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25 Classic But Still Rare Names

Congratulations on the news! Pregnant? How exciting! So much to look forward to- it's the start of a whole new era. I bet mom can’t wait to cuddle that little person and look after him or her forever. I expect that the baby is going to be the most loved baby in the world, aren’t they?

Now all mom has got to do is prepare for the rest of her pregnancy, the birth and the next 18 years (and the rest!). So where should she start? It's easy enough to find lists of all the material things she will need. To be honest, she probably won’t need most of the stuff on these lists, but it’s fun shopping for them anyway, right? Attend some birthing classes so mom knows what to expect physically and emotionally. And then she'll be all set to go.

Except that she has one of the biggest responsibilities coming up: naming her child. Yes, she has to give her little baby a suitable name. This is, remember, something that is going to stick with the child for the rest of their life, so no pressure. But mom has to make it a good one. Something amazing. Something not too common. Something with personality.  Try these 25 names out. They have that classic air about them but are all quite rare.

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25 Cordelia

If you enjoy the works of Shakespeare, you may recognize Cordelia as being one of King Lear’s daughters. She also appears in various novels and in the TV series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. Even Anne of Green Gables likes this name, saying ‘It's such a perfectly elegant name.’

It’s one of those lovely names that has several different origins. It is linked with the Latin ‘cor’ for ‘heart’ and the French ‘coeur de lion’, meaning ‘heart of a lion’. But it is also from the Welsh name ‘Creiddylad’, meaning ‘jewel of the sea’.

24 Elora

This name found renewed popularity after the release of the 1988 fantasy film ‘Willow’, with its character Elora Danan. A variation of Eliora, Eleanor and Elnora, this pretty name rolls off the tongue. Currently ranked at number 738 in the baby name charts, this name has an interesting history. Ellora is an Indian monastic cave complex and was changed to Elora in the 19th-century by a British military officer, who moved from India and founded the town of Elora in Canada. In Greek it means ‘sunray’ and it has also been translated as ‘the crown of victory’.

23 Esmerelda

Probably the most famous Esmerelda can be found in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. She is the gipsy girl loved by Quasimodo, the hunchback. The name comes from the Spanish Esmeralda, meaning ‘Emerald’ and was popular in the Victorian era, with its fashion for jewel names. Like an emerald, girls with this name love to be surrounded by beauty. They strive for peace, harmony and creativity in their lives. They enjoy expressing themselves and are often attracted to the arts.

22 Millicent

This name was hugely popular in the 1920’s but is now only the 2,601st most popular name for baby girls. It means ‘strong in work’ and comes from the Old High German language. The original name was ‘Amalswinth’ but luckily by the time it reached England the Normans had turned it into Melisent, or Melisende. There are various nicknames if you prefer to be less formal day to day, including Millie, Lissa, Lisa, Milzie and even Penny, in reference to ‘cent’.

21 Ophelia

Here is a classy and elegant name that will make others stop and look. Pronounced ‘o-FEE-lee-a, it is currently ranked at number 416. It comes from the Greek word ‘ophelos’, meaning ‘help’ and is thought to have been invented in the 15th century by Jacopo Sannazaro for a character in his poem ‘Arcadia’. Shakespeare used it in his 1600 play ‘Hamlet’. His character Ophelia was Hamlet’s lover who went insane as a result of his irrational behaviour and eventually killed herself.

20 Abbott

This is a highly unusual boy’s name that has been sadly neglected for a long time. Recognized in many languages, the word comes originally from the Latin ‘abbas’, meaning ‘priest. It may have fallen out of favour due to its religious overtones - an abbot being the head of a community of monks. However, the name has also been used as a fun nickname for those with a serious and pious personality. At number 5,244, the name is now more common as a surname.

19 Apollo

This name has experienced a serious rise in popularity over the last decade, moving up from around number 1,200 to its current position at number 532. From the Greek word ‘apollymi’ meaning ‘to destroy’, this name is famously linked to Greek mythology. Apollo was the was the son of Zeus and Leto and the twin of Artemis. He was the god of many things including prophecy, medicine, music, art, law, beauty, and wisdom. Later he also became the god of the sun and light.

18 Auden

Pronounced ‘AW-den’, this is an ancient English name with the lovely meaning of ‘old friend’. It makes a refreshing change from Aiden, Alden or Edwin. Currently at number 1,681, many people mistake it for Odin, the Norse god, but it is an entirely different name. Notable bearers of this name are the poet, W. H. Auden and the most decorated WW11 soldier, Audie Murphy. If you are looking for a ‘cute’ nickname for everyday use you could try Audey, Den, Denny or even Denno.

17 Chester

Chester is a popular surname, from the county town of Cheshire. The word Chester comes from the Latin ‘castra’, meaning camp, and marking out a settlement. Boys with this name respond well to peace, harmony and beauty. They strive for balance in their lives. Chester makes a great leader and is able to delegate responsibilities in order to get a job done. Chester is just outside the top 2000 names, having reached its peak in the late 1800’s. Notable bearers include the American president Chester A Arthur.

16 Cosmo

Cosmo came to England in the 18th century thanks to Scottish nobleman the second Duke of Gordon. He decided to name his son after his good friend Cosimo Il de’Medici. Popular in Italy, Cosmo translates as ‘order, decency, beauty’ and is more commonly used as a surname. It originally comes from the Greek ‘kosmos’ and was the name of a saint martyred in 303. Cosmo is used around the world, from the German singer Cosmo Klein to the Scottish Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, who escaped the Titanic and the American sculptor Cosmo Campoli.

15 Primrose

Primrose is such as pretty name and was very well used in the 19th-century when flower names were all the rage. The Victorian message assigned to primroses was ‘I can’t live without you’. From its Latin origins, it means ‘first rose’ and is the family name of the Earls of Rosebery. It derives from their lands near Dunfermline and is thought in this case to come from the Gaelic ‘prenn rhos’, meaning ‘tree of the moor’. When Benjamin Disraeli passed, Queen Victoria sent a wreath of his favourite blooms to his funeral. Primrose day is now April 19th, the anniversary of his passing.

14 Antonia

This is a perfect name for your little girl. The feminine version of Anthony, this gorgeous name comes from ancient Rome and translates as ‘priceless, praiseworthy and beautiful’. Girls with this name have a thirst for power and success and have a deep desire to achieve wealth and high status. They are imaginative and even visionary, with the ability to inspire other people. They are also highly imaginative, but if they fail to develop their potential there is the risk that they will just become dreamers.

13 Beatrix

Top of the internet searches for this lovely name is the English author Beatrix Potter, whose children’s books including ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, are popular to this day around the world. She was also a scientist and conservationist and Beatrix was actually her middle name. This name comes from Viatrix, the Latin name meaning ‘voyager or traveller’ and was later associated with the Latin ‘beatus’ or ‘blessed’, so changing the spelling. Other versions include Bea, Beata, Beatrice, Beatriz and Trixie.

12 Cecily

This pretty name doesn’t have the best of meanings. It is the female version of Cecil, from the Latin ‘caecus’ meaning ‘blind’ or ‘dim-sighted’. So this is a name that you would probably use for its beauty rather than its translation! It is currently ranked at number 1,985. Cecily is popular with royalty, for instance, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, who was the mother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III of England, as well as being a character in Oscar Wilde's play"The Importance of Being Earnest"

11 Dorothy

Dorothy is an English name meaning ‘gift of God’. Although it sounds rather old-fashioned now, it will always be popular thanks to Judy Garland’s heroine in the hit musical ‘The Wizard of Oz’. In Greek, the name also translates as ‘vision’. A notable Dorothy includes St Dorothea, who was martyred in the 4th century. Versions of this name are used around the world, such as the Croatian ‘Dora’, the Czech ‘Dorota’, the Italian ‘Doretta’ and the Danish ‘Thea’. Currently at number 831, Dorothy is a name to watch.

10 Ellington

At least 6 towns in the USA and 4 in the UK have this name, so there is no doubt that Ellington is a locational name. The ‘ton’ means ‘town’, whilst the beginning might imply ‘Ella’s town’, later to become ‘Ellinton’. If you are a jazz fan this would make a great tribute to the legendary bandleader Duke Ellington. This is a name that has never reached the top 1000 names and is actually unisex. Distinctive and stately, Ellington makes a great and rare name.

9 Fraser

Fraser is a fantastic masculine name that comes from Scotland. It originated as a Scottish surname that was based on a French place name. It translates as ‘of the forest men’ but also ‘strawberry flowers’ and is the name of a major Scottish clan. Boys with this name enjoy being part of a stable and loving community and thrive in an atmosphere of order. Practical in nature, Fraser values truth, justice and discipline. It is currently ranked right down at number 4,597 in the popularity charts.

8 Orson

Orson was so rare in 2004 that the name was the 9,425th in the naming charts. It has made a little comeback in the last decade and is currently at number 2,881. A notable Orson was the American actor and director Orson Welles. Orson comes from the Latin ‘ursus’ and then the French ‘ors’, which both mean ‘bear’. The Normans took it to England where it became a nickname meaning ‘bear cub’. Strong and manly, this name will grow well with your son, from baby to man.

7 Rufus

Rufus is an extremely rare but chic name, being 6,177th on the baby name list. It was most popular at the end of the 19th century when 1,475 babies per million were named Rufus. Meaning ‘red-haired’ or ‘ruddy’, it was used by William II, King of England because of his red hair. Several early saints had this name, including one mentioned in Paul’s epistles. Variations of this cool name include Rufino, Rayfus, Rufe, Ruffis, Ruffus, Rufo and Rufous.

6 Willis

Willis is a super stylish name that arrived in England with the Norman conquest of 1066. As a surname it refers to the Welles family that lived in Berkshire, near a ‘well’. The names 'Willis’, 'Willys’, and 'Wyllys' appear in records from 1330. It also translates as ‘son of William’ and is currently not even in the top 10,000 names. Although it is unisex it is even rarer for girls, down at number 17,125. Maybe Willis is due for a revival as a classic but rare name.

5 Monet

This beautiful unisex name will probably make you think of the famous impressionist painter at first. Monet is a rare name, currently outside the top 1000, with French and Greek origins. In French, it translates as ‘descendent of the protector’, whereas in Greek it means ‘to advise or to warn’. It is also a version of the popular Spanish name ‘Monica’. Other variations include Monae, Monai, Monay, Mone, and Monee. In popular culture, Monet can be found in an episode of TV hit ‘Will and Grace’ and as a character in ‘Generation X’.

4 Nala

The huge success of Disney’s animated hit ‘The Lion King’ has had a direct impact on the use of this name. Before 1994 this name was extremely rare, with only around 13 babies per million being called Nala. Since then the popularity of Nala has massively increased to around 290 per million this year. The name itself has a range of meanings from the Latin ‘sweetness’ to the African ‘successful’. In Sanskrit it means ‘stem or hollow reed’ whilst it has also been translated as ‘beloved’.

3 Aristotle

There are two hugely famous Aristotle in history and they are both Greek, as is this name. The famous philosopher and scientist who passed in 322 BC is followed by modern-day Aristotle Onassis, the shipping tycoon. Maybe this is to do with the fact that the name means ‘superior’ or ‘best of thinkers’. Boys with this name will stand out from the crowd with their idealistic and imaginative personalities. They love to express themselves through public speaking, acting, music or writing.

2 Fulton

This beautiful old English name is sadly neglected, being outside the top 3000 currently. It originates with the Scottish town of Fullerton. This, in turn, comes from the Old English ‘fugol’ meaning ‘bird’ and ‘tun’ meaning ‘enclosure or settlement’. Fulton is sometimes translated as ‘fields of the village’ and first appears in the 13th-century as a surname. Notable men with this name include the American Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who is currently being made a saint, Robert Fulton the American engineer and Jay Fulton the Scottish footballer.

1 Inigo

Inigo is a stunningly stylish name that is really underused. It comes from the medieval Basque name ‘Eneko’, meaning ‘my little love’. It is mostly used in the Iberian peninsula but has also become popular in Wales. The most notable Inigo is probably Inigo Jones, the 17th-century British architect and stage designer. His father, a London clockmaker, received it when Spanish names were fashionable in England, especially among devout Roman Catholics. The 1987 fantasy ‘The Princess Bride’ also features Inigo Montoya.

References: Mom Junction, Name Berry, Behind The Name, She Knows, Appellation Mountain, Wikipedia

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