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How to Choose a Unique Baby Name
Updated on
September 11, 2023

How to Choose a Unique Baby Name

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How to Choose a Unique Baby Name.
How to Choose a Unique Baby Name

We asked Babylist parents what their baby-naming strategy was, and they answered by the hundreds! Many parents told us they wanted a name that was “unique but not weird.”

Here are the 13 strategies Babylist parents used to come up with their own unique names for their babies.

1. Choose a baby name based on location

One Babylist parent told us, “We went through and wrote down every street name we’ve ever lived on together. We actually came up with two names we adore and hope to use—Abbot and Welles.”

Parents also looked at city names for inspiration. One of them told us, “I like places for names. Dallas, Nash—my son’s name is Aspen!”

2. Choose a baby name based off of a big event

You can also take baby name inspiration from significant life events or experiences. One parent told us, “We are naming her Piper, after the first type of airplane my husband learned to fly when he was 16.”

What about an emotional turning point in your life? A life event that embodied a quality you want your child to have? Picture that event and draw from it. This technique will help you come up with a name that is unique and unexpected, yet full of rich personal meaning.

3. Look for beautiful meanings in a name

You can also find a unique name by reflecting on the deeper meaning you want to give your child. A Babylist family told us, “Jubilee was named because she was our celebration in a difficult time.”

We also heard from families who wanted a strong name for either girls or boys. What meaning do you want your kid’s name to have?

4. Name your baby after somone you admire

People have always named their babies after those they admire, but if you creatively expand your definition of “who you admire” you’ll widen the pool to include dozens of unique names. One parent wrote us, “We named our daughter after a cat and a famous physicist.” Do you admire scientists? Lots of them have really unique names!

Artists are also admirable. One family told us, “First names we have chosen after our favorite artists (Renoir and Monet).” Or you can look to contemporary artists and celebrity names like this couple: “Hubby and I figured out the middle name Carter since we both like the famous rapper Lil Wayne and the ROCA wear (Rowan Carter 😉) owner Jay Z.”

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5. Choose a historical baby name

History has millions of names! If you choose from distant geographies or eras, you get unique pretty fast. When we looked at ancient Roman names, we found a lot of unique naming fodder.

Or look to inspiring people from recent history.

6. Choose a literary baby name

Are you a book nerd? Dive into books to search for a unique baby name. It’s a rich supply of ideas; not just the characters (Harry Potter baby names are always popular!), but also the authors. Agatha Christie, anyone?

7. Pick a baby name from a TV or movie

People aren’t just inspired by books. We noticed that with TV and movies, parents tended to be more cautious, naming their babies indirectly after the characters. This family told us, “Star Trek. No joke. My son is James Tiberius K. My next one will be Wesley Charles. (Crusher isn’t an option . . . Lol).” Although they named their baby directly after Captain Kirk, only true fans of the show will notice. It gives the baby’s name a unique nerdy meaning without making it obvious that that’s what they’re named after.

There’s a danger if you’re looking for unique baby names in really popular TV shows. One parent warns: “Five of our six children have been named with a reference to the TV show Lost 😂. The name Liam was unique 8 years ago. Now, not so much.”

Were other parents inspired by the same TV show? Those baby names sound unique now, but what about all those other parents in your generation who are also fans?

8. Choose a nature-themed baby name

One parent wrote us, “My husband and I are naming our kids after mountains… Our first-born son is named Elias (Mt. Saint Elias).”

You can also look to birds and animals for inspiration. Robin, Raven and Jay are well known, while Wren, Paloma, Merle, Starling and Finch start to get more unique.

On the animal side of things, a lot of traditional names have animal meanings—Phillip means horse lover, Tabitha means gazelle. What’s your favorite animal? There may be a name derived from that animal that’s a perfect fit.

9. Use Wikipedia, the dictionary and the thesaurus

Sometimes a beautiful, obscure word in the dictionary will work just right as name. Or lesser-known synonyms might just sound “name-like.” When you put “kind” into, one of the synonyms is Clement, a baby name that means “merciful and gentle.”

We collaborated with to analyze the top names of Babylist babies. Turns out some of the best baby names are actually nouns.

Are you a Wikipedia addict? This parent wrote us, “I have nine kids, they all have names that have entries in Wikipedia in the history part.” Browsing Wikipedia can be a great way to inspire yourself—famous authors, artists and scientists, characters in TV shows—Wikipedia has it all. The Wikipedia homepage changes every day, so one particularly adventurous naming technique could be to find a name on the day of your child’s birth. The Wikipedia homepage today had the following interesting names: Ethel, Louise, Sean, Tyler and Johan.

10. Go retro! Old-fashioned baby names can be so unique

This Babylist parent had a very method of searching for old-fashioned names: “We wanted a more traditional name, but one that we didn’t hear very often. My mom suggested we search through a list of passengers on the Titanic, since there would be older names, but more variety amongst the countries of origin. We chose to name our girl Quincy, which was a surname of one of the passengers.”

The Social Security Database is a really fantastic resource for historical naming too. You can see the most popular names in each year of the past century. You can also discover old-fashioned names by researching your family tree; naming your baby after a distant ancestor can have a special personal meaning as well. Familial last names can also make unique and meaningful first or middle names.

11. Draw on your national or religious heritage

Many of our Babylist parents used their national or religious heritage to inspire their baby’s unique names. One parent told us, “My wife’s name is spiritual (her parents were/are Hare Krishna) and of Bengali origin. Our baby will have a first name of similar origin.”

Another parent mentioned, “We like Saint names! That way we can pray to those saints for their intercession, and the kids have a good role model.” Note that the Bible actually has a pretty good supply of unique names—Zeke (short for Ezekiel) was one parent’s pick.

Other parents looked to their families’ heritage for inspiration: “Our baby girl’s first and middle names are based on my and my husband’s background. We chose traditional Filipino and Irish names.”

12. Combine names in interesting ways

Sometimes names that are less unique by themselves become very interesting and unique when used in combination. We thought this family’s approach was interesting. “Theodore, because it’s historic/presidential, and Bernard, because it’s my father-in-law’s middle name. And the whole name together literally means Teddy Bear.”

Another option is the Southern tradition of two short names being used in combination like they were one name. Ann and Violet are not very unique by themselves, but when you put them together, “Ann Violet” has a very unique sound to it. This is a very low-key way to get unique.

You can also combine multiple names into one name. This online name and word combiner acts as a baby name generator and lets you enter multiple names to generate all possible combinations. Try using just two or three short names and being patient with it, so the unique names have time to emerge.

13. Think about how the name sounds when the baby is an adult

One parent confided to us, “This sounds crazy but I always think of names that sound like cool clothing brands. ‘Lyla Jane’ or ‘Whitney Estelle.’”

Let’s run with this concept. Imagine your baby being gloriously successful—a famous movie star or CEO with their name in every paper. Would their name sound good as they called it out at the Oscars?

Babylist Staff

Babylist editors and writers are parents themselves and have years of experience writing and researching, coming from media outlets like Motherly, the SF Chronicle, the New York Times and the Daily Beast, and the fields of early childhood education and publishing. We research and test hundreds of products, survey real Babylist parents and consult reviews in order to recommend the best products and gear for your growing family.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.