Fancy names have a drawback. They aren’t always easy to pronounce or spell, and sometimes they just look weird. Occasionally, they look like a string of inexplicable vowels or consonants that were slapped together for the funzies.
Some of that is from transliteration. The name might have come originally from a language that doesn’t use an alphabet similar to our own. Then when the name gets written down using the English alphabet, the writer is forced to find combinations of letters to convey sounds that don’t appear in English. Gaelic names are a good example. Gaelic is just full of weird consonants that don’t have English equivalents. Then again, sometimes the problem comes from certain consonant blends being rare, such as Rh or Dm.
Whatever the reason for the odd spelling, the result is beautiful names with daunting spellings. That won’t scare away anyone who really loves a name, and they might even be the name you want.
I love fancy names. I named one of my cats Calypso, I read Greek myths for their charming names such as Demeter and Persephone, and I make a mental catalog of all the names I hear that sound like a character in a fantasy novel. And why not? They can sound beautiful and they bring a certain air of sophistication to the bearer. These names are sweet on the ears and fun to say.
Here are 33 lovely examples of names that are fun for the ear but a nightmare for the eye.
33 Eulalia (Yu-lay-lia)
Eulalia is a name with a traditional ring to it. It was the name of the mayor’s wife in The Music Man and a character in a book by William Faulkner. It is also the name of the patron saint of Barcelona, and she even has a cathedral in her name. It certainly cropped up more in the past than in the present. It was in the top 1000 names in the US until 1938, and now you just don’t see it much.
That’s a shame because it has a very nice meaning and derivations. As you might guess from ‘eu’ beginning, it is from Greece. According to Nameberry,
Eulalia is from the Greek words for ‘sweetly speaking,’ and in fact, the saint by that name is associated with sweet speech.
Fittingly, this pretty name can be shortened to a sweet Lally or Lalia when you want a nickname.
If you want to Frenchify the name, you can try Eulalie, and the traditional form is Eula (though most people are familiar with EULA’s -end-user license agreements- so you might want to skip that form if you think she might become a lawyer and will get annoyed with the comparisons.) Whatever form it takes, it’s a lovely name.
32 Azaiah (Az-eye-ah)
Something about a profusion of vowels confuses the eye. Where is your mouth supposed to close? And where do all these a’s come from? Despite the questions, they can often make for a soft, sweet name. Not that Azaiah is a soft name. This is a Hebrew name for boys that, according to Nameberry, means ‘my strength is Yahweh.’ As you may imagine, this name shows up in the Bible. Azaiah was one of the companions of Daniel in the lion pit.
You may notice that it sounds like Isaiah. It looks pretty similar, too. This seems to be encouraging a surge in the use of the name for little boys, especially in California, Florida and Texas. Not that it has become really popular- there have only been 533 people with the name between 1880 and 2015, and it has mostly rocketed in popularity since 2000.
It was sneaking up the charts before then, but it never took off before the turn of the century. 2015 it peaked in popularity when 97 babies were given the name. You can hear why it’s getting such traction: it’s a gorgeous name and it has Biblical precedence. However, all those a’s just hurt the eyes.
31 Casimir (Cas-a-mer)
Casimir is a name with a zing to it. You practically never find it in American classrooms and the only time you see it is in history class if you cover Poland. That is a big if in many places. But it also has a royal feel and tendency to dance in the mouth.
According to Nameberry,
Casimir was a name for Polish kings (which is why you would see it in Polish history.) It means ‘destroyer of peace,’ and has roots in the Slavic root words for ‘proclamation’ and ‘peace.’
There have been multiple kings of Poland with the name and at least one saint with the name.
In the United States, few baby boys get this name. It first appeared on census records in December 1869, and peaked in popularity in 1917 when 220 boys were given the moniker. It lowered in popularity over time, drifting around communities at a low level of acceptance. There were only 29 boys given that name in 2016, mostly in places such as New York and Michigan. You know, where many descendants of Polish immigrants live. Maybe you can get used to the spelling for that reason alone.
30 Namaka (Nuh-A-muh-a-kuh)
You never expect a name to have n’s and m’s in proximity. There is something wrong with how the consonants blend visually, especially when written in cursive. Nonetheless, Namaka is a pretty name. The ‘k’ gives the name a nice kicky sound and the vowels soften everything. According to Nameberry, it is a Hawaiian name that means ‘eyes of Kaha’i. ‘
This can mean that your daughter has beautiful eyes or that she is watchful, and either way, it carries fine import.
And as a girl’s name, it has a fine pedigree. The original Namaka was a goddess, the sister of Pele and the daughter of Haumea. She was a water spirit who doused the volcanoes with tidal waves when she and Pele got into a fight as sisters sometimes do. She was also described as the chief of the Mu and Menehune tribes when they were called on to make a watercourse on the Kaua’I island. Her myth inspired astronomers to name a moon of a dwarf planet they recently discovered. If you were considering Persephone or Athena for your little girl but thought it might be a little too obvious to others, perhaps Namaka, as a less well-known deity will work better.
29 Jago (Ja-goh)
Some names are hard on the eyes because they are long and contain a bunch of extra consonants. Some are difficult because the letters used to look alike or have punctuation. Others, such as Jago, are difficult simply because they are abrupt departures from names that are familiar. You think the name is going to be Jacob, and then ‘go’ is plopped right at the end of the name and your left trying to wrap your head around the new situation.
According to Nameberry, Jago is a name from Cornwall, normally used as a last name but sometimes used as a first name. It might be a Cornish variant on James or it might mean ‘supplanter,’ but either way, it first appeared in the early 1200’s AD as the name of a character in a story called “The Pipe Rolls of Herefordshire.” It then cropped on court documents and in court documents as the family, using a variety of spellings, got themselves a coat of arms.
People will get used to the name once they come to appreciate short names and the fact that it is quite rare in the US. Plus, you can always point to the long history and say you are honoring the past.
28 Knute (Noot)
Silent k’s are always a tricky obstacle, and the one in Knute is no exception. According to Nameberry, it is a name of Norse origin which means ‘knot,’ as in the way you tie together string to make it strong and useful. And picking a name with that meaning made a lot of sense to our ancestors because of how important knots are to our everyday existence. Knots are the basis of fishing nets, beautiful rugs, and climbing apparatus, all things Norsemen would have needed a lot of. This may be why the patron saint of Denmark is Saint Knut and a famous football coach for Notre Dame was Knute Rockne- or maybe those were just coincidences and their moms just really liked the sturdy, work-a-day feel of Knute as a name.
Having a rare and strong name isn't a bad reason to stand out in the crowd.
They might have also been attracted by the rarity of the name. Knute hasn’t been in the 1000 most popular names that the Social Security Administration since 1900, and when Jessica Simpson used it as a middle name for her son Ave, she had to go all the way back to her paternal great-grandfather to find a namesake. The rarity means that the kid will never get confused with anyone else in his class.
27 Glyndwr (Glin-door)
If there is one thing Welsh names are famous for, it’s the overly generous use of y’s and w’s in places you wouldn’t expect it. This is what makes Glyndwr a difficult one to see. There are too many consonants where vowels should be. If you close your eyes and listen to the name, you realize it has a regal feel to it.
According to Names.org, one of the original name bearers was a Welsh king who reigned from 1404 to 1415 and led a revolt against England. Glyndwr was originally a surname that meant ‘valley water,’ and probably referred to the place where the king came from. A river in a valley is an important landmark if you are a king.
It graces less than 5 people per year. Although it does have a history in the United States: it first appeared on birth records here in March 1890. A few people picked up the name in the middle of the last century, but you don’t see it much now.
If you want something a little more intuitive to pronounce, you can spell this name Glendower, which would guide most English speakers in pronunciation. However, that takes out the unexpected y, and this is a list of names that have eyebrow-raising spelling.
26 Gruffydd (Grrf-fid)
Gruffydd has been spelled Gruffudd, Griffith, Gruffud and Gruffin. However you spell it, wales101.com says that it means ‘prince or lord.’ (Again, this is a list for difficult spellings, so I’m leaving out the more intuitive variants. You have to admit that Gruffin sounds like fun, though). It comes from two Welsh elements, the first one possibly being ‘cryf’ which means ‘strong,’ and the second one being ‘udd’ which means ‘prince.’
Name websites admit that the ‘strong’ part is up for debate, but it seems reasonable enough. It was a popular name among Welsh nobility in the Middle Ages, possibly because it belonged to a famous king. Gruffyd ap Llywelyn ruled during the 11th century and lead yet another rebellion against the English. The two countries shared a border and they were always testing new ‘conquer your neighbor’ tactics. Naturally, the Welsh like to commemorate those times when they fought for their independence.
This is a fun name for nicknames. The traditional diminutive version is Guto and it naturally shortens down to Gruffy or Gruff. If you think your little boy is going to be of a kingly disposition and would appreciate the wealth of nickname options, you have a great name for him.
25 Gwalchmai (Gwalk-mah)
Gwalchmai has an Arthurian feel to it, and it should. According to Behind The Name, it is probably where Gawain of the Round Table got his name. Gwalchmei ap Gwyar was described as a nephew of King Arthur. There was also a famous poet by the name of Gwalchmei ap Meilyr who lived between 1130 to 1180 and came from Anglesey. He is most famous for his poems about King Owain Gwynedd.
The name means ‘May hawk,’ and implies swiftness, whether of foot or wit.
Hawks are fine animals to associate a kid with anyway, with their keen eyesight and strength. That makes it a great name for boys that you have high hopes for. It is also fun to say, with the surprise hard k sound running up against the sweet ‘mah’ ending.
So, we have a name with manly connotations and fun phonemes. What else is there? It isn’t particularly common, with it never showing up on the census ever. There are probably fewer than 5 people with the name anywhere in the US at any time, which means your boy will have an excellent chance of standing out with this name. The only question is why it is on name websites such as Behind The Name when Takana wasn’t.
24 Alwyn (All-win)
Alwyn is an extraordinarily pleasant name. According to Names.org, it means ‘wise friend’ and is a variant of Alwin. That makes it a good name for your main character’s best friend in your medieval historical fiction novel. Also, everyone would like their son to be wise and friendly.
It’s kind of obvious that it has English roots when you consider that sounds like the name of a river in Wales, the Alwen. It probably was originally a name given to people who grew up on the Alwen. The English did love their place names, and you have to appreciate the practicality of it. It tells you a lot about where people are from and who they lived with.
That tendency has passed now, so it can be used by anyone. But despite that, it never caught on here in the United States. It was at its most popular in 1918 when 21 boys were given the name. It might be the spelling that is holding it back as an American variant, Alvin, has been way more popular and was part of the top 100 names in the middle of the last century. I like the softer w sound in Alwyn and think it has a retro-cool ring to it, and if the 'y' puts you off, you can always spell it with an 'i'.
23 Aneurin (Anay-rin)
Aneurin screams nobility. It sounds like the name of a fantasy prince who would go out to slay dragons. And this makes sense because, according to wales101.com,
Aneurin means ‘noble and modest.’
It was the name of a famous British politician and orator. It’s most well-known as the name of a Welsh poet from the 6th century. A 13th-century epic called the Y Gododdin, a chronicle of the defeat of the Welsh by the Saxons, is also given his name.
The name has some fun alternative spellings to try out. Neiran and Aneirin are both variants that might catch your ear. Nye is a diminutive of the name and great to use as a nickname for your little darling. Of course, it can also be shortened down to Rin or Ann if you prefer. If you have a literary leaning, this may be a great choice for your sons. Despite that, it is a really rare name. It has never been in the top 2000 names in the United States, though it showed up on our roll calls as early as July of 1883. It probably sparked the imagination of the classically minded Victorians. And it can inspire you, too.
22 Angwyn (Ang-win)
Angwyn always struck me as the iconic name of Scotland. I couldn’t say why. Maybe it is the hard a sound or the nasal beginning. However, according to Names.org, Angwyn is of Irish origin. It means ‘handsome,’ which is what every baby is. It shows up on Welsh name rolls as a girl’s name that means ‘very fair.’ (So, it means handsome again, just for girls). It crops up as Anwyn and Anwen, too. In any of those forms, it is pretty rare. Names.org couldn’t find the name at all out of over 5 million records from the Social Security Administration. It doesn’t even show up in many name websites.
It shouldn’t be so unpopular. Yes, there is the infamous Welsh 'y' in it. But it has a beautiful ring to it and it as good a way to call your kid ‘beautiful’ as Belle is. Also, it can be shortened to Gwyn and Angie, depending on your inclinations. It’s pretty simple to pronounce properly once you hear it, and we all can get used to the spelling if you want to enjoy a name that will stand out on the roll calls and declares your kid always the fairest in the land.
21 Bedwyr (BED-wir)
Bedwyr is a very pretty name that has been used for both boys and girls. According to Think Baby Names, it first appeared in Arthurian legends. Bedwyr was an original knight of the Round Table who first appeared in Welsh legends. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentioned him and added to the myths in the 12th century. In French, the name got translated it as Bedivere and he was described as the knight who threw the sword Excalibur into the lake when King Arthur asked him to.
It is another name that will ensure that your kid won’t have to add anything to their name to stand out from other students and will introduce him to the wonderful world of Arthurian romance even before he could read.
Just as Guinevere and Arthur became popular names for people early in the century, other names from the Arthurian cycles came into the name lists. However, most knights, such as Gawain and Parsifal, never really got the traction that Arthur got throughout the last 2 centuries. Neither Bedwyr nor Bedivere entered the top 1000 names, and it has never shown up in the Social Security Administration public data. It really should be more popular. It has a retro-cool feel and it can be shortened Bea.
Plus, it comes from the Arthurian legends and involves Excalibur. It might even mean ‘Returns Excalibur.’
20 Berwyn (BER-win)
Berwyn has a beautiful, musical feel to it. According to Names.org, it is 23,676th in popularity for all time, and it has at least made a showing on the Social Security Administration. There have been 249 people given the name between 1880 and 2016 in the United States. It showed up first in 1895 and peaked in popularity in 1928 when 19 kids were given the name. So this name has a little provenance.
Where does it come from though?
It is of Old English origin and it means ‘bear friend or bright friend.’
(The old Saxons had an affinity for names that involve bears. Beowolf’s name pretty much means bear, and there is a whole list of Old English and Norse names involving bears in some way. Were they trying to capture the strength of the bear? Maybe. Everyone loves a bear.)
There is another source for the name of Berwyn. It showed up in Wales as a name composed of the words for head and white. It might have been a name for blondies, so if you suspect your kid will be blonde, this name will fit him. It will also fit if you want the kid to be friendly or bear-like.
19 Emyr (EM-ear)
There is something very soothing about names that ends with ‘meer.’ Emyr is a good example of this. It is short, sweet and bouncy as a name. According to Behind The Name, it is a Welsh name that means king. The name belonged to a 6th century Breton saint from Cornwall. Emyr is sometimes translated as ‘honor,’ which does sound like the name and would imply a nobleman in so far as kings should have honor. It even fits the many athletes who have the name, including rugby player Emyr Phillips and soccer player Emyr Huws.
Despite the fine provenance, Emyr hasn’t caught on in the United States. The Social Security Administration doesn’t list it as in the top 1000 names at any time. Not even before 1900, though it first appeared in 1892. Only 22 people have ever received the name in the past 2 centuries. It reached its peak of popularity in 2007 when a whopping 6 babies were given the name. It never got over that hurdle. The lack of vowels may have something to do with it. English speakers can be put off by too many y’s in a name. But it doesn’t have to put you off if you like it.
18 Eurwyn (AEr-win)
Welsh names are great for their regal bearing and pleasant mixture of vowel blends. They are not so great for their spellings. Eurwyn is a good example of both dictums. It’s a boy’s name that means ‘gold and fair,’ according to Behind The Name, and it sounds very much like another favorite of mine, the German Irwin. Eurwyn does look fancier- it’s the Eu beginning, I think, but the big difference is in meanings.
The name Eurwyn is made up of two components:
the words for gold and for white (though it could also indicate holiness.) Irwin comes from the words for boar and friend. The Welsh name is clearly for a tow-headed kid whose parents think he is valuable, and the German name is for a tough but friendly lad who is a bit pig-headed.
Despite the familiarity, it really is only popular in Wales and England. It hasn’t entered the top 2000 names in the United States, and your son is sure to stand out in the classroom even if, by some minuscule chance, there is an Irwin in his class. Eurwyn, with its implication of fine, noble lineage and uniqueness, deserves at least a glance or 2 on a name list.
17 Folant (Foe-lun)
Folant has a weird origin story, though a great meaning. According to babynamespedia.com, this Welsh name is rooted in Latin and derives from Valentine. Just as Valentine comes from the words for vital and vigorous, Folant means healthy and strong. If your motto is ‘I just want my kid to be healthy,’ this may be the perfect name for you.
Folant has shortness on its side when it comes to reasons to pick it for a name. It is pretty rare, though. While Valentine was in the top 1000 names in the first decade or 2 of the 20th century, Folant hasn’t shown up more than 5 times on the census rolls in the centuries that we have been keeping track of these things. Of course, if you are against your kid having to share a name with a classmate, that could be considered a good thing. Well, there is an Irish name, Fallon, which has been applied to girls. It isn’t related- Fallon means ‘from a ruling family’ and has no Latinate roots, but they do sound alike. There is a handful of Fallon’s around for a Folant to be confused with, but both names are rare enough to make it unlikely that the 2 will meet.
16 Einion (Ain-yon)
Einion sounds strong and is strong. According to Behind The Name, Einion is from a Welsh word that means ‘anvil,’ as in the thing metallurgists use to shape swords on. The most famous namesake would be Einion Yrth the Impetuous who lived during the 5th century. He was a prince in the north of Britain back when Great Britain was divided into competing kingdoms. There haven’t been too many others, and it hasn’t even made it to the 2000 most popular names list here in the United States. It does still pop up in Wales, so if you Welsh relatives, you may know a few.
This name does come in a few flavors. You will sometimes see it written as Enyon, Einian, Einyon, Enian, and Enion. None of these variants are easy on the eyes, and they are all an admirable desire to make an unpronounceable Welsh name explicable to English speakers.
I picked the version with too many vowels for comfort. It can also be used for both sexes, so if you like the name and aren’t sure whether you are having a boy or a girl (or would like the kid to be judged after they have met people instead of labeled by their name) it is a reasonable name to pick.
15 Caerwyn (Car-win)
Caerwyn sounds down to Earth and pleasant. For some reason, Behind The Name.com gives the meaning of the name as ‘love, blessed or fair,’ even though the name is made up of the Welsh words ‘caer’ which means ‘fort’ and ‘gwyn’ which means ‘white or fair.’
It might be a respelling of Carwyn, which definitely means ‘blessed, fair.’
Perhaps someone got the 2 names confused or changed the meaning for a more masculine feel.
Or perhaps someone thought their fort was particularly blessed to have a little boy in it. All things are possible in the mists of time. In any form, it isn’t popular. It ranked as 10,038th on the name charts in the United State in 2018. It didn’t make it to the top 100 names in Wales, either, though it definitely made a better showing on the other side of the pond. For instance, there are at least 4 British politicians with the name, either as a first name or as a middle name, and that includes a diplomat. There is a translator with the name, too, so your kid would be in good company with this name. You might even consider the fact that it is so rare on these shores a good thing if you don’t want the boy to share a name with classmates.
14 Cynwrig (KIEN-rik)
Cynwrig hits all the nightmarish spelling tropes. It has the rare consonants slung together with practically no vowels and an odd ending. Still, this is a beautiful name. It is the original spelling of Kendrick and means ‘highest hill’ in Welsh.
According to BabyCenter, Cynwrig crops up in a lot of noble families in Welsh history. Ednyfed ap Cynwrig, for instance, served as seneschal for Llywelyn the Great in the mid-1200’s. (I feel cheated in not spotting this name in time to make this list- Llywelyn has to be the most eye-watering name that I have ever loved.) Llywelyn the Great’s son was named Cynwrig ap Llywelyn, and there were quite a few other people named Cynwrig bopping about Wales in the 1200’s. In time, Cynwrig came to be spelled Kendrick in Modern Welsh and taken to mean ‘greatest champion.’ Not surprisingly, it is relatively popular in that form. It was ranked 318 in the 1910’s and it has been in the top 1000 names for the last couple of decades.
Of course, that doesn’t help poor old Cynwrig. The hopeless spelling makes the original unlikely to make a comeback. You can still use it, though. Your son will be the only one with this name ever, and he’ll be able to spot spam email from a mile away since they will all be addressed to Kendrick.
13 Aelwen (Eisl-wen)
Aelwen definitely has a fantasy protagonist feel to it. According to Names.org, it is a unisex name that means ‘fair’ or ‘fair brow.’ Presumably, people meant ‘pretty.’ Personally, I like the fact that it sounds like Aowyn, the princess who slays the king of the Nazgul in the Twin Towers. You know, the king of the Nazgul could be killed by ‘no living man’ so it took a princess who disguised herself to get in the army to kill him.
Maybe JRR Tolkien got the name from Aelwen. It got relatively popular in Europe, especially in England, in the 1800’s, reaching its peak in popularity in the 1880’s. The name even originated in England, as opposed to Wales. It would have been common at the time that Tolkien was growing up and he was known to borrow heavily from classics. These days, the only Aelwen you are likely to hear of is Aelwen Wetherby, a historian, and writer of some renown. It has never entered the United States though. It has never even entered the top 2000 names. It is ranked 15,594 as of 2014, and it has fallen off the charts completely since. That just means that if you want to give this name to your kid, you will have it all to yourself.
12 Rhiannon (Ree-ANN-on)
How is Rhiannon not part of the top 1000 names in America? It’s beautiful, it is the name of a Stevie Nicks song, and it was the name of a character in the Mabinogi, a collection of Welsh myths. In the Mabinogi, Rhiannon was a woman from the fairy world who opted to marry Pwyll of Dyfed instead of another man she was betrothed to. In this form, she is strongly associated with horses since she first meets Pwyll by out-riding all his attendants on her horse.
At one point in the Mabinogi, Rhiannon is accused of eating her son, Pryderi, and is punished by having to offer newcomers to Dyfed a ride on her back wherever they want to go. She eventually clears herself and resumes life as queen. Fittingly, according to BabyCenter,
Rhiannon means ‘great queen.’ And yet, for all those magical connotations and beauty, it ranks only 1,646th in popularity.
It was more popular in the past. It ranked 423 in 1999, and that may be when it was the most common. It lost ground after 2000, and I can’t fathom why, since it has that classic feel that is all the rage these days. Boggles the mind what becomes popular and then loses popularity.
11 Bludeuwedd (Bloo-da-e-wed)
Bludeuwedd is beautiful not only for how pretty it sounds but for its meaning. According to welshgirlsnames.co.uk, it is a Welsh name from the Mabinogi. The name means ‘face of flowers,’ and the original character got the name because she was created from blossoms of broom, meadow-sweet, and oak. She’s beautiful, but unfaithful to her intended, and she is eventually turned into an owl. That’s the other great part: her name also means ‘owl.’ They are called this because their cute little faces are flower-like. Tell me that isn’t adorable.
It is a ridiculously unpopular name outside of Great Britain, and even there it isn’t very common. It only got one mention by John Steinbeck in his book Sweet Thursday and another writer used it in the novel The Owl Service. In the real world, the name has appeared less than 5 times on the public rolls of the Social Security Administration, and you practically never hear it in the streets. I’d blame the tragic backstory, but Pandora makes a showing on this continent, and she is supposed to be the one who unleashed everything bad on the world in Greek mythology. Nope, it’s the spelling: too many vowels and a double consonant ending. Utterly unfair.
10 Bronwyn (Bron-win)
You may recognize Bronwyn as the name of the super strong girl in Ms. Peregrin’s Home For Peculiar Children. The writer might have given her that name because of the association with brawn, but it actually means ‘pure breasted.’ According to Behind The Name, it is a Welsh name which is normally spelled Bronwen. The 'y' is optional here, and this version is being used for the unusual spelling. This one is relatively popular compared to the other names on the list, ranking at 4,850th on name lists. It was first mentioned in America in 1906, and it was at its most popular in 1964 when 83 babies were given the name. There were 52 little girls given the name in 2016.
It is still more common in Australia and England. A speaker of the House in Australia has the name, as does 2 Olympic athletes. A senator for New South Wales has the name. Maureen O’Hara gave her daughter that name, and it shows up as the name of characters of a number of Australian TV shows. It makes sense- Welsh names are generally more familiar in England and generally more accessible. That shouldn’t be any reason for you to back off from the name. Most Americans will recognize it, but it is rare enough to stand out on the rolls.
9 Carryl (Carol)
Sometimes a name gets a fancy spelling but the pronunciation stays the same. It is an interesting approach because a lot of times it is used to make a standard name more fun without twisting everyone’s tongues it can change the meaning of the name. However, just because names sound similar, doesn't mean they have a similar meaning. Carryl is a good example because this spelling changes the name. According to Nameberry,
Carol is a feminine version of the German name Charles (or Karl), which means ‘free man.’ Carryl has a separate etymology altogether, and is a Welsh girl’s name that means ‘love.’
Carryl hasn’t had much luck in the United States. It is currently ranked 18,239, and it had its heyday, along with its sound-alike companion Carol, in the middle of the last century. It peaked in popularity in 1938 when about 5 baby girls for every million born were given this name. I think that would have translated into 10 kids. It really could use a moment in the spotlight- it sounds classic and has a fancy twist, which is all the rage, and will give your little girl a chance to stand out on the roll call without having an unpronounceable name.
8 Ceinwen (Cane-wen)
Ceinwen may have too many vowels to suit many English speakers, but it is beautiful to the ear. There is something pleasant about the way it rolls off the tongue. It leaves the impression of an original, someone who would follow her own path and always be a leader rather than a follower. None of that is in the name at all. According to BabyCenter, Ceinwen is a Welsh name that means ‘fair.’ By which the original name givers meant ‘white,’ which tends to get translated as ‘blessed’ or ‘holy.’ It’s a quirk of the human brain.
Now there are many names for girls that mean essentially the same thing. For some reason, this particular version isn’t well-known. It ranks 10,347th as of 2016. It is not totally unknown in this country. It first appeared in 1893 on the Social Security Administration birth records. However, it has appeared on those birth records less than 5 times since. Ceinwen is definitely going to have a lot of room to make her own mark- there is no one to compare her, too. Of course, a girl with this name will spend a lot of her time spelling out her name for various officials in her life and explaining her pronunciation to people, but she will always be able to spot telemarketers for their inability to get her name right.
7 Ceridwen (Kare-id-wen)
Ceridwen is a name with power. It has a history and a heft you don’t often find in feminine names. According to BabyCenter, Ceridwen derives from Cyrridven (now there is a tricky name,) who was a sorceress in Welsh medieval legend. Her name means ‘fair poetry,’ and she is described as having the cauldron of poetic inspiration. She pops up in the Tale of Taliesin as the mother of Taliesin (who was her servant Gwion Bach reborn through her) and the bestower of wisdom. She is frequently associated with rebirth, transformation, and inspiration from interpretations in later poems and legends. This is especially true in the most modern interpretations.
Maybe because of the historical heft or the errant w’s, Ceridwen hasn’t really cut it as a popular name. It ranked 17,433 in popularity in 2016. Worldwide it does even worse, ranking 92,760th for all time. But it is developing a presence. It first appeared on Social Security Administration birth records in 1882, and it appeared only 4 more times throughout the years until 2016. But that year, 5 new little girls got the name as a first name. Perhaps it is the right time for a name with real mythological heft.
6 Creirwy (Krare-wee)
Creirwy is another beautiful name from Wales with serious mythological heft. According to Names.org, the name comes from the daughter of Ceridwen and who may have been a goddess in her own right. She was named as one of the 3 most beautiful women in the British Isles, and her name naturally reflects this:
Creirwy reputedly means ‘jewel’ or more specifically ‘pearl.’
She appeared in the Mabignoin and the Hanes Taliesin as a sister and a pretty maiden. It must have taken off as a first name because it was the name of a 6th-century saint Breton saint. She was the sister of another saint, Winwaloe, who reputedly restored her eyesight, making her the patron saint of the blind.
While Ceridwen is slowly seeping into the American consciousness, Creirwy doesn’t seem to be able to make a dent. It hasn’t appeared on the birth records of the Social Security Administration and it doesn’t show up on most name websites. Trust me, trying to find this name is a pain. Of course, if you want your little girl to stand out, this is a good start. Also, calling her a pearl is always complimentary. You can shorten her name down to Carrie or Cray if you like a nickname.
5 Eilian (Ay-lee-an)
The problem with Eilian is that it looks too much like Eileen or Eliot. Now, Behind The Name calls this a boy’s name and wales101.com lists this as girl’s name, so you could probably split the difference and call it a gender-neutral. It comes from a Welsh saint who has a church and well that is supposed to work miracles named after him. He was a bishop at Lindisfarne (yes, the place that the Vikings sacked back in the day.) Saint Eilian ap Llaneilian still is venerated, though his church was built in 1667 close to the Wales Coast Path.
A common variant of the name is Eilean, but it all comes to the same pronunciation.
It also comes to the same level of popularity. Neither spelling has cracked the top 2000 places in our name lists. In fact, the Social Security Administration doesn’t have it recorded on their public rolls anywhere and they have been keeping records since 1880.
So what does the name actually mean? That I couldn’t find. Elian is a far more popular name that means ‘the lord is my god,’ and the saint has been called St. Elian. Did the saint pick up the name after joining the church? I don’t know. There are a lot of options here if you like the name.
4 Dmitrei (Dem-me-tree)
The combination of ‘dm’ is rare, and it can make your eyes cross. But if you just close your eyes and listen you can hear the music of the name. It bounces and rattles, making it a fun name to indulge in for your little boy. And it’s a fecund name if you think about it, full of the power of creation. According to Behind The Name, Dmitrei is the Russian version of the Greek name Demetrius. Demetrius is a follower of Demeter, the Greek goddess of grain and the harvest. It is a great name for a little boy you hope will become a pillar of the community through his contributions.
For all that, it hasn’t really caught on in the United States. The highest it ranked was 75 children for the country in 2015 and that is after entering the top 2000 list in 1992. It first passed the 5 kids born in a year mark in 1955, but it was first recorded in November 1879. Plenty of famous people have had this name, including the guy who created the element table, but they tend to be Russian. It’s still a fine name for boys if you like creativity in names.
3 Grigoriy (Grig-ory)
I always liked variants of Gregory. They sound pretty and they always invoke the image of someone watching a city from a high on a hill. This actually does come from the name itself. According to Names.org,
Gregory and its Russian variant Grigory means ‘vigilant’ or ‘watchful.’ Certainly, everyone wants their kids to keep a sharp eye out.
Some people seem to agree since Grigory appeared on the birth records of the Social Security Administration 19 times between 1880 and 2016. (The English variant showed up a lot more, and undoubtedly the name’s popularity has spilled over to less popular spellings.)The Grigory variant showed up in the States in January 1887, and it became it's most common when 7 boys were given the name in 2012.
I like to think the surge in popularity might have something to do with the actor and director, Grigoriy Dobrygin, or perhaps with the chess Grandmaster, Grigoriy Oparin. Whatever the inspiration, the variant has the advantage of sounding exotic and special. And if you prefer a different look but the same meaning, there is Gregor, Gregoriy, and Gregoire. If you really want an unusual spelling, spring for Grygor. You got to love a name that gives you options.
2 Arkady (Ark-ad-ee)
Arkady is such a fun name. It has all the bounce and zip that a random ‘k’ in the middle of the name can lend to a name, and it ends with the cutest of all phonemes, ‘eee!’ Plus, there is a literary connection. Two writers of the Soviet Union have been widely translated since the end of the USSR for their overwhelming imagination and skill- their Hard To Be A God and Monday Starts On Saturday are classics of Science Fiction.
These two writers are brothers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, and you can find translations of their works in your local library. I like Arkady more than Boris myself, and Behind The Name agrees with me by revealing that Arkady is the Russian version of Arkadios. Arkadios is from the Greek province of Arcadia and means ‘of Arcadia.’ The region got its name from the Greek word for bears, but it has gotten a reputation as a rural paradise since Greek times. You can think of Arkady as meaning ‘of a great place.’
Sadly, this name isn’t very common. It ranked 12,359 in 2009 and doesn’t seem to have recovered from there. That does mean that you can claim it for your son’s exclusive use for most of his life, so that can be a plus.
1 Pauahi (Poo-Ah-hee)
Hawaiian names deserve a bigger showing on American roll calls. These names predate the colonies and definitely belong to the tradition of a region of the United States. The biggest argument though has to be the beauty of the names. Take Pauahi: according to Names.org, this name means ‘fire is over’ and can be used for both sexes. It is the name of a crater on the Big Island, which may because of the most famous namesake. The last heir to the Hawaiian throne was named Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and she was well-known for philanthropy. Even without the historical and geographical provenance, it stands out as a fun name with a cuteness any parent would find irresistible. Plus, you get to call the kid your little Poah when you use the name.
You got a love a name with a naturally adorable nickname.
For all the advantages, it hasn’t made much of a dent in the American name lexicon. It has shown up nowhere on the official birth records and it takes real digging to find anything about it on the internet. Little Pauahi will never have to adopt a nickname to be differentiated from other people with his or her name. Unless the kid wants to be known as everyone’s Little Poah for life.