Playing it safe with names is a thing of the past. Naturally mom wants to give her little girl a name that sounds beautiful, and will roll off the tongue with ease. A name she'll say with pride. But there's no reason why it can't be a name she doesn't hear being shouted across the playground every day.
An important thing to consider when choosing a name, and especially an exotic one, is how well it'll work with your surname. It's important you test it out before you put it down on the birth certificate.
The easiest way to see if the two names work together is the phone call test. Just pick up the phone and pretend to answer with the name you've chosen and your surname and see if they blend well.
If the combination isn't seamless, then try the next name on the list. If you find yourself having doubts about your choice then go for another instead. It's essential that you feel entirely comfortable when you speak your baby's name.
It's also important that you remember the fact your baby won't always be a baby. The name you give your child will accompany them for the rest of their lives. So while you think something might be cute now, and for the first five years of your little girl's life, imagine what it'll look like on a resume.
Here you'll find 20 exotic names for your little girl that are beautifully unique, thought provoking and timeless.
There is absolutely nothing I don't love about the name Nova. It's strong, beautiful, easy on the eye and on the ear, and...I keep on wanting to say Scotia after it. Pronounced NO-va - though it can also be pronounced NAH-va.
The dictionary definition of 'nova' is 'a star that suddenly increases dramatically in brightness.' I can't think of a more poignant meaning behind a name. Nova also translates to new in Portuguese, adding another thought-provoking layer to it. Nova happens to be the name of the biggest language school in Japan, and Chevrolet also made a car called the Nova.
Someone called Nova on a pregnancy forum wrote: 'I am the third person in my family to be called Nova: my great great-aunt and my mother's cousin also bearing the name. It was used in reference to Nova Scotia by these ancestors when naming their child.'
While Philomena looks old-fashioned, and exactly like the kind of name your great-grandmother would approve of, hang on and hear me out because it has a lot going for it.
This earthy Greek name is popular across the globe and means ‘lover of strength.’ Though I have also read that it can mean 'light.' Both of these connotations are exquisite, so I don't think it really matters at the end of the day.
Pronounced PHIL-O-MENA, it's classy and strong, while maintaining a vibrancy of youth about it. Though I have to say that I think I prefer the French version of the name - Philomene. Nevertheless, one is as memorable as the other.
While it might not sit comfortably with many parents, as some think it too 'stuffy,' Philomena has been doing okay for an exotic name, and in 2015 it was given to 77 girls born in the USA.
Another name that I would give to my little girl in a heartbeat. Nur is sophisticated yet mystical. Short but still substantial. It means 'light' in Arabic, and is considered to be a unisex name. In Germany the word Nur means 'only' and I have to say that I think the combined meaning of 'only light,' backs up a little one's name beautifully.
Many Muslim girls bear the name Nur, and you will often see combinations such as Nur Shakila, Nur Iman. Though, for reasons I've yet to discover, their bearers don't actually use their first part of the name - the Nur part. Instead they would just go by, for example, Shakila and Iman.
In 2014 the name Nur joined Muhammad in the list of Britain's top baby names for the very first time. (Even overtaking the name George!) Another spelling for Nur is Nour which is pronounced noor.
I first came across the name Maya via the phenomenal HBO series Six Feet Under. Maya was the daughter of mortician Nate Fisher and his wife Lisa. (The twins who played Maya in the show had just as exotic names - Brenna and Bronwyn.)
It's most commonly pronounced Mah-ya , though May-a works too, and at the end of the day, it's down to individual choice. Of Latin origins, Maya is an extremely popular choice across the world, and means ‘daughter of Atlas.' Though I have also read that it means 'greater' or 'larger,' and in Greek it apparently means 'mother.'
One well-known person with this name was the late American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. Actress Uma Thurman named her daughter Maya Ray. Maya can be spelt in a variety of ways including Maia and Maiya, though I think the spelling Maya is easiest on the eye.
The name Sofia has been within earshot for many years, as my sister adopted it as her middle name when she was a teenager. Meaning 'wisdom,' Sofia, which is Greek in origin, is a popular choice for parents throughout the Western world.
It's ranked as the most popular name for girls in Chilli, and Sofia is also the name of the capital of Bulgaria. Despite its popularity, and the fact it's the name of a capital doesn't, in my eyes, diminish its exoticness!
It's a simple, charming, memorable name that brings to mind a girl who is pleasant and peaceful, humble and kind. Though there is an element of anxiety on pregnancy forums that Sofia is just too popular and that it will become 'the next Jessica.' Alternative spellings that I absolutely love include the Icelandic Soffia, the Dutch Sofieke, the Maltese Sofana, the Turkish Sofya and the Polish Zofia.
I haven't had the best of luck with women called Elspeth. To be honest, one actually put the fear of god into me. But there is something about this name that's wanting me to give it another go, a chance to shine. I think it's because it has a fairy tale charm about it, like it ought to be given to little girls born behind castle walls. It's an uncommon, dramatic name that's hard to forget.
Pronounced ELS-peth, Elspeth is actually the Scottish version of Elizabeth. I've never met anyone under the age of fifty who was called Elspeth, but don't let that put you off. I think if you were to give your little girl the name Elspeth, people would be more intrigued than anything else.
In the 2001 film Snow White : The Fairest Of The All, Miranda Richardson plays the wicked stepmother who is called 'Queen Elspeth.'
It is impossible to avoid the name Lucia in Sweden. Every year, on the 13th of December - which happens to be the darkest day of the year - the country celebrates its favourite Italian Catholic saint.
Lucia was a 4th-century martyr from Syracuse who, after having her eyes gouged out, became patron saint of the blind. It remains unclear how an Italian saint became such a marked part of Swedish culture.
Meaning 'light' and pronounced loo-SEE-a (at least here in Sweden, though I do love the German pronunciation of LOO-tsee-ah), Lucia is the feminine form of Lucius. In my opinion it's a radiant, ethereal name.
Sia is one nickname you could use. Lusisiy, Lu, Luc, Lulu, Sisy, Si, and Lucylu are others. In Galicia, Lucia is ranked as the 5th most popular name for girls. In Catalonia it's ranked at 6 and in the States its ranked at 225.
A friend from school was called Gaia. While she got some slack, she didn't stand for it, meaning the bullies backed down pretty quick and left her alone.
Gaia can be pronounced several different ways, but GUY-uh or GAE-e are the most commonly used. It carries a substantial amount of weight as it's the title of the Greek mythological earth goddess and universal mother. In Portugal, there's actually a city called "Vila Nove de Gaia" (New Village of Gaia), often called Gaia for short.
In the USA in 2012 74 baby girls were called Gaia, meaning the likelihood of you living on the same street as another little girl called Gaia is pretty low. British actress Emma Thompson stated she was attracted by its connection to the environment. And, well known for employing quirky names in her writing, JK Rowling wrote a Gaia into her latest novel The Casual Vacancy.
Layla is, I think, one of the prettiest, most delicate names on this list. Pronounced LAY-la in English, this Arabic name sings when you speak it out loud. Layla has been in use since medieval times when the Arabian legend of 'Qays and Layla' – a story of unrequited love and one of the most famous in the Islamic world - was first told.
Meaning 'night,' Layla is a trendy choice in the USA where it's ranked as the 30th most popular name for girls. Though I've never met anyone called Layla. I've also read of the name meaning 'born at night,' 'dark night' and 'dark beauty.' While its origins are Arabic, Layla would suit a little girl of any origin. Similar names are Lila, Leila, Lily, Lillian and Lilith.
Layla became commonly used in the English-speaking world following the 1970 release of the song 'Layla' by Derek and the Dominos.
If I close my eyes and imagine myself holding my new born baby girl, I can hear myself saying the name Anouk. I first heard this name when my sister came home from a class trip to France saying she'd met a husky called Anouk. The name stayed with me for over fifteen years. I like it especially because it translates to 'snowflake' in Inuktitut.
The second time I heard it was when I read the book Chocolat. Anouk is the young daughter of the single mom who opens up a chocolate shop in a village in rural France.
Anouk is most popular in Holland and France. In both countries it's the diminutive of Anna. The Dutch pronunciation - and the only one I know of - is ah-NOOK. When I think of a girl called Anouk, I think of someone who is feisty, but also warm, thoughtful and big-hearted.
I heard the name Rafaela for the first time when I was just seven years old, and even at that young age I knew that it was something special. While I've only ever heard it used once in my lifetime, it is ranked as the 30th most popular name for girls in Chile and in Portugal, it's the 41st most popular.
I think it's definitely one of the most exotic names that we have listed here, and one of the strongest sounding. Originating from Hebrew, Rafaela is the feminine form of Rafael - one of the 7 archangels - and means 'God healed.' Nicknames which I know of and adore are Rafi, Rae and Ella. (The Rafaela I know was more often called Rafi than her actual full name.)
Mexican soccer player Rafael Marquez named his daughter Rafaela. Rafaela is also a city in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina.
The origins of the name Isolde are debatable, but many are convinced that it derives from a Celtic language, possibly Welsh. The meaning behind Isolde is thought to be 'one who is gazed at' or 'the beautiful one.'
Pronounced i-ZOLD-de in English - I've also seen it pronounced ih-ZOHLD - it's a name that is both elegant and interesting, magical and romantic. While some people think it has a pretentious ring to it, I have to disagree. It brings to mind a rare, delicate, ethereal girl with the wandering mind of a dreamer.
In Arthurian legend, Isolde was a beautiful Irish princess engaged to King Mark of Cornwall. She accidentally swallowed a love potion and fell in love with his knight Tristan. Their affair ended with their tragic deaths. The story led to Isolde becoming a common name during the Middle Ages but was rarely used by the 19th Century.
Okay, before we get started with this name, I will admit that I've met an Ophelia before, and yes, she was a bit pretentious...even at eight years old. But with her parents coming from 'old money' the likelihood of it happening was pretty big.
Pronounced o-FEEL-ya, Ophelia is derived from the Greek for 'help.' The French version pronounced o-fay-LEE is almost, if not just as gorgeous. It's suggested that the name was created by the 15th-century poet Jacopo Sannazaro for a character in his poem 'Arcadia'. It was then adopted by William Shakespeare for his 1600 play Hamlet. Ophelia was Hamlet's lover who eventually goes mad and commits suicide by drowning herself.
Ophelia's somewhat bleak history puts many people off using it which personally I think is something of a shame as it has a beautiful, delicate femininity about it, the like of which is missing in many modern names.
Eloise is a name which has intrigued me for years, though I can't put my finger on exactly why I like it so much. It originates from the Old French name Héloïse, which is likely to have come from the Germanic name Helewidis.
Eloise is said to mean 'healthy,' though it's also associated with the Greek work helios meaning 'sun.' It was in the 19th century that the name started to be used in the English speaking world. Pronounced EL-o-eez or el-o-EEZ , it ages beautifully well, as it can be both cute and mature.
I'm infatuated with the nicknames associated with it too, especially Elsie, Elwy and Elwa. In 2015 Eloise was ranked as the 256th most popular name for girls in the USA, a jump up from 2009 when it was ranked at 913. Eloisa is the Italian alternative and is, I think, just as captivating a name.
I have never met an Uma before, but I've been captivated by the name ever since I first heard of actress Uma Thurman, most famous for her role in cult classic Pulp Fiction. Uma's name was chosen by her father who was a professor of Hindi mythology. There are more than a thousand titles for the Hindu goddess Sakti, and Uma happens to be one of them. Uma's three brothers have equally as compelling names - Mipam, Dechen and Ganden.
The name itself means 'splendour' or 'light.' But I've also read that in Hebrew Uma means 'the nation' and it's a very popular choice for little girls born on Israeli Independence Day.
In Portuguese, Uma means 'one,' and in Japanese it means 'horse.' Although some people think the name Uma is a bit short and boring, I think it's anything but! It's striking in its sparseness and is utterly intriguing.
Thea is an exotic name that has it all - it's easy to spell, easy to pronounce and it isn't overly used. Pronounced TE-ah in German and THEE-a in English (though my best friend was German so I've always used the German pronunciation), Thea is a short form of Dorothea or Theodora, both of which sound a little bit frumpy. Thea has spunk to it. It sounds modern, edgy and cool.
Thea means the 'Gift of God,' and Thea is also the Greek goddess of light, the daughter of Ouranos (heaven) and Gaia (earth), the wife of Hyperion (Titan god of light), and mother of Helios (the sun), Eos (the dawn), and Selene (the moon).
2015 was the year the name Thea was given to more baby girls than in any year since 1880. I'm unsure why the name catapulted into the charts then but I'm curious to find out.
Apparently I have been pronouncing the name Isla wrong for years. Who would have thought that it was actually pronounced IE-la? (Or EYE-lah, depending who you ask.)
This traditional Scottish name is bore by the actress Isla Fisher, an Australian actress born to Scottish parents, and most know her from her role in the Australian soap opera Home & Away. It comes from the Gaelic word 'Aileach' which means 'rocky place.' Although it is a Scottish name, it's interesting to note that Isla is the Spanish word for Island. Isla also happens to be a modern Finnish name though in Finland it's pronounced IS-lu.
If you live in the USA you'll be in luck as Isla is a name that'll definitely stand out from the crowd. And don't worry about the pronunciation. It makes people think and also empathizes the unique nature of the name. It's also an excellent conversation starter.
One of my dearest friends is called Maeve. She's a hugely talented artist with a soul as fragile as glass. So I wasn't all that surprised to learn that people with this name do tend to bring their creative ideas into existence with efficiency and determination - that's Maeve all over.
This traditional Irish name is pronounced MAYV and its meaning is 'intoxicating.' If we look to Irish legend, Maeve was the name of a warrior queen of Connacht. Maeve is also the name of the Celtic goddess of earth and fertility.
You will be hard pressed to find a Maeve in the USA as the name is ranked as the 449th most popular name for girls. The last noted ranking of it in Ireland was in 2012 when its position was at 100. Perhaps one of the most famous bearers of the name is the late Irish novelist Maeve Binchy.
I fell in love with this name when I first saw the remarkable French film Amélie staring the utterly endearing Audrey Tautou. Pronounced a-me-LEE, Amélie is the French version of Amelia. The names origins are Germanic and the meaning behind the name is 'work.'
It's a popular choice in Austria where its rated as the 22nd most popular name for girls. In Switzerland it sits at 32 and in Belgium it sits at 34. Funnily enough in France it's only the 124th most popular choice.
While my opinion might have been somewhat influenced by the quirky and lovable character in the film, I do envisage someone called Amélie as being bright, bubbly and exceptionally creative. I've read that in North America and in England too, it's common for the name to be confused with Emily. Though in the States it is firmly established in the top 1000 names for girls.
While Sky does mean that which you see when you look up, the word originates from Old Norse and meant 'cloud.' I've encountered two people called Sky in my lifetime, though that shouldn't come as much of a surprise as it appears it's hardly used anywhere. At the moment it's ranked as the 768th most popular name for girls in the USA.
Pronounced SKIE, Sky is a name that, while being simple to spell and say, it has body. It's memorable and interesting, fresh and bright and, for some reason, it's hard to envisage anyone nasty holding this name. It's a peaceful name. Just saying it makes me feel at ease.
It's a name that's super edgy and 'in,' but it's also timeless and ages really well. While some people will complain that 'it's a word, not a name,' I have to argue for it because it works beautifully.
Sources: BehindTheName.com, NameBerry,com, SheKnows.com