A couple of weeks ago, we discussed which types of creative names are simply “too different” meaning names that are impractical to the point of being a burden. That doesn’t mean a creative name, when picked with care, is always a burden.
There are different levels of creativity when it comes to names. There are existing names, with an established history that have become dormant, just waiting to be rediscovered. Then there are non-names that are used as names for the first time.
As an aside, sometimes even names with a history, if they have become dormant for a while, can make a startling impression at first. That doesn’t make these names unusable. Discovering Aloysius after omitting it from our us enders list brought this fact to light.
I’m sure I must have come across Aloysius in my research, but didn’t think to include it on the list. And then I saw it on a TV character, and suddenly found the name a possibility for a real baby.
There are also names that have never or rarely been used as names by the public, but given their name-like qualities, might work as given names. These names are our focus: Non-names with name-like qualities.
What non-names have name-like qualities?
If you would like to use a more creative name for your child, but are afraid of teasing, startled reactions or constant explanations, consider this: names go through life-cycles. Names once considered totally out-there suddenly become cutting-edge, and in time become accepted, even revered by the mainstream.
When considering a completely creative name, be ready for some startled reactions, but if you are creative and follow some patterns, you might find your baby’s name eventually getting accolades. In time you and your baby could be seen as taste makers if you follow these conventions:
Creative Name Conventions:
- Names inspired by nature or science that do not have off-putting meanings.
- Names invented by an author, musician or artist.
- Surnames without an extensive history of use in the first name slot.
- Place names without an extensive history of use as a name.
- Names inspired by the calendar, such as months or days of the week.
Names Inspired by Nature
Some of our more adventurous bird and forest inspired names follow this convention. For example, Oriole, from our bird inspired list has little history as a first name, but since other birds such as Wren, Lark, and even Sparrow have been used for names, Oriole isn’t as far off the beaten path as a conservative namer might think.
Maple, recently given to a celebrity baby, is another example. Maple is similar in idea to other plant names, such as Fern, and sounds very similar to Mabel making Maple an imaginable first name. Another celebrity example, Apple also follows this convention, which makes it usable despite being unappealing to many.
Not all nature terms work. For example, I would avoid chrysalis. Sure it sounds like Kristen, and in theory is sounds pretty, but the idea is sort of gross.
Names Invented by An Author
I’m a hypocrite. I always said I didn’t like made-up names, but my own daughter’s name, Fiona was most likely made-up by an author. That author was Scottish poet, James Macpherson who used Fiona in his 1762 poem “Fingal”. Fiona MacLeod was also the pen-name of Scottish writer, William Sharp, kept secret most of his lifetime.
Another made-up name, Vanessa was first used in 1726 by author Jonathan Swift in his poem “Candenus and Vanessa”. While Candenus never caught on, Vanessa has become a modern classic.
For parents looking for an original author coined name, there’s Iridessa, the name of one of TinkerBell’s friends from Pixie Hollow. The name was most likely inspired by the word iridescent, which means “light.” In 2011, there were 13 families who used Iridessa for their daughters; this is an increase from seven families in 2010 (a nearly double increase).
Original Last Names First
Most surnames earning a first name promotion seem to have these characteristics:
- They have no more than 3 syllables.
- They are not terribly common as last names. A somewhat common last name like Kerry seems fine, but an extremely common last name like Jones or Rodriguez is so closely associated as a last name, moving it to the first spot could cause confusion.
- They are not too similar to an already established first name. Examples: Williams is too close to William. Johnson is too close to John. Roberts is too close to Robert.
- Usually Northern European surnames, of English, Scottish, Irish, and – to a lesser extent – German origins seem to work better in the U.S., but this may change as the culture changes.
For parents wishing to branch out and be among the first to use a surname as a first name, using a surname from your family tree will give your child a handy explanation to anyone who feels compelled to comment.
An example of completely creative surname-name, would be Olson. Olson has little history as a first name. However, there were six families who named their boys Olson in 2011, and six families who named their boys Olson the year before. Just barely making the U.S. Social Security data, Olson is original enough, yet still fits in with its N ending.
Another possibility is Ramos, which could fit in with popular O ending names like Leo and Milo. Yes, Ramos technically ends in an S but the O is still near the end. In addition, Ramos is like Amos with an R. If you want to get even more creative you could chop off the S and use Ramo, but I prefer Ramos. The S makes the name a little more distinctive while keeping it somewhat personal. While Ramos sounds like a person’s given name, Ramo sounds like a product name or possibly a teenager’s nickname.
Where No Names Have Gone Before
Many names have originated as a place-name. The reverse is also true. When researching towns in Minnesota for Outrange at Baby Name Theft: Petty or Justified? I came across Bertha, MN, which was a person’s name before a place-name. Bertha wouldn’t work for the post – for many reasons – but the most important reason was I needed something original sounding, yet name-like. I settled on Caledonia.
What makes Caledonia name-like?
- The -ia ending is common among established girl’s names, such as Alexandria and Victoria.
- Callie can be a nickname, making the long name a little easier to wear.
When consulting the map for inspiration, I suggest using a place that has meaning to you. This way, your child will hopefully feel pride in his name and not scratch his head wondering why his crazy folks took some random town in Germany (especially if you aren’t German) just because they liked how it sounded.
Some meanings are better left alone however. I would not follow Victoria and David Beckham’s lead and use the place of conception. Ick.
Names Inspired by The Calendar
Many calendar months are claimed as names, such as April, May, and June. To a lesser extent, August has some use on boys. These are all great names. For those wanting to branch out, January Jones introduced her unusual moniker to the world a few years ago. January remains unusual, only given to 24 girls in 2011. Other months such as September might work. September was given to 28 girls in 2011.
Nicolle Kidman blazed the trail for days of the week names with her daughter Sunday Rose. In 2011, 42 girls and five boys were named Sunday. Other days of the week could work as well. Personally, I love the idea of Tuesday on a girl, and in 2011, 22 families loved the idea too.
These suggestions are for those of you who want something off the beaten path. When picking a name, how high should originality rank on the priority list? The answer depends on who you ask. There are advantages to using established names that aren’t original, but that discussion is for another time.
Completely original names won’t appeal to everyone. But what would result from trying to appeal to everyone? A return to our not too distant past when there were households full of John’s and Mary’s (maybe John’s and Mary’s would be replaced by Jacob’s and Olivia’s). Even if you like John and Mary, as I do, I doubt you want every other kid to be named John or Mary. Who wants that?
Readers: Which of these featured original (first) names do you like the best?