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15 Not-So-Common Baby Names That Begin With "Z"

When I was a little girl one of my favorite books was The Story of Zachary Zween. In it, the little boy learns the good things and bad things associated with being first, as well as being last. While I didn't have Z names, having a W last name put you pretty near the end most times in school. Another different thing about Z names is well... they are just different most of the time. Most names beginning with Z are at least somewhat less common, and many are downright rare. For a parent who wants their child to never have to use his or her last initial to differentiate him/herself from three other kids in the class with the same first name, choosing a distinctive name is a must. By checking into Z names for originality, you are probably more than halfway there!

Z names are also names that just linger in our ears with the sizzling sounds of the letter Z. In poetry class, we call sounds such as Z, S, X and F, as well as Sh, Th, and Ch, sibilance. Sibilance is strongly stressed, and produced with air and effort from our lips and tongues, resulting in a hissing sound. It has a musical effect popular in moderation for literary effect. Thus, while a Z name may be striking because it's an unusual name, it's also distinctive for its very sound, which may appeal to parents when choosing a baby's name.

15 Zophia

Zophia is the Polish form of the original Greek name, Sophia. Sophia has been a top girl's name for the last several years, and for those who love the name but don't want their daughter to be one of several Sophia or Sofia's in her class, this may represent a good compromise. The meaning of Zophia is "wisdom or skill," which is a nice meaning to have to your name. An alternative spelling would be Zofia. While it's a fairly rare name in the US, it's ranked at #236 in England, and rated quite high in Poland at #4! Zofia Kilanowicz is a famed Polish soprano. Zofia or Zophia would easily shorten to the nicknames Zo, Zoe, Zofi or Zophie. Zophia is a very feminine name, so would not make a popular gender bending name. It will work well with many last names, but if a last name is a harder name to pronounce, it may cause people to stumble when paired with a name of sibilance like Zophia.

14 Zander

Zander is considered a shortened form of the popular and old name, Alexander. The name means "defender of man," in its native Greek language. Zander, while not hugely common, is becoming more frequently used. While according to the Social Security statistics, Zander hasn't broken the top 100 in recent years, but it's homograph, Xander, has made a steady climb over the last 15 years, from the bottom of the top 1000 to the 200s. Music's Mindy McCready and actor Daniel Dae Kim each have sons named Zander, and Zander is the name of a character in the Lego Star Wars series, as the oldest of the three Freemaker children. Zander is often consider a nickname more than a given one, as the nickname of Alexander. However, it can be shortened as well, to Zan, Zen, Zand or Zandy. It's been used as a masculine name but it could definitely make a mark as a feminine name, too.

13 Zalia

Zalia can be traced back to both Hebrew and Swahili, and means "a princess," or "born to royalty." Zalia would be considered a rare name, as it doesn't show up on the top 1000 to 2000 popular names. Zelia would be an alternative, which is relatively as obscure a name. Theoretically it could be considered a gender-neutral name, if you went with the meaning of born to royalty. However, many people would consider the soft-sounding "lia," at the end quite feminine sounding. Zalia combines those sibilant sounds of "Z" with the liquid "l," which creates an aurally pleasing name that sounds just right for a baby girl. There are some name sources who propose that Zalia may be linked to the French Solenne, which means "solemn." Zalia is also somewhat similar to the more often seen name Malia, which has been more center stage since Barak Obama's entered national politics and his daughter Malia was introduced to the US. Zalia could be shortened to Zalie, Lia or Li.

12 Zedekiah

This name is definitely on the oldie but goodie side of things. It has a real frontiersy-feel to it, like someone who would have hung out with Daniel Boone. However, it's actually a bit older than pioneer days. Zedekiah was the last king of Judea before Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. He reigned from 597 to 587 BC, and ascended the throne at the youthful age of 21. However, there are 4 other Zedekiah's mentioned in the Bible so it must have been a bit of a popular name in times gone by. The meaning of the name Zedekiah is "God is fair." The name isn't often seen, hitting the baby name list at #3419 in 2016. It's definitely a masculine name and it lends itself well to being shortened to a favored form. Some choices would include Zed, Zee or Kiah. Zedekiah is probably best paired with a shorter middle name, due to the length of it as a first name.

11 Zabrina

Zabrina is a pretty rare name,  as evidenced by the fact that in 2015, 9 US baby girls were given this name. So for those wanting an exotic or unusual name for their daughter, Zabrina will do the job well. The origins of the name are believed to be Celtic, and come from the name Sabrina. Sabrina was the name of the daughter of the Welsh king, Locrine. Sabrina was his illegitimate daughter, so King Locrine ordered his wife, Gwendolen to drown the baby in the river. Afterwards, the river was named after the unfortunate child, Sabrina, but after many centuries it is now known as the river Severn. The name Zabrina therefore is considered a place name after this river, or according to some, it means "royalty," or "princess." However, if you trace the name to Muslim roots, the name means "white rose." Zabrina lends itself well to nicknames such as Zabi, Brina or Bri.

10 Zion

Zion is another "new-old" name. It is a Hebrew word associated with the promised land in the Old Testament, and with heaven in later references. Zion means "the highest point." Contemporary meanings have it tied to the idea of the Jewish homeland in Israel. Mormons also reference Zion. Unique sounding, Zion is also a gender neutral name that while not common, isn't exactly rare, either. It made it to a ranking of #227 in 2015, according to the Social Security Administration. What most likely helped shoot Zion up the rankings in more recent years was when singer Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley (yes, Bob's son) had a baby boy and named him Zion. Zion has been most popular in the US in Washington D.C. Other celebs dubbing children Zion include: Dwyane Wade's son born in 2007, model Isabeli Fontana's son born in 2003, and singer Fantasia Barrino's daughter born in 2000.

9 Zia

If parents want a rare, short and contemporary-sounding name with a touch of an exotic sound, Zia might fit the bill. It would be a great alternative to the more commonly heard Zoe. It likely has Arabic roots, and is traced to words meaning, "glow," "splendor," and "light." It's also the Italian word for "aunt." Zia is an unusual name, to the extent it hadn't even cracked the top 1000 in the US until last year, when it rose to #781. This is impressive considering it wasn't even charted until 1995, at the #4082 position. Zia Dantes is the name of the daughter of a Filipino celebrity couple, and baby Zia won a most popular baby award in the same country. Zia is a very feminine sounding name, and is pronounced ZEEah. It may also make a lovely middle name to balance out a longer first name. It would probably be best to avoid pairing it with a name with a similar ending, however. Zia Angelina, for instance, sounds a bit too nursery rhyme, sing-songy to most ears.

8 Zebulon

Zebulon is a Hebrew name of some Biblical fame, as Zebulon was a son of Jacob and Leah in the Old Testament. Zebulon founded one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Zebulonites raised the biggest army to fight for King David. Zebulon Pike made his name part of geography, as Colorado's famed, "Pike's Peak" is named after the late 18th century-born US soldier and explorer. Zebulon means "exaltation," or "little dwelling." It was more common in the 1800s, but would seem fairly contemporary if shortened to the cool, hip-sounding "Zeb." Zebulon is definitely a masculine name, and due to its rarity and uniqueness, it may be best paired with a simpler, more common name. Other nicknames for Zebulon could include Zee. Zebulon may be slightly altered to make a very rare feminine version of the name, along the lines of Zebulyn, Zeblynn or Zebulynn.

7 Zahara

Zahara is a Swahili name meaning "flower," which is a sweet name-meaning for a little girl especially. Zahara brings to mind the quite similar Sahara. The most famouse Zahara in the US is most likely Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's daughter, Zahara Marley, whom they adopted from Ethiopia. Chris Rock has a daughter, Zahra, which is a rather telescoped version of the name. Zahara despite being bestowed on one of the more famous celebrity couples' children, is still rather rare. In 2016, it came in at #991 of girls' names in the US. The lilting internal rhyme of the name paired with the strong initial Z sound makes for a distinctive first name, but it could also work well as a middle name. Zahara could be for a boy as well, at least in theory. Zahz, Zari, Zara and Zah are all possible nicknames for Zahara. A pretty terrible nickname for a girl named Zahara would be Hari or Harri, in my opinion.

6 Zakias

This name is a modern twist on the old name, Zaccheus. Zaccheus is Hebrew and means, "The Lord recalled," or by some accounts, it means "innocent." Zaccheus is featured in the book of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible where he, as a despised tax collector, followed Jesus and climbed a tree to see him. It's a conversion story of a changed life. Zakias is a very rare name, and a parent who bestows it on a child can rest assured it won't be popping up with every other kid on the soccer team in a few years. Zakias could be shortened to Zakia, for either sex, or Zakiah for that matter. Nicknames for this unusual moniker could include Zak, Kia, Kiah or Zaki. If used as a first name, it may work well to choose a simple one-syllable middle name. It makes a nice alternative to the more common Zachary (various spellings) or Zachariah.

5 Zuzanna

Zuzanna is a very rare name that is a Slavic variation of the much more common, Susanna. The meaning of the name is "lily," a flower that is a symbol for purity. The name origins are Hebrew, and it is most often seen used in Poland. In fact, one of the better Zuzanna's of recent fame is Polish Olympic figure skater, Zuzanna Szwed, who competed in the 1992 games. She now coaches at the Detroit Skating Club. The original name Susanna is pretty far down on the popularity lists these days, as well, coming in around the 1000 to 2000 mark. One nickname for Zuzanna is Zuzu, and this name is probably best known from the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, where the little daughter Zuzu gave her dad her petals when she was sick. As mentioned, Zuzu is one nickname for Zuzanna, and others include Zuzie, Zanna, ZeeZee and Zan.

4 Zephania(h)

Zephaniah is an ancient Hebrew name and one of the 12 minor prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible. The meaning of the name is "God has hidden." Zephaniah ranked #1717 in 2016, which is a bit of a dip from the past few years. One notable Zephaniah not mentioned in the Bible is Zephaniah Alexander Looby, who was a lawyer active with the American Civil Rights Movement. Zephaniah is a historically masculine name, but it could be converted to a feminine one, especially since it's highly unlikely anyone has actually known a boy named Zephaniah anyway. Other versions of the name are Zefaniah, Zefania, Zephania and Zephiniah. Nicknames for this rather long 4-syllable name include Zeph, Zef, or Zephi. The name has a definite Biblical or pioneer type of feel to it, but by shortening it or switching up the spelling, it can feel more modern.

3 Zelie

Zelie is a pretty, feminine name that while virtually unknown in the U.S., is quite popular in France. Zelie has conflicting origin stories, so it's not totally certain which is the real beginning of the name. Zelie ranked in 2016 at #5636, a rather rare name, for certain. Zelie may come from the French name Solene, meaning "solemn"; or it could be traced to Cecilia, meaning "blind." Or it could come from the closely pronounced Greek word, zeal. Zelie has internal rhyme, and is a short, cute name. It would work well as either a first or middle name. Nicknames for Zelie could include Zee, Lia, or ZeeZee. Any parent who chooses this name for their daughter can be confident she will be an original everywhere she goes. Other variations on the name could be Zelia, Zeline, Zalia and Zaline. Charlotte Bronte wrote a story, "Villette," that had a character named Zelie St. Pierre in it.

2 Ziva

Ziva, pronounced ZEEvah, is of Hebrew origin, and means "light of God, or radiance or brilliance." Ziva is a very unusual name, like most names on this list of Z names, and ranked at #1474 in 2016. That was actually a drop of a few hundred from the previous year. Ziva was also the Slavic goddess of life, immortality and fertility. Ziva usually is shown in an Eve-like way, naked and holding an apple in one hand and grapes in the other. The apples were said to be gold, not unlike in Nordic and Greek mythology where characters had golden apples linked to eternal life. Ziva could also be spelled or changed to Zeeva or Zivah. Ziva David was the name of a character on the TV series, NCIS. Ziva is another ancient name that can sound strangely modern. It could be shortened to Zee, Zivi or Vi.

1 Zephyrine

This name for a girl comes from the Greek word meaning, "breeze," or "west wind." It is so rare, it hasn't charted at all. This means parents seeking a truly rare name for a baby girl would have no qualms in that regard if choosing Zephyrine. Marie Zephyrine was a mid-18th-century princess of France, born at the Palace of Versailles to Louie, Dauphin of France, and Maria Josepha of Saxony. Sadly, she died less than a week after her fifth birthday. There are a number of paintings of the royal child. West Wind is frequently a symbol in literature, and perhaps most widely celebrated in Shelley's poem, "Ode to the West Wind." West wind symbolizes the blowing away of the old, and the arrival of the new. Zephyrine has alternative spellings and versions, such as Zepherine, Zefiryn, and Zepherine. Nicknames could include Zephy, Zeph and Zee. To have such an unusual first name, a simple shorter middle name would probably be best.

Sources: BabyNamespedia.com, SSA.gov, BabyCenter.com, NameBerry.com, Reference.com

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