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07.28.10

100 Cool Uncommon Baby Names

Tired of all the Theos and Sloanes on the playground? Naming expert Pamela Redmond Satran—coauthor of Beyond Ava & Aiden—scours naming stats for the best names used for 25 or fewer babies each year.

Are you looking for a great baby name that’s virtually undiscovered?

I don’t mean one of those hipster choices vibrating just below the Top 1000, ready to make its leap toward baby name stardom: Pearl, Juniper, Theo, Lionel, I’m talking about you. Those names are already used by a couple hundred style-conscious parents a year, and will soon be showing up on a popularity list (or at least a celebrity baby) near you.

Rather, what I have in mind, and what you may too, is a name with a genuine provenance (as opposed to a jury-rigged Lizzeth or Zhane), that is attractive (sorry, Ethel) and feels contemporary (bye-bye, Ethelred), yet is used for only a handful of babies each year.

To ferret out these rare and wonderful names, I unzipped the massive Social Security file of names used for at least five children every year stretching back to 1880 and posted the most recent results on nameberry, complete with the number of babies who received each name.

This is a trove of information for name nerds as well as for parents looking to gauge exactly how many other Sloanes their little girl is likely to meet in kindergarten (short answer: too many). Trouble is, there’s almost too much information here: more than 20,000 girls’ names and nearly 15,000 for boys for 2009 alone. And the further down you go on the list, the more choices you get—25,000 of those names were used for 25 or fewer babies—and so the harder it is to pick out the diamonds from the grit.

Let’s talk about the grit for a minute. Most of what’s on the long tail of the master baby names list falls into three categories:

• “Yooneek” spellings meant to make ordinary names special: Tatumn, Lileigh, Axcel, Wyitt.

• Invented names meant to improve on the thousands already in the lexicon: Wimberley, Mekhai, Shreyan, Imunique.

• Words, places, and surnames used as first names. This is where working your way through all that chaff gets fun. Who’s got it worse, I wondered: the boys named Hung or those named Eh? (Scarily, there were 10 of each.) Were names like Notorious and Clever, Beautifull and Naturell self-fulfilling prophecies? Would Wrigley ever meet Fenway, Dusty be disturbed by Breezy, Sparkle click glasses with Champagne?

But there are some jewels in there too. I sifted through the 25,000 names used for 25 or fewer babies in 2009 and came up with 100 fantastic choices, 50 for each gender. Here, my picks:

FOR GIRLS:

1. Amabel
2. Ambrosia
3. Augustina
4. Bellamy
5. Blanche
6. Branwen
7. Caia
8. Celestia
9. Cicely
10. Circe
11. Clementina
12. Clio
13. Cornelia
14. Dolly
15. Domino
16. Electra
17. Elspeth
18. Federica
19. Finola
20. Fleur
21. Franny
22. Henrietta
23. Honora
24. Ione
25. Isolde
26. Jacinta
27. Jezebel
28. Kiernan
29. Lake
30. Leonie
31. Lilou
32. Lucienne
33. Lux
34. Olympia
35. Ondine
36. Paz
37. Pippa
38. Sabra
39. Saffron
40. Saskia
41. Sinead
42. Snow
43. Tamsin
44. Tanaquil
45. Tansy
46. Toril
47. Tulip
48. Valentine
49. Verena
50. Vita

FOR BOYS

1. Ahmet
2. Amias
3. Balthazar
4. Barnabas
5. Birch
6. Breccan
7. Brick
8. Calloway
9. Cashel
10. Casimir
11. Clancy
12. Cosmo
13. Day
14. Fergus
15. Griffith
16. Guthrie
17. Hamish
18. Hart
19. Inigo
20. Jago
21. Jedediah
22. Jotham
23. Kermit
24. Laird
25. Lorcan
26. Malachy
27. Maxfield
28. North
29. Oberon
30. Ogden
31. Orson
32. Osborne
33. Oswald
34. Ozias
35. Pike
36. Prescott
37. Raoul
38. Redmond
39. Romulus
40. Rufus
41. Serge
42. Stellan
43. Thornton
44. Tiberius
45. Tobiah
46. Vaughan
47. Walden
48. Ward
49. Webster
50. Win

Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of four novels about New Jersey housewives, including Suburbanistas and Babes in Captivity. She is also the developer of nameberry.com.