Classic Baby Names with a Twist
Along with Alessandro and Sarai, other twists on classic baby names in the US Top 600 include Amalia, Francesca, Hendrix, Jameson, Matthias, Nico, Willa, and Zara. If you’re really looking to get creative, consider a highly rare twist on a classic, such as Benno, Eluned, Jessamine, or Maxfield.
If you love classic baby names but want something more original, or if you're looking to honor a relative but want to spin their traditional name a bit differently, a classic baby name with a twist could be the answer. Without getting into too-crazy spelling variations or too-easy international forms, here some twists on classic baby names.
Classic Baby Names with a Twist
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.
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.
Meaning:"God supports, heals"
Description:Josiah is derived from Yoshiyahu, a Hebrew name from the components yoshi, meaning “support,” and Yahu, referring to the Hebrew god. In the Old Testament, Josiah was an upright king of Judah from the age of eight, after his father Amon was murdered. Josias is a related Latin variation that is found in some biblical translations.
Origin:Feminine variation of William
Description:Willa has become increasingly fashionable, with its combination of Willa (born Wilella) Cather-like pioneer strength and the graceful beauty of the willow tree.
Origin:Italian, feminine variation of Lucius, Latin
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.
Origin:English, diminutive of Christopher
Description:Actor Kit Harington, aka the dreamy Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, has given this nickname-name new style and appeal for boys. Actress Jodie Foster used it for her son. For girls, it's an updated diminutive of Katherine.
Origin:Old French form of archaic German Amal
Description:Emmeline is an Emma relative and Emily cousin that is destined for greater use in the wake of the megapopularity of those two names. A recommended Nameberry fave, Emmeline hopped onto the US Top 1000 in 2014 for the first time ever. While it is genuinely an old name, it was rarely used a century ago; only 17 baby girls were named Emmeline in 1915, the same number as were named Ernie!
Meaning:"she who brings happiness; blessed"
Description:Beatrix, has a solid history of its own apart from Beatrice, with that final x adding a playful, animated note to the name's imposing history. It has been largely associated with Beatrix (born Helen) Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit, and Beatrix has been Queen of The Nethelands since 1980.
The main character in Quentin Tarantino's movie Kill Bill was Beatrix Kiddo, played by Uma Thurman.
Meaning:"wild boar in woodland clearing"
Description:Everly originated as a toponymic surname derived from the Old English roots eofor, meaning “boar,” and leah, “clearing.” It is related to the Germanic name Eberhard, meaning “brave as a wild boar,” from which popular name Everett also derived. Wild boars represented strength and courage to ancient Germanic peoples, who often took on names with animal meanings.
Description:Amias or Amyas is a unique name with an attractive sound and feel and a lovely meaning. Though it might sound like a Biblical name, it is not, but is a surname that may be related to Amadeus or even be a male version of Amy--which would make it one of the few boys' names to be derived from a girls'.
Origin:Greek mythology name
Description:Cassiopeia, the name of a mythological mother who became a stellar constellation, is challenging but intriguing, and has all those softening Cass nicknames available. With the rise of other otherworldly and mythical choices, from Apollo to Jupiter to Juno, Cassiopeia may just feel more possible for mortals now than ever before in its long history.
Description:Amalia is a widely cross-cultural name, heard from Italy to Romania, Germany to Scandinavia. The current heir to the Dutch throne is Princess Catharina-Amalia of Orange. It can be pronounced ah-MAH-lee-a or ah-mah-LEE-a. Like Amelia and Emilia, this name is likely to continue to climb. Frequently in the US Top 1000 in the early twentieth century, it spent nearly eighty years off the list until rejoining in 2011.
Origin:Latinate form of Helen, Greek
Meaning:"bright, shining light"
Description:Helena is a more delicate and dainty version of Helen, a favorite of Shakespeare, who used it in both All's Well That Ends Well and A Midsummer's Night Dream. Historically, Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great (and, supposedly, the daughter of Old King Cole), who became a fourth century saint--Evelyn Waugh wrote his only historical novel, Helena, based on her story.
Description:Lysander is a distinctive Greek name that could be thought of as a more creative cousin of Alexander. In ancient history, Lysander was the name of an esteemed Spartan naval commander and his literary cred comes from one of the two star-struck young men in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as one of the twin sons (the other being Lorcan) of Luna Lovegood, whom we learn about in the Harry Potter epilogue.
Origin:French variation of Latin Sylvia
Meaning:"from the forest"
Description:Although Sylvia seems to be having somewhat of a revival among trendsetting babynamers, we'd still opt for the even gentler and more unusual Sylvie. Despite being dated in its native France (where it was popular during the 1950s and 60s), in English-speaking regions it still feels fresh and exotic without being unfamiliar and has a cosmopolitan, international air. It debuted on the US Top 1000 in 2016.
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.
Origin:Diminutive or Olivia or Latin
Description:Though it sounds like a chopped-off variation of Olivia, which means olive, the distinctively attractive Livia has been an independent name since the days of the ancient Romans, when it belonged to Livia Drusilla—the powerful wife of the Emperor Augustus—and is still commonly heard in modern Italy.
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.
Origin:Italian and Spanish form of Mark
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.
Origin:Diminutive of Alexander, Greek
Description:Alec, though an old nickname for Alexander, is much fresher sounding than Alex, with the additional advantage, at least to some parents, of being distinctly male (there are as many girl Alexes these days as there are boys). While Alec has a clipped British image, it's actually one of the classic Greek names for boys, by way of father name Alexander.
Origin:Feminine variation of Cecil
Description:Cecily is as dainty as a lace handkerchief. Cecily has a wide assortment of namesakes. One Cecily was the mother of King Richard III, whose beauty gained her the title "the Rose of Raby," Cecily Parsley is a Beatrix Potter bunny, Cecily Cardew is a character in The Importance of Being Earnest, and the author of the Gossip Girl books is Cecily von Ziegesar.
Description:The sophisticated Edmund and its nearly-identical French twin Edmond are coming out of mothballs now that Edward, inspired by Twilight, is once again a hot name.
Origin:German, diminutive of Margarethe
Description:Greta is an Old World name long tied to the exotic, iconic Garbo. Along with other Old Hollywood glamour names, Greta seems to be showing slight signs of a comeback; it was chosen by David Caruso and by Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline for their daughters.
Origin:Dutch and German, from first name Hendrik
Description:Hendrix is one of those hip rock and roll names, like Lennon, Jagger and Presley, that have been used by fellow celebs and others, to honor the seminal guitarist/singer/songwriter Jimi. And this one has the trendy 'x' ending, as well, helping to propel it up the charts and into the spotlight.
Meaning:"son of James"
Description:This is a strong new James varietal, sometimes shared by girls. An original way to honor Grandpa Jim, Jameson is swiftly moving up the charts, entering the Top 100 for the first time ever in 2017. Jameson is one of the hottest boy names starting with J, still the most popular first initial for boys' names. One small caveat: Jameson is also a brand of whiskey.
Origin:Swedish diminutive of Anna
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.
Origin:Latinate variation of Rose
Meaning:"rose, a flower"
Description:As sweet-smelling as Rose but with an international flavour, Rosa is one of the most classic Portuguese, Spanish and Italian names, which is also favored by upper-class Brits, having an ample measure of vintage charm. Rosa has been on the popularity charts for every year that's been counted, especially popular from the 1880s through the beginning of the twentieth century.
Description:Parents who like Ben and Benjamin but find those forms too popular sometimes consider Benedict as a more distinctive choice. Unlike the Old Testament Benjamin, Benedict is the name of the saint who formed the Benedictine Order and of fifteen popes,including a recent one.
Description:Lively and rhythmic version of Vivian heard in Italy and Spain. A vivid choice.
Description:Niall is pronounced nye-al--something like Neil, but this Irish spelling of the name makes it much more current and cool.
Description:In the Old Testament, God changed Sarai's name to Sara, so this would make a very legitimate variation.
Meaning:"God is listening"
Description:Could Simeon be the next Gideon? Parents seeking a less simple form of Simon might consider this biblical appellation that was chosen by Wynton Marsalis for his son. Simon is actually the Greek substitute for Simeon.
Origin:French from Latin
Description:Coralie is a French name not often heard here, though she's gaining some recognition via Neil Gaiman's similar sounding spooky and lovely children's book, Coraline. Other literary appearances: Coralie is the stage name of an actress in Balzac's Lost Illusions, and a French girl in an 1850 Thackeray novel.
Coralie is currently very popular in French-speaking Quebec, and there is a contemporary French singer named Coralie Clement.
Origin:Scottish variation of Isabel
Meaning:"pledged to God"
Description:The Scottish spelling of Isabel has a definite character of her own, the 'o' giving her an extra infusion of strength but also an element of confusion. How do you pronounce that? Answer: Exactly like Isabel or Isabelle.
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:French variation of Maximus
Description:Although often connected to the men's magazine title, Maxim is a chic and powerful name for a little boy. It's proving moderately popular too, having been in the Top 1000 in the US since the year 2000.
Origin:Italian variation of Alexander
Description:For anyone seeking a more exotic and unusual version of Alexander, this is a real winner.
Meaning:"pleasantness, charm, tenderness"
Description:Noam is an underused modern Hebrew name with any number of attractive attributes attached to its meaning; it doesn't have the biblical weight of Noah, but could make a more distinctive alternative to that popular choice. Noam is a Top 10 boys' name in Israel.
Origin:Russian variation of Anna
Description:Anja is one of the most exotic of several versions of Ann/Anna now being imported, also including Anya and Annika.
Origin:Elaboration of Clara
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.
Origin:English variation of Sadie
Description:When aspiring British writer Sadie Smith decided to change her name to the more distinctive and zippy Zadie at the age of fourteen, this attention-magnet name was born. But though it might sound like a modern initial-switch, Zadie was actually Number 539 in 1881, remaining in the Top 1000 for almost thirty years.
Description:Jolie is as pretty as its literal meaning; nowadays it is also seen as a girls’ name, via Angelina for whom Jolie was originally her middle name.
Origin:Female version of Morgan, Welsh
Description:Since Morgan is used as--or more--frequently for girls as for boys, this feminization has fallen by the wayside. It drew some brief attention via the pop singer Morgana King.
The similar Morgiana appears in Tales from the Thousand and One Nights.
Origin:French variation of Margaret; also a flower name
Description:Marguerite is a classic French name with a remnant of old-fashioned Gallic charm; and is also a variety of daisy. Chic again in Paris, it's definitely ripe for revival here.
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.
Description:Laurel takes Laura back to its meaning in nature, resulting in a gentle, botanical option. Even more directly than Laura, Laurel relates back to the laurel wreath signifying success and peace in ancient Rome.
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.
Meaning:"giving to God"
Description:This feminine form of Theodosius has long been buried deep in the attic, but might be a good discovery for the parent who wants to move beyond Theodora. Vice President Aaron Burr named a daughter Theodosia ("Dear Theodosia" is a song in the smash musical Hamilton), and it was the birth name of silent screen vamp Theda Bara. Theodosia actually appeared on the US popularity lists in the 1880s and 90s.
Origin:English from Persian
Description:Jessamine, a charming name occasionally heard in England, is just beginning to be appreciated in the U.S. as a possible successor to all the Jess names of the past. It's also spelled Jessamyn, as in Quaker novelist Jessamyn West, author of Friendly Persuasion--who started life with Jessamyn as her middle name.
Origin:Variation of Caroline; also place-name
Description:Languid, romantic, and classy, this variation heats up Caroline and modernizes Carol, adding a southern accent.