

ULRIC  — Rather harsh-sounding Old English and German name with a meaning related to ‘wolf’.  Less icky ic choices: Eric, Dominic, Frederic.

ULYSSES  —  A name that carries a lot of weight, which can be seen as a good thing or not.  Associated with the Homeric Odysseus (the Greek form of the name), the great James Joyce novel, and General/President Grant, whose first name at birth was Hiram.  Ulysses could have some revival potential for today’s serious-minded baby namers.

UMBERTO  —  Far sexier Italian version of the English Humbert, with the notable namesake of writer Umberto Eco.

UPTON  —  Uptight.

URBAN  —  This name borne by several saints and popes could make a comback as a nouveau-style word name.

URIAH  — Once perfectly respectable Old Testament name (he was the husband of Bathsheba), then long shunned because of its association with the odious Uriah Heep in David Copperfield.  But maybe this is the generation to break the curse and let him play with  cousins Josiah and Elijah.

URIEL  —  An evocative Hebrew name which means “light” and represents one of the four angels surrounding God’s throne,  inspirer of teachers and writers.  Nickname URI (OO-ree) can definitely stand on its own.

USHER —  Probably destined to remain within the Raymond family.

UTAH  —  A place-name possibility; Dylan Thomas used it for a character in his play Under Milk Wood,

UZIAH  — Another usable Hebrew Old Testament name–if you don’t mind the militaristic reference of nickname UZI.

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21 Responses to “U Name It: Utterly unusual, unique and underused ‘U’ names”

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Charlotte Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 2:35 am

I love the name Una and was interested to find that it is also a legit name in Korean, frequently spelt Euna when translated into English. I still prefer the more unusual “U”.

Sebastiane Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 7:05 am

I love Undine, Umbria, Urbana, Ursula and yes, even Urania. My favorite male U name is Urs. The masculine form of Ursula.

Jill Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 9:27 am

Urban Meyer is the name of the Florida football coach. U is an interesting initial, especially in the middle. Think how many initial words are out there with a U! FUN, HUG, SUN…

Erin Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 9:36 am

Uta is also the name of the marathoner and first woman to with the Boston Marathon 3 consecutive times, Uta Pippig. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uta_Pippig I remember writing a report on her as a kid. She’s a great woman.

I’d never given much thought to Uriah but it really stuck with me as I read the list. I think it might have to be on my “list” now. 🙂 I’m not sure if my husband will go for it though, but that’s usually standard with all the names I like Hehe

Erin Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 9:37 am

My apologies. My previous post was supposed to read:

“first woman to WIN the Boston Marathon”

pippa Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Ursula is my top girls name. I love it. I picture a pretty girl with a bohemian spirit when I hear it.

moxielove Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I love the _idea_ of Ursula (from Ursula Le Guin, one of my all time favorite authors) but the soft flow of a name like Una sounds better to me.

J Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I wanted to name each of my daughters Una, but it never fit. If we have another girl I really hope to use it!

Jill Says:

July 15th, 2009 at 7:22 pm

(Different Jill…This is the one who usually posts on Nameberry….) 🙂

I think Ulysses is actually pretty cool! 🙂

ailsa gray Says:

July 16th, 2009 at 6:27 pm

I love Ursula too – also Una. Both are feminine (that “a” at the end) but strong at the same time, and neither will be dated easily.

Are most of you from the USA, by the way? I am in Wales and have been a fan of Pam and Linda’s books for YEARS but have only recently become computer literate (thanks to my six teenagers)

linda Says:

July 17th, 2009 at 12:37 am

Thanks so much, Ailsa–it’s so great for us to be able to actually be in touch with some of our readers in different parts of the world! By the way, very curious to know the names of your six teenagers (I don’t envy you there.)

Anna Says:

July 17th, 2009 at 5:46 am

I’m from NZ

ailsa gray Says:

July 17th, 2009 at 5:23 pm

This Nameberry is so exciting! I have been writing (snail mail) to Pam for many years now, and have even a mention at the front of one of her and Linda’s books (my claim to fame!). I have been interested in etymology for as long as I can remember, and have a big library of books on the subject. Of course, Pam and Linda’s are the best, but I also love a very old Victorian tome by Charlotte Yonge, published in the 1860s!

I am a single mum of six teenagers – their Dad was Glaswegian, so there is a strong Scottish accent running through their names, but their Dad was quite traditional and would veto any choices he felt too “way out” – like Ruaridh (pronounced Rory), which I still love.

My kids are:

Stuart Calum (aged 19)
Laura Katharine Francesca (18)
Douglas Niall (17)
Robert Duncan (16)
Heather Elisabeth Rose (15)
and
Catherine Julia Felicity (13)

Sadly, only after naming Heather did I discover how “uncool” it was, (in the USA at least). I still love it, though. The good thing about names is that we are all individual and there is no accounting for people’s tastes and preferences!

ailsa gray Says:

July 17th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

J – why did Una never “fit” and what did you call your daughters?

Charlotte Says:

July 26th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Not to be in bad taste, but is Uriah pronounced like urea? If so, I would think that would be enough to turn parents off to the name.

I also love Ulysses. It’s such a hefty name to live up to. Also, Usher will forever be the name of the Hip-Hop Artist to me.

Sunshinetina Says:

May 20th, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I have a cousin named Una, she has a sister named Ursula and a brother name Uzi.

Laura Says:

May 10th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Uriah is my son’s name and we LOVE it. It is not pronounced like urea, trust me. We pronounce it yoo-RYE-ah. It is distinctive and suits our little guy very well.

starophie Says:

April 7th, 2012 at 1:21 pm

my brother went through school with a boy named Ulric…he was rather, erm, “rugged,” so it suited him 😉 and i kind of like it! i also read a short story of a girl named Umbria, who went by the nn Bria, which i think is sweet (i went to middle school with a girl whose given name was Bria). i also love Umber (such a cool color name), Unity, and Uriah. i think Unity, like Justice, could be a very cool virtue name for a boy.

did anyone else pick up on a lot of ‘t’ and ‘m’ pairings with the first letter ‘u’, or was that just me? something i found interesting :3

starophie Says:

April 7th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

oh! and i like Upton, like the author, Upton Sinclair (Sinclair is my middle name, and a family name) – he may have been uptight, but he wrote a book calling out the horrors of the meat-packing industry! a pioneer for justice!

Rin Says:

April 7th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Oh I LOVE Ulysses!! I’m also partial to Una & Undine, but prefer both with “O” beginnings.

cbmartin126 Says:

August 27th, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Um, what’s wrong with Urania? Is it because of the pronunciation of Uranus? I think it’s a great name.

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