Unusual Baby Names: 10 same-but-different girl names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

It’s a common baby name dilemma: You love a name like Cora or Lila forever, holding it close as your own special secret choice, and then bang!  Right when you’re finally in a position to use it, you discover it’s become a trendy new favorite, vaulting up the charts.

What are more unusual baby names that may relate to trendier names but are more distinctive?

Here, drawn from our new  book The Nameberry Guide to Off-the-Grid Baby Names are ten girls’ names that offer some of the feeling of today’s most stylish names but are more adventurous. 

AvalonIf you like Ava and Adeline, but want a name that’s more unusual, you might love AvalonAvalon is the name of a mythical island paradise – literally, “island of apples” — that offers a fresh take on several trendier girls’ names.  And okay, so it’s also a car name, but so are Mercedes and Portia.

CordisCora is getting popular and while Cordelia may have fallen off the Top 1000 in 1950, perhaps she’s too elaborate for you.  Cordis is a more androgynous, brisk choice with a similar romantic heart-related meaning.

ElectraLove the El names, from Ella to Eleanor to Eliana?  Then you might want to go all the way to the energetic Electra, which may have a tragic literary history but still means shining or bright.  Just don’t reduce this mythic beauty to the cute-but-quotidian Ellie.

GardeniaThis exotic flower name is so much more lush and memorable than Lily or Rose.

IsabettaIsabetta takes Top Ten girl names Isabella and Elizabeth and turns them into something fresh, unusual, and fascinating.

KelilahThe Lila names are pandemic and Delilah is trendy, but Kelilah combines tradition with distinction.  But don’t rhyme it with Delilah: It’s pronounced keh-LEE-lah.

LaliaSo many double-L names, all of them seemingly stylish.  Well, not all: the undiscovered Lalia, which means “speaking well,” is much more distinctive than Lila, Laila, Layla et al.

OrianaWe’ve been hearing lots more from Aurora and Aurelia, but Italian dawn-related name Oriana remains off the beaten track.

unusual baby names

TierneyIrish surname-name Tierney and sibling Tiernan can be used as first for either sex, but seem more feminine than some other choices – perhaps thanks to jazz singer Tierney Sutton.

VivecaVivian and Vivienne may have become celebrity baby name favorites rising in popularity  over the past few years, but Scandinavian relative Viveca remains relatively untraveled yet carries the same uplifiting life meaning.

For thousands more unusual baby names, get your copy of our new ebook, The Nameberry Guide to Off-the-Grid Baby Names.

Avalon painting by John Howe.

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24 Responses to “Unusual Baby Names: 10 same-but-different girl names”

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augusta_lee Says:

August 14th, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Oh my goodness, I am so excited to see my beloved Electra on this list!

bluesparrow5684 Says:

August 14th, 2013 at 11:46 pm

How about Brishen.. Technically its a boys name but i think its better for girls

karianne Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 1:21 am

I LOVE Electra. It’s my favorite girl name, ever. And my middle name.

EmilyVA Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 1:57 am

As a name it’s fine, but I dislike Electra in mythology. I would do research/read a translation of the story before giving it to a daughter if you are not familiar with the myth involved.
I like Cordis, which I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing before. It’s distinctive.
I also like Viveca, Isabetta, and Gardenia. I also like Garland for a girl, which I discovered when my cousin told me about her friend Garland.

tomaura226 Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 4:00 am

Oooo, I like Gardenia. But then again, I really like off-the-beaten path flower names. Forsythia is on my list too.

calypsotheoneandonly Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 4:47 am

Cordis is pretty, although I kind of prefer Corliss or Corlissa. Most of the others aren’t really my taste.

Finuneby Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 5:46 am

I prefer Avonlea to Avalon. I like Carlis or Carlisa, but not Cordis, I can’t get past the “Cord” in it. I kind of like Isabetta, but I would use Elisabetta instead.

LuMary Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 7:55 am

As a matter of opinion, I never find the suggested alternatives as appealing as the more popular choice. I often like a name because of the era with which it it is associated, or the fact that it is a true classic and transcends era. Eleanor conjures up black and white vintage images, for example, and could never be supplanted by Electra in my mind. My ultimate criterion is staying power, and that’s why Elizabeth and James are hard to unseat as favorites.

LuMary Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 8:20 am

If you like Avalon, I wouldn’t worry about the car association. Portia is a New Testament and Shakespearean name (not Porsche), and Mercedes is a Spanish title of the Virgin Mary meaning mercy or similar.

tomaura226, I like your creativity. I like Bluebell as a flower name.

jame1881 Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 8:29 am

Gardenia…I’m always surprised by what catches my eye. I’m starting to love flower names of late, and combined with my attraction to Gardener (yeah Pride and Prejudice…Aunt Gardener is amazing!), this seems usable. To add to the list of odd flowers, I really like Wisteria.

tori101 Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 10:03 am

This was so interesting! But I also prefer the more ‘common’ names compared to the suggested ‘new alternatives’ for me Eleanor is far prettier than Electra she’s just so charming whereas in my eyes Electra is too out-there. Still their are so many gorgeous names on this list my favourites are…
Avalon
Isabetta
Oriana

rainierloner Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I love Oriana, Avalon, Gardenia, Laila, Kelilah, Teirney, and Viveca. I like Cordis, too, but like calypsotheoneandonly, I prefer Cordelia and Corliss.

livia Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I’ve recently fallen in love with Avalon. Ava has always been a love of mine but I felt it was too short, and I didn’t like Aveline or any of the other elaborations enough. And then I found Avalon. 🙂

Oriana I read in a magazine once a few of years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. Sweet and crisp, yet soft and whimsical…

MaryKathryn Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 7:54 pm

I love, love Avalon & Tierney! They are such cute and spunky names! Though, I am sort of disappointed to not see Calliope on the list. It seems that everyday the nickname Callie is gaining more and more popularity and with names like Charlotte, Cora, & Claire gaining popularity as well, why not give Calliope a spin. It’s extremely unique and explodes with personality! Also, it’s got a lot of history, especially in Greek mythology, so your child would get a name and a story to tell. Calliope could also be the spunky cousin of Penelope!

dannilynnalexis Says:

August 15th, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I love Avalon & Oriana. Both beautiful names!

stripedsocks Says:

August 17th, 2013 at 4:38 am

I love Kelilah and Viveca.

Gardenia is interesting and has a great mental image complete with perfume, but so many flower names are great, and Gardenia has a rather harsh sound. It won’t beat out Camellia, Azalea, Zinnia, Viola, or Liatris for me.

audreymachelle2014 Says:

August 20th, 2013 at 9:19 am

My middle name is Machelle (May-chelle) and its now my daughters first name I loved it growing up so I passed on to her only problem is it dont have a meaning so I told her it means most beautiful creation

libermama Says:

August 20th, 2013 at 10:31 am

Oh, no! I have an Avalon. And she and I both love how unusual it is. Shhh, Nameberry! 😉

liviajoan Says:

August 20th, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Personally I think Cordis or Cordelia are unattractive and clunky.

I’ve only met two Corinne’s in my life, one being my 10 year old cousin. She usually just goes by Corinne, despite her mother naming her so that her nickname would be Cory. But I think a Corinne can go by Cora just fine.

I think it fits a feminine girl and a tomboy just as well, and it works all throughout life! It was #765 in 2012, according to Nameberry.

lovingElizabeth Says:

November 7th, 2013 at 4:02 pm

oh, I absolutely love Electra for a girl!!!

iwillpraise Says:

December 5th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

My sister-in-law’s college friend is Tierney. I had never heard of it before, but as a warning to those considering it, it was extremely awkward to hear her explain how to say it – and honestly, there was just no other way to do it. First, she said, “Tear” and put her hand up to her eye. Then “Knee” and pointed of course, to that too. The only other association she had was Tyranny (altho it’s not exactly pronounced the same). I would NOT want my daughter to have to go thru that EVERY TIME she told someone new her name…..

As suggested above, Corliss, Corlissa, Carlisa are much prettier choices than Cordis or Cordelia- like Finuneby said, all I see is “Cord” too.

And as tori101 said, I agree that Eleanor/a is much more a beauty classic than Electra. You’re mixing totally different images.

However, from the list I DO like: Gardenia! (I don’t think it has a harsh sound by any means, stripedsocks!) I also love Avonlea MUCH better than Avalon.

JessDeLove Says:

December 8th, 2013 at 3:04 am

In the UK we have an antiseptic cream called Savlon, and the name Avalon brings that to mind. I think these names are interesting, but there’s a reason why they’ve fallen off the radar, and I think that’s because they’re just not quite as charming as more mainstream names.

madaleine09 Says:

April 30th, 2014 at 2:14 am

I already have an Avalon, Viveca, and a Cordis. Avalon is named after my grandma who name was Adeline. Viveca is named from my two aunts named Rebecca and Vivian. Cordis is named after my husband’s great aunts, Cordilia and Agnes. I wouldn’t have ever thought that I would see all three names on the same list. Avalon is in college, Viveca is a senior, and Cordis is a junior. I am having another girl and I think I’ll name Electra after my sisters name who is Ella!

kmdharrington Says:

June 4th, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I think Elia is different , below the top 1000, yet the same with the huge popularity of Ella & Ellie

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