Unusual Baby Names: Top choices under the radar

The big news in baby names this week has been the Most Popular Names 2012: Top 1, Top 10, Top 100, Top 1000.

But swimming just below the surface — not quite on the radar but not truly off, either — are dozens of more unusual baby names poised to find wider favor….or dropping from view.

Many Nameberry favorites exist in this limbo of baby names, including choices such as Aurelia and Wren for girls that missed making it into the Top 1000 by a single point.

Of course, that may bring relief rather than disappointment to many parents.  If you want to name your baby Magnolia or Clementine, Bishop or Langston — or already have — you may tremble on surveying the new Top 1000, hoping your favorites stay off the list.

We looked below the Top 1000 for girls and boys and found those names within 50 points of the cutoff that we felt were heading back into style, along with those sailing off into the sunset.

In raw numbers, 251 girls received the Number 1000 name Katalina while 197 boys were named Number 1000 boys’ name Dangelo.  The numbers after each name below represent the number of children given that name in 2012.

One note on the names we say are Heading Out: Some of these may appeal to parents in search of a name with Geek Chic or an unusual classic.  Hello, baby Ralph!  Or….dare I suggest….baby Pamela?

Here, the names just under the Top 1000 coming into style and heading out:


Heading In

Aurelia 250

Wren 250

Mercy 248

Astrid 246

Rory 246

Amalia 244 (though it was on in 2011; we think it will climb back)

Lyra 242

Remi 242

Sutton 240

Mabel 238

Noa 238

Liv 236 (touched the Top 1000 in 2011 and fell back out again)

Margot 235

Ellison 234

Faye 230

Emmeline 228 (though spelling Emmaline climbed onto the Top 1000)

Maren 226

Louisa 222

Gwen 221 (some may doubt that Gwen and Antonia, below, are heading back in, but we love them both.)

Antonia 219

Magnolia 218

Delia 215

Clementine 204

Cordelia 204

Ellery 201

Heading out 

Stacy 251

Theresa 230

Penny 227 (though Penelope is rising)

Bonnie 222

Annette 213

Darlene 213

Pamela 213

Maryjane 211

Janet 210

Sally 205

Gretchen 201


Heading In

Garrison 197

Baylor 195

Cortez 195

Ephraim 193 (is the world ready for a new generation of baby Ephraims?)

Royal 193

Enoch 192 (see Ephraim)

Grey 184

Lachlan 183

Bishop 182

Thatcher 179

Otis 178

Miller 178 (On the Top 1000 in 2011 but dropped off.  We think it will resurface.)

Judson 177

Taj 172

Azariah 171 (see Ephraim and Enoch)

Canaan 170

Ford 170

Keller 170

Langston 168

Ulysses 165

Bode 163

Cormac 163

Stetson 163 (talk about a cowboy name!)

Magnus 158

Duke 154

Heading out

Gordon 194 (but we love this!)

Irvin 193

Clarence 190

Glenn 178

Ralph 178 (Love this too!  Or at least I do; Linda, not so much)

Gerard 170

Dale 162

Norman 153

Photo by Elena Kalis.  See more of her beautiful pictures here.

Want names that are much more unusual?  Then look for the new Nameberry e-book, The Nameberry Guide to Off-the-Grid Baby Names, coming very soon to the new Nameberry Store!

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25 Responses to “Unusual Baby Names: Top choices under the radar”

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sarahmezz Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 12:00 am

In Australia, Lachlan and Taj are quite popular (Taj probably spurred on by the prominence of Australian surfer Taj Burrow). Lachlan, in particular (currently No. 11). I’m surprised it’s so uncommon in America.

alphabetdem Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 1:00 am

I’m really surprised Miller isn’t on the list. And Cormac’s a Harry Potter name– I can definitely see it being used more. Also Grey/Gray, Magnus, Keller and Thatcher.

I agree with just about every one of the girls list. I shudder at Sutton and Ellison on girls though.

The ones on the way out are good riddance to me, especially the boys.

annabelle Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 2:30 am

Love Mabel, Clementine and Louisa!

These are some more names not in the top 1000 that I really like. I’m surprised about most of these not being used more!


Haven’t gotten around to the boys yet…

Pam Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 6:13 am

Annabelle, I totally agree with your list, but I looked only at names given to 200 or more girls and 150 or more boys — names JUST below the surface of the Top 1000.

Maerad Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 6:21 am

There are names on the girls list I positively adore! Aurelia and Sally for starters! And that are on some little girls I know – my niece is an Astrid and my friend’s daughter is a Noa so I definitely adore their names. I do live in the UK though, where there is an abundance of Imogens, which I know isn’t the case in the US.
I’m a little underwhelmed by the boys list, which again proves that people are obvsiously more daring with their girls names than their boys!
Especially since for my children I’d have James, Alexander or Simon for boys and Angela, Eliza or Imogen for girls…

namefan Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 6:48 am

About Rory – I noticed that while it’s now hovering just below the Top 1,000 for girls, it’s climbed a lot over the past couple of years for boys (you ought to update the name’s entry here on Nameberry; it’s now more than twice as common for boys). Maybe with Rory McIlroy in the news (and as we’re gradually getting away from the Gilmore Girls era) it’s getting a boost on the blue side?

Lo Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 8:23 am

I love Theresa and am sorry to see it out of the top 1000. It such a lovely classic. And I think I dreamt about Antonia last night…weird.

Ysaline Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 8:25 am

I can definitely see Margot making its way up the ranks. I’m surprised Louisa isn’t already more popular; with Eloise, .Elsie and Elise all trending upward and cute nickname potential with Lulu, it seems like it should be rising.

Looking at the current success of Maximus and Axel, I see Magnus getting more popular.

Pam Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 8:51 am

Namefan, I think you’re right. I am honestly not sure which way Rory-for-girls is going, having dropped over 100 places in the past year while Rory-for-boys rose more than 100 places! For a year or two there, Rory was one of those names that was just about 50-50 boys and girls but it has taken a decided turn boyward and I do think as you said it’s thanks to Rory McIlroy coming as Gilmore Girls goes out.

annabelle Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 9:08 am

Hi Pam, missed that part!
Some of the names on my list were VERY far down indeed, took me a while..
Maybe most surprising to me was Imogen, it seems as though every other girl on this site is named Imogen 😉

Kibby Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 9:30 am

I don’t want Lachlan heading in!! Hopefully it still stays pretty obscure here in Canada!

littlebrownpony Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 9:48 am

I’m so surprised by some of these names. I know 2 Ellerys, an Antonia, a Maren, a Gwen, a Louisa, a Margot, 2 Lachlans, a Grey and a Ford. I mean, I know they’re all left of center, but I can’t believe they aren’t in the top 1000! They’re all great names!

chellemma1 Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 10:48 am

I love so many of these names – these are great lists.
I’m surprised to see Gerard heading out though. I thought it would be becoming more popular due to the Gerard Butler influence – he has certainly made me love it. Also I’d love to know how you are pronouncing Ralph – I can see the ‘Rafe’ pronunciation catching on more than the phonetic pronunciation.

nat108 Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 11:37 am

I see a few of my fave boys name on the ‘going in’ list. I hope they continue to stay out of the rankings

jojolovesjello Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 11:52 am

Cordelia, Rory, Lyra, and Ephraim are my favorites on this list! I know a little Cormac nn MacAttack who is just the cutest chubby baby boy! As for Rory being more popular for boys recently, it may be due to the character Rory Williams in Doctor Who, and maybe with this year being the 50th anniversary of the show we will see more Rorys, who knows!

Ellen_B Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 12:13 pm

We’ve got a Mabel on the way in our extended family: Mabel Grace, sometimes called “Maisie”. Love it!

auroradawn Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I just met a Maren about 9 years old. While I’ve seen the name several times on this site, she was my first real-life Maren.
After being on Nameberry so much, I’m surprised Aurelia, Clementine and Emmeline aren’t in the Top 1000 yet 🙂 And it looks like my prediction of Louisa making it into the Top 1000 hasn’t yet come true–but I think it eventually will.
So cool to see Rory making a comeback for boys!

amylette Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Love Wren, Mabel, Emmeline, Ellison, Clementine.
Grey, Lachlan, Taj.

Cormac is cute too!

Micksterz Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Magnus is getting more popular?!? FINALLY!!! I absolutely LOVE that name! It may/may not have anything to do with Magnus Bane, from the Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare, but, hey, Magnus Bane was awesome. And, I loved the name before the books, anyway. The books just made me love it even more. 😀

ruolan Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I’m a little surprised the comments aren’t full of “don’t mention my secret name”! I tend to think of anything just outside the top 1000 as a sweet spot for rare, but not unique names. A lot of them are names people like and consider, but chicken out of using.

norskelove Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 11:21 pm

I love Margot and Astrid! I am also a bit attached to Maren and Louisa, I gave both names to my daughter born last fall 😉

Gretel Says:

May 15th, 2013 at 5:20 am

So excited that Margot, Astrid, Clementine, Ellison, Emmeline (which I prefer to Emmaline), Wren, Mabel, Faye, Louisa, Magnolia, and Cordelia have momentum behind them. Hope Gwen and Liv manage to climb back on the list as well. Actually, I don’t dislike even one of the names on the girl’s list, although maybe I could take or leave Mercy and Ellery.

The boy’s names aren’t as awesome to me, but I like Thatcher, Ephraim, Ulysses, Ford, Grey, and Magnus. Cormac has an awesome namesake in Cormac McCarthy. Hard to believe that Miller isn’t in the Top 1000.

Sad to see Ralph, Annette, Gretchen, Glenn, and Norman go, but overall the names trending upward are more interesting than the ones leaving. And, as noted, Penny isn’t really leaving us – we’ll be seeing a lot of Pennys in the coming years. And perhaps Sally is still being used but as a pet form of Sarah.

Rory is so perfect on both genders, although for girls I prefer Rory as a nickname for Lorelei/Lorelai.

MelodyKatherine Says:

May 15th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Maren is listed as a heading-in name for girls; if you click on it the information says it is a 21st century derivative of Mary. It is indeed a name in the Mary family, but they missed its long-standing Scandinavian origins. It appears in my family tree on the Danish side of the family, at least 150 years ago. I believe it would have been pronounced “Mah-ren” rather than “Mare-en”

Blondmama Says:

June 14th, 2013 at 7:46 am

We’ve got a Mabel (Mabelline) and are looking at names like these for the bun on the way. Hubs is stuck on Ulysses while I’m obsessed with Thatcher.

fly46 Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 5:05 pm

How about Rory being the companion on Doctor Who for a while? Of course it’s going to have more popularity for a bit.

Then again, somebody wrote an article on naming trends and couldn’t for the life of them figure out where Amelia came from. *facepalm* Doctor Who is their most popular show.

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