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Not so long ago, picking names for a new baby was a relatively simple process. Of course, parents wanted a name they liked, but there were unwritten rules that were generally obeyed. Baby girls and boys were named based on strong personality traits or perhaps given family names, or even names that drew on cultural heritage.
Nowadays, things are different, especially in America. Sure, many parents still give their little one's names with specific meanings or in honor of grandparents or other relatives. But we’ve also branched out. New babies may be named for healthy foods or habits. Names come from books, celebrities, movies, television, and even video games. Names honor our love of nature or are inspired by traditional cultural titles. Old names may be given an unusual spin with a new spelling or hyphenation. Sometimes names are made up completely.
Are you looking for something truly unique? Something guaranteed not to be heard in your local baby & me yoga class or duplicated in your little one’s kindergarten class? Read on for some ideas you’re guaranteed to never have thought up on your own!
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Flowers have long been a source of inspiration for families expecting daughters: Rose, Lily, Iris. For parents who love the idea of a botanical name but want something that stands out — as well as something that’s not so, well, girly — try on the lovely-sounding name Acantha. The name is of Greek origin and is usually defined as meaning “thorny” or “prickle,” a meaning that might appeal to parents hoping to raise a strong daughter who can hold her own on any front. Mythologically speaking, Acantha was also the name of a nymph who was loved by the Greek god Apollo, giving this a different layer of appeal.
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If you’re looking for a lovely, gentle female name, give Aquene a try. This name is of Native American origin, so it’s perfect for parents looking to pay homage to their ancestry, or even to those who just feel drawn to Native American culture and spirituality. Aquene means “one who is peaceful,” or perhaps just “peace,” and the name will hopefully foretell a daughter who is serene, sweet, and kind. This name has never ranked within the top 1000 girls names, so it’s pretty much guaranteed to be off the radar for most expectant parents. It’s the perfect name for anyone looking to make a bold statement for the future.
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File this one under “names that sound like other names but are actually real names in their own right.” Cavan, which sounds suspiciously similar to Kevin, is a strong, masculine name that will surely appeal to many parents of expected baby boys. Some sources declare Cavan to be an Irish name that means “hollow.” Other websites and books say it’s Gaelic, and the meaning is “handsome” or “good-looking.” Whichever meaning suits your fancy, know that the name is far from popular (and getting less so by the year), so don’t be surprised if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of it!
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This beautiful girl’s name is not popular by any stretch of the imagination. There is much disagreement about where it comes from and what it means, which may be frustrating on one level. But on the other hand, it gives parents the option to choose the meaning that suits their needs. Cyrene is a nymph out of Greek mythology, which some say means “Sovereign Queen.” Cyrene is also considered to be a Biblical name, a city in Africa related to the founding of the Church of Antioch. Some say Cyrene is a female variant of the Persian name Cyrah, meaning “throne” or “sun.” Whichever meaning speaks to you; this unique name is sure to get your child noticed.
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Most often considered a boy’s name, Eran is of Hebrew origin and comes straight out of the Bible: Eran was a great-grandson of Joseph who is mentioned in the Book of Numbers. Not surprisingly, this simple, solid name would be a fantastic choice for a baby boy born to parents of strong faith. By definition, Eran means “industrious,” or perhaps “watchful” or “awake.” A few sources also list Eran as an alternative to Erin, as a female name of Irish origin. Therefore, Eran could also function as a unisex name, boy or girl, perfect for families who want a surprise!
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This decidedly unusual name could come from a number of origins in Europe, depending on what book or website you’re consulting. In German, Faron means “adventurous.” In French, Faron pilferer (i.e., a thief!) or ferret. In Spanish, it means “pharaoh.” It’s also an English surname, or perhaps in England, it meant “handsome servant.” In America, perhaps you can give it your own unique meaning! Wherever the name comes from, it’s certainly not common, although it was the name of a medieval saint. Or if you’re into video games, the name may tickle your memory as being used once or twice in the “Legend of Zelda” games.
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Many people look to the Bible for inspiration, but the world is already full of Johns and Noahs and Marys. If you’re looking for something fresh and new, try Ilai. This name, Hebrew in origin, is generally said to mean “exalted” or “superior.” Ilai saw its heyday, as it were, several years ago, but even then, it was far from common, and it has only dropped further and further down in the rankings since then. Pronounced ee-lie, chances are good you’re much more familiar with the common spelling Eli. But if you’re seeking a truly unique spelling, well, chances are good your family will never meet another Ilai for as long as you may live!
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No matter where biological ancestry lies, many new parents feel inspired by names of African origin. If you’re looking for something fresh and unique for your new little boy or girl, Kione might be a great fit. (Yes, this name is indeed considered unisex, making it perfect for any families waiting until birth to discover baby’s sex!) Most sources define Kione as “someone who comes from nowhere,” a mysterious idea that will appeal to parents of this generation. A child with this name will surely grow up with a strong independent streak, able to handle anything life throws at them with self-assurance.
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Naming children — particularly girls — after precious gemstones have long been a trend: Ruby, Amber, Jade. If the idea appeals to you, but you’re after something off the beaten path, consider Lazuli. Lapis Lazuli is a beautiful, vibrant blue gemstone, and the name Lazuli itself is the root of the word azure, a deep blue color. As a name, Lazuli would be of Persian origin, with the meaning of “heaven” or “sky.” More metaphorically speaking, one could say Lazuli means “stone of heaven,” which is just beautiful. Most sources would say Lazuli is a boy name, but others pass it off for girls, so the choice is yours.
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Pronounced lye-chee, this name is Chinese in origin, and actually the name of tropical fruit. With vibrant red skin and pearly white flesh that’s just the right blend of sweet and tart, lychees have a devoted following around the world. As a name for a baby girl, Lychee is a poignant metaphor for all the things most parents want their daughter to be: beautiful, sweet, and just a bit sassy, with a strong, solid core. Lychee has been used as a name before, but it’s far from common. This name will turn heads and win plenty of approving nods, and it’s sure to age well.
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If you’re looking for some musical inspiration, try on this name. Matana, as a name, is completely under-the-radar for most parents, although it is the title of a handful of songs. This lovely girl name is of Hebrew origin and is usually said to mean “gift,” “blessing,” or sometimes “gift of God.” There is an abundance of alternative spellings, each just as uncommon as the original: Matanya, Matanah, Matannah, Matat. Chances are good you’ll never run into a child with any of these names, though, so your daughter will be sure to be one of a kind in the name department.
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Music is the universal language, and names honoring the importance of music are beloved in many cultures. For a change-up on this idea, consider the name Mele, which is Hawaiian for “song.” Short and sweet, it’s a lovely name for a daughter, whether the parents are of Hawaiian ancestry or not. Some sources also list Mele as a variation of Mary, and some even pass it as a boy’s name, although this is even less common than as a girl’s name. Mele could also mean “poem.” Whichever meaning you prefer, there’s no denying that Mele is a fantastic name that you’ve likely never considered before!
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Goodness knows weird, er, unique spellings are all the rage these last few years. Parents not only want names that are different, but they’re determined that if someone else comes up with the same name, at least their child’s will be spelled differently! Well, try on this lovely Latin name with a spelling that absolutely no one will ever see coming — or be able to pronounce. With the lovely meaning “free,” or “woman who is free,” other parents will envy your child’s truly individual name and free spirit. In all seriousness, though, this girl’s name will make your little one stand out like nothing else.
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Drawn to names from Greek mythology, but feel like they’ve all been “done” already? Check out the name Pericles. While it doesn’t actually come from anywhere in the Greek pantheon, Pericles is of Greek origin, and it inspires the same feelings as other popular mythological names. Some say this name means “far-famed,” which is surely a trait many parents dream of for their little one! Pericles is also actually the name of William Shakespeare’s least well-known plays, which might appeal to lovers of the English classics. And for added fun, Pericles was also the name of an evil parrot in an old episode of Scooby Doo.
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Adding to an already large family? Consider the name Septimus, which means “seventh” or “seventh born” in Latin. This truly vintage name evokes thoughts of Ancient Rome, which is not surprising when you consider that it was the name of a Roman emperor. The name was once popular but has long since fallen out of favor. Today, it might only ring a bell for history buffs and for certain book lovers, as it’s been used in a handful of classic and popular stories over the years. For any of the rest of us, though, it’s shiny and new. Used in the right context, it could be a wonderfully meaningful name for a little boy.
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Naming children, especially girls, after flowers and herbs has long been a trend, and it’s recently expanded far beyond hippie circles. But if you’re looking to avoid the more common Saffron, Rosemary, or Rue, consider naming your little one Shatavari. As a plant, Shatavari is an important herb in Ayurvedic practice used to support a woman’s reproductive system. As a name, Shatavari is of Indian or Hindu origin, and often given the meaning “eternal.” This lovely name is sure to garner attention. While it’s a beautiful way to honor Indian ancestry, it also wouldn’t be out of place in any modern family, no matter where your cultural roots lie.
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Add this one to the list of great names for mythology buffs. Despite what you might be inclined to think at first, Sif is generally a girl’s name. It comes from Scandinavia; in the old Norse language, “sifjar” meant bride, and Sif is a shortened form of that. In the old tales, Sif was the name of the wife of Thor. She was a fertility goddess in her own right and is best remembered for her beautiful golden hair. However, she’s not a well-known or well-remembered goddess, and perhaps that’s why the name is incredibly uncommon, both in America and around the world.
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This uncommon name can easily be used for a boy or girl; with an “o” at the end, many would be inclined to think it better for baby boys, but it’s actually slightly more popular for girls. However, it’s not popular at all for either category, and chances are you’ve never heard of it unless you were born in the city in Mississippi of the same name (and even then, you’ve almost certainly never thought about it as the perfect name for a baby!). Aside from being a place name, Tupelo is also derived from a species of tree that grows in the swampy areas of the southern United States.
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If you’re looking for a classy older name for your expected little girl, look no further than Valaida. In Latin, this name means “strong,” and any daughter christened with this name is sure to be so, although the name also evokes a certain sense of passion and gentle nature. Valaida is a name that hasn’t been seen in regular rotation for decades. Perhaps the most well-known Valaida in history was Valaida Snow, a jazz musician who died in the 50s, although the name has also been used in a number of songs throughout time. Now is the right time to bring this name back into the spotlight.
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Some expectant parents feel called to honor the ancient traditions of Europe, and the name Vevila is a perfect choice. Most sources claim Vevila is of Gaelic origin, with the extremely precise meaning “woman with a melodious voice.” Other sources around the web, however, say Vevila is actually an Irish name which means “harmony.” But honestly, does it really matter which is which? Both meanings are simply lovely, and both are guaranteed to get your friends and family talking and asking you where you ever came up with such a perfect name. Any baby graced with the name Vevila is a lucky child indeed.
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A number of “W” names have been seeing a resurgence of popularity recently: Wyatt, Winston, Waylon. Your son will stand out with the strong, masculine name Winton, which is usually defined as meaning “friend’s town” or “friend’s settlement.” Winton is derived from an Old English surname and hasn’t seen any real popularity in the US for a century, and even then it was far from widespread. For variety, the name can also be spelled with a “y” (Wynton); this variation is slightly more popular, but not by much. Music buffs will like utilizing a name that pays homage to a handful of old-time songs.