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40 Baby Names Pronounced Differently Than You'd Think

If unique and exotic are two important features for the potential name of your baby, then you’ve come to the right place. Even seemingly simple names sometimes hold a secret pronunciation that adds to the name’s allure and mystique. If you are on the hunt for the perfect baby name and are hoping to find something exclusive yet enticing with an air of mysterytake a look at 40 baby names pronounced differently than you’d think at first glance.

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40 Aisling

This Gaelic girl’s name is extremely popular in Ireland right now. Meaning “dream” or “vision”, Aisling is typically pronounced as Ash-Ling, Ash-Lin or Ash-Leen. In order to spare future confusion, many North American parents are opting to spell this elegant name phonetically.

39 Anaïs

Pronounced A-na-ees, the girl’s name Anaïs is most often associated with American novelist Anaïs Nin. Meaning “gracious” or “merciful”, this particular name definitely has an exotic and European ring to it. While this name ranks highly in France as well as in Chile and Belgium, it is relatively unused in North America.

38 André

This moniker gives the boy’s name Andrew a slight European twist by simply dropping the “w”. In some Eastern European countries, a “j” is added to the name’s end. Pronounced Awn-Dray, the name means “brave” or “manly”. Currently ranked at #29 in Portugal, André sits down at #279 for popular boys names in the U.S.A.

37 Anuxa

This very original girl’s name is pronounced A-noo-sha and is a variant of the Russian name Anushka. While the name Anushka has Hebrew origins and means “grace” or “favor”, it also has Hindi associations meaning “lightning”. As for the name Anuxa itself, there is virtually nothing to be found on it which tells you it’s the perfect choice for new parents seeking an extremely unusual girl’s name.

36 Aoife

This Gaelic girl’s name features prominently in many Irish legends about strong female heroines and warriors. Meaning “beautiful” and “radiant”, Aoife is pronounced EE-fa. If you like Aoife’s style, similar Irish girls names are Eabha (pronounced Eva) and Aoibhe (pronounced Ai-vah).

35 Ayn

This interesting girl’s name was made popular by Russian-born American writer Ayn Rand famous for her novels “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. Originally born Alissa, she changed her name to Ayn, a Finnish name she had once heard but had never seen spelled.

Pronounced like Ryan without the “R”, it is believed that Ayn has Hebrew roots and is a variant of Anna.

34 Chloe

Pronounced Klo-ee, this girl’s name with Greek origins is extremely popular worldwide and very high on the trendy name lists in Canada, France, Australia and the U.S.A. Meaning “fresh blooming” or “green shoot”, this name is sometimes spelled Khloe or Cloe.

33 Caoimhe

Sometimes considered a feminine form of Kevin, this girl’s name has Irish and Scottish origins. Most often pronounced as either Kee-va or Kwee-va, in Scotland, it is sometimes pronounced as Koy-vah.

Caoimhe means “beautiful”, “precious” and “gentle” and typically resides within the top 20 girls names of Ireland. That said, many parents who choose this moniker prefer to spell it phonetically to save their daughters from a lifetime of aggravation.

32 Cathal

This Irish boy’s name with Celtic ties is most often pronounced as Ka-hill (basically, the “t” remains silent). Cathal as a boy’s name was very popular in Ireland during the Middle Ages as it was the name of an Irish saint. Meaning “strong in battle”, the name is currently making a resurgence in today’s society. The name Charles is often used as an alternative Anglicized version of Cathal.

31 Dáithí

Often considered as a Gaelic form of the boy’s name David, Dáithí is pronounced Dah-hee. The meanings for this Irish boy’s name vary from “believer” to “swift and agile”.

30 Famke

This Dutch girl’s name is pronounced Fawm-ka and is the name of Dutch-born American actor Famke Janssen of “X-Men” fame. Meaning “peace”, this name is sometimes spelled Femke.

29 Gráinne

Associated with love as well as grain or corn, the Irish girl’s name Gráinne is pronounced Grawn-ya. In Irish legends, Gráinne is the name of the goddess of grain as well as other royalty. In order to avoid future confusion, some parents opt to spell it Grania or Granya.

28 Isla

This pretty girl's name is pronounced Eye-la and has been making the rounds throughout the U.S.A. as of late thanks to actor Isla Fisher. Meaning island, Isla is also the name of a river in Scotland. Presently, Isla is one of the top five girl's names in England, Wales, and Scotland.

27 Iwona

Pronounced Ee-vone-ah, this girl’s name has both Polish and Scandinavian roots. Meaning “bow of yew” or “archer”, the name Iwona has many variants including Ivana, Ivanka, and Yvonne.

26 Joaquin

This Spanish boy’s name with Hebrew origins is pronounced Wah-keen and means “God will judge” or “raised by God”. While currently very trendy in Argentina and Chile, Joaquin is making the rounds in the U.S.A. thanks to actor Joaquin Phoenix as well as Kelly Ripa whose 12-year-old son has the name. Another lesser-used variant of the name is Joaquim.

25 Jorge

Considered the Spanish and Portuguese version of the boy’s name George, Jorge has two distinct pronunciations. The Spanish pronunciation is Hor-hay and the Portuguese pronunciation is Zsar-zsee (the “zs” sound is in between a hard “j” and a softer “z” sound) or Zsar-zsa.

Jorge means “farmer” and while wildly popular in Spanish-speaking countries, it is slowly gaining traction in North America as a trendy choice for a boy’s name.

24 José

This biblical boy’s name is pronounced Ho-say in Spanish and Zsu-seh in Portuguese. A variant of Joseph, José is a very popular boy’s name in both Spain and Portugal and sits high at #9 in Chile.

23 Margot

Sometimes used as a nickname for Margaret or Marguerite, Margot is also a stand-alone first name. Pronounced Mar-go (with the “t” silent), this French girl’s name means “pearl”. It’s becoming more mainstream in North America thanks to Australian actor Margot Robbie. It is also sometimes spelled as Margaux or Margo.

22 Mireille

This simple and beautiful girl’s name is often butchered due to its unusual spelling. Pronounced Meer-ay, this French name means “to admire”. Actor Mireille Enos has brought the name to the forefront of popular culture. Similar names include Mirella, Miriam, and Mary.

21 Neve

Typically, Neve is considered the slightly altered version of Irish girl’s name Niamh (see next name) and is usually pronounced Nev (as in rhymes with Bev) although sometimes as Neev. Both actor Neve Campbellas well as the daughter of late night comedian Conan O’Brien, pronounce their respective names as Nev.

However, Neve also has Italian and Portuguese connotations as it is the word for “snow”. In this case, it would be pronounced as Nee-a-vee.

20 Niamh

This Irish girl’s name means “radiance” or “luster” and is usually pronounced as Neev or Nee-iv. While Niamh was an extremely trendy name choice back in 2003, it has faded into the woodwork since and is patiently awaiting resurrection. Cute nicknames abound including Nia or Nee-nee.

19 Oisin

Meaning “little deer”, this popular Irish boy’s name was the name of a warrior in an ancient legend. It is pronounced as Osh-een or Ush-een.

18 Penelope

This girl’s name with Greek origins is seeing a spike in popularity thanks to actor Penelope Cruz as well as many other celebrities who have chosen it for their daughters. Meaning “weaver”, Penelope was also the wife of Odysseus in ancient mythology. Pronounced Pen-ell-oh-pee, possible nicknames include Penny, Poppy, and Nelly.

17 Phoebe

Another name with Greek origins, Phoebe is one of the names for the Greek goddess of the moon. Meaning “shining one”, Phoebe is pronounced Fee-bee and is sometimes spelled as Febe or Phoibe. Currently, Phoebe is one of the highest-ranking girl’s names in England and Wales.

16 Raquel

This girl’s name with biblical associations has French, Spanish, and Portuguese origins. Meaning “innocent” or “lamb”, Raquel is usually pronounced as Rock-ell. It is sometimes spelled Racquel or turned into Rochelle. It is often considered a Spanish or Portuguese version of Rachel.

15 Ralph

This boy’s name with Scandinavian roots is pronounced Rolf, Ralf or Rayf as in the case of British actor Ralph Fiennes. While this name currently stands on the European name charts, it is still relatively unused in North America. Alternate names with a similar style include Radulf, Raul, and Raoul (pronounced Rah-ool).

14 Saoirse

First recognized as a girl’s name in the 1920’s, Saoirse has since become very popular in Ireland. Meaning “freedom” or “liberty”, it is pronounced as Seer-sha or Sur-sha. It is the first name of actor Saoirse Ronan.

13 Seamus

Often considered the Irish version of James, Seamus is pronounced Shay-muss and means supplanter.

12 Sean

This extremely popular Irish boy’s name is ubiquitous in North American society. Pronounced Shawn, it is thought to be the Irish form of John and means “God’s gracious gift”. Variants include Shawn and Shane.

11 Sinéad

Pronounced Shin-aid, you may have recently noticed this name in the headlines thanks to singer Sinéad O’Connor’s erratic behavior. Meaning “God is gracious”, the girl’s name Sinéad is sometimes considered to be an Irish alternative to names Jane, Janet, and Jeanette.

10 Siobhan

This Irish version of Joan or Jeanne is pronounced Sha-vawn. Many new parents prefer to keep the spelling simple and opt for Shavonne or Chevonne as alternatives.

9 Sorcha

This popular Irish girl’s name has not yet been able to make the leap into mainstream North American society. Typically pronounced Sorka, Sawr-ka or Surka, it is sometimes considered to be the Irish form of Sarah and means “bright and shining”.

8 Tadhg

Pronounced as Tie-g as in the word “tiger” without the “r”, this boy’s name has Irish and Scottish roots and means “poet” or “philosopher”. Oftentimes, parents will anglicize Tadhg into the simpler name Teague.

7 Tanja

Meaning “fairy queen”, this girl’s name is pronounced Tawn-ya and is a popular name choice in a variety of countries including Germany, Finland, Sweden, Serbia, and Croatia. Variations of the name include Tania, Tanya, Tonya, and Tatiana.

6 Thandi

Pronounced Tawn-dee, this is the moniker of actor Thandie Newton. Meaning “loved one”, it is the shortened version of full name Thandiwe which hails from South Africa.

5 Xander

While sometimes used as a diminutive to Alexander, the name Xander is also considered a name unto itself. Pronounced Zander, it is sometimes spelled as such in order to avoid confusion. This name with Greek origins means “defender of the people”. Nicknames include Xan and Zan.

4 Xanthe

This unique and interesting girl’s name has Greek origins as well and is pronounced Zan-thee. Xanthe means “blond” or “golden yellow”.

3 Xavier

Meaning “new house”, this boy’s name is most often pronounced in English as Zay-vyer or Ig-zay-vyer. Currently, Xavier as a popular boy’s name ranks high in Australia, New Zealand, and Portugal. A Spanish equivalent for the name is Javier pronounced Haw-vyer or Hawv-yay.

2 Xuxa

This Latin girl’s name is sometimes used as the ultra-cute nickname for Susana or Shoshana. Pronounced Shoo-sha, the name Xuxa means “queen” or “lily”.

1 Zoë

This originally Greek girl’s name means “life” and is most often pronounced Zo-ee. An extremely common name in the 11th Century thanks to the fact that it was considered to be a translation of the biblical name Eve, it is still popular worldwide. The name Zoë is especially high ranking in the Netherlands and Hungary. It is sometimes seen spelled as Zowie or Zoey and an alternative version is Zoya.

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