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Exoticized Baby Names

We’ve taken our list of classic baby names and exoticized them — substituting stylish international variations. Is Amelia too common for your taste? Try the French-ified Amelie. Want to honor a Matthew in a modern way? Use the Spanish variation, Mateo.

Along with Amelie and Mateo, other exoticized names in the US Top 1000 include Alessandro, Anais, Francisco, Juliette, Lucia, Matthias, Noemi, and Vincenzo. Up-and-coming exotic forms of modern names to look out for include Renzo, Anouk, Makaio, and Ludo.

Make your favorite baby names more international by exoticizing them. The examples here put an international spin on standard baby names used in English-speaking countries.
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ZaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew and Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "blooming flower; God remembers"
  • Description:

    Zara has multiple origins, but most notably is a variation of Zahrah, a name derived from the Arabic zahrah, meaning “blooming flower.” Zara can also be a diminutive of the Bulgarian name Zaharina, a feminine form of the Hebrew Zechariah. Today, Zara is heavily associated with the Spanish fast fashion empire of the same name.

MateoHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    Mateo is a Latinate form of Matthew, which derived from the Hebrew name Mattiyahu, consisting of the elements mattan, meaning “gift” and yah, which references the Hebrew God. Mateo can also be spelled Matteo, which is the Italian variation. Matheo is an archaic Spanish spelling, although it is used in France as Mathéo.

NicoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian diminutive of Nicholas, Greek
  • Meaning:

    "people of victory"
  • Description:

    Nico is one of the great nickname names, full of charm, energy and effortless cool -- a neo Nick.

ElenaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish, Italian, German, Greek variation of Helen
  • Meaning:

    "bright, shining light"
  • Description:

    Elena, a pan-European version of Helen, has roots in Spanish, Italian, Slavic, and Romanian, among others. Helen, the name from which it derives, came from the Greek word helene, meaning “torch.” Alternate spellings include Elaina, Ellena, and Alena.

LuciaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian, feminine variation of Lucius, Latin
  • Meaning:

    "light"
  • Description:

    Lucia is derived from lux, the Latin word for light. It is considered to be the feminine form of Lucius as well as the Latinate spelling of Lucy. Due to its connection to light, Lucia was traditionally given to babies born as daylight was breaking.
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AnyaHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian diminutive of Anna
  • Meaning:

    "grace"
  • Description:

    Anya is a Russian variation of Anna, which came from the Hebrew name Hannah. Anya is the form found most frequently in Russia, Poland and other East European countries, while Anja is the spelling usually preferred in Germany Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands. In the Hungarian language, Anya also means mother.

AmelieHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Amelia
  • Meaning:

    "work"
  • Description:

    Emily gets a Bohemian spin and a French accent when it becomes Amelie. This favorite among French girl names has been gaining notice here thanks to the charming 2001 French film Amelie; it entered the American popularity list in 2002 and is now solidly established in the Top 1000.

NiamhHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish Gaelic
  • Meaning:

    "bright"
  • Description:

    Niamh, derived from the Old Irish Niam, is an ancient Irish name that was originally a term for a goddess. In Irish myth, one who bore it was Niamh of the Golden Hair, daughter of the sea god, who falls in love with Finn's son Oisin and takes him to the Land of Promise, where they stayed for three hundred years. Niamh can be Anglicized as Neve, Nieve, or Neave.

SofiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "wisdom"
  • Description:

    Sofia is a variation of the Greek name Sophia, which was derived directly from sophia, the Greek word for wisdom. It was the name of a Roman saint—the mother of Faith, Hope, and Charity—and queens of Russia and Spain. Sonya is the Russian form of Sofia.

SeamusHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish variation of James
  • Meaning:

    "supplanter"
  • Description:

    Parents who have tired of Sean are now contemplating Seamus, the Irish form of James, which has a lot more substance and verve.
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GabriellaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian feminine variation of Gabriel
  • Meaning:

    "God is my strength"
  • Description:

    Gabriella is the feminine form of Gabriel, a name derived from the Hebrew Gavri’el. Gavri’el is composed of the elements gever, meaning “strong,” and ’el, referring to God. Gabriella is used among a variety of cultures in the US, including Italian Americans, Latinos, and in the Jewish community. Gabriela is the Spanish spelling.

FrancescaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Frances
  • Meaning:

    "from France or free man"
  • Description:

    Francesca is a lighter and much more feminine choice than the classic Frances, and one that is increasingly popular with upscale parents.

MatthiasHeart

  • Origin:

    Aramaic variation of Matthew
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    With Matthew sounding somewhat exhausted, and ancient endings sounding new again, this New Testament apostolic name makes an appealing and recommended choice. Both Mathias and Matias are well used in the Hispanic community, and throughout Europe. Will Ferrell and his Swedish wife chose Matias for their second son.

MarcoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian and Spanish form of Mark
  • Meaning:

    "warlike"
  • Description:

    Simple and universal, Marco is a Latin classic that would make a much livelier namesake for an Uncle Mark. It was used for her son by actress Jill Hennessy and goes well with surnames of any nationality.

JulietteHeart

  • Origin:

    French from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "little Julia"
  • Description:

    Juliette, pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable, adds a little something extra to Juliet. In the past years it has been rising up the chart.
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PippaHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Philippa
  • Meaning:

    "lover of horses"
  • Description:

    Pippa, a peppy condensation of Philippa that turns it from serious to sprightly, has come into the public eye in a big way via the former Kate Middleton's sister.

AnaisHeart

  • Origin:

    Catalan and Provencal pet form of Hebrew Anna
  • Meaning:

    "grace"
  • Description:

    Anais is an unusual, exotic name forever attached to the daring French-born American novelist and diarist Anais Nin (born Angela, with Anais as one of her middle names), who became the inspiration for the naming of the daughter of musician Noel Gallagher. Anais is also the name of a popular perfume.

LorenzoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Laurence
  • Meaning:

    "from Laurentium"
  • Description:

    Latinizing Lawrence gives it a whole new lease on life. Like Leonardo, Lorenzo has been integrated into the American stockpot of names, partly via actor Lorenzo Lamas. Other associations are with Lorenzo de' Medici, the Florentine Renaissance merchant prince and art patron, Renaissance artists Ghiberti and Lotto, and the upstanding young man who married Shylock's daughter Jessica in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

ChiaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "light, clear"
  • Description:

    Chiara is a lovely and romantic Italian name that's familiar but not widely used here: a real winner. You might consider Chiara instead of Claire, Clara, Cara, or even Keira.

EtienneHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Stephen
  • Meaning:

    "garland, crown"
  • Description:

    It's the French Steve yet feels oh so much more debonair. Well-used and still a popular classic in French-speaking lands, but one of the many French names for boysunfamiliar to most English speakers, except maybe fashionistas who associate it with designer Etienne Aigner. A new way to honor Grandpa Steve?
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AnnikaHeart

  • Origin:

    Swedish diminutive of Anna
  • Meaning:

    "grace"
  • Description:

    Annika is a surprise hit of recent years, inspired by golfer Sorenstam; for Trekkies, it was also the name of a 'Star Trek:Voyager' character. Some people's first memory of it might be as Pippi Longstocking's friend. A nice namesake for an ancestral Ann.

OrlandoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Roland
  • Meaning:

    "famous throughout the land"
  • Description:

    Orlando, the ornate Italianate twist on the dated Roland, with a literary heritage stretching back to Shakespeare and before, has appealing book-ended o's, and is open to combination with almost any last name, a la British actor, Orlando Bloom.

SerenHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh or Turkish
  • Meaning:

    "star or sail mast"
  • Description:

    Seren is a top girls' name in Wales – and a lovely choice almost unknown elsewhere. Seren, in the Sirona form, was an ancient goddess of the hot springs.

AndersHeart

  • Origin:

    Scandinavian variation of Andrew
  • Meaning:

    "strong and manly"
  • Description:

    Friendly, unusual, but a decidedly Old Country version of Andrew and one of the classic Scandinavian names. It made a brief appearance in the US Top 1000 in 2006 and then reentered in 2010. Its rising popularity could be attributed to the interest in Anderson, which has been gaining steadily over the last fifteen years.

    Trivia tidbits: The patronymic Andersson is the second most popular surname in Sweden, and in Denmark, Donald Duck is called Anders.

NiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Swahili; Welsh form of the Irish Niamh,"resolve; brilliance"
  • Meaning:

    "resolve; brilliance"
  • Description:

    Short but energetic and substantial, Nia has special meaning for African-American parents, as it's one of the days of Kwanza. Nia also benefits by its similarity to (yet differentness from) the megapopular Mia.
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AndreasHeart

  • Origin:

    Original New Testament Greek variation of Andrew
  • Meaning:

    "strong and manly"
  • Description:

    Andreas is a beautiful name, with the patina of an Old Master painting, one that could make an exotic namesake for an Uncle Andrew.

ElspethHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish variation of Elizabeth
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Elspeth is one of those names that never quite made it out of the British Isles--particularly Scotland, but possesses a winningly childlike charm. Elspeth was used by Sir Walter Scott for several of his female characters.

AnoukHeart

  • Origin:

    Dutch and French variation of Anna
  • Meaning:

    "grace"
  • Description:

    Anouk, made famous by French actress Anouk Aimée, is a singular name with a lovely sound and a Bohemian feel. Anouk Aimée was born as Francoise, but adopted the first name of the character she played in her debut film.

IvanHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian variation of John
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Though some might find it a bit heavy-booted, Ivan is one of the few Russian boys' names to become fully accepted into the American naming pool.

NikolaiHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian variation of Nicholas
  • Description:

    Russian forms, like Russian supermodels, are hot these days. This is a strong, exotic way to make Nicholas new; it was chosen for his son by Barry Bonds, Jr.
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SiobhanHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish Gaelic
  • Meaning:

    "god is gracious"
  • Description:

    Siobhan is the Irish variation of Joan, which is derived from the ancient Anglo-Norman name Jehanne. In this way Siobhan is indirectly related to the name Sinead—the Irish form of Jeannette, which also derived from Jehanne—although Sinead is not a nickname for Siobhan. Siobhan was the name of several early Irish queens and was introduced to the American public by the actress Siobhan McKenna.

FranciscoHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish and Portuguese variation of Francis
  • Meaning:

    "Frenchman or free man"
  • Description:

    Francisco is one of the more popular Spanish names for boys in the US, which is unsurprising given its popularity back in Spain and Portugal as well as Latin America, coupled with its classic status. It also has a cool hipster vibe to it, given the reputation of the city of San Francisco.

NoemiHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian and Spanish variation of Naomi
  • Meaning:

    "my delight"
  • Description:

    Noemi is a charming Latin spin on Naomi, with the accent on the last syllable; another twist is Neomi.

RoisinHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish. "little rose"
  • Meaning:

    "little rose"
  • Description:

    No, the pronunciation--ro-SHEEN--isn't immediately obvious to the non-Gaelic viewer, but the sound of this shiny Irish version of Rose is pretty enough to make it worth considering. Very popular in its native Ireland, it is now at Number 34. Earlier generations Anglicized at as Rosaleen, but we stay stick to the original.

HanaHeart

  • Origin:

    Variation of Hannah or Johana or Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "flower, blossom"
  • Description:

    Many things to many peoples: a flower name, also spelled Hanae, to the Japanese; a Czech and Polish short form of Johana; and an alternate form of the biblical name Hannah in the US.
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LarsHeart

  • Origin:

    Scandinavian from Latin Laurentius
  • Meaning:

    "crowned with laurel"
  • Description:

    Lars is a perfect candidate for a cross-cultural passport: it has been heard often enough here to sound familiar and friendly, yet retains the charisma of a charming foreigner.

AlessandroHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Alexander
  • Meaning:

    "defending men"
  • Description:

    For anyone seeking a more exotic and unusual version of Alexander, this is a real winner.

AlessioHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Alexis
  • Meaning:

    "defender"
  • Description:

    Alessio, simpler than the related Alessandro, would be a welcome settler here.

ManonHeart

  • Origin:

    French, diminutive of Marie
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Manon is an endearing French pet name for Marie or Marianne; it has the exotic yet straightforward feel that makes it a viable import. Manon of the Spring was a gorgeous French film, Manon Lescaut a 1731 novel by Abbe Prevost, set in France and Louisiana, that was controversial in its day. It formed the basis of operas by Puccini and Massenet, and several films and TV series.

LudoHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "famous"
  • Description:

    This cool and quirky short form of the suave Ludovic could be an even-more-adventurous spin on Nico and Hugo.
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ClarissaHeart

  • Origin:

    Elaboration of Clara
  • Meaning:

    "bright, clear"
  • Description:

    Clarissa, the daintier version of Claire, has a long literary history of its own, having been featured in the novels of Samuel Richardson, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf—Clarissa was the title character of Mrs. Dalloway—not to mention the 1990s teen sitcom, Clarissa Explains it All.

AnaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish variation of Hannah
  • Meaning:

    "grace"
  • Description:

    Pared-down form loses none of the name's grace or power. Ana is one of the most popular Spanish names for girls in the US.

JohannaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Johanna is the version of this name used in Holland, Germany, and Scandinavia. The extra h makes Johanna a slightly more dignified version of Joanna.

ZaharaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew; Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "to shine; flower"
  • Description:

    Zahara, a delicate but strong multicultural name, came into the spotlight when Angelina Jolie bestowed it on her Ethiopian-born daughter, and we predict other parents will adopt it as well. If you want something simpler than Zahara, consider Zara, a royal name in England--but also the name of a Spanish-based clothing store chain.

AndreHeart

  • Origin:

    French and Portuguese variation of Andrew
  • Meaning:

    "strong and manly"
  • Description:

    One international form that's been familiar in the English-speaking world for decades yet still has not been Anglicized.
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AntonHeart

  • Origin:

    German, Russian, and Scandinavian variation of Anthony
  • Description:

    Cultured and cultivated in an old-style, Old World way. Sometimes associated with the classic writer Anton Chekhov. Al Pacino has a son with this name.

IsabeauHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Isabel
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    With Isabel getting so popular, parents are searching for new varieties of the name, and Isabeau is one that makes a lovely French twist.

RolloHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin form of Rolf
  • Meaning:

    "wolf"
  • Description:

    Rollo is a livelier, roly-poly, o-ending version of Roland.

FritzHeart

  • Origin:

    German, diminutive of Friedrich or Frederick
  • Meaning:

    "peaceful ruler"
  • Description:

    Since female cousins Mitzi and Fritzi have entered the realm of possibilities, there's a chance that Cousin Fritz could as well. Fritz is the name of several notables, from early German-born film director Lang to early footballer Fritz (born Frederick) Pollard, the first African-American to play in the Rose Bowl in 1916.

SuriHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew, variation of Sarah
  • Meaning:

    "princess"
  • Description:

    Suri, a once obscure exotic name, hit the headlines when chosen by Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise for their daughter in 2007. Multi-cultural, it also means "the sun" in Sanskrit, "rose" in Persian, and is the name of the Andean Alpaca's wool, as well as a Yiddish form of Sarah, a title used for Jain monks, and a Japanese word for pickpocket.
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