Animal and bird names seem a lot less strange as given names than they once did. But what if you want an animal inspired name that is a little less literal? Maybe something a little more traditional. Or maybe something a little more light hearted and whimsical. So here’s a look at a select group of daring names that reference animals and are full of quirky charm – all with the benefit of a cute, inbuilt animal nickname, but carrying less of an aggressive edge.
This variant of the Old French/German name Bernard has the bear reference but is still a legitimate name with history. It means ‘strong, brave bear’, which is hard to go past if you’re looking for names related to fierce animals. Bearnard has never charted in the U.S. but Bernard was a top 100 for many years and only dropped out of the top 1000 in recent years.
Such a friendly, hopeful sounding name – as children we often make a wish before closing our eyes and blowing away a dandelion’s fluff, so people often see this unique flower as a symbol of our dreams coming true. It also represents positivity, progress and survival, and for some grief and mourning. Dandelion literally means ‘lion’s tooth’, from the French “dent de lion”.
Foxglove would make a whimsical floral choice. Usually the use of the name Fox is reserved for boys – and has only ever charted on the blue side, but Foxglove could be a great way to get use fox for girls. It’s also a very off-the-beaten-track choice for those wanting a rarer floral name. And it doesn’t hurt that the flowers themselves are beautiful.
More graceful songbird than animalistic predator, Meadowlark is a pretty and unique choice if you like Lark but worry about it being too short or stark. Meadow is a top 1000 name for girls, and Lark is much rarer, but Meadowlark has never charted. The meadowlark has been seen by various cultures as symbols of cheerfulness, friendship and loyalty, peace, beauty, fidelity, happy marriage, fertility and good luck.
A stately, scholarly surname name, Oxford means ‘from the oxen crossing’. Nickname Ox would be one of the more difficult animal names to wear, but Ford would make a cool substitute. Oxford is very well known largely thanks to the famed University and the Dictionary, yet it seems this has led people to avoid it as a given name. It would fit right in with the current wave of preppy surname names though.
Pendragon is best recognised from a work of fiction – as Arthur‘s surname in the legends of the Knights of the Round Table – and means ‘head dragon’ or ‘dragon’s head’. It is yet to chart in the U.S. although I have seen it discussed online in recent months, so it may start appearing on people’s radars in the next few years. This has a romantic yet strong feeling, and nickname Penn makes this name feel a little more wearable.
When looking for nature- related names that can easily be worn by the girls, it’s hard to go past the florals. Snapdragon would be another rare floral choice – it has certainly never charted. Part of Snapdragon’s charm is the contrast of the sound of the name against it’s image. The flowers are sweet, cheerful and delicate, yet the name suggests almost the opposite. This would be a cute yet fierce name for a girl.
Thanks to the coffee chain this name seems almost unusable–unless you are a big Battlestar Galactica fan. It has only charted once, in 1979, a year after the original series started airing in 1978. In those days Starbuck was a male, but in the 2004 reincarnation of the show Starbuck was reinvented as a female character, so this name feels suitable for either gender. Another famous fictional Starbuck was the first mate of the Pequod in ‘Moby Dick‘ (who the coffee chain was named after). With these fictional namesakes Starbuck isn’t necessarily a totally off-limits name.
Tigerlily is fresh and playful. For many, she’s the princess of a Neverland tribe of Native Indians in the classic Peter Pan. Tigerlily first appeared on the U.S. charts in 1998 after the much publicized birth of Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence in 1996, but has continued to be rarely used. It’s a floral-esque choice with a princess vibe, and gives you the possibility of nickname Lily if your daughter should be more of the quiet type.
Wolfgang is an Old German name meaning ‘traveling wolf’. It’s most popular in German speaking countries, but is familiar throughout the world thanks to famous Austrian composer Mozart, and more recently chef Puck. Cool nickname Wolf also makes this a very accessible name for todays’ parents. It has seen regular use in the U.S. since the 50’s but has never gotten close to cracking the top 1000.