When my mom was pregnant with me, her first child, she purchased a lovely hardback book with rough-edged pages. When I was about 10 I discovered the book my parents had found my name in, and I fell in love with it. I read through it and found oodles of names that I whispered aloud and read the origins of. I began writing stories soon after, crafting my characters from their name meanings and building plots from there. I still have the book, and I decided to dig into it for this particular article. It's lost its cover now, and the pages will be in jeopardy if I don't take special care, but my youngest daughter now loves the pages. She seems to have the same odd interest in names, perhaps because I bestowed her with an unusual one, Najilah Haillee.
Names are gifts we give our children; actually one of the very first, but also one that will last beyond their lifetime.
Someday someone will fill in family trees and trace along to find that perfect name you chose for your child. And perhaps those descendants will "rediscover" the name and use it for yet another generation. When you read lists and pages of names you have to think about the long-term impact you may be making on your entire family tree.
Arabella is a name that has its roots in Latin. The meaning varies depending on what language group you trace it through. It may mean "yielding to prayer; obliging." Or it means "beauty; grace; lovable." Another meaning, by way of Germanic origins, is "eagle heroine." Arabella ranks just outside the top 100 at #119. For those who like names such as the more common and popular Isabella, this is a nice variation. Arabella is the name of a symphony by Richard Strauss. Arabella has been a character in many books including the Harry Potter series, a Dickens' novel and a book by George Eliot. Arabella has a definite feminine quality to it, as well as an old-fashioned feel. Arabella seems like she would be perfectly at home in an English garden.
Zofia is based on the Greek name, Sophia, which means "wisdom; skill." Zofia is the Czech, Polish and Ukranian variation so it has a little zing to it. Famous Zofias have included Zofia Romanowiczowa, poet and novelist from Poland; Zofia Sapieha, the Polish grandmother of Belgium's Queen Mathilde, and Led Zeppelin's guitarist Jimmy Page's daughter Zofia Jade Page. England's James I named his daughter Zofia and began the name's popularity in 17th century Britain. Zofia is an exotic sounding variation of the extremely popular Sophia or Sofia, so if you like those names but don't want your daughter to be Sofie S. or Sophia P. for the rest of her elementary school days, consider Zofia. Zofi is an obvious nickname, as is Zoey or Zoe. Zofia could also be shortened to Zofie.
I must admit that I've loved this name since I first perused my mom's old name book. It's an old name and carries a sense of old soul with it. Blythe is an old English name meaning, "joyous; cheerful." Gwyneth Paltrow's mom is Blythe Danner, and Drew Barrymore's middle name is Blythe. Blythe Baird is an American actress and poet. Blythe can also be spelled Blithe. It's also a surname. The name is currently ranking in popularity at #1508, so it's not common. However, it shows that the name is definitely trending upwards sharply, beginning in 2010. It's also a true unisex name! In case that ultrasound was wrong, this will still work! Bly could be a nickname, but Blythe doesn't really require shortening. Blythe is also a great middle name with all kinds of first and last names.
Eden was a natural favorite among America's Puritans, since it referred back to the book of Genesis in the Bible, and the Garden of Eden. It means, "place of pleasure; paradise." The actual Hebrew word it is derived from is 'ēdhen which translates as "delight." It is a unisex name, but is preferred in the feminine form with it coming in at #425 for boys and #149 for girls, just out of the top 100. So it's familiar but not quite common. However, it is even more popular in other countries such as Belgium (#19), Australia (#76), and New Zealand (#52). Eden Espinosa is a Broadway actress who starred in Wicked. Barbara Eden was everyone's favorite TV genie, in I Dream Of Jeannie. Nicknames are Edie, Denni or E.
Dacia was an ancient kingdom located in modern Romania, including much of Transylvania, which existed in 80 to 44 BC. It was later part of the Roman Empire. Pronounced DAY-sha by most, this name is still rare, ranking #18,349 currently. Dacia is also a character on a British TV show, Wolfblood, a show my 11-year-old adores. Dacia is also a Romanian automaker. With its feminine sound, Dacia has an old world feel that still works in contemporary society. A more European way to pronounce the name is to make the /c/ a /ch/ sound. But if you opt for that, expect to always be explaining how to say your daughter's name. The name had a brief popularity spike in the 1970s, and while it didn't sharply drop, it has been on the decline since its height in 1977.
Lilah can be traced to a number of different names and language sources, mostly as a diminutive. For instance, you can track it back to the Hebrew Delilah, which means "delicate," but is mostly linked to the story of the temptress and trickster Delilah, who led Samson to his downfall. Or Lilah can be traced to Leila, the Arabic name meaning, "night." Finally, you can link Lilah to the Greek name for "lilac." So pick the one that fits your daughter! Lilacs are my favorites so I'd be partial to the latter one. Lilah is generally pronounced LIE-lah, but some may go with LEE-la. It's always parents' choice, but if you swim against the current, expect to forever explain that to all strangers. Lilah currently ranks at #366, so it's not rare but neither common.
Tamsen is a Cornish baby name variant of Thomas, meaning, "twin." It comes from the Aramaic word, tē'ōma. Thomas is, of course, famous as one of Jesus' disciples, and his story is mostly known for being "Doubting Thomas," who required seeing and touching Jesus' hands and wounds after his resurrection, to be certain it was indeed his Lord. With this spelling Tamsen, the name is quite rare, ranking only at #16,316. With the alternative spelling Tamsin, it rates at #2518, so still not a classroom staple as names go. Tamsen almost sounds like an invented newer name, rather than an ancient one. It almost sounds gender neutral as well. Other spellings include Tamzen, Tamzin or Tamsyn. Nicknames would be simple, such as Tami, Tamsy or Tams. I'd avoid a middle name ending in a -en, -on or -in ending to avoid sounding sort of like a repeating doorbell.
Matisse is a gender-neutral name, although it is the French version of the Hebrew Matityahu, meaning "gift of God." Perfect name meaning for any newborn, I would say! Matisse is most famously associated with the artist Henri Matisse, a renowned French artist who helped define Modern Art. Matisse is almost equally used among boys and girls, but has a slight edge with girls. It is pretty rare, however, coming in at #5335 so far this year. Matisse is pronounced ma-TEESS. Matisse is a good choice for artsy families who like a name a bit off the path. Just be careful not to pair it with a significantly different language group name, so that they don't mesh. Matisse Gretchen, for instance, sounds odd. Nicknames would include Mat, Matti or Tisse, or even Tissy.
Alina is a name with roots in a number of languages. In Polish, it means "bright; beautiful." In Armenian, it means "bearer of light," while "noble," is the French meaning. It is pronounced a-LEE-nah. While not common, it's barely out of the top 100 for 2018 US baby girls, coming in at #180. However, it's much more common in other countries. For instance, it is #35 in Austria, #37 in Norway, and #17 in Bosnia. However, it's really popular in Switzerland at #5. Alina Somova is a Russian ballerina, Alina Bronsky is a German novelist, and Alina Fernández is Fidel Castro's daughter. Alina works well with all kinds of middle and last names, as attested to by all the roots it can be traced to. Nicknames include Lia, Lina or Ali.
Mercia is from the Latin, meaning (sort of obviously) "mercy." It was also the name of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, from merce meaning "people of the boundaries or marches." It was a powerful region from the 7th to 9th centuries. Fans of the History Channel's TV show, Vikings already know about this as it figures significantly in the historically-based series. Mercia hasn't charted in the US since 2016, when it came in at #17,433 and there were 5 baby girls given this name. Mercia is typically pronounced as mer-SEE-ah or MER-SEE-AH. It is definitely feminine as a name, and the meaning of mercy is appealing. Nicknames could include Meri, Cia, Mercy or Merci. It seems to work with names that lean French or British. I'd avoid a middle name with any /s/ sounds so as not to sound hissing.
Damaris seems to be most closely associated with the Greek damalis, meaning "heifer." Damaris is also mentioned in the New Testament as a woman that Saint Paul converted to Christianity. It also means, "sweet." So far in 2018, it ranks at #1524, so not remotely popular or common. In 2016, 152 girls in the US were named Damaris. The height of its popularity was in 2006 when 482 were given this name. Damaris Cudworth Masham was a British writer and advocate for women's education in the mid-1600s, and is considered a forerunner to the women's rights movements. Damaris Goddrie is a model from the Netherlands, while Damaris Phillips is a chef and Food Network celeb. Damaris is usually, though not always, pronounced da-MARE-is. Nicknames could be Dami, Mari or Maris. Damaris is sometimes spelled differently to be used as a masculine, modern name.
From Hebrew roots, the name Katriel means, "God is my crown." It was originally a boy's name, but is pretty much exclusively female now, although quite rare. It hasn't ranked thus far this year, but in 2017 rated #7089. Katriel is the name I found in searching through the Old Testament for my Ethiopian sister. She named her daughter Katriel and calls her Katy. Katy is now 16 and has never met another Katriel so far in her life. Other nicknames could include Kat, Kati, Tri or Trie, or even Riel. Katriel is very feminine sounding and might be perceived as a modern, invented name, but it's actually rather ancient. People who like names such as Katrina, Arielle or such, but want something more obscure should gravitate to this name.
Tayte is an English name that means, "cheerful." That's a lovely name for a new baby girl. Tayte is a feminized version of Tate. Spelled Tate, it ranked at #1866 for girls in 2017. As Tayte, it ranks at #5355 currently. Other variations on the spelling would be Taite, Tait or Tayt. It's obviously a boy's name that was borrowed for daughters and definitely caught on. It's still not a common girl's name, so if you prefer a less popular handle for your daughter, this will work. It'd be easily paired with a longer, more feminine middle name, so that if the child's full name is read, it would be a more obvious female name. If that's something that concerns you, that is. Tayte would not need shortened, but for those who insist on a nickname, Tay or Tay-tay, maybe even Taytie would work. No Tater or Tatertot, please. I know a few and they don't usually appreciate it past adolescence.
Gavrielle has not yet charted in 2018, but in 2017 it came in at #18,366, so it's not common by any means. Gavrielle is the feminine French form of the Hebrew name Gabriel, which means "God is my might; God is my strength." Gabriel is an archangel in the Bible, and a messenger of God. Gavrielle is ultra-feminine sounding with a meaning of strength, so perfect for a girl in today's society. There are no trailblazers or celebs with the name Gavrielle that I could find, so your daughter will have no preconceived notions of who she is to stand in her way. She can create an association for the name. Nicknames could include Gav, Gavi, Rie or Rielle. With the Gabriel link, you might consider an angel-themed nursery, as well.
Ember is a "word name" derived from the Old English word, ǣmyrge and the Germanic aima meaning "ashes." Embers are the glowing, smoldering remains of a fire that eventually become ashes. It was originally a surname. It was later popularized as a first name alternative to the once super-hip girl's name, Amber. Ember currently ranks at #206, so it's rising rapidly in popularity. There are no real celebs except for a child actress Ember Husak, with the name. Again, no big associations with the name means a blank slate and no possible negative associations with the name. Ember could be shortened to Em, Emmie or Emmy, or Embie. Ember does appear in contemporary literature and media, such as the film City of Ember, made in 2008 and produced by Tom Hanks. Ember is also a character in the Piers Anthony sci-fi novel, Isle of Woman.
Rosalind is an old name that is new again; it's part of the trend of reviving old-fashioned names. Originally, it came from the Germanic hros meaning "horse" or hrôs meaning "fame" and lind meaning "tender." Later it became associated with the Latin rosa linda meaning "beautiful rose," when the Goths brought the name to Spain. It became popularized in England with Edmund Spenser's poetry featuring the name as a beloved character, and then by Shakespeare as the lead character in As You Like It. Rosalind hit its apex in the 1940s around the time that Rosalind Russell was a film icon. (If you've never seen His Girl Friday starring Russell and Cary Grant, you should! The first screwball comedy by most accounts.) Rosalind is lovely, feminine and timeless. It currently comes in at #1524. Roz, Rose or Lindy are just a few of the possible nicknames.
Saydie is a variant spelling of the name Sadie. Sadie is an old nickname for the Hebrew name, Sarah. Sarah means "princess," and of course, Sarah and Abraham are the key figures in the history of the Jewish people, according to ancient texts. Saydie ranked in the US in 2017 at #5264, and spelled Sadie it's at #102 this year so far. So Sadie is actually becoming a pretty favored name for new baby girls. In Europe, it ranks very well in Ireland, at number 32. Sadie Sink is an actress in the mega-hit for TV, Stranger Things. Sadie Hawkins' origins is the comic strip, Lil Abner. Sadie has been a character of song and story for generations, including "Sadie, Sadie Married Lady," a song from the play and movie, Funny Girl.
Poppy is a name for the flower, which comes from the Old English popæg. It's becoming more popular of late, with celebs like chef Jamie Oliver, actress Anna Pacquin and actor Anthony Edwards all naming their daughters Poppy. While it is growing in use here in the States, it's bigger in the UK, ranking at #32 and in Australia at #61. Here currently it ranks #376. Poppy Montgomery is an actress from Australia who starred in Without A Trace. Poppies are symbols of peace and sleep. Poppies were also the symbol of Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, so maybe your daughter will actually sleep through the night. Poppy Harlow is an anchor at CNN. Former first kid, Jenna Bush has a daughter Poppy, as well. Poppy is also a character from the wildly popular Harry Potter series.
Maeve is an old and storied name. It is derived from the Gaelic Medb, meaning "intoxicated." Maeve is a legendary Irish queen of Connacht, a warrior who is mixed in history and myth much like King Arthur. Maeve is also the name of an Irish queen of the fairies. This could make for an inspired themed nursery, by the way! Maeve is also a name shared by some notable folks such as Maeve Binchy, an Irish writer, and two soap opera actresses, Maeve Kinkead of The Guiding Light and Maeve Quinlan of The Bold and the Beautiful. Maeve is also the name of Jay Leno's wife of 37 years. Maeve has some British spelling variations that will make your head explode if you attempt to pronounce them based on spelling, so I'd avoid those, because they're things like Meadhbh.
Brynna is pronounced BRINuh and is a Welsh name meaning, "hill; strong; hope." Depending on what source you follow, the meaning changes. Brynna is a modern sounding name with old roots. It is fairly uncommon, ranking in 2018 at #5281. Brynna Woods is a lovely wildlife reserve in Wales. Brynna is similar in sound and look to a number of names like Bryn, Brianna and that grouping. If you like some of those but yearn for a name a little less familiar, Brynna may work for you. Have Welsh ancestry you'd like to honor? Brynna again may be perfect. Nicknames could include Bry, Ryn or Brynnie. Brynna is a character name in The Phantom Stallion series by author Terri Farley. Brynna would also make a cool feminine namesake for a male relative named Bryan or Brian.
References: Babynamewizard.com, Babycenter.com, Behindthename.com, Nameberry.com, IMDB.com