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

July 15, 2009 Linda Rosenkrantz

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 the letter U, and even fewer that would appeal to the modern baby namer, but there are definitely a few unique names starting with U that are at least worth a look, most of them with a touch of the exotic.


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.


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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