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Unique Baby Names

In a May, 2010 article in the The Washington Post, author Laura Wattenberg (The Baby Name Wizard) surveyed the shifting trend in baby names, as parents abandon traditional and classic names in favor of the never-ending pursuit of unique baby names.

As Wattenberg correctly notes, a quick look at the most popular baby names in America seems to indicate the classics are still hot. After all, names like Jacob, Noah, and William, along with Emma, Emily, and Abigail – hardly unique names – still grace the top ten rankings. But what's hidden is the fact that today, it takes far fewer Jacobs or Emilys to garner the top spot, because names are far more diverse and varied than ever before. In other words, because there are so many different names in use today, it takes far fewer instances of one name to hit the top spot.

In 1990, almost 22,000 boys were named Jacob, and it was the number 20 most popular name in the U.S. In 2009, there was almost the exact same number of boys named Jacob, and it was the number one name of the year (and of the decade).

Americans today seem committed to individual and unique names, almost as if they are "branding" their kids. But are the names that they are choosing truly unique? Or are they just variants on perceived "cool" names? Among the top 100 boys names for 2009, we have Aiden at number 12, Aidan at 72, and Ayden at 85. Are these last two really that different, or are they just condemning the kid to a lifetime of having to spell out their first name?

We decided to create our own list of "unique" names for boys and girls that's a little different. Using common sense, we figured that parents-to-be who are looking for a unique baby name are probably looking for a baby name that is, well -- unusual, individual, a little bit different. A name that will stand out from the crowd, but one that still has some basis in the English language, some sort of background or history.

Those are the kinds of names we went looking for. All the names on our unique baby names list are found in authoritative sources, but none of them has been in the top 1000 names in the last hundred years, according to U.S. Social Security data. Maybe they're not one hundred percent unique. But they're unusual, out-of-the-ordinary, and very individual. If that's the kind of name you're looking for, then this list is definitely for you.

Rants and Raves
about Unique Baby Names

Nothing else in the world of baby names – at least the world of Anglo-American baby names – seems to get people more riled up, pro and con, than the issue of unique baby names. We're talking here about the kind of names where it's clear the parents have strived to make the name stand out, whether by playing with an existing name – changing Brittany to Britnee, for example – or a totally off-the-wall name of the type most-closely associated with celebrity baby names – Ashlee Simpson's and Pete Wentz's son, Bronx Mowgli, leaps to mind.

If you're looking for a unique name for your upcoming baby, before you leap into the world of Madecyns and Madisyns, take a look at what some people have been saying. Our survey is not scientific, but it seems to us that the "anti" camp is somewhat larger (or is it just noisier?) than the "pro" camp when it comes to creative naming. On the other hand, there seems to be no shortage of people who have grown up with unusual names who are happy with them (and vice versa). You be the judge!

The following opinions are taken from blog comments or other social media. All of them are real. Some have been edited for brevity.

  • "I can't wait until we have a President Jaden or President Ava. I'm sure by then we'll have a Constitutional amendment reaffirming our uniqueness and individuality as Americans!"
  • "My own philosophy is, if you must saddle your kid with a weird, or weirdly spelled name, put it in the middle, where it can be safely ignored."
  • "I've gone through life explaining how to spell and pronounce my first name (Lynanne) as well as my nickname (Lyn with only 1 'n', thank you very much)…When it came time to name my child, I chose a fairly common name, and with the standard spelling. At least she was able to get pencils with her name on them to use at school, something I would have loved to have had. 'Unique' is vastly overrated."
  • "Parents...shouldn't condemn their children to a lifetime of bleakly repeating that, no, the name in question is spelled Shaiyahne, not Cheyenne."
  • "An old high school classmate named one of his children Xaqueri (aka Zachery.) Ridiculous."
  • "Not a day goes by that I don’t apologize to my…daughter for saddling her with the ultimate “dizzy cheerleader” name (Brittany) that is destined to be misspelled FOREVER!"
  • "This nonsense is parental abuse, by sociopaths, upon their unwitting progeny."
  • "My wife is a nurse and they had a baby named Na-a (pronounced Nadasha). The mother said that the dash isn’t silent." "And then there’s Aidan, Aiden, and Ayden, not to mention Haden, Jaden, Kaden, Braiden, and all the other -adens..."
  • "Frank Zappa’s kids are Dweezil and Moon Unit. Of course if you’re Frank Zappa’s kids it’s OK. For everyone else, knock it off."
  • "My name, Catelyn, (which was EXTREMELY unusual at the time/place of my birth) has been a source of pride for me throughout my life and I sincerely feel it’s made me appreciate my individuality."
  • "Yawn. Not everyone is scandalized by a name that doesn’t come out of the Bible. Just ask acting Nigerian President Goodluck Johnson. If it’s the strength of a child’s character and intelligence that matters, who cares what her name is?"
  • "I am sick to death of people in this country telling me I should spell my name phonetically simply because it doesn’t fit within their idea of how a name should be spelled. My name reflects not only my nationality (Irish) but also the fact that my parents cared enough about our own language to pass it on to me rather than resorting to an Anglo name."
  • "If you were born a Jennifer, Jenny, Jen (and many, many of us were), you know that you were saddled with a name that EVERYONE has. And that’s no fun."
  • "I think we should name ourselves at 21."
  • "Thanks goodness my sons Poindexter and Wilberforce are still the only ones in their classes!"

Got a rant or a rave about unique baby names? Leave a comment in the Facebook comment box, down below!

"Around The Web"

    Your Odd Baby Name
    Study shows parents regret "unique" baby names
    Complaint Box: Brittney, Brittny, Brittneigh
    What are Some Unique Baby Names?
    Unique Baby Names App for iPhone
    Bad Baby Names Forum
    Unique Baby Names Forum
    Access baby names not in Top 1000 Names
    Unique baby names may reflect society's narcissism
    Unique names say a lot about the parents

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We strive to bring you the most authoritative meanings for the names listed. We have drawn our lists from a variety of sources.
If you know an alternate meaning for any name, please , and we'll check it out.

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