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Tana

Tana River, Kenya (source)

Tana can be pronounced TAH-nah or TAN-uh, whichever you prefer. It can be a short form of Tanya or Tatiana in Russian, which comes from the Roman cognomen Tatius and is assumed to mean "from the house of Tatius," however could mean "I arrange" or "founder." It is also an Anglicized spelling of Arabic Thana, meaning "praise." It can even be a nickname for Tiziana, from Titus, Latin meaning "honored."

In the arts Tana is a character in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, a reporter in the Superboy comics, and a video game character in Fire Emblem. In real life there is Cayetana "Tana" Ramsey, wife of Gordon Ramsey, Czech actress Tana Ficherova, Thai footballers Tana Sripandum and Tana Chanabut, children's book author Tana Hoban, and Irish novelist Tana French. There's also a Gujarati (Indian) legend about twins Tana and Riri, born around 1564, who commited suicide in refusing to sing…

Alvis & Elvis

Some might expect that the popularity of Elvis would've died down decades after 'The King' made it a household name, but it's still ranking on the top 1000 (although it will only be a year or two before it falls off). That means some parents are still looking for something similar but not as common, and that's where Alvis (AL-viss) comes in. This Scandinavian boy's name meaning "all wise" from the word alwiss is a truer form of Elvis, both likely coming from the same origin.

Alviss was the dwarf who courted Thor's daughter, but Thor was not happy with the arrangement and put a sad end to it. Alvis Darby was an American football player. Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. was the birth name of musician Buck Owens. Hayes Alvis was a jazz musician. Max Alvis was a Major League baseball player. It's also been used in two video games and an anime.

Alvis is really only used in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, where it is not common. While the spelling Alviss has not …

Damiana

Damiana herb

Damiana (dah-mee-AH-nah) is a girl's baby name meaning "to tame" in Greek, making it the female version of Damian. It was given to 22 girls in 2016, and although it has been used since 1915, the most it was ever given was 33 times in a year, making it very rare. This is a little hard to believe considering the popularity of Damian, which currently sits pretty at #123, with Damien at #279. Damia (DAH-mee-uh) is another girl's option, except she was a Greek nature goddess - a "Hora," which meant a season personified. Damia is used a little bit more, given to 40 girls in 2016, but she's only been used since 1971. In Greek, Damia comes from da, "earth," and maia, "nursing mother." Damia was another name for the goddess Demeter.

Damia is a place in Jordan, the stage name of Marie-Louise Damien, and a 1992 novel by Anne McCaffrey.

Damiana is a plant, Turnera diffusa, with pretty yellow blooms. It is native to Texas, Mexico, C…

Lucan

Knights of the Round Table

Lucan (LUU-kahn) is a boy's baby name from Arthurian legend. Sir Lucan was a Knight of the Round Table, son of Duke Corneus, brother of Sir Bedivere and cousin of Sir Griflet. He was in charge of the royal court as part of his duties in Camelot. In these stories, Lucan stays by Arthur's side until the very end of their lives, and he was consider endlessly loyal and reliable. Ironically, Arthur Lucan was an English actor (1885 - 1954).

Another namesake was known as Lucan in English, but his full name was Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, grandson of Seneca the Elder. In Latin, Lucan is simply a version of Luke and Lucas, from the Roman cognomen Lucanus. Lucanus means "from Lucania," an ancient Roman city, the name of which derived from Greek loukas, meaning "white," cognate with the Latin word lux, meaning "light." Lucania itself has been used a few times as a girl's baby name, as have the personal names Lucano and Lucana. The…

Chariton & Charis

Charis anius

Chariton (KAR-ih-ton), male, and Charis (KAR-iss), female, both mean "grace" in Greek. It is from these that we get the names Carissa and Charisma, and Haris (not to be confused with Harris).

Chariton of Aphrodisias was a 1st century Greek novelist. Saint Chariton the Confessor was a Christian saint native to Iconium.

Charis is a fictional nation in the Safehold series by David Weber. Charis is a metalmark butterfly genus in the species Riodinini. In Greek mythology, a Charis is one of the Charites - goddesses of grace, beauty, charm and feminine warmth. Charis was given to 70 girls in 2016, slowing down a bit in use since its high of 127 girls in 2006. It has been used in the U.S. since 1924.

Charissa and Carissa are much more well known than Charis, and yet they're still pretty uncommon. If you look at the statistics for Carissa, she shoots straight up from 8 girls in 1053 to 1157 girls given the name in 1992, then straight back down to a mere 126 in 2016.…

Embla

Embla and Ask were the first humans created by Odin, Vili, and Ve, three gods in the Old Norse pantheon. Embla was carved from an alder tree and Ask was carved from an ash tree. Their story is found in the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Embla (EM-bluh) sounds a bit like the word emblem, giving it a shiny nobility sort of feel. Contrary to popular belief, there is no "blah" sound in it. The last three lettters are like you're going to say "blush." It is used in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland (where it last ranked #7 in 2015). However, there are no U.S. statistics. Most believe her meaning is "elm tree," from Old Norse almr, but no one is quite certain. Another suggested meaning is "vine," and with that meaning the name has been connected to the Persian version of the Adam and Eve story, who were also made from trees. It is very possible that because this mythology is so old, something got lost in translation or throughout the yea…

Mercia

This Anglo-Saxon place name would also work quite well as a baby name for girls. The English kingdom of Mercia, which was part of a heptarchy during the 8th century, derived from the Old English word merce, meaning "border people," also found as mryce and mierce. It is ultimately from a root word meaning "boundary." The kingdom was independent from the 6th century to the 9th century. Mercia is typically pronounced mer-SEE-uh.

Sometimes this name is found as a variant of Mercy and pronounced mer-SEE-uh, but it may have also been a variant of Marsha and pronounced MER-sha. As for namesakes, Mercia MacDermott was a writer of Bulgarian history, and Mercia Deane-Johns is an Australian actress.

Mercia is a very rare baby name in the U.S. In 2016 it was only given to 5 girls, and although it has been used every now and again since 1918, it has never been given more than 9 times in a year.

Rochester

Rochester Castle in Kent

Place-name meets preppy bookworm, the Old English name Rochester is a bit of Chester and a bit of a handsome classic like Robert, Rockwell or Roderick. In England, -chester/cester is a suffix meaning "fort, soldier camp." It comes from Latin castrum, dating back to ancient Roman times. Therefore the boy's name Chester means "soldier camp," and Rochester means "stone fortress." It seems like using Rochester is a perfect way to honor a Chester in the family tree, or Chester or Chet could be Rochester's nickname.

Most are familiar with the city of Rochester, NY or Rochester, MI, but there are several more place names in the U.S. and abroad. Namesakes include Rochester Van Jones in "The Jack Benny Program," Rochester Neal of "The Dixie Nightingales" band, musician Rochester Fosgate, and four songs with Rochester in the title. As a surname it is not uncommon. There are also the titles Baron and Earl of Roch…

Rodion

Rodion, a musician from Rome (pic source)
A Slavic boy's name of Greek origin, Rodion (ROW-dee-on except for Russia, where it is ROD-ee-own) sounds a bit like a high-fashion design house, a bit like a type of metal or element, and a lot like it has a deep history. Rodion comes from Herodion, Herod, Heroides, meaning "hero's song." A few rulers of ancient Judea were named Herod, at least one of whom was also known by Rodion, and there's Saint Herodion of Patras, a Holy Apostle, who has been known as Rodion.

There are several Russian, Croatian, Austrian, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Antillean and Romanian namesakes, and at least one fictional character - the protagonist of Crime and Punishment by world-renowned author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. However, the name has only been seen in U.S. data twice. It was given to 6 boys in 2009 and 5 in 2011. Rodya is a Russian variant.

Gennara & Gennaro

Gennara (jen-NAR-uh) is the Italian word and name meaning "January." In Latin the meaning was "devoted to Janus." Gennaro (jen-NAH-row), the male version, was on the SSA top 1000 twice - once in 1911 and then in 1913. Gennara has no SSA data, but the other spelling option Genara was used a handful of times - four separate years, no more than 11 times in a year. Jenara is the Spanish form.

There is a Saint Gennara and a Saint Gennaro. Gennara of Albitina may have been two women with the same name, martyred at the same time. Saint Gennaro, also known as Saint Januarius I of Benevento, was the patron saint of Naples, Italy, martyred in the 4th century. There was also Blessed Gennaro Sarnelli.

There was royalty with the name Gennaro as well - Prince Gennaro Carlo Francesco of Naples and Sicily, who was the son of Ferdinand IV, and Prince Gennaro Maria Immacolata Luigi, also known as Prince Januarius, the Count of Caltagirone and Prince of Bourbon-Two Sicilies who died …

Valerian

9th century apse mosaic of Saints Valerian and Cecilia
Valerian (vul-AYR-ee-en) is a boy's name you might think is a little bit more popular than it really is, thanks to the recent movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (originally the comic Valerian and Laureline). But there were none (or less than five boys given the name per year) since 2010. Before then it was not given to more than 17 boys in any year since 1880, when the SSA records begin. Female counterpart Valeriana (and her French form Valériane), however, had been much more rare - only used 5 times in 1999 and 6 in 2016. Valerian means "strong" in Latin.

Valerian sounded familiar before the movie, however, because of the flowering plant of the same name, used in sleep tea and as a medicinal herb since ancient Roman and Greek times.

Valerian was the name of a 3rd century Roman emperor and his grandson, the Roman Caesar Valerian II. Namesakes also include, but are not limited to, an 8th Duke of Wellin…

New Nature Baby Names

Unless noted, none of these names were used by either gender in 2016. All listed would be considered rare.
Ambrette Anise - 13 girls Bay - 33 girls, 8 boys Basil - 22 girls, 60 boys
Betony Birch - 11 boys
Blossom - 40 girls
Briony - 6 girls Caraway
Catkin Cedar - 40 girls, 132 boys
Celandine Chamomile
Cherry - 40 girls
Chervil Chicory Clary - 11 girls
Cloud - 31 boys
Clove
Corbeau Cypress - 43 girls, 64 boys
Damiana - 22 girls Davana
Delta - 39 girls
Flower - 5 girls
Henna - 27 girls
Hickory
Jessamine - 11 girls
Lilac - 17 girls
Lotus - 88 girls
Neroli Onycha Palmarosa
Parsley
Perilla
Petal - 5 girls
Plumeria
Prairie - 16 girls
Ravensara
Ravine
Siasmin
Sorrel
Sova
Spruce
Sunflower - 7 girls
Swan
Tamarix
Tannen - 6 boys
Tarragon Thistle
Tigris/Tigress
Tonka
Tonquin Valerian - (6 Valeriana)
Valley - 15 girls
Vervain
Vetiver
Vivendel
Warionia
Yarrow

Eugene & Eugenie

Napoleon III, Eugenie, and their Son for Adoption Siamese Ambassadors, by Jean-Leon Gerome

Eugene is a boy's baby name of Greek origin, coming from the word eugenes, meaning "well-born," as in "noble." In my little corner of the world this name was regarded the same way the character Eustace acted in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia - a bit of a dweeb, a dated name, and very annoying. But there is always more to a person than meets the eye, and name judgement can be unnecessarily harsh. That is why I was thrilled to hear the love interest's real name in Disney's Tangled (2010) animated film: he goes by Flynn Rider, but he reveals his birth name Eugene. He expressed a sort of embarrasement that his name was Eugene, much the same way actor Jim Carrey did when revealing his middle name was Eugene.

While Flynn went from almost rare and 81 boys given the name in 2010, to 212 the next year and still rising, Rider only went up a little bit and came back d…

Sveva

Sveva della Gherardesca

With Italy releasing some name popularity statistics recently, I couldn't help but notice a girl's name that looks very Scandinavian, but isn't. Unique to Italy's top 100 and unheard of in the U.S., Sveva (SVAY-vah) could be a German import, meaning "Swabian," from the archaic word Svebia and referring to a historical region in southwestern Germany, but the modern Italian word for Swabian is 'sveva,' at least according to Google translate. You can trace Swabia to Suebi, all the way back to Proto-Slavic or Indo-European swe, meaning "one's own [people]." It is a very ancient people (with the coolest coat of arms).

This name reminds me of other place/people names, such as Sabine, Roxelana and Sarazine, which I recently researched. Sveva ranked #61 in Italy in 2015 with the name given to 659 girls total, and that number dropped a bit to 546 girls in 2016. The only use it ever saw in the U.S. was 5 times in 2005.

It …

Carew

Carew Castle
This Welsh boy's name meaning "fort near/on a slope" or "fort on the water" came from a place name in Wales which later became a castle. Locally it is pronounced the same as Carey, but others do pronounce it CAYR-ew.  It is cognate with the Cornish word kerrow, meaning "fort" as well, but it is also listed as meaning "chariot" or "run" in Latin. Crew seems to be a variant of this origin.

Carew as a surname has famous namesakes that include Nobel prize winner John Carew Eccles, Baseball Hall of Fame member Rod Carew, and poet/author and diplomat Thomas Carew. In literature there is the character Mad Carew in The Green Eye of the Yellow God by Milton Hayes.

I find this an interesting surname alternative for Andrew, which is eternally popular (#34 last year). It could honor an Andrew in the family tree with its spelling, or a Carey. It has no U.S. data, making it extremely rare.

Heliabel

The Damsel of the Sanct Grael by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Heliabel is a name taken from King Arthur chivalric romances outside of the Vulgate cycle. In The Evolution of Arthurian Romances by James Douglas Bruce, he claims Heliabel, alternatively spelled Helizabel, was a corruption of Elizabeth. If this is the case, it might not be wrong to assume the pronunciation is hel-LY-za-bell. That does not mean Heliabel is pronounced hel-LY-uh-bel, because pronouncing it hel-LEE-uh-bell seems more intuitive, and there are rumors that this spelling was influenced by Greek helios, meaning "sun." Bruce says these are "obviously mere corruptions" of Elizabeth because in other versions the character King Pelles's daughter is named Elizabeth after John the Baptist's mother. Elisabel was found as a variant of Elizabeth in medieval French. In a review written for an article by Ferdinand Lot, found in Romantic Review, Volume 10, it says that Heliabel lost her virginity to Lance…

Sova

Adopt a snowy owl

Here's another could-be name - one that exists as a word, but not as a name in the U.S. Sova (SO-vah) means "owl" in Czech, Slovenian, Slovakian, Bosnian and Croatian. This feminine noun comes from Proto-Slavic sova.
"Little owl" is cute as a nickname, but short and elegant Sova really brings something special to the table as a given name. In the U.S. this has not been used as a name more than 4 times in any given year, leaving us no SSA data. It does not appear on recent popularity charts in the countries in which it means "owl."

Could-be names ending in -fera

Apis mellifera, aka Western Honey Bee

The suffix -fera for girls and -fer for boys (as in Lucifer) is a New Latin nomitive neuter plural meaning "bearing." Some examples of plant and animal related words with the suffix -fera are as follows:

Caelifera, "heaven-supporting," which is a taxonomic suborder of grasshopper
Ensifera, "sword-bearing," which is a genus of hummingbird
Indigofera, "bearing indigo," a genus of beans
Loricifera, "breastplate bearer," marine animals with a protective casing
Porifera,"pore-bearing," sea sponges
Mangifera, "mango-bearing," the mango tree
Stolonifera, "branch-bearing," types of sea coral
Rotifera, "wheel-bearing," a phylum organism

There are other words ending in -fer, such as bellifer, "making war," and mellifer, "carrying honey," where the word could be used in the feminine sense, so I will put an asterisk next to those. Following the above…

Celandine

www.plantillustrations.org 
The baby name Celandine may sound a bit like celery, but it is a perennial wildflower herb known as Chelidonium. In that category are greater celandine, belonging to the poppy family, and lesser celandine, belonging to the buttercup family. The name celandine derives from Latin word celidonia, therefore Celandine and Chelidonium have cognate etymologies, both ultimately coming from Greek chelidon, meaning "swallow." This plant is native to Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Europe. In North America it is considered invasive. It is pronounced sel-an-DEEN.

This plant has uses in herbalism, known as far back as Pliny the Elder's time, when it was considered detoxifying, used to relieve toothaches, and clear the eyes. Pliny connected the herb to the swallow bird using it for eye film, and that may be where the name came from, but it was also widely believed that the herb flowered at the same time the swallows came out in spring. Today we still us…

Sixten

Sixten Jernberg

Sixten is an Old Norse boy's name meaning "victory stone," composed of the elements sigr and steinn. A longer form was Siegstein. This name was #39 for boys in Sweden in 2016. Famous namesakes include Swedish lieutenant Sixten Sparre born in 1854, Swedish conductor Sixten Ehrling, inventor of pointcytology Sixten Franzen, Danish artist Sixten Kai Nielsen, Estonian orienteer Sixten Sild, and many athletes, such as Swedish cross-country skier Sixten Jernberg, who won 15 Olympic medals. Sixten can also be found as a surname, as is the case for composer Fredrik Sixten and priest Sven Sixten. The form Sixtens appears in the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources (DMNES), dating to 1377.

 The unrelated name Sixtus, meaning "sixth born" in Latin, was the name of five popes, two of whom became a saint. For the first (oldest) three, the spelling used was Xystus, dating to the 2nd century. As Xystus it may have meant "scraped, polished&q…

Ravensara

You might be thinking this baby name is made-up, obviously the combination of girls names Raven and Sara, and you wouldn't be too far off. Ravensara (rah-ven-SAHR-uh) is actually not a baby name at all - rather, it is a botanical name. This is the genus of evergreen trees and shrubs native to Madagascar, prized today for the pure essential oils made from it. All of the parts of this tree are aromatic, and the meaning of its native name, Hazomanitra, is "tree that smells." The (new) Latin name Ravensara means "good leaf," from the Malagasy word ravendsara, ravin'tsara.

Ravensara retains all the mysterious, dark-forest charm of Raven, and the elegant familiarity of Sara, while being infinitely less popular than both (zero data), having the option of either as a nickname, and it is a legit nature name. Rassa, Ren, Ravy, Ray, and Venna are other nickname options.

Urraca

At first glance, Urraca (oo-RAH-kuh) may not seem like a good name for a newborn. I'll admit it has a clunky oddness about it, and a weight to it. However, like RoxelanaTomyrisZenobia and Melisende, a couple of the namesakes for Urraca qualify as some of the most powerful female rulers of all time - at least in Spain. Like many historical names, Urraca has no U.S. name data. This name may ultimately be of Basque origin, but is likely from Latin furax, meaning "thieving," in reference to the magpie's behavior. The Spanish meaning is "magpie," the beautiful black and white bird.

There are a handful of historical women named Urraca. In historical records the name has also been spelled Hurraca, Urracha and Orraca. Most of these women were princesses or queens coming from the original Kingdom of Asturias, which was divided into Galicia, Asturias (which became Castile), andLeón. A couple others were from Pamplona (Navarre), and Portugal. 

Little is remembered…

Sarazine

I came across the girls name Sarazine while researching Eschiva in connection to Melusine and Melisende. One source gives alternate spelling options that may have been used: Sarrasine, Sarasine, and Sarrazene. Other records have the spellings Saracen, Saracena and Sarazina. The pronunciation seems to obviously point to SERRA-zeen, and seems French in origin. Another possibility is the meaning "Saracen," which is what another source of the name historically points to. Saracen was a word used in medieval times to describe a Muslim population.

Sarazine of Armenia, born Sarazine Lezay in about 1067, was married to Hugh VII le brun of Lusignan lineage, and they had at least one child. She may have been the widow of Robert I, count of Sanseverino.

Sarrasine is also a novella by Honore de Balzac published in 1930. In this, Sarrasine is the surname of a male character. Also, Sarazin Blake is a male singer-songwriter.

None of the spelling options mentioned have been used in the U.S. …

Ramsay

This boy's name is of Old English origin, pronounced RAM-zee, has a few possible meanings. One is the seemingly obvious "ram island," while another is "raven island." In Old English, hræm was raven, and ramm was ram. In Old Norse, rammr was strong, giving this a third meaning of "strong island."

The name comes from the Clan Ramsay, dating back to the 11th century, beginning with Symon de Ramesie. As a surname there are dozens of namesakes, but the spelling Ramsey is more popular for namesakes as a first name. The Baron de Ramsey is also a title in the Peerage of the UK. It seems that the spelling Ramsey comes as a toponymic surname.

The spelling Ramsay was given to only 7 boys in 2016, hinting that it is still primarily a surname, while Ramsey was chosen for 150 boys, definitely falling in the category of place-name turned baby name.

Perhaps the only well-known literary & TV character is Ramsay Snow (aka Ramsay Bolton) from the Game of Thrones seri…

Eschiva

I came across the name Eschiva while doing research on Melisende, and I find the most intriguing part of this girl's name to be the unusual spelling - it is definitely not a combination of letters you see often. The name has no data in the U.S. In fact, it was rare even in medieval times. Eschiva comes from French esquiver, meaning "evasion." Unfortunately there is very little information on the name itself. However, it is a highly royal name with several namesakes.

One historical namesake is Eschiva de Dampierre, daughter of Eudes III de Dampierre-sur-salon, constable of Jerusalem, and his wife Isabelle of Cyprus. Another was the daughter of Gautier of Beirut (de Baruth), and his wife Agnes. This Eschiva married Jocelin de Gibelet. Another was Eschiva de Montfaucan, widow of Gerard de Montaigu, remarried to Balian of Ibelin. Here is a page that connects Eschiva de Dampierre/Ibelin to Eschiva de Montfaucan. Another historical record of Eschiva of Ibelin, Lady of Beirut, …

Lyle

Lyle is a very familiar boys name that is not heard often today, providing a nice alternative to Kyle, which is becoming outdated.  It was given to 183 boys in 2015, increasing to 207 and a tank of #981 in 2016.  From Norman French l'isle, meaning "the island," it can be grouped with other "island" names like Isla, Avalon and Isola. There's no shortage of Lyle namesakes, both given and surnames. In other uses, there's a children's book by Bernard Water called Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, a Lyle gun which shoots out a rescue rope, and Lyle guitars. As a title, there is Lord Lyle, an extinct lordship from Scotland, and the Lyle Baronets which existed in England.

Alastriona

Alastriona (ah-lah-STREE-nah, al-iss-TREE-nah) is the Irish version of the Greek girls name Alexandra, meaning "defender of man." It is just a bit different from Alasdair/Alastair, the form of Alexander. Many might be intimidated by the Irish spelling, but a simple explanation that the O is silent would clear things up, or you could use the Anglicized spelling Alastrina. This is an extremely rare name in the U. S.  with no data  Her native nickname is Triona (TREE-nah), but I don't see why other nicknames wouldn't work in the U. S. like Aliss, Listy, Lass, Allie, or even Alina/Lina. Ailstreena is the Manx form.

Ingram

Ingram was on the U.S. top 1000 twice in 1883 and 1890, so it's been a long time since this name got a little love. It is even rare in the U.K. and Wales. From German, this name means "Ing's Raven," although the first element has contested meaning due to it's similarity to "angel" and "angle," with a possible connection to 'Anglo-Saxon, and a possible meaning of "Raven of Anglia."

This medieval name has quite a few Noble namesakes dating all the way back to the 8th century. One famous modern namesakes is Ingram "Gram" Parsons, the country musician.

Ondine and Undine

These watery baby girl names are almost the same, but Undine is a mythology word-name referring to the spirit of the waters, meaning "little wave" in Latin, first called so by Paracelsus in the 16th century, and Ondine is the same etymology but used in French.

The defining characteristic of an undine is that she lacks a soul, but can gain one through marriage of love. These water spirits have been written about through the ages, sometimes called mermaids and other times water nymphs.

Ondine appears in poem, plays, novels, songs, films, ballet and piano pieces. Undine appears in art, poems, novels, operas, piano and a silent film, as well as being an asteroid. It is also a popular name in comics and video games.

Undine first popped into the SSA in 1912, and hasn't been seen since 1935. Undina is even more rare, never appearing in the data. Ondine jumped in later, in 1961, and is still used. In 2016 it was given to 13 girls, and Ondina was seen only once, in 1968, when it…

Gus

"Gus" Grissom via www.astronautsmemorial.org 
While Gus can be a nickname for Gustav(e), Angus, and August, and variants of those names, Gus itself ranked #999 in 2016. It hadn't been in the top 1000 since 1978. Mingus, Argus/Argos, Fergus or Ferguson work just as well, and a rarely considered option is the Norman name Guiscard, which is cognate with the word "wizard." Should you prefer using Gus or Gussie on a girl, most often those nicknames are used for Augusta, Augustine, etc. However, Gustava and Gustavia are female variants of Gustav.

Real-life namesakes for Gus include NCAA basketball announcer Gus Johnson, poker pro Gus Hansen, astronaut Gus (Virgil) Grissom, American skiier Gus Kenworthy, and film maker Gus Van Sant. A few different celebrities have chosen this (some as a nickname for either August or Augustus) for their sons.

In media, Gus-Gus was the name of a mouse in Cinderella, a character in T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical C…

Melisande, Melisende

The cover of E. Nesbit's Melisande

Melisande (MELL-iss-ahnd, may-lee-SAHND) is the French variant of Amalswintha, and the inspiration for the English name Millicent, meaning "strong worker." There has been some confusion on the name's connection to Melissa, meaning "honey bee." There's a possibility that each spelling variation has a different origin - Melisande from Melissa and perhaps Melisande as cognate with Millicent, but that is speculation, and there could be absolutely no connection to Melissa at all. Melisende was a popular name in France in the Middle Ages. This name has quite the list of credentials, including a play, opera, and fairy tale.

Besides the play Pelléas and Mélisande by Maeterlinck, the opera by Debussy, and the fairy tale mentioned above, Melisande was the alias of a character in the Broadway show Bells are Ringing, a handmaid in the book Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm, a character in The Golden Basket by Ludwig Bemelmans, a nobl…

Corbeau

Corbeau (kor-BOW) is French for raven, from Old French corbel, and ultimately Latin corvus. While Corbeau can be found as a surname, this word has given us other surnames, such as Corbus, Corvo, Corvino, Corbinien, Corbin, Corby, and Corbelin. Of those, Corbin gained use as a given name in the U.S. with actor Corbin Bernsen and it now ranks at #239. Change the spelling to Korban or Corban and it is an unrelated name found in the Bible. Saint Corbinian was a Frankish bishop who lived between 670 and 730. The name Corbeau is not used in the U.S. as a given name.

Dulcibella

Dulcibella is one of the later forms of the Middle English feminine name Douce, from the word dulcis, meaning "sweet" in Latin. The name went through many spelling options between the 13th and 16th centuries, including Douse, Dowse, Dulcia, Dowsabel and Dousabel. Later variants include Dulcea, Dulcina and Dulciana. Dulcinea was the form used by Cervantes for Don Quixote. Although Dulcibel is pronounced DULL-sih-bell or DOOL-sih-bell depending on your native language, the spoken form of the name for centuries was Dowsabel, pronounced DOW-suh-bell. Like some other medieval names, the form Douce was also used for boys, and the name has given us surnames like Dowson and Dowse.

At some point in the mid to late-1600's, Shakespeare picked up the name and turned it into a term meaning "sweetheart" in The Comedy of Errors, a little bit like how Doll is a nickname but also a similar term. The only other place I see Dulcibella pop up is in the children's novel The Rid…

Catriana

Say it isn't so! This drop-dead gorgeous name is so rare it was only given to 6 girls in 1998, and that's it. And yes, she's legit. As is the case with Katherine/Catherine, Katriana is another option, both a variant spelling of Catriona. Catriona is the Irish and Scottish way to spell Catrina, from Katherine, meaning "pure." Catriona is pronounced kuh-TREE-nah. Caitria is another version of the name used in Ireland.

Catriana can be found at least once in a published work - The Celtic Monthly.

What isn't so clear is the intended pronunciation of Catriana. Did someone see Catriona in Ireland and mistake the pronunciation for kah-tree-ON-uh, then take the name elsewhere as Catriana (kah-tree-AH-nah)? Is it just a case of name typo? Or down another path, did someone first intend it as a different spelling for Catrina, independently of Catriona? Similar events led to the family of Caterina/Catarina, Catherina/Catharina, Cathryn/Kathryn etc. If you take a look at t…

Boys Names as Rare as Diamonds

Here's a list of boy names that were not used in 2016 in the U.S., many of which have not been used for decades - or ever.

Acis
Acteon (and Actaeon)
Aether
Alcide
Alderic
Amadis
Ardal
Ariodante
Auberon
Balint
Bard
Bas
Baudelaire
Belisario
Bramwell
Cadmael
Cadman
Cadmar
Cadmus
Cadwallon
Caliban
Cassio
Cathal
Cicero
Claren
Clasien
Cobalt
Corentin
Cyrano
Daan
Dalibor
Dardanus
Drystan
Elderic
Eleazer
Eltanin
Endymion
Ernani
Faust
Ferre
Florent
Gabin
Gabor
Galt
Ganymede
Gawain
Geo
Glastian
Gower
Guiscard
Gulliver
Heliodor
Humphrey
Hyperion
Iridian
Janus
Jaromir
Jessop
Kassian
Kermit
Kitterick
Levente
Lothar
Lowie
Ludo
Ludovic
Melchior
Melior
Mingus
Moe
Nat
Night
Odalric
Orfeo
Orpheus
Osgood
Paladin
Pascale
Pastor
Pelleas
Peregrino
Pherrick
Pieran
Pim
Piran
Placido
Priamus
Puck
Radovan
Raoul
Rastaban
Reynard
Rinaldo
Roald
Romaric
Rudyard
Ruggiero
Runyon
Salazar
Scipio
Septimus
Seraphim
Sheratan
Sim
Sixten
Sorrel
Spike
Squall
Sulien
Taddeo
Tancred
Tancredi
Tempest
Thersander
Thibault
Tho…

Girls Names as Rare as Diamonds

Below are the names that were not used on any baby girls in 2016, and most have never been recorded in the U.S. at all. These are all legit, many with historical, mythological or literary backgrounds.

Abigaia
Acantha
Accalia
Acrasia
Adamina
Aegina
Aeronwen
Aetheria
Alastrina/Alastriona
Aleydis
Alienor
Alifair
Allegria
Alsatia
Altamira
Aludra
Alula
Amabilia
Amapola
Amarantha
Ambroselle, Ambrosine
Amelina
Aminta
Amoret
Anatolia
Anaxandra
Angerona
Angiola
Angiolina
Antalia
Antalya
Aphra
Aquamarine
Aquilina
Aradia
Araminta
Archina
Ardith
Argenta
Arianell
Arianella
Arianwen
Aristea
Aristella
Armandine, Armandina
Arolilja
Artemesia
Ashera
Aspasia
Atalanta
Atira
Aveza
Awilda
Azzurra

Basia
Belisama
Bellona
Belphoebe
Belva
Berania
Bernardine
Betony
Betsan
Bevan
Bluebell
Boglarka
Boudicca
Bradamante
Branwen
Brianza
Brigantia
Britomart
Brunelle
Brunissende
Bunny

Cadwen
Caelia
Calcia
Calico
Calluna
Calpurnia
Calvina
Cambina
Canella & Canela
Capella
Capitola, Capitolia, Capitolina
Capucine
Car…

Osric

If Osric (OZ-rik) looks at all familiar, you've probably read Shakespeare's Hamlet, in which Osric is a courtier. Osric is also a prince in the fantasy series The Chronicles of Amber, a king in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian, and there is actor Osric Chau.

From history we have a handful of namesakes. Osric of Deira was a king in the kingdom of Deira in the mid-600's, Northern England, but he did not leave much of a legacy. Osric of Northumbria ruled from 718 until 729, and he may be a descendant of Osric of Deira. Osric of Sussex probably ruled at the same time as Osric of Northumbria, but in Sussex alongside another ruler. Osric of the Hwicce was an Anglo-Saxon ruler in the kingdom of Hwicce and might've ruled jointly with his brother. His mother came from Northumbria, so there is a possible relation to the first two Osric's. This last king left a bit more of a legacy, founding two monasteries - Bath Abbey and Gloucester Cathedral. The legendary chronicler Bed…

Timea

This baby name was invented by the Hungarian author Mór Jókai for a character in his novel The Golden Man (Az Arany Ember), which was published in 1873. Timea (TEE-may-uh) was taken from the Old Greek name Euthymia, meaning "sweet-natured," and is not to be confused with Timaeus, meaning "honor" in Greek, because the feminine there would be Timaea (or Timaia, Timmia, or Timmea depending on what time period and namer). Most real-life namesakes are famous in sports, like Swiss pro tennis player Timea Bacsinszky. The U.S. only has records to show for this name starting in 1996, when Timea was given to 6 girls. Since then it had not been given to more than 12 girls in a year, and by 2016 it was down to only 5 girls.

Baby Names from Opera Titles

Female:

Adelaide
Adelia
Adriana
Agrippina
Aida
Alceste
Alcina
Alexandra
Alzira
Amelia
Angelica
Anna
Antigone
Ariadne
Ariane
Armida
Beatrice
Beatrix
Bertha
Bess
Carmen
Céphise
Charlotte
Dafne
Dalila
Daphne
Dido
Djamileh
Dolores
Elektra
Esclarmonde
Euridice
Evangeline
Fedora
Fifi
Florencia
Francesca
Galatea
Genevieve
Genoveva
Giaconda
Giovanna
Gloriana
Gretel
Helena
Helene
Iphigenie
Iolanta
Iris
Isolde
Jenůfa
Judith
Julie
Juliet
Káťa (Katerina)
Kate
Lakmé
Loreley
Louise
Lucia
Lucretia
Lucrezia
Luisa
Lulu
Lyudmila
Manon
Margaret
Maria
Marilyn
Martha
Mavra
Médée
Mélisande
Mignon
Mlada
Nina
Norma
Oresteia
Patience
Polixène (Polyxene, Polyxena)
Polyphème
Poppea (Poppaea)
Rodelinda
Rogneda
Salammbô
Salome
Šárka
Semele
Semiramide
Susannah
Szibill (Cybil)
Thaïs
Tirésias (Therese)
Tosca (this is a surname in the opera but I couldn't resist)
Treemonisha
Turandot (Turan-Dokht)
Vanessa
Venus
Vera
Violet
Yerma
Zaide

Male:

Abu Hassan
Achille
Acis
Acteon
Admeto
Adonis
Aeneas
Akhnaten
Alahor
Albert
Alessandro
Alessio
Alexander
Amadis
Amahl
Andrea
Angelo
Apollo
Ariodante
Aroldo
Ascanio
Attila
Atys
Bel…

2016 Top 50 Alternatives for Girls

Love Emily, but wish it wasn't so popular? Or do you have a grandma Sophia you'd like to name your baby after, but you wish you could make it a little more her own? Read on, as this is a list of familial variants to the top 50 most popular baby names from 2016 - legit alternatives to the most popular girl's names last year.

1. Emma - relations include Emmy, Ima, Erma/Irma, Irmuska
2. Olivia - Scandinavian Vivi, French Olivie, Croatian Olivera, literary Olivette, and Italian Oliviera
3. Ava - ancient Germanic Avila and Aveza are ripe for the picking, classy Evelina/Avelina and Eveline/Aveline are uncommon, and medieval Avis is short and spunky
4. Sophia - try European Sonia, or one of the two Polish versions: Zofia and Zosia
5. Isabella - short and sweet Isa, Disney beauty Belle, older English form Sabella, Basque Elixabete, Armenian Zabel, Biblical Elisheba, the Welsh version Bethan, international Elisaveta/Elizaveta or Elizabeta/Elisabeta, Scottish Elspeth, or the classy …