Unusual Baby Names
Along with Olympia and Hart, other unusual baby names on the rise include Alistair, Birdie, Coco, Fielder, Henrietta, Lumi, West, and Zebedee. Ultra-rare and unusual names given to fewer than five babies last year include Conran, Madrigal, Oceon, and Plum.
The best unusual names are distinctive without being strange, seem unique yet are also easy to understand. Of the thousands of unusual baby names on Nameberry, here are some of our favorites.
Description:Imogen seems to have originated as a Shakespearean printer's misspelling of the traditional Celtic name Innogen, used by him for a character in one of his last plays, Cymbeline. The Innogen of legend, who Shakespeare’s character was based on, was the wife of Brutus of Troy, the first king of Britain. Her name was derived from the Gaelic word inghean, meaning “daughter” or “maiden.”
Origin:English spelling of Alasdair, Scottish version of Alexander
Description:With many British names invading the Yankee name pool, the sophisticated Alistair could and should be part of the next wave. It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2016. You have a triple choice with this name--the British spell it Alistair or Alastair, while the Scots prefer Alasdair--but they're all suave Gaelic versions of Alexander. Adopted by the lowland Scots by the seventeenth century, the name didn't become popular outside Scotland and Ireland until the twentieth century.
Description:Cressida is a pretty mythological and Shakespearean heroine name much better known in Britain than it is here — an imbalance the adventurous baby namer might want to correct. For although the Trojan heroine of that name in the tale told by Boccaccio, then Chaucer, then Shakespeare, didn't have the greatest reputation — she was faithless to Troilus and broke his heart — the name today sounds fresh, crisp and creative.
Origin:Polish and Slavic
Meaning:"destroyer of peace"
Description:Casimir, a traditional name of Polish kings, would have problems assimilating here. But like Leopold and Laszlo, Casimir is strong and exotic and worth considering if you've got an adventurous streak -- and bet your son will too.
Description:Octavia began as the Latin, then Victorian name for an eighth child. While there aren't many eighth children anymore, this ancient Roman name has real possibilities as a substitute for the overused Olivia; recommended for its combination of classical and musical overtones. It was chosen for his daughter by Kevin Sorbo.
Meaning:"of the mind, intellect"
Description:Minerva is the long-neglected name of the Roman goddess of wisdom and invention, the arts and martial strength, one of the mythology names for girls that might appeal to adventurous feminist parents.
Origin:English plant and color name
Description:Lavender lags far behind sweet-smelling purple-hued sister names Violet and Lilac, but is starting to get some enthusiastic attention from cutting-edge namers. It does have a history as a name, going back to the eighteenth century, when it was also used for boys. But its recent attention comes from Lavender Brown, a witch character in the Harry Potter saga--though Lavender had also been previously featured as a best friend character in Roald Dahl's Matilda.
Origin:French form of Latin Julius
Meaning:"youthful; soft, downy"
Description:Though Jules hasn't been on the US popularity list in fifty years, it is a current hit in its native France—where it's currently Number 10—and we can definitely see it making a comeback here, being far more romantic than, say, Jim.
Description:Oisin is one of the most popular Irish baby names in its native land, though largely unknown in the US. The original Oisin was the mythological son of Finn McCool and Sadb, the goddess who was changed into a deer. A legendary war hero and poet, Oisin had a name that is also reminiscent in sound of the ocean. Pronounced correctly, this name has an attractive sheen.
Description:Can Linus lose its metaphorical security blanket and move from the Peanuts page onto the birth certificate? We think it has enough charm and other positive elements going for it for the answer to be yes.
Meaning:"she who hides"
Description:This hyper-rhythmic name has two evocative references. In Greek mythology, she was an island nymph, a daughter of Atlas, who delayed Odysseus from returning home. It is also a genre of West Indian music, originating in Trinidad and Tobago and largely popularized in the States by Harry Belafonte.
Description:Indigo is one of the most appealing and evocative of the new generation of color names. Color names have joined flower and jewel names -- in a big way -- and Indigo, a deep blue-purple dye from plants native to India, is particularly striking for both girls and boys. Indigo is the name of a character in the Ntozake Shange novel Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, and was used for his daughter by Lou Diamond Phillips.
Origin:Spanish and French pet name
Description:Coco came to prominence as the nickname of the legendary French designer Chanel (born Gabrielle) and has lately become a starbaby favorite, initially chosen by Courteney Cox for her daughter Coco Riley in 2004. At first it was the kind of name that the press loves to ridicule, but we predict Coco's heading for more broad acceptance and even popularity.
Origin:Latin, from ancient place name Lavinium
Description:Lavinia is a charmingly prim and proper Victorian-sounding name which actually dates back to classical mythology, where it was the name of the wife of the Trojan hero Aeneas, who was considered the mother of the Roman people.
Description:Blythe originated as a nickname for an upbeat person, coming from the Old English word bliðe, meaning “merry” or “cheerful.” Today the homophone blithe shares the same meaning. Blythe was eventually adapted to a surname before it became a feminine given name.
Description:This concise one-syllable name, Hebrew for heart or the Russian form of Leo, has definite potential, being more unusual than the increasingly popular Levi.
Description:Everyone says they want an unusual name — well, if you truly do, this is one with Biblical cred that fits the bill, with the added attraction of the user-friendly nickname of Oz or Ozzie. Ozias is the name of several minor figures in the Bible. Osias is another spelling.
Origin:Italian feminine variation of Cosmo, Greek
Description:Cosima, the kind of elegant and exotic name the British upper classes love to use for their daughters, will almost certainly come into wider use here after being chosen by two high-profile celebs in the same month — cool couple Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars as well as supermodel Claudia Schiffer. It was used earlier by celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, while the male form, Cosimo, was given to the son of Marissa Ribisi and Beck.
Description:Acacia is an attractive, rarely used Greek flower name enhanced by its popular beginning-and-ending-with 'a'-construct, and is gradually beginning to catch on as a new member of the stylish girl names starting with A.
Description:Birdie was until recently a middle-aged Ladies' Club member wearing a bird-decorated hat --but now it's just the kind of vintage nickname (think Hattie, Josie, Mamie, Millie) that's coming back into style in a big way. Actress Busy Philipps named her baby Birdie (inspired by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson), as did soap star Maura West.
Origin:Variation of Auberon
Description:The Shakespearean character Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream is King of the Fairies, but the name, with its strong 'O' beginning, projects a far more virile image than that.
Description:In Greek myth, Circe, daughter of Helios, the sun, was a sorceress living on the island of Aeaea, who could turn men into animals with her magic wand, which is just what she did to Odysseus's crew in Homer's Odyssey, transforming them into swine. All was forgiven, however, as Circe and Odysseus later had a child together—Telegonus. The name and legend have appeared in countless forms, from a section of James Joyce's Ulysses to short stories by Julio Cortazar to Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon to films to DC comics to a dance by Martha Graham. So is Circe's seductive legend too powerful for a modern little girl to carry? Your call.
Origin:Basque, medieval Spanish variation of Ignatius
Description:Inigo, almost unknown in the U.S., is an intriguing choice, with its strong beat, creative and evocative sound, and associations with the great early British architect and stage designer Inigo Jones. The sixteenth-seventeenth century Jones shared his name with his father, a London clockmaker, who received it when Spanish names for boys were fashionable in England, especially among devout Roman Catholics.
Origin:English variation of Barnabas, Aramaic
Meaning:"son of consolation"
Description:Barnaby, a genial and energetic name with an Irish-sounding three-syllable lilt, is an ancient appellation that manages to be both unusual and highly attractive and deserves to be used more than it is. A sweet-spot name that's a real winner.
Description:This aristocratic, somewhat formal Germanic route to the popular Leo is a royal name: Queen Victoria used it to honor a favorite uncle, King Leopold of Belgium. Though Leopold sounds as if it might be a leonine name, it's not really a relative of such choices as Leon, and Leonard.
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.
Description:Lumi may be a rare girls' name in the USA and England, but it comes in the Top 50 in Finland, where it means snow. Given the popularity of Winter, Holly, Ivy and many other wintery-christmassy names, we think that short and spunky Lumi definitely has potential for greater usage outside its home country as one of the more unusual names for Christmas babies.
Description:Though to most Americans Viggo is a one-person name attached to intense actor Mortensen, it is actually an old Norse name dating back to the Vikings, and is currently the 32nd most popular appellation in Sweden. Viggo Mortensen is a Jr., sharing his name with his Danish father. We think this name is so, well, vigorous, that it might appeal to others as well. Taylor and Natalie Hanson seemed to agree when they chose it for their fourth child.
Meaning:"one; also, lamb"
Description:In an epic poem, the personification of truth, beauty, and unity; this ancient name is popular in Ireland but rarely heard here. The Oona spelling has more oomph.
Description:The Hungarian classic Laszlo, with its zippy 'z' middle and energetic 'o' ending, has become something of a hipster option, beginning to be considered by cutting-edge parents.
Origin:Dutch and French variation of Anna
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.
Meaning:"strong in work"
Description:Combining the mild and the innocent, this sweet and feminine name is worthy of a comeback, in the mode of Madeline and Cecilia. Its original, also attractive form is Melisende, which came from Germany to France and was borne by a daughter of Charlemagne.
Description:This name of a tragic figure in Greek mythology, the daughter of King Minos, sister of Ariadne and wife of Theseus, has a mysterious and intriguing appeal, and would make a dramatic choice.
Origin:Feminine variation of Henry
Description:Despite a return to such feminizations of male names as Josephine, Clementine, and Theodora, starchy Henrietta has not made it into that group. Still, if you look hard enough, you'll see that Henrietta has the same vintage charm.
Origin:Feminine variation of Zephyr, Greek
Description:Zephyr may not be a name often heard in the U.S., but its variations are used throughout Europe. Zephyrine, a cousin in sound and feel if not in fact to such lovely names as Severine and Seraphina, has distinctive possibilities.
Origin:English variation of Hebrew Zebediah
Meaning:"gift of God"
Description:Zebedee is an adorable and unusual New Testament name--which may sound like but is not a contradiction in terms. Unlike some of the longer biblical Z-names, Zebedee has a more lighthearted usability, with its gleeful ee-ending. And Zeb makes a fabulous nickname.
Origin:Dutch variation of Abraham
Meaning:"father of multitudes"
Description:Bram has an unusual measure of character and charm for a one-syllable name; it started as a hipper-than-Abe diminutive of the biblical Abraham, but is also an independent Irish and Dutch name, made famous by Irish-born Dracula creator Bram (nee Abraham) Stoker. Bram is currently Number 16 in the Netherlands; Bram Howard was a character on The West Wing.
Origin:English, contracted form of Thomasina
Description:Tamsin is an offbeat name occasionally heard in Britain and just waiting to be discovered here. U.K. actress Tamsin Greig is a star of the show Episodes, Tamsin Olivier is the daughter of Joan Plowright and Sir Laurence Olivier..
Description:Many will associate this name with Galen of Pergamon, the second-century physician considered to be the founding father of medicine. A more recent reference is Star Wars character Galen Erso. The name still projects a gentle, scholarly image, while sharing sounds with more popular names like Aiden and Nathan. Bonus: it's also an anagram of Angel.
Origin:Occitan pet form of French Liliane
Description:Lilou is a charming, rarely heard import. Occitan is a language spoken in Provence, in the south of France, in which the suffix "ou" denotes a pet form — thus, Lilou as a short form of Liliane or its Occitan form Liliana or Liliano. Its popularity in France--where it's currently Number 12--can be traced to the 1997 film The Fifth Element.
Meaning:"from Mount Olympus"
Description:With its relation to Mount Olympus, home of the Greek gods, and to the Olympic games, this name has an athletic, goddess-like aura, making it the perfect Olivia substitute.
Description:Jupiter's partner Juno has entered the mainstream, so it's possible that her divine mate could follow. But not necessarily for boys — Jupiter is over 75% female, thanks to its similarity to Juniper. Actress Ashley Tisdale welcomed a daughter named Jupiter Iris in 2021, which could shift the balance even more towards the girls.
Origin:Greek mythology name or feminine form of Ambrose, Latin
Description:Ambrosia combines some of the more whimsical qualities of more popular Aurora and Isabella, with a heavenly meaning.
Meaning:"hawk, a bird"
Description:Animal names are on the rise, especially more of the aggressive Hawk-Fox-Wolf variety than cute little Bunnys or Robins, and Hawk is a prime example.
Hawk is more commonly heard as a surname, represented by uber-skateboarder Tony Hawk, a pioneer of modern vertical skateboarding. Variations include Hawke, as in actor Ethan, Hawks, as in Golden Age movie director Howard, Hawking, as in scientist Stephen, and Hawkins, as in musicians Coleman, Screamin' Jay and Sophie B, and was recently given to his baby boy by quarterback Tony Romo. There have been characters named or nicknamed Hawk in The Revenant, The Path and Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. Hawk ranks at Number 699 on Nameberry.
Meaning:"woman of honor"
Description:Honora and Honoria are two ways of softening the severity of Honor, while retaining its righteous meaning. They were predominant until the Reformation, when the Puritans adopted the abstract virtue names, and were introduced to Britain by the Normans.
Description:Susannah is by far the most stylish form of the classic name now that Susan and Suzanne have retired. Susannah has biblical and musical pedigrees, is impervious to trends, and has an irresistible, flowing rhythm. It can be spelled just as properly with or without the final 'h.'
Origin:Scottish and Irish
Meaning:"oak tree ford"
Description:Adair has flair, the grace of a Fred Astaire. It's a Scottish surname which came from the first name Edgar.
Meaning:"relating to springtime"
Description:Cerelia is a melodic and unusual choice, perfect for a child born in April or May. Another version is Cerella.
Origin:Italian variation of Guinevere
Meaning:"white shadow, white wave"
Description:A lovely alternative for the Jennifer-lover.
Description:Hart could be the hero of a romantic novel, but on the other hand, it's short, straightforward, and strong sounding. The most famous bearer of the name was tragic poet Hart (born Harold) Crane, but it also has musical cred via Lorenz Hart, of the classic Rodgers & Hart songwriting duo and a literary tie to playwright Moss Hart.