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: