Wednesday, May 6, 2015


gordon castle
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 shows (including 80s sitcom "Alf"), but many older folks will recall a Gordon from "Walker, Texas Ranger," while literary buffs might think of the novel Gordon by Edith Templeton. Possibly the most well-known fictional character, however, is comic book hero Flash Gordon - second only to Gordon from the Batman comics.

For a name so young, several places in the U.S., Australia and Scotland are named Gordon, as well as motor manufacturers that are no longer producing vehicles, a nobility title (Duke of Gordon is the title, but there is a Viscount Gordon as well and several people with the surname Gordon were nobility with other titles), a castle, a printing press and a bomber plane.

The proof Gordon is ripe for a comeback: he ranked #935 in 2014, back on at last after it went missing after 2008. The name has been well used since 1880 and was given to more than 2000 boys from 1917 to 1960, explaining Gordon's heavy vintage feel.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


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 boys in 1918 on five boys.

Friday, May 1, 2015



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, both meaning "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-Celtic albi̯iū, 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 two meanings combined are legitimate, making Albion "white upper world." This would add a richer layer to Albion, considering there were ancient Celtic gods with Roman counterparts named Albiorix, which means "king of the world," and Albius. If Albion and Albiorix are actually related, and if albiorix and albus were born from the same word, that could mean Albion/Albiorix could have been the founding father of the Celtic tribe, possibly the same as Dis Pater, making this a baby name with some real weight.

Eventually Albion stopped meaning all Britain and only meant Caledonia. Scotland and sometimes all Britain was also referred to as Albany, but Albion is the oldest known name for the Britain, and Albany originated a bit later, partially as a title and partially as a nickname/variation, with stronger ties to Scotland. Scotland has been known as Alban/Albania and the Kingdom of Alba. Today, Albany is most used as a place name, but remains familiar as a baby name.

Related names include Albin, Alban, Alben, Alpin (Celtic) and Aubin (French). None have been popular recently, but in Roman and medieval times, and up to the 1930's, it was common. In 2015 on 8 boys were named Albion in the U.S., and since 1880 that number hasn't changed by more than a handful either way. The female forms of these names include Albinia, Albina,  Alva, Alvit, Alba, and Albia. Elaborations include Fioralba and Rosalba/Rosalva. These names share an etymology with the word albino.

As a baby name, Alban may be the longest used, from about the 13th century. Three saints share this name, but Saint Alban was the first British Christian martyr during Roman times or about 300 AD. Saint Alban of Mainz (Germany) and Saint Alban Roe (England) came later.

Albion is also used in William Blake's mythology and poems, about the son of Neptune/Poseidon, but this myth has been written about by others.

For a time, Canada was referred to as New Albion and Albionoria, though they were short lived.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nimue, Niniane or Nineve

The Lady of the Lake from The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights

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 threes). In Tennyson's Idylls of the King she is Vivien. Vivien(ne)/Vivian(e), although its own name, may have been inspired for this character by the Celtic water goddess Coventina and have no relation to Vivian of Latin origin, which was originally a unisex and/or masculine name meaning "alive." Her name as Niniane most likely comes from the Celtic word nino, meaning "ash" but it is so close in sound to Viviane that one must wonder which came first.

The Lady of the Lake is world famous for giving King Arthur the sword Excalibur, but her story is deeper than that. She was foster mother to Sir Lancelot, raising him underwater. Before that, Merlin met her and fell so in love that he agreed to teach her all of his magic. She was, for a time, his scribe, student and lover, but when she grew more powerful than Merlin she imprisoned him and may have taken over his duties to King Arthur, which may have led to Arthur's downfall. Yet, she was one of the three queens that escorted Arthur to Avalon. Every author shares his unique version of the story.

Nimue has always been a rare baby name, only given about 30 times in the U.S. Ninive has only recently had some use in the U.S. starting approximately 2004 just a handful of times a year. Niniane, Nyneve and Nineve seem to be the most elusive spelling choices. Vivian has always been popular, given to 2629 girls in 2013 which gives it a rank of #119 (Viviana is #445, and the French spelling Vivienne is #280). With the e at the end, however, Viviane and Viviene are much less popular options, with only 12 girls given the name Viviane and 7 given Viviene in 2013. Vivianne is somewhere between the two, not ranking but given to 75 girls in 2013

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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 son Pharnaces. Dara Shikoh (sometimes Dara  Shukoh) was an almost-Emperor of the Mughal Empire. Darius the Mede comes from the Book of Daniel and was said to have been king over the Chaldeans. Lastly, there was a Darius who was a politician in the Eastern Roman Empire.

Saint Darius (Saint Dario) was martyred in Nicaea, Turkey in the 4th century with Zosimus, Paul and Secundus.

For the spelling Dario, namesakes include Nobel Prize winner for literature Dario Fo, film makers Dario Marianelli and Dario Argento (father of actress Asia Argento), Italian poet Dario Belleza, soccer athletes Dario Šimić and Dario Vidošić, and Olympic gold medalist Dario Cologna all share the given name, but there are many more.

For the spelling Darius, namesakes include several athletes, musician Darius Rucker, cinematographer Darius Khondji, French composer Darius Milhaud and others less known. It has been used very little in fiction, and mostly recent.

Darien has the fewest namesakes and fictional characters - there are two actors, a journalist and obscure TV, game and books appearances.

In the mid-20th century this name was used more commonly. Today it ranks at #986 in the U.S. while Darius ranks at #412. Dario currently ranks in Croatia and Spain, and has been used well in Galicia and the Netherlands.

The international female version is Daria. "Daria" was a hit animated TV show from the 90's with a lead character of the same name. Saint Daria was martyred with her husband Chrysanthus in the 3rd century. Alternate spellings for Daria include Dariya, Darija, Dareia, Darya, and the lesser known international options Tarja, Darina, Darinka, Darushka, Derya, Daryna and Odarka. Daria currently ranks in Poland, England and Wales, and was last ranked in the U.S. in the late 90's. Dasha/Dasia are Russian, Ukranian and Polish nicknames. Daryā also means "sea" in modern Persian. Daria has more namesakes than all of the masculine versions of this name, most of which are atheletes.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


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 Greek goddess Hecate, although each is just different enough to be their own deity.

Mahina is also a place in French Polynesia and a small town in Mali, which is also a  French colony, which is in Africa.

Models Mahina Alexander and Mahina Garcia, and pro surfer Mahina Maeda are examples of this name. There is a band called Mahina Movement.

In 2013 Mahina was used 24 times for girls in the U.S., which is the most popular it has been. On the U.S. top 1000 it popped up in 1974. In 2013 it ranked #63 for names used in Hawaii with 15 births - meaning 9 girls named Mahina were born elsewhere last year. Surprisingly, not too many traditional Hawaiian girls names were on that list. In company with Mahina were Leilani, Kiana, Kira, Kalea, Kiara, Kalia, Anela, Kalena, Kaia and Kaila.

Friday, April 17, 2015


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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


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: Blood Fued," a newborn in Avatar: Legend of Korra, and a tree with the scientific name Mallotus Phillipenesis, also known as Kamala.

The House of Rohan is a French family of nobility from Rohan, Brittany. They claim ancestry from the noble Breton family of Porhoët and the legendary Celtic leader Conan Meriadoc who is said to have founded Brittany. It is commonly thought that Alain le Noir was the first to adopt Rohan as part of his name, and he built a chateau bearing the name. Vicomte Josselin de Porhoet, whose father built Josselin Castle in the 11th century (which is still owned by relatives to this day), had sons who bore the surname Rohan.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015



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 and 21 girls in 1918. After 1930 it was used on and off until 1964, until dropping out of the name race for a few decades only to reappear once in 2011, when it was used on 6 girls.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


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.

Monday, April 6, 2015



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 the name of a place, it is unclear what the etymology is. Most assume the meaning of lilikoi is literally "passionfruit." Lilikoi is quite unheard of as a baby name, although there is a pleasant song titled "Boy Lilikoi" by Jonsi.

Read about Plumeria, another baby name inspired by Hawaii here.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Shalimar_gardens srinagar
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 was built by Shah Jahan as well.

The Shalimar Gardens of Lahore, Pakistan are perhaps the most well known. This location had only been called Shalimar starting at the beginning of the 18th century, and the other locations that are today called Shalimar were also known by other names. Those of Lahore were built in 1641 during the rule of Shah Jahan. The Shalimar Gardens of Delhi were built in 1653. The Shalimar Garden of Ghaziabad may just be a city.

It was commonly believed that the word shalimar means "abode of love," or "abode of light/moonlight." However, the Russian scholar Anna Suvorova deduced the origin of the word must be Arabic-Persian, and its likely meaning is from the Arabic expression shah al-'imarat, "master of buildings." Since 'buildings' generally meant [institutional] gardens, one could say shalimar means "masterful garden."

As a baby name, Shalimar would work as well as other place and word names such as Forest, River or India, even though it is as unusual as Topanga, Aragon and Quillan. Due to its pleasing sound, it could even be categorized alongside Lorelei - a German place name/legend which is not actually used in Germany. Those with heritage that makes the Shalimar Gardens meaningful might like to use this in the first or middle spot.

In 2015 there were 5 baby girls named Shalimar.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


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.

Monday, March 30, 2015


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 English rūm lēah, 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. Before her death in 2010, de Romilly earned more than 20 different honors and awards.

Other real life namesakes include Samuel Romilly, a British legal reformer, blogger Romilly Newman, journalist Romilly Weeks and photographer Romilly Lockyer.

Most recently there is a character named Romilly (presumably his last name) in the 2014 film Interstellar.

Visit this site for more research on families with people named Romilly, surname and first name.

Friday, March 27, 2015



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 Girls" animated show and an appearance on "Dawson's Creek." In 2013 Blossom ranked at #430 in England and Wales, though it is unclear why.

Other Blossom's in history include Edith Marie Blossom Macdonald from "The Addams Family," known as Blossom Rock; jazz singer Blossom Dearie; vaudeville performer Blossom Seeley; novelist Clare "Blossom" Elfman; Blossom Nnodim, born Ozurumba Roseblossom Ogechi, from Nigeria.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Popular Surnames as First Names


The good folks over at, 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's statistics on the 25 most popular names from the 1960's.

Monday, February 2, 2015


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. Hannah has several forms other than Hania/Haniya and Chania/Chaniya. Some of them are Anita, Anja/Anya, Annika/Anika/Anica, Anka, Annushka, Jana, Nandag, Ania, Anais, Hanne, Hannele, Anniken, and Annikki.

Although Hania is so close in spelling to Hannah, it is very rare, with only 17 girls given the name in 2013. It also seems to have not been used before 1994.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

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 proud to shout it in front of people, it had to look at least respectable on a serious job application, couldn't start with a B to avoid undesirable initials, look and sound good with our last name, and be equally nice on a kid or a grandparent. It also had to be uncommon, because that's where my interest in names lies, but of course legitimate as well. It was equally important that the middle name had some connection to my family - as a bonus this would make the name substantial enough in case the first name turned out to be too rare. Lastly, I thought it should be a name I would love to have myself or wouldn't get tired of saying. (I'd like to think all this planning ensures that we will not regret our choice.)

The original ladies (first favorite ten from the start of our "name planning"):

Jilliana - I really thought this name was spunky and felt like "home." JiJi would have made a cute nickname, or maybe Jinny, and every time I hear both nicknames I immediately think of my childhood. Jilliana is surprisingly rare even though Jillian/Jill is so common, so I felt like this name could work well anywhere in life.

Calluna - this one is the botanical name for heather, and fit my last name very well. I got the image that Calluna would be free-spirited, love nature, and probably be a little bit of a smart-ass (in a good way). I've also always had a thing for Una, which would make an easy nickname - although Callie works, too.

Freya - the Norse goddess, whose chariot was drawn by two cats (major plus for my cat-loving self), who had a pet boar (awesome). However much I loved everything about Freya, she's uber popular abroad and is looking to get that way soon in the U.S. I predicted a few years ago that she'd soon be in the top 1000 and I was right. Then, when the "Witches of East End" show came on TV with its main character Freya I realized this was not the name I wanted. My main issue was with how dark her hair is in the show compared to the 'blondness' described in legend, and I know my child will not have blonde hair.

Fiamma - an Italian rarity meaning "flame." Also Fiammetta. I didn't think this would compliment my daughter's appearance or compliment our last name, but I still adore it. Other F names have won out against her more recently, such as Fruzsina, Faustina, Faunella and Fairuza because of my love of the letter u in first names to match my last name. Fairuza would have been especially perfect for a December baby (I wrote about her here).

Domenica or Dominika - a feminization of my maternal grandfather's name (who I never got to meet). I was thinking of calling her "little dove" to start with and then moving to Minna or Minka, which are so much fun to say. Rosamunda, Rosaline, RosmiraCarletta and Carolena are other plays on family names I considered.

Kolfinna - this Icelandic favorite of mine is Old Norse, composed of "Kol" (Cole) and "Finn," two currently popular male names. She's just charming, mysterious and exotic, like a little lady Viking or a smoky-eyed Valkyrie. She simply doesn't get along with my last name, but Vasilisa does, has a similar vibe, and is still on the list.

Sapphira - this name would connect to my September wedding, my grandmother's favorite stone, and a special place in Italy. It's an on-again, off-again love. The religious connection doesn't bother me. Other S-names ScarlettaSeferina, SeraphineSatia, Sebastiana, Satyana, Sabelina, and Saskia were also on the list.

Jasmina - the jasmine flower, not on the top 1000, very exotic and yet very familiar. Jacinda was similar and could lead to the nicknames Jinny or Jade.

Plumeria - I was so proud of finding this name, since I believe it was completely ignored before I first wrote about it. Among all the different flower names ever suggested, this one rarely makes it onto anyone's list. It was always on and off my list, with nicknames like Plum, Luma and Lumi. I later considered Polaris, equally unusual, and Pola/Polina.

Rumina - Rumina in Roman mythology was the goddess of nursing mothers, while there is a striking butterfly of the same name. I love Runa or Rumi as nicknames. She'll always be somewhere on my list, along with Rudolfina, Rixende and Richenza.

Others I considered: Oriana, Zorina, Miuccia, Serenella, Silveria, Stellifera, Solifera, Ursulina, Lisandra, Camellia, Casmilla, Castalia, Vitellia, Sunniva, Auriella, Umbrielle, Eufemia, Zenobia, Zinevra, Zelina, Mafalda, Olympia, Joscelina, Hildana, Indrina, Vesperia, Anaxandra, Milania, Almira, Amalita, Violetta, Loredana, Tomasina, Valerianella (by far the longest and frilliest), Melusina and Esmerina.

Middles: Gwendolen, Guinevere, Fable, Crystal, Emmanuelle, Ursuline, Chantal, Chantilly, Briar Rose, Charm, Shadow, Shalimar, Snow, Faustine, Estelle, Tanith, Ombeline, Umbrielle, Caspienne, Isabeau, Lux, Serenity, Roselle, Lorelei, Leilani, Ishtar, Rosemint, Marian, Elena, Melisande, Melusine, Scarlett, Violette, Iseult, Serenity and Tigerlily.

The gentlemen:

For boys, the early process was quite simple, and my full list hadn't changed in over five years - I'd choose between Caspian, Alaric, or Evander, and use either Gregory, Stellan, Salvatore, Atreyu or Archer as a middle name. Then when we found out it was a boy for sure, all of a sudden I panicked and redid my list about fifty times. Seeing the 3D ultrasound helped narrow down the final list, but when we saw the baby for the first time everything went out the window and only one made it back. He just looked so different from what we expected that nothing felt right for him.

Alaric - this one seems ancient and powerful, while fitting in with other names like Alec and Rick. He's all darkness and musk, ruggedly handsome, intelligent, and definitely a warrior. I did notice that he was getting talked about more often thanks to the Vampire Diaries show on TV, but not nearly enough to make him popular.

Evander - this was our top name for so long (six years!) thanks to his meaning, "good man," mythology roots and easy nickname of Ev. Then around 6 months pregnant my husband and I finally started sharing this option, and found that while absolutely everyone loved it... it was the most irritating thing to hear people pronounce that first E so dramatically. "EE-vander." Ugh, it only took two weeks for that "EE" sound to drive me insane. The Turkish name Evren, meaning "cosmos," took over for a short time after that.

Indy - while Indiana and Indigo seem to be girl names now, Indio and Iskander (an international variant of Alexander) were boy name options to get Indy as a nickname, but I couldn't find a way to make Indy + a full name work for us.

Cillian - someone distantly related to us used this before I could, and while we never see her it just felt wrong to use, and also like our son wouldn't feel unique knowing another one was so close by.

Caspian was another name I really, really loved and knew how easy it would be for a little boy to wear since pretty much everyone is familiar with either Prince Caspian or the Caspian Sea, but it didn't feel right as a winter name.

Archer - being pretty sure our son would be a Sagittarius, the archer, I was pretty sure this name or possibly Arrow would work somewhere in his name. We decided it was better as a middle name option due to rising popularity.

Rainer - this is a regal name that screams "rain" to me even though it means something like "war counsel" or "decision making warrior." In the end it just felt too summery, too blue-eyed, if that makes any sense. (Once I was overdue I had to start narrowing down the list any way possible because at 40 1/2 weeks I still had 8 names to choose from.) Roland was an alternate R-name and an anagram of my husband's grandfather, but we aren't particularly close and Rollo seemed like an undesirable nickname to me. Too bad because Roland has wonderful history. Ronan could have won out if not for his increasing popularity and, most recently being the name of the villain in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Casper - this little guy has so much potential nowadays, and even though the Casper the Ghost image is still fresh in a large portion of the population they seem to be getting over it. Now it seems refreshing and international. My personal issue with it is that I still have a girls name on my future-use list that competes with Casper for my affection, the two being extremely similar. Plus I still have Castalia and Casmilla on my girls list. For the same reasons I had to cut Casimir, though he suits our Polish roots, and Caspian, which I mentioned above.

Silvan - so woodsy, silvery and quietly magical, as well as honoring my family in three different ways, this was "the name" until we saw him and realized it didn't quite fit him. A back-up family name we pulled out last minute was Salvatore, but my husband liked what we finally chose just a tiny bit more. Stellan was the last S-name on our list but dang it, Stellan Skarsgard makes it seem like a blondes-only name. Maybe if my baby had "looked like" a Stellan I could have tried harder to keep it on the list, as it reminds me of quiet, warm winter nights when suddenly it rains instead of snows.

Aubin - here's one that's rare everywhere but France, the name of a little-known saint, and so unique but it fits right in with today's more popular choices. I fought for this one in the hospital but my husband quickly decided he didn't like it.

Other boy names considered: Macsen, Maksim/Maxim, Vero, Onnen, Tannen, Oren, Lonan, Hawthorn, Escher, Gustav, Jove, Jovan, Eoin, Jensen, Everest, Rubin, Onyx, Carsten, Sven, Oberon, Auberon, Auburn, Theron, Thurstan, Emmeric, Sander, Sullivan, Rhydian, Odin, Orion, Stefan, Dashiell, Mack, Gusten, Drystan, Thatcher, Thayer, Glastian, Howell, Howard, Caraway, Schuler, Shepherd, Sherwood, Sheridan, and Alasdair.

Middle names not mentioned above: Shadow, Oliver, Crispin, Oscar, Storm, Mercury, Valor, Cloud, Venture, Equinox, Hemlock, Maverick, Gunther, Tarragon, Coriander, Sorrel, Gunnar, Oak, Romaric, Sebastian, Malachite, Mercade, Robin and Rafferty.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


quillan france
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, Quillon and Quillian, all given far less often.

Quillon, however, is its own name - pronounced KEE-on, KEEL-lon, and KWILL-on (take your pick, as it seems even dictionaries disagree). In Latin it means "sword," and in French and Old German it means "club," from a word referring to a type of bowling pin (ninepin). In U.S. record it was only given once, in 1998, to 5 boys. A quillon is known to be a type of dagger and also the crossguard on a sword, but Quillon is also a city in Chile. As the word for the crossguard of a sword, quillon may have first been recorded in English in 1884 by R. F. Burton in The Book of the Sword.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


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.

Friday, January 23, 2015


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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


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 century Chanson de Guillaume, in which the name is spelled Orable and used for a princess of Saracen. (I suspect her name might be more about the river Orbieu than the Scottish name Orabel.) In the story the main character Guillaume marries her. Most recently, Orabelle has been given to a Belgian-style ale.

Orabel, any way you spell it, is an exceedingly rare name today with no babies given the name in recent years. Arabelle, however, is up to 111 births in 2013, and Arabella at 1,512 births in 2013, ranking at #210.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


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 winner Søren 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 fiction the name can be found on characters in The Matrix Reloaded film, Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child, The Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky, and the Underworld film series.

There is also the Søren Gyldendal prize, which is a Danish literary award named for a bookstore owner born in 1742 who founded Denmark's largest publishing house.