Classic Baby Names with a Twist
Classic baby names with a twist are exactly what they sound like — alternatives to traditional, historically common names that are just a little bit funky. If Alexander is too predictable, try Alessandro or Lysander. If Sarah isn’t interesting enough, go for Sarai or Zadie.
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, ordered by their current popularity on Nameberry.
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.
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: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.
Origin:English, diminutive of Christopher
Meaning:"bearer of Christ"
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.
Origin:French variation of Latin Sylvia
Meaning:"from the forest"
Description:Although Sylvia seems to be having somewhat of a revival among trendsetting baby namers, 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 international without being unfamiliar and has a cosmopolitan, international air. It debuted on the US Top 1000 in 2016.
Origin:Italian, feminine variation of Lucius, Latin
Description:Lucia is a lush, rich Latinate equivalent of Lucy, popular in Spain and throughout Latin America and also a cross-cultural favorite. You might be surprised to know that Lucia has ALWAYS ranked among the Top 1000 girl names in the US, though she's really taken off only since the turn of this century.
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'.
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.
Origin:Latinate form of Helen, Greek
Meaning:"torch; 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.
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!
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.
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.
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: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.
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 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 of 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.
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: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.