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Gordon

Gordon Castle

Gordon is a Scottish boy name meaning "great hill" or "spacious fort." It may have a different meaning in Old English and Irish. There are two possible origins - one, that it transferred in use from a Scottish or French place name, ultimately from the Gallo-Roman name Gordus (possibly "stream" or "whirlpool"), and two, that it was given in honor of Charles Gordon, an 1800's war hero. Regardless, Gordon is a relatively new baby name, beginning its history as a given name in the 19th century. The surname goes back to at least the 12th century and likely was born from several places instead of just one. Clan Gordon of Scotland is just one example.

Red Wings hockey star Gordie Howe, astronaut Gordon Cooper, composer Gordon Jenkins, prime minister Gordon Brown, chef Gordon Ramsey, physicist Gordon Gould, and writer Gordon Dickson are among many famous namesakes. In fiction, half the characters named Gordon are in children's TV …

Cofa

Cofa (KOH-fah) is an unusual name - if one can call it a name at all. The Old English word cofa means "cave" or "chamber," from older Proto-Germanic roots, and it's also where we get the word cove. The surname Coventry also claims cofa as the first part of its etymology. Cofa has many acronyms, such as the College of Fine Arts. Still, for adventurous namers, Cofa proves right on trend being a legitimate word-name like Thatcher or Forest, and a boy's name ending in A, like Luca, Santana and Ezra. It even has the popular O sound, like Koa, Cole, Noah and Jericho. Since it's not used as a traditional name it can also be used for girls, similar in sound to Coco, Chloe, Sofia, Cora, and Siofra. Given its obscurity it may also appeal to those on the hunt for a truly one-of-a-kind name that no one else has.

The straightforward Cova has proven more desirable, used in the U.S. between 1913 and 1952, never on more than twelve girls in a year and only once for boy…

Albion

Albion (AL-bee-on), one of the many old names for Britain, is a boy's name from the Latin albus or Proto-Indo-European albho, bothmeaning "white."

One legend has it that Albion was a giant and the son of the god Neptune. After Neptune put Albion in charge of ancient Britain it was named after him - possibly in the form Alebion. The legend obviously isn't true, but Albion is indeed ancient, and could possibly be older than the Latin albus, and it might have a much longer story. If the popular theory that Albion's etymology of "white" refers to the white cliffs of Dover is not where the story ends, then it would have an older origin. It is most likely the island's old name is from Proto-Celticalbi̯iū,meaning "world," although it could have started as a PIE word meaning "white," which would tie it together nicely. As "world," the specific meaning is "upper world," as opposed to the underworld. Many suggest the t…

Nimue, Niniane or Nineve

Nimue (NEE-mu-ay, NEEM-way, NIHM-oo-ay) is an Arthurian baby name and just one name given to the Lady of the Lake, also known as Niniane, Vivian (multiple spellings), Evienne, or Nivien. Some have claimed she is, or represents, a triple goddess, due to the fact that her names could come from the goddesses Coventina, Nemain, and Mnemosyne (and the Celtic love of triple personifications is well known).

Nimue may be a corrupted form of Nineve, which may have been taken from Nineveh, a city in Syria, which is an Assyrian name that ultimately means "a habitation of rebels." If not, it may be taken from Mnemosyne (meaning "memory") a water nymph from Greek mythology whose story was a bit similar. As Nimue could be a spelling error, along with Nynyve, Nynyue and Ninive, there is no set-in-stone pronunciation. In Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur there are three different spellings used: Nimue, Ninive and Nineve/Nyneve (perhaps on purpose because all good things come in …

Dario, Darius, Daria

Dario, pronounced DAHR-ee-oh, is the masculine Italian form of the Latin Darius and Greek Dareios. Ultimately it comes from Persian name Dārayavahush, simplified to Dariush, meaning "he who holds firm the good," or "to possess good, to possess well" but is sometimes taken to mean "preserving good,"  "upholding good," or "protector." The English name Darien (#1000 in 2013) can be either from the Latin or Greek form, or from the questionable Irish Gaelic name Darren, meaning "great."

Three ancient Persian kings had this name - Darius I, Darius II, and Darius III, the first of which was Darius the Great. Rulers Darius I and Darius II of Media Atropatene also shared the name. Prince Darius the son of King Mithridates VI of Pontus is another, and his father claimed he was a descendant of Darius the Great and/or Cyrus the Great, and Mithridates also had a grandson named Darius of Pontus, though he was a child of Mithridates's s…

Mahina

Hula Mahina (source)
Mahina is a Hawaiian name meaning "moon." In Hawaiian mythology Mahina was a moon deity. In some versions Mahina has a son, Hema, but in other accounts he and his brother Puna had a mother named Hina (which means "girl") who was upset by her children and fled to the moon. Hina was also the name of several goddesses in Polynesian mythology, but in Hawaii she was strongly connected to the moon. By fleeing to the moon she becomes its goddess. A different woman, Hina of Hilo, was known as the Hawaiian Helen and kidnapped by Prince Kaupeepee of Molokai. The goddess Mahina or Hina may also be the same as Hawaiian goddess Lona, who fell in love with the mortal man Aikanaka, and their story ends with both dying peacefully of old age. All three of these goddesses, regardless if they are one in the same, may have been based on the Roman goddess Luna, who is essentially the same as Greek goddess Selene, Greek goddess Artemis, Roman goddess Diana and Gre…

Koa

Koa is a unisex Hawaiian baby name and the name of a tree that grows on the islands. The tree itself - acacia koa, is more closely related to peas than trees and is the biggest tree on the Hawaiian islands. The wood is used for all sorts of things and is absolutely beautiful on a finished product, and one of the most traditional uses was for canoes. Koa, pronounced KO-ah, means "strong, brave."

Koa Thomas is a son of Tom Dumont from the band 'No Doubt.' Irish pop star Kian Egan also has a son named KoaKoa Smith is a competitive surfer in Hawaii.

Sometimes Koa is part of a longer Hawaiian name, such as Kekoa or Nakoa. Koa had been used in the U.S. since at least 1978 but probably much longer in Hawaii. At first it was hardly used, but after 2000 it really jumped in usage for boys - from 17 boys and 10 girls in 2000 to 107 boys and 11 girls in 2013.  It is still considered rare.

Rohan/a

Rohan (for boys) and Rohana (for girls) mean "to ascend" in Sanskrit. It is pronounced ROW-han in Sanskrit, however, some say this is an alternate or a French spelling of the Anglicized Irish name Rowan, meaning "red-haired," and the pronunciation for that would be closer to RO-an. Currently #601 in the U.S., Rohan was given to 419 boys in 2013. It is used less since the mid-2000's and not at all before 1969. Rohana, on the other hand, is strictly a Hindi name and only started being used around 2006 and was only given to 5 girls in 2013 - a dramatic difference. As a boys name it is also doing well in England and Wales.

Rohan Kanhai, a cricket player, made this a household name in the Caribbean (and there are four more cricket players named Rohan). Film maker Rohan Fernando, Bob Marley's son Rohan Marley, and actor Rohan Chand all share the name.

Rohan is also a place name used in The Lord of the Rings, a real French place name, a role-play game "Rohan: B…

Osa

Osa is a rare name, likely the Anglicized spelling of Aase, a variant of Åse, an Old Norse feminine name (and name element) meaning "god." Surprisingly, it also means "godlike" in African Bini. There is an Osa in The Dictionary of African Mythology

Unfortunately, Osa in all capital letters - OSA, stands for 'obstructive sleep apnea.' Osa is also Russian and Polish for "wasp" and the Spanish equivalent of ursa, "bear." I don't find any of these too negative to remove Osa from being seriously considered as a name today, and in fact I find the nature meanings a plus.

Osa Johnson and husband Martin were explorers focused on the wild habitats of exotic countries who made documentary films.

Danish actress Osa Massen, a stunning beauty, was born in 1914. She was born Aase Iverson Madsen and started her career as a newspaper photographer.

Osa was not unheard of between 1880 and 1920. The most it was given, however, was to 21 girls in 1892 …

Quade

Quade is a boy's name that sounds like Quinn and Wade. Only 34 boys were given this name in 2013 - no girls. That number hasn't varied much since the 1980's when it started being used regularly, and I can't help but wonder if part of its usage was inspired by actor Dennis Quaid, who started acting in the 70's, or maybe his brother Randy Quaid. Quade started life as McQuade, a Scottish clan name.

Rugby player Quade Cooper is the most well-known namesake with Quade as a first name, while baseball coach Mike Quade might be the most well-known namesake with that surname. Quade Hermann is a female radio host for CBC.

Lilikoi

Lilikoi, sometimes written liliko'i, is what the Hawaiians call passion fruit, although passiflora edulis is native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Passiflora literally means "suffering flower," given the name by Catholic missionaries who wanted the name to reflect the Passion of Christ. Either yellow or dark purple, the passion fruit smells and tastes sweet and tart, and is found in many commercial products from shampoo to juice. In Hawaii, lilikoi-flavored syrup is very popular, as well as jams, jellies and butters. The purple and yellow varieties are special in that these are the only two varieties grown commercially - the majority produced in Hawaii.

Lilikoi is pronounced LEE-lee-ko-ee, and said speedily it sounds like LIL-ih-koy. Where did the Hawaiian name for passion fruit come from? When seeds of the plant came from Australia to Hawaii in 1880 they were planted in the Lilikoi Gulch of East Maui (Lilikoi District in Makawao or Haiku, Maui). With Lilikoi being …

Shalimar

Shalimar Gardens of Srinagar

The Shalimar Gardens were built between 1619 and 1653, while the Renaissance period was happening in European countries, Portugal and Russia, by the Mughal Emperors of the Indian Subcontinent. Collectively the gardens are known as the Mughal gardens, because there are four total with the name Shalimar, located in Lahore, Ghaziabad, Delhi, and Srinagar. However, this style of garden was nothing new, and could be traced back to Persia, probably around 600 BC.

Shalimar Bagh in Srinagar came first. It originated as a cottage for the ruler Pravasena II, who founded the city of Srinagar and ruled in Kashmir. Over time the cottage deteriorated, but Emperor Jahangir found it again in 1619 and decided to make it bigger and more beautiful to please his wife. It became the imperial summer residence of Jahangir and his wife, Nur Jahan, and their entire court. In 1630 it was extended by his son, Shah Jahan, who is also famous for the Taj Mahal. Shalimar Bagh of Delhi …

Sutton

Sutton in an English unisex name meaning "from the southern homestead/south settlement," which could make it the perfect name for someone with Southern roots. In 2013 Sutton ranked at #832 for girls, making great leaps in popularity. Unfortunately it does not rank on the boy's side - the difference in numbers being 316 girls in 2013 and 183 boys, but it has been used for both since at least 1963. Regardless of gender, it is still better known as a place name, used internationally.

Sutton Foster, broadway star, currently stars in the new TV show "Younger" on TV Land, and here's a fun fact: the story is based on a book of the same name by Pamela Redmond Satran, one of the co-founders of baby naming website Nameberry.

In other TV history, Sutton Mercer was a character played by Alexandra in The Lying Game, which has since been cancelled. Sutton Foster is really the only well-known real life namesake.

Romilly

Romilly is a French place name and English surname. Ultimately the French form of this unisex name derives from the Latin name Romulus, meaning "of Rome," while an English meaning derives from Englishrūmlēah, meaning "spacious wood clearing (meadow)."

The title Baron Romilly was created in 1866 for Sir John Romilly of French Huguenot descent. The title ended in 1983 with no heirs left to hold the name. Lately Romilly has been picking up interest as a modern girl's name, especially with potential nicknames Romy and Milly. However, Romilly is so rare that it has only been given to 7 girls starting in 2013.

Jaqueline de Romilly was a very interesting woman. She was a French scholar who was suspended from teaching during the Occupation of France because of her Jewish ancestry. Later she became the first woman elected into the College de France, being especially gifted with Greek, Latin and philosophy. Then she became the second woman to enter Académie française. Be…

Blossom

Blossom as a baby name is not a new idea - many will recall the TV show "Blossom" that ran from 1990 - 1995, with main character Blossom Russo and her best friend Six (Six created some buzz when it was recently used in the movie "Syrup," and in name evolution, Seven is now trendy). As sticky-sweet or silly as Blossom might seem to some, she fits right in with popular Lily, is as ordinary as Fern, and stands out just as much as Petal. For those still unwilling to consider Blossom, German Bluma might seem more substantial.

Blossom is an Old English word that ultimately came from a Germanic word taken from Proto-Indo-European, about as far back as it gets. As a name, Blossom was always rare in both the U.S. and U.K., but it gained a little momentum in the 1920's, making it onto the bottom of the SSA chart. It likely started as a pet name for young girls. Surprisingly, the 90's TV show didn't make a dent, nor did the character from the "Powderpuff Gir…

Popular Surnames as First Names

The good folks over at Crestleaf.com, a genealogy site, have worked on ranking the most popular surnames-turned-first-names currently being used. Shown above are the five most popular surnames given to boys and girls, as current as 2013. Here are the following current rankings:
1. Mason #4 2. Jackson #16 3. Carter #32 4. Hunter #36 5. Landon #39
1. Madison #9 2. Avery #12 3. Harper #16 4. Riley #45 5. Mackenzie #62
If you enjoyed this, please visit Crestleaf.com's statistics on the 25 most popular names from the 1960's. *edit - Sorry, this site no longer exists.

Hania

Hania (HAN-yah, HAH-nee-uh) is a Hebrew variation of Chania/Channah, meaning "resting place; grace of the Lord" and also a Polish diminutive of Hannah, meaning "grace, gracious." Hannah is an Old Testament name which became Anna in the New Testament. Chania is also a city in Crete which the Greeks called Kydonia, meaning "quince." Spelled Haniya this name is taken to mean "to be happy."

There are a few namesakes for Hania - most recently Vin Diesel chose this name for his daughter, but also Polish pop singer Hania Stach, English actress Hania Barton (sister to Mischa), and Hania Mufti, a human rights activist from Jordan.

In the Bible this was the name of the mother of the prophet Samuel. Hannah was a childless woman who prayed to God for children and was then blessed with six of them. Samuel became a warrior and judge of Israel. The name Hannah was not used regularly until after the Protestant Reformation, but it was favorited by the Puritans. …

Names I could not use (but wanted to)

Now that my son is here, I've decided to post my list of runners-up - the names that didn't quite make the cut. I'll try to keep this list as short as possible by only including the most recent or meaningful choices, since I've considered hundreds of names over the years. Any of the names you're about to see would have been great choices for our family, but didn't win out against our top name, which did not start out as our favorite but turned out to be the only one that looked good on him.

Since I am so indecisive, I researched all of these names, made lists of possible sibling pairings, and wrote my top names down over and over again, constantly re-evaluating. One thing we did not do was ask for opinions on our top names or tell people what we had on our list, because we didn't want reactions to sway our decision one way or the other (partly because after sharing only one name early on, I immediately fell out of love with it).

Other criteria: I had to be pr…

Quillan

Quillan, France

Quillan has two accurate pronunciations: KILL-an and KWILL-an. As an Irish Gaelic boys name pronounced the first way shown it means "cub," and as a variation on the English word name quill, pronounced the second way, it refers to the feather of a bird. Either way, Quillan fits right in with all of the popular names ending with an n.

Quillan also happens to be a town in France that is quite picturesque, as you can see above. As far as namesakes go, Quillan Roberts is a Canadian soccer player, Quillan Isidore is a BMX racer, and Quillan Nagel is a poker player, but none are very well known. In fiction, The Quillan Games is a book by D. J. MacHale, and there is a Star Wars character named Quillan.

Spelled Quillan the name has only been given to boys in the U.S. since about 1982, and although it is now given every year (before 2000 it was given sparingly) it is still incredibly rare - only 9 boys received the name in 2013. It has also been spelled Quillen, Quill…

Zivanka

This Slavic name meaning "full of life" can be pronounce sh-VAWN-ka or, less often zee-VAHN-ka. It is also sometimes a variant of Ziva, a Hebrew name meaning "radiant" or "splendor." There are only a small handful of people in the U.S. named Zivanka, and it is mainly used in Czechoslovakia. Zivan is her male counterpart.

Dover

Dover is a place name from an ancient Celtic word dubra, meaning "water," or another older word meaning "separated beach." and applies to the British seaport of the English Channel. Dover the town came from the river named Dour flowing through it, from the same root word. Dover saw many different spelling options, such as Douer and Dower, before its current spelling stuck. It is otherwise a popular place name and business name, but as a given name in the U.S. it has never been popular - only given every few years between 1914 and 1973 and never to more than 13 babies a year.

Orabel

Orabel is a medieval Scottish variant of Arabella, from the Latin orabilis, meaning "prayerful; invokeable." Other variants include Orabilis, Orabilia, Orabella, Arabelle, Orbella and Arbelle, but it has seen a handful of other spelling options. Some of those spellings, such as Orbel, became surnames. Ora is another form, simply from oro, meaning "to pray." As Orabel, an Anglicized form of Orabilia, the name was used more commonly in the 13th century and on. Arabella, also Scottish in origin, didn't become as well known until the 16th century.

Ora could easily be a nickname, but as a full name it has some namesakes: Ora Alexander, a blues singer; Ora Carew, a silent film actress; Ora Washington, a tennis player; and most recently Rita Ora, a British singer. This name was used in the early 1900's in America and last ranked in 1962. Ora was also a Balto-Slavic (Albanian) goddess or spiritual guardian.

One of the earliest/only uses of Orabel was in the 12th ce…

Soren

A sketch of Søren Kierkegaard by his cousin
Soren (American prn SOR-en) is a Danish and Norwegian boy's name that currently ranks at #656 in the U.S., #279 in France, but not high in Denmark or Norway (and may in fact be considered dated there). It is a variant of Severus, meaning "stern." The correct Danish/Norwegian spelling is Søren and pronounced SUU-ren, while Sören is the German and Swedish spelling and pronounced SIR-in. Severin is another variant found in France, Germany and Sweden - and is also the name of Saint Severin of Cologne. The female forms are Severina and Severa.

The most famous namesake is 19th century philosopher and Nobel Prize winnerSøren Kierkegaard who is thought to be linked to existentialism. More recently there is an American fencer named Soren Thompson, former Danish footballer Soren Andersen, American inventor Soren Sorensen Adams and several others. New Zealand singer Anika Moa recently welcomed baby Soren Huia with partner Natasha.
In fic…