Unusual Baby Names: Hiding in plain sight

The writers of a new name book go out on a limb–and then some–to come up with some unusual baby names you never, ever, would have thought of.

People often ask us how the heck we, two colleagues who live on different continents, and with a total of zero children between us, came to write a baby name book.

It started with an office email about the names of our childhood pets—Miek gave all his tank pets outrageous names like ChunksOfLoveAndLikeAndStuff, A+ Nachos, and Wraaakkkk, while Kerry believed she had discovered the perfect name—July—and so whenever her fish died (which was often), she simply replaced it with a new one, but kept the same name.From there, the email thread of course went to baby names—the trend for celebrities to out-do each other with originality, as well as all the awesome names our hipster friends, and even our non-hipsters friends, were giving their children.  Clearly, there was a movement going on to find a name that will stand out instead of merely fitting in.  As random as our naming methods seemed to friends and family back in the 1980s, it turned out that together in the 2010s they might actually be relevant, and so wa-laa, the writing project began.

But with so many parents trying to give their kids a unique name these days, we started to find that discovering a never-before-used name was quite tough. How was it possible that we both knew several babies/kids named Dante, Beatrice, Homer, and Fox? Finding enough really unique names to fill yet another baby name book on the shelf was going to be a tough task.

We wanted to push the boundaries of what might be inspiration for a great baby name, to not just give readers a list of 10,000 different names, but to show them just a few examples, and let them find the right unique one for themselves. After all, the worst thing about choosing a unique name is discovering that everyone else is choosing the same one.  We started seeing name potential everywhere—favorite fashions, alcoholic beverages, hipster sports, birds… It seemed that if we could think of names in terms of a category they might fit into, then maybe we would be able to find more options that were in our everyday life.

Music, literature and film are all places parents often look for names, but what about other things that you love, like vegan food, nineties sitcoms, or ugly animals? Kale, Blossom, Armadillo! Err, well, maybe not Armadillo, though Dillo would make for a cool nickname. But the point is, we started to see that just about any passion we had could be turned into a goldmine of names, with just a simple Google search, maybe a few spelling tweaks, and a dash of bravery.

Here are ten of our favorite and unexpected names we’ve discovered, which won’t be found on a daycare roster anytime soon:

Adelie (bird)

Coogi (sneaker)

Esso (gas station)

Malbec (alcohol)

Okra (vegetable)

Roam (verb)

Torsby (Ikea)

Vendy (food truck award)

Verdana (font)

Woolma (cartoon character)

What are some everyday places, things, words that you think would make great names?

Miek Bruno and Kerry Sparks are the authors of the upcoming baby name book Hello My Name Is Pabst: Baby Names for Nonconformist, Indie, Geeky, DIY, Hipster, and Alterna-Parents of Every Kind which will be published by Three Rivers Press/Random House in October 2012. You can follow them on Twitter @MyNameIsPabst.

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38 Responses to “Unusual Baby Names: Hiding in plain sight”

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melissaintlouis Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 12:38 am

wa-laa? You mean, voilà?

I could see some hipsters rockin’ Coogi and Verdana, ‘tho Helvetica is way more hipster. I live in hipster hell and most of my pals with kids (not many — most hipsters hold off on childbirth) name their daughters Violet and their sons dog names, like Buster and Ollie.

melissaintlouis Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 12:51 am

Addendum: However, hipsters tend to have a proliferation of well named pets. I have friends with cats named Wendy, Beryl, Asimov, Fern, and Steven; dogs named Betty, Ruba, Wax, Pilot, Denali, Mildred and Cygnus…to name a few.

evergreen Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 2:24 am

I love Roam.

Out there names I have jotted down on my name lists over the last few months:

Noon (more for a 2nd name)

Rin Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 4:09 am

Voilà!!!! Please!
This voilà/wa-laa thing has to stop! It is one of the most irritating, idiotic typos out there!

capri Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 6:57 am

Adelie’s nice… so is Roam. But why would you name a person after a petrol company (and such an environmentally unsound one)? Or really any of those things? It seems the only reason you would is to be “unique”. People share names. I don’t think that’s a problem. Imagine telling your daughter that while her friends have names with history and meaning, she is named after… a food truck award! Fine if you love it, but what is wrong with Wendy?

missrae Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 7:19 am

Adelie could be found on a daycare roster anytime. Though pronounced like “Natalie” without the “N” of course, rather than the pronunciation of the Adelie penguin, which sounds like a place you’d order a deli sammich. I think we could safely add it to the list of baby names producing the popular “Addi” nickname.

Yep, Adelie is quite cute, I think!

nat108 Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 7:41 am

Coogi? Really? Why would anyone name a child after those gaudy clothes?

sylviagrace Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 7:51 am

This is funny because we just bought the Torsby sideboard from IKEA last week and I was thinking it would be kind of an interesting name, along the lines of Digby or Barnaby.
Seriously, wa-laa instead of voila? What is wrong with people? Most people in other countries are fluent in two or more languages; I think Americans can learn to spell the several French words that have made their way into our language.
Also, I would pity the poor kid named Okra – most kids hate vegetables when they’re young, and okra is one that people either like or loathe with a passion.
Please use some common sense when naming children and think about it from their perspective – it will be their name and part of their identity as a human being for their entire life. Choosing a baby name is *not* just another opportunity to display your sense of style or your unique personality, although there is creativity and style involved in the decision. It is far, far different from naming a pet.

encore Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 8:04 am

Although I would never name my child this, I think Mosaic would be a cool name.

ToniVit Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 8:36 am

If you like Roam, why not Rome?

Thuja Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 9:05 am

Imagery. Combination of Imogen & Avery……

Pansy Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 9:39 am

With the exception of Adelie (which I’ve heard before, just pronounced Ad-eh-lee), why would you name your child any of these? Okra, really? Why not asparagus or squash, while you’re at it?

Greyer Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 9:39 am

Thank you, Rin! Every time I see ‘voila’ replaced with ‘wa-laa’ I want to scream! And I am seeing it more and more now. It’s the most irritating typo/phonetic switch ever.

fieldspring Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 10:00 am

For musically oriented families, Violyn or Fiddler!

LCMpdx Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 11:01 am

Thanks to previous commmenters for clearing up my confusion over “wa-laa”, I literally did not understand that it was meant to be “voila.” I don’t usually comment but I had to on this one- Nameberry, I love you, but this post has to be a joke. This list, with the exception of Adelie and maybe Roam, is awful. Why don’t you just encourage people to name their kids La-z-boy and Halliburton?

loraena Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I know a little girl named Adalie.

CharacterNamer Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I think that, with the exception of Adelie, Roam, and possibly Verdana, these should probably not be used as names. HOWEVER, I found it exceptionally useful for a fantasy story I began plotting last night, where these could all be perfectly nice names. While I don’t think you should name your kids things like this, I guess they could be nice middle names or character names.

Taz Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Roman is nice…why not Roamin’ lol

Cassette seems doable though…seriously I kinda like it @Evergreen

LCMpdx Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 1:26 pm

LMAO, Roamin’!!!

moxielove Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Dillo would be a horrendous nickname.

And I too, had no idea what wa-laa was supposed to mean. Unlike others however I was lucky enough that this is the first time I’ve seen this slangyness. My hipster days are clearly fading in the rearview.

I like the sentiment behind this post but the actual suggestions are less than inspired, and seem kind of forced.

skarbassoona Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I actually like Okra! As a vegetable its only so-so, but as a name I quite like it.

OliviaSarah Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Ooh, I can see the appeal of Adelie. Why isn’t that popular!? Not really my style, but it certainly has potential.

Sarabi Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I agree, this list is terrible. I’m not against word names but when it comes to the manner in which your child will be labeled for their ENTIRE LIFETIME, the topic should be approached with a little more thoughtful care.

Sassy Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I also am glad that someone cleared up the wa-laa=voila issue. I thought it was a typo and wasn’t sure what the writer was getting at. What is wrong with using the proper word?

I also don’t like this list at all. I suppose there are things in every day life that might make cute names but seriously there are lots of names that are not over used that are still cute.

Kyri Laina Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I can see Adelie coming from Adela like Amelie comes from Amelia and Aurelie comes from Aurelia. Other names I can think of is:

Xanthene (yellow organic heterocyclic compound)
Magma (molten rock)
Ever (adverb)
Callisto (one of Jupiter’s moons)
Kaphlina (made up)
Carillon (musical instrument)
Kyrie- \ˈkir-ē-ˌā\ (Greek word for “Lord”


July 11th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

How is Olive ok to name your baby but Okra is totally absurd? And why does everyone freak out when people type things out phonetically? Lighten up with the Waaa-laaa critique it’s just a blog post not an article out of the Wall Street Journal…

I like reading the IDEAS of new interesting names – no one said you must name your next child Malbec, although Dillo would be a terrible nick name to have, I will say…dildo anyone…dillweed? it’s not gonna bode well for anyone.

Most of the commenters who take offense are just looking for something/ or someone to complain about…these are just jumping off points to start conversation in new unconventional baby names…chill.

jame1881 Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I’ve always thought Territory would make a great girl’s name. Terry or tory nn possibilities are not modern, but the name is unique. Holiday is another one, but I believe that’s in use on occasion. I like counties for boys, like Finland, Mexico, and Canada (I changed Venezuela to Venezuelo once to get a unique boy character). I once named characters Gingham and Parody (both boys), but I would not reccomend that for anyone. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t reccomend any of this to anyone, but hey, I’d like them if they were names before they had been words. Maybe.

Mcdonak1 Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 6:56 pm

None of these names may be my cup of tea, but I’ll bet that the book is intriguing in this post-Apple age. These names may not work for the average person, but it is fun to think a little outside of the box. And I think that waa la or whatever was supposed to be facetious.

Mego0801 Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I knew a little girl named Remmington, after the rifles. I live in the South lol. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like Okra as a name, what with the whole marijuana legalization craze and the fact that ‘fried okra’ is a popular snack, I see that turning into a mess…! Alot of these could probably be workable, but only in certain areas where the inspiration word isn’t used often, or where the local accent wouldn’t make it sound ridiculous (think Southern Accent + Coogi) I do enjoy seeing posts like this though, because uniqueness is very important to me.

inkonherfingers Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I have always thought that Reverie, Avenue, Poise, and Salamander would be lovely names if they didn’t already mean something.

Poppy528 Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 10:30 pm

This list is weird and unappealing to me. Adalie has been a fave of mine for a very long time, as short for Adalise. It’s really weird that it’s put with wacko names like Okra, really? Verbena, yes. Verena, yes. Verdana, meh. These names would be really embarrassing on a real children. I love out there names but they at least have to be mildly appealing… How bout Chevron? Dandelion? Cajole? Fine. I’ll stick with Tallulah.

cezannemc Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Lighten up, haters! Pretty sure this is meant to be light hearted. Sort of along the lines of, wouldn’t the name Esso be cool if it wasn’t already associated with gasoline? I think so. And I’ll put in another cool headed vote for “wa laa” being a joke.

melissaintlouis Says:

July 11th, 2012 at 11:25 pm

“And why does everyone freak out when people type things out phonetically? Lighten up with the Waaa-laaa critique it’s just a blog post not an article out of the Wall Street Journal…”

Because, REELJAGKB, we’re all obsessed with names, and words. And when you are obsessed with names and words, you are sensitive to the destruction of them.

R_J Says:

July 12th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I agree, Reverie is very pretty. I don’t think I could use it, but I want to!

Vendy made me chuckle. Like someone imitating Dracula trying to say Wendy.

eglantine Says:

July 12th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Ooh, I’ll play!

I have always loved the name Marimekko (the Danish design company), and think it would be a beautiful girls name. (Even though it means “little girls dress” or something.)

Oh and in The Singing Detective, a BBC TV show that aired I think in the late 80s, a character says Elbow is the most sensuous word in the english language (not for its meaning but the sound and the way it looks on the page.). But is Elbow a boy or girl’s name?

I have always liked the words aesthetic and juxtaposition – what about Aestha? Jux? Juxta?

And what about Agent for a boy? This also serves as an excellent way in to all sorts of venues. *flashes ID* “I’m Agent Jones” and a handy shortcut if he does pursue a career in the secret service. (NB Jones is an excellent surname and I am jealous of anyone who has it, all sorts of wacky names work if you put Jones at the end.)

Odie and Nermal (from Garfield).

dayjoysky2815 Says:

September 22nd, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I’ve always thought Sylvania, the brand of TV’s, would make a great name.

BerryBry Says:

February 3rd, 2013 at 6:26 am

I’ve loved that forever!

hodgecrew Says:

June 4th, 2013 at 10:55 am

My sons name is Priest. Another son is Kanon, a little more popular these days, but still, we like word names. I don’t understand why people get so worked up over other people’s name choices or been blog posts. There are heavier things. 🙂

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