When both of my kids were born, they remained nameless for about a week. Although I had spent months coming up with the names I loved – I still needed to be very vigilant about what exactly to put on that birth record.
I think that many modern parents would like their children to stand out from the crowd – in a good way – and try hard to find names that are rare but respectable.
20. Ambrose [am-brohz]
Coming from the Greek ambrosios (meaning immortal), Ambrose is a gender neutral name that carries with it class, distinction and a hint of sweetness. These days, it’s more found as a last name, but I doubt very much it will lose it’s relatability as a first name anytime soon.
Famous people named Ambrose include Saint Ambrose, a bishop of Milan in 397 AD and Ambrose Bierce, an American journalist and writer.
19. Benita [beh-nee-tə]
As a Latin derivative from the male name Benedictus or the Spanish Benito, Benita means blessed and is the perfect romantic name to give to a girl.
Those who carry this classic name include Benita Hume, an English film actress of the mid 1900s, and Benita Valente, a well known soprano once heavily involved in American orchestra.
18. Chana [khah-nə]
Related to the more popular Hannah, Chana comes from the Hebrew meaning grace or God has favored me. I love the ancestral roots this name has and how, simultaneously, it comes across as a very modern name due to it’s pronunciation.
I feel like this name could be good for all genders but it is so rare that I could not find any well-known figures with the name! Some of those who have been graced by the other version, Hannah, are television sports journalist Hannah Storm and Hanna Reitsch, the only woman awarded the First Class Iron Cross during World War II.
17. Illyria [ill-ee-ree-uh]
The Illyrians were the people known to inhabit the western Balkan Peninsula in 168 BC. Illyria, a female name honoring that history, sounds both melodic to the ear and is sure to not have been heard before in your child’s school.
The name was forever fictionalized in William Shakespeare’s play The Twelfth Night and on the 1990s vampire-lover show Angel, Illyria was an old and powerful demon.
16. Ellis [ell-uhs]
Of English and Welsh origin, Ellis has existed in our language as both first name and surname for quite some time and means the Lord is my God. It’s also related to Elias and Elijah.
This namesake is carried by Ellis Paul, American folk singer-songwriter and Ellis Burks, a former baseball player in the Major Leagues for 18 years. A cool fact: Emily Bronte’s famous (and only) novel Wuthering Heights was originally published under her chosen pen name of Ellis Bell.
15. Etna [et-nuh]
As an anglicized version of the Irish girl’s name Eithne, meaning kernel or grain, Etna uniquely falls into its own category, being somewhat different than and standing apart from names like Etta, Edna, or Ena.
If you have yourself a vivacious little girl, Etna may be the perfect name in honor of the active volcano that shares the name in Sicily, Italy.
14. Emory [em-o-ree]
Emory is a variant of Emery, comes from German origins, means brave or powerful, and is typically given to boys – but opening up our minds and putting convention aside, I can see a girl rocking this name.
Emory Lee Gordy, the famous American musician and producer shares this name, in addition to Emory Upton, a classic figure and United States Army General in the American Civil War.
13. Goldie/Golden [gol-dee/gol-den]
One of my absolute favorite rare names out there, Goldie or Golden (feminine and male versions) have a special place in my heart. This name is a direct accolade to the word golden.
One of my favorite actresses, Goldie Hawn, is best known for this one-of-a-kind name, in addition to African-American civil rights activist Golden Frinks.
12. Israel [iz-ri-el]
I know we have all heard the name Israel – that’s a given. But it still deserves a place here on a list of unique and rare baby names since I bet most of you don’t actually know an Israel other than the country. Looking at its biblical roots, as a given name it means He who wrestled with God. It is also associated with the idea of the Promised Land in the Old Testament.
General Israel Putnam was an American revolutionary bearing this name, as well as actor, playwright, and director Israel Horovitz.
11. Zora [zo-ruh]
Zora literally translates to dawn in several Slavic languages, most notably Bosnian or Serbo-Croatian. It’s easily pronounced in English and has just enough characteristics, like having four letters and starting with a Z, to differentiate it from a crowd of Britney and Laura’s.
Renowned individuals who have been given this name include American blues singer Zora Young (related to Howlin’ Wolf), Serbian painter Zora Petrovic, and famous Croatian Jewish novelist Zora Dirnbach.
10. Lazar [luh-zar]
Lazar is an abbreviation of Lazarus meaning God has helped and is both a strong and super modern name for a little boy to have, in my opinion.
This name’s bearers have been the Tsar of Serbia in the 14th century, in addition to soccer star Lazar Markovic, and Lazar Lagin, a Yugoslavian satirist and children’s author.
9. Leonie [lay-oh-nee]
Leonie has Latin origins and is the feminine accompaniment to Leon, both meaning lioness and lion, respectively. Having grown up in Germany, I have come across this name quite a few times in mainland Europe, but never here in Canada nor have I heard of it in the United States.
Leonie Frieda, a Swedish bestselling biography writer, shares this name, alongside the seventh appointed poet laureate of the United States, Léonie Fuller Adams.
8. London [lon-dun]
History tells us that Londinium was the centre of Roman controlled Britain, back then known as Brittania. This is essentially where the name London is derived from.
It’s flexible in its use as a boy’s or girl’s name, common enough for everyone to know how to pronounce it, and will likely have your child stand out amongst their playmates. Although usually appearing as a surname, famous first-named Londons we know of are American politician London Breed and football linebacker, London Fletcher Baker.
7. Morose [moh-rohz]
Traditionally an adjective to describe someone in a sullen or sour state, Morose is a first name that you probably don’t know anyone having. To me, however, it is both a sleepy and romantic sounding name suitable for any gender.
I actually don’t know anyone famous or personally with the name – so if you do end up naming your little one Morose – please let me know!
6. Mayra [mah-ya-ruh]
Some say it is the Gaelic form of Mary or Maria, which means bitter or rebellious, but others have related it to a version of the Latin word for myrrh. Others say it is too close to the name Myra, which is found in several areas of the world and means wonderful or peaceful.
Some ladies that have carried the name are Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2009, Mayra Matoz, and American pop singer Mayra Carol Ambriz Quintana (also known as Myra).
5. Odis [oh-dis]
Just like its alternate version Otis, Odis reminds me of an old-time bluesy area, where things just moved slower and people knew how to enjoy the moment as it came. With its roots in the Germanic word meaning wealth, it’s a derivative from the Old English name Otto.
The most well-known Otis has to be blue singer Otis Redding, who actress Olivia Wilde named her son after, as well.
4. Silas [sai-lahs]
Silas means of the forest and easily joins the ranks of rare but beautiful baby names, with a traditional, yet folksy ring to it.
Some more well-known Silases include St. Silas, an early member of the Christian community that befriended Paul in the Bible, and Sylvanus, who the name Silas is based on, the Roman God of the trees.
3. Trista [tris-tuh]
Based in love tragedy, Trista, just like it’s male form Tristan, is a tribute to a forsaken protagonist of a Celtic legend and the Gaelic word tryst, meaning a romantic appointment to meet or sorrowful, based on the French word for sad, triste.
A known Trista in modern pop culture includes Trista Rehn, a participant of the TV shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
2. Veda [vey-duh]
Veda has always been a favorite name of mine since I watched the 1991 classic My Girl and it just stuck with me (in the movie the girl actually spells her name Vada). Using Veda as a name for a girl or a boy is inspired by the vedas, which are ancient Indian scriptures, and therefore have a meaning close to understanding or sacred knowledge.
Veda Hille, Canadian singer-songwriter, and American actress Veda Borg are proud bearers of this mystical name.
1. Wym [vim]
Last but not least, Wym is a Dutch name that I bet any money you haven’t heard in your inner circle. Short for the Dutch version of William, Willem, it’s a name that came about by fusing two Germanic words that mean desire and protection together.
Famous carriers of the name include actor Willem Dafoe and modern EKG inventor, Willem Einthoven.