One of the biggest and most important tasks for expectant parents is to choose a name for their newest family member. There is no doubt today that parents are struggling to be unique. In particular, it’s tough for parents to make sure their baby stands out while also making sure the name they choose isn’t too “out there”.
Some parents are choosing alternate spellings or gender-bending options, while others are on the search for the perfect name that is both interesting and timeless. Sometimes parents go too far and probably regret their decision later – or at least we think they should!
When we consider popular name lists of late, we can see traditional names are being pushed out in favor of the trendy names of today. The problem is now the trendy names are too trendy, such that so many children will have to be identified amongst their classmates using the first letter of their surnames. This is never a fun start for a little preschooler.
One great way to inevitably be different, without being too daring, is to pick an offbeat consonant as the starting letter for a baby’s name. Many popular names of today start with vowels or common consonants. The letters X, Y and Z are less popular as leading letters for baby names, so by choosing one of them parents have a unique starting point right out of the gate.
Here we review some truly great names starting with these quirky letters. Maybe parents will find a winner on this list!
25 Xandra – Girl Name
Xandra is a perfect example of a short-form name that is becoming a great standalone name. Xandra is the diminutive form of Alexandra which some parents are choosing over this longer and more traditional full-form name.
It can be pronounced ZAN-drah or ig-ZAN-drah. The risk of the former pronunciation is that it sounds very similar to “Sandra”. Like many other names on this list, Xandra doesn’t even register in the top 1,000 baby girl names in the U.S.
Of course Alexandra has roots in Greek mythology and ranks in at spot #101 in the U.S. for baby girl names. Xandra being the short form bears the same meaning. One option for parents is to choose the long-form name and call her Xandra for short.
One slight drawback to this name is that the "X" pronunciation can sometimes be tough for young kids to master, but they will get it.
24 Xanthe – Girl Name
Xanthe is a beautiful and highly original little girl’s name. It bucks a few baby girl name trends which is a nice perk. Many girl names of today end in the letter “a” but Xanthe obviously isn’t one of those. It is also unique without being weird which is another bonus.
Xanthe is a baby girl name that gets its roots from Greek Mythology. It means “yellow or fair hair” but there is no reason to reserve this name for fair-haired girls. This name is typically pronounced ZAN-thee or KS-an-thee so it’s fairly easy for a little one to get the hang of pronouncing it.
It’s a strong and cool name that still maintains a feminine edge. We suspect it’s going to catch on and start making waves in the rankings. If parents choose it now they'll be ahead of the curve.
23 Xanti – Boy Name
This cute and original boy’s name is actually a short form for Santiago which is a Basque name meaning Saint James. It is pronounced like ZAN-tee but is made even cooler by starting with the letter "X".
Santiago actually ranks in as the 127th most popular boy’s name of the previous year but Xanti is nowhere to be found on the list. We say this makes it even more appealing! Short forms could include “Xan” or even just the letter “T”.
A name like Xanti assures parents that their child won’t be one of many sharing the same name in their grade. It ticks the box of being unique without sounding made-up or bizarre. Parents definitely get points for originality if they choose it.
We imagine a boy named Xanti will be a real little trailblazer, keeping his parents on their toes no doubt.
22 Xanthus – Boy Name
The name Xanthus is Greek in origin and means “a river god”. It is pronounced like ZAHN-thus and is best suited for a baby boy.
Parents would certainly be original if they chose it for their baby boy. It doesn’t even register as one of the top 1,000 baby boy names in the U.S. and we doubt its going to any time soon.
Xanthus was also the name of one of the chariot horses serving Achilles during the Trojan War. Xanthus was said to be immortal. Even though Xanthus is not a popular name, it is steeped in mythology.
This name has a strong feel to it without being overbearing. Any little guy called Xanthus will likely enjoy “Xan” as a short-form which we think works well. It would pair well with a simple, monosyllabic middle name.
21 Xavier – Boy Name
Xavier is a cute and trendy boy’s name that is derived from Etxabarri, the Basque place name, meaning "the new house". It’s not the most inspiring of name meanings but it also isn’t offensive.
Xavier is one of the more popular names on this list. Most recently it ranked in at spot #90 in terms of boy name popularity. In fact for the past 15 years it has been in the top 100. We suspect it's going to keep rising in the ranks.
It can be pronounced ZAY-vee-ar or ig-ZAY-vee-ar. Oftentimes with the latter pronunciation, it sounds like the letter X is actually part of the name - think KS-a-vee-ar.
In any event, this name works well for a spunky little boy. Some kids with this name will literally be called “X” for short.
20 Xenia – Girl Name
Xenia is a melodic little girl’s name that is Greek in origin and means “hospitable”. It's pretty and sweet and we think it's very fitting for a cute little girl who might be a little feisty at times. She will certainly be unique with a name like this. Although it ends in "a" like many popular girl names of today, it's "X" beginning automatically makes it unique.
Although it does not rank on the top 1,000 baby girl name chart in the U.S., it does rank as #88 in Catalonia (a community within Spain). It is also more common in Russia.
This name can be pronounced ZEE-ny-a, Zen-ya, or KS-e-nya. What we REALLY love about this name is that it offers up some great nicknames including “Janie”, “Shane” or “Nia”. It would go nicely with a sweet, simple and short middle name.
19 Xenon – Boy Name
This name has an other worldly or futuristic feel to it which is part of the reason we love it so much. Like many other “X” names on this list, it has Greek roots and means "foreigner or guest". It is pronounced like ZEE-non.
Not only is Xenon a name but it is also is a chemical element with symbol Xe and the atomic number 54. It’s a perfect name for nerdy or brainiac parents with a love of chemistry! Xenon is in fact a noble gas. It’s odorless, colorless, tasteless and non-reactive. At least there isn’t anything offensive about it to bias the name.
Xenon could become “Zee” for short or even “Zen”. If parents choose Xenon for their baby boy, he’ll undoubtedly be one-of-a-kind.
18 Xia – Girl Name
This simple, three-letter name has lots of character. It’s most often used for a girl and is Chinese in origin. It means “glow of the sunrise” which is very befitting for a beautiful little girl.
Traditionally, this name is pronounced like shee-AH. A more Anglicized pronunciation is zee-AH. The spelling might confuse some, but the pronunciation is pretty straight-forward.
As mentioned earlier, one of the #1 trends for baby girl names today is to choose a name ending in “a”. Xia obviously ticks this box but moves away from some of the uber popular names like Mia, Emma, Ava, Olivia, etc. Another nice bonus to this name is that it would pair nicely with most longer names as a second name or a surname. Either way, we think it’s a winner and hope others do too.
17 Yaeger – Boy Name
We think this is a bold, fun, vibrant, and unique name. It is German in origin and means to “hunt or chase”. It came about as a surname but more recently has been clocked as a first name too. It’s best-suited for a boy.
Again this is another distinctive name on this list. It doesn’t register on the baby name charts whatsoever which means a little guy named Yaeger would be forging new territory.
One slight drawback to this name is that it is pronounced in the same way as the first two syllables of Jägermeister, that German beverage with a very high alcohol volume. It’s this alcohol that gives Jager-bombs their name. Then again any name parents choose will likely have something to overcome. This isn’t the worst association out there; that’s for sure.
16 Yale – Boy Name
Yale is a distinctly posh name, courtesy of the Ivy League University bearing the same moniker. The name itself is from a Welsh surname which means "fertile upland".
On one side of the coin, a child named Yale may be burdened by great expectations, and on the other side he may be motivated by them. Regardless, folks who know a boy named Yale will associate the name with him, and not any school.
Parents might have to think carefully before bestowing this name on their child but if we put the obvious association aside, we think this name comes with a lot of pros. It’s short, easy to pronounce, and is darn cute. It’s also very unique as a baby name. Plus, because it’s only four letters, it goes well with most middle and last names.
15 Yaron – Boy Name
Yaron is a masculine Hebrew name and means “full of joy” or to “sing or shout” in Hebrew. This is actually a nice, inspiring name for a little boy. Sometimes name meanings can be a deal breaker but this is not the case here.
It is pronounced ya-RON with more emphasis placed on the second syllable. It doesn’t register on the baby name charts but similar sounding “Aaron” does. In fact this name came in at spot #52 most recently.
Yaron is a way for parents to capitalize on the more popular Aaron while keeping the tradition associated with Yaron. We think this is a great spin on a common name to give that baby boy a little swagger. We don’t doubt that he’ll rise to the occasion. Plus we’re going to keep an eye on this name that we expect will start rising through the ranks.
14 Yasmin- Girl Name
This pretty name is a variant of the name “Jasmine”. Its primary usage is Persian or Arabic. Jasmine is, of course, the English word for a climbing plant whose flowers are used in making perfumes. It certainly isn’t a bad connection for a baby name. Plus we like that Yasmin sounds distinctly feminine.
The name Yasmin is pronounced YAZ-min and it actually holds a spot in the top 1,000 most popular baby girl names. It comes in at spot #930 in the U.S. It is actually more popular in other parts of the world, including Portugal (#38), Catalonia (#84), the Netherlands (#183) and England and Wales (#231).
The name certainly isn’t weird but definitely ticks the offbeat box. A little girl named Yasmin could be “Jazz”, “Yaz” or “Minnie” for short. She’d likely be a spunky little sprite.
13 Yardley- Girl Name
This name might cause one to pause and think for a moment, and then nod in approval. It’s unconventional but appealing for many reasons. The “Y” consonant makes it unique for starters and although the name is strong, it has a sweet and melodic lilt to it.
Yardley is an English baby name and means “from the enclosed meadow”. It is pronounced YARD-lee, just as one would it expect. It likely originated as a surname.
While it could be used for a boy or a girl, we like it for the latter. Gender-bending names are definitely a trend of today, so this name would be on point in that sense. If it’s chosen for a little girl, she could be “Lee” for short. There’s no doubt great expectations would accompany a baby girl called Yardley.
12 York- Boy Name
York is a great four-letter name for those who aren’t interested in complicating matters. York is English in origin and began as a place name; specifically it’s the name of a city in Northern England.
It is also said to be a variant of the name George in Scandinavia. It’s not on the radar of any popular name lists so parents could rest assured that they’d be unique if they chose it for their baby boy. On that point, it’s also been used for baby girls as well.
We think York would pair nicely with a multi-syllabic surname. Further if parents love it but can’t see it as a first name, it works well as a middle name too.
Some drawbacks to the name are that folks might associate it with Yorkshire Pudding or York Peppermint Patties, but are either of those things really bad?
11 Yves -Boy Name
We round out the “Y” names with an awesome boy name that doesn’t begin with the typical “Y” sound. Yves is pronounced EEV and is rooted in medieval French. It has a mysterious quality to it which adds to its appeal.
Yves is sophisticated and stylish without sounding pretentious. One doesn’t have to be French to choose this name since its pronunciation in English is very natural.
One slight drawback to this name is that it sounds identical to the baby girl name “Eve” which could lead to some gender confusion, but since gender neutral names abound today anyhow, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
If parents choose this for their baby boy, he would share his name with the famous (and late) fashion designer Yves St. Laurent. The name became a little more stylish being associated with this fashion guru.
10 Zachary – Boy Name
We couldn’t very well have a list of “Z” names without including Zachary. Zachary is the most popular boy’s name within this list of 25. It ranked in as the 88th most popular baby boy name in the country most recently. In fact, it ranked in the top 20 between 1992 and 2003 and then began falling out of favor slightly.
Despite its popularity, Zachary still feels edgy and unique. Zachary has Hebrew roots and means “remembered by God”. We imagine any Zachary to be nerdy but cool, and clumsy but endearing. Its almost like he can do no wrong.
A great bonus to Zachary is its great short-form names “Zack” or “Zach”. If parents are keen on a great nickname, Zachary fits the bill. Plus lots of celebs share this name including Zac Efron, Zac Hanson, and Zachary Quinto.
9 Zahra – Girl Name
This unique baby name is on the rise. Zahra represents the 25th fastest-rising baby girl name in the U.S. It jumped 224 spots in the rankings and secured spot #690. This means there were 410 baby girl Zahras born in the past year. In other words, one out of every 4,761 baby girls born in the U.S. was called Zahra.
While it’s still far from popular, it is getting noticed. Despite this, we say Zahra is a safe pick for a baby girl if parents are looking for something different but not weird. Many will like that it has an exotic and mysterious feel to it.
Zahra is of Arabic descent and means “brilliant or bright”. With its “a” ending, it is in the company of many very popular girl’s names ending in “a”. Think about Emma, Olivia, Mia, and Sophia, just to name a few. Zahra hops on this trend without being at all common.
8 Zakiya – Girl Name
Zakiya is one of the more unique names on this list but is still easily identifiable as a girl name. It’s a Muslim baby name and means “sharp, intellectual, pure or pious”. For parents into baby name meanings, Zakiya would be setting any little girl off on the right foot.
It is pronounced like ZAH-KEE-YAH. Although it’s a long name, it rolls nicely off the tongue. Parents would want to pair this with a short middle name so as to not do a great disservice to their little girl!
This name doesn’t rank anywhere on the popular baby name charts which we think is a good thing. That said, we think this one might start creeping up in the ranks. We are going to keep our eye on it for next year because we think its poised to make a move.
7 Zana – Girl Name
The pronunciation associated with this pretty baby girl name is key. It’s pronounced ZAH-na like “sauna”. This softens that first “a” sound and gives the name a very different feel compared to what one might think at first glance.
Zana is a Hebrew baby name and means “graceful lily”. We like this name more by the minute! For parents who care about name meanings, this is a nice one. Considering its pronunciation and meaning, the name has an exotic feel to it.
It doesn’t rank presently on the popular baby name charts but way back in 1984 it made a brief appearance as the 804th most popular baby girl name in the U.S. before disappearing again. We aren’t convinced it’s going to make waves anytime soon, but we think it’s a great “Z” pick for a baby girl.
6 Zayn – Boy Name
This name, with Arabic roots, is one of the fastest-rising baby boy names in the U.S. Zayn jumped 189 spots in the rankings and secured spot #644. This means there were 405 baby boys named Zayn born in the past year. In other words, one out of every 4,938 baby boys born in the U.S. was called Zayn. It was largely unheard of in the U.S. before 2013.
Zayn means “beauty and grace” in Arabic so it lends weight to a great legacy. “Zain” or “Zane” are a possible spelling variation and Zayna or Zaina are female versions of the name. It is slightly more popular in England and Wales (#239) as well as in the Netherlands (#399).
Dare we speculate that this name is on the rise courtesy of Zayn Malik – teen heartthrob and former One Direction member. The group formed in 2010 and this name began getting noticed a few years later. We can’t say for certain, but it seems possible.
5 Zaylee – Girl Name
Zaylee ranked at #990 in the past year barely squeaking into the top 1,000 names. It’s definitely unique and is one of the bolder names on this list. It's also another one surging through the ranks!
Zaylee jumped 314 spots in the rankings. This is a big leap for one year. This means there were 270 baby girls named Zaylee born in the past year. In other words, one out of every 7,231 baby girls born in the U.S. was called Zaylee. It’s far from popular but we are surprised that even this many people chose it.
While Zaylee as a baby girl name is on the rise, it’s tough to find much information surrounding its origin. It’s obviously a made-up name, so we have to use our imaginations. Perhaps some parent somewhere decided to alter the similar sounding “Hailey”.
4 Zelda – Girl Name
Is it possible the legend is resurfacing? Well, it certainly is as a baby girl’s name! Since last year it jumped 512 spots in the rankings and secured spot #647. This means there were 439 baby girls named Zelda born in the past year. In other words, one out of every 4,447 baby girls born in the U.S. was called Zelda. What does all of this mean? Well Zelda is one of the fastest-rising names on the baby girl charts.
Parents would be pretty original if they chose this name for their baby girl! It wasn’t on the radar in terms of popularity before last year. We wonder if it will disappear into obscurity again.
Zelda would pair nicely with a straight-forward and more traditional middle name. We think Zelda Marie, Zelda Suzanne or Zelda Christina sound fabulous.
3 Zeke – Boy Name
Zeke is actually an abbreviated form of “Ezekiel” and is becoming recognized as its own standalone name now. Ezekiel has Hebrew roots and means "God strengthens". He was also a profit in the Old Testament. Ezekiel has a distinctly old-fashioned feel to it whereas Zeke feels like Ezekiel's up and coming distant cousin. Zeke, as the short-form of Ezekiel, shares the same meaning.
We think Zeke is cute and spunky and others obviously agree! It is finding its place in the top 1,000 baby boy name lists. Most recently it took spot #704, having risen 265 spots since 2011. We suspect it’s going to keep moving up.
Any little boy named Zeke is bound to be a real trailblazer, definitely leading the pack. If parents choose it now, they’ll have found something unique with lots of appeal
2 Zeus – Boy Name
Admittedly this is a bold name choice for a baby boy, but we think there are people that could pull it off! The name is, of course, that of a Greek god. In fact, he was the highest of the gods. If nothing else, this would set any little boy off with great aspirations.
Zeus does not rank as a popular baby boy name today and we doubt it will take off dramatically, but we think it’s worth considering for parents who want to make a statement. It would go nicely with a longer surname and could also be considered as a middle name.
If anybody does choose Zeus for their boy, we’d say don’t choose Athena for a girl. That would be a little too much. Zeus makes a statement in and of itself so it's probably smart to let a son grow into the name and to see if it helps his potential.
1 Zoe – Girl Name
These three simple letters fit together beautifully to form a perfect and pretty baby girl’s name! It is the most popular name on this list, ranking at spot #33 for a girl most recently. In fact, it has secured a spot in the top 100 every year since 2000. Even though it was much less popular, it was even on the charts back in the year 1900.
Zoe means "life" in Greek. It is also quite popular in other parts of the world, namely Australia (#8), Hungary (#9), Netherlands (#10), France (#11), and Canada (#37).
We think Zoe pairs best with a one-syllable middle name – think Zoe Jane, Zoe Leigh, or Zoe Ann. These are all very admirable combinations.
Even though Zoe is one of the more popular names on this list, we think it’s a solid choice. We doubt it’s ever going to rise to #1 but we also know it’s not going to go anywhere anytime soon.