American Names · Analysis · Classic, Old, and Traditional Names · Modern names

Name Profile: Beverly

Do you like the sound of Everly but prefer something vintage? Is Evelyn, which ranks #9 in the U.S., too popular for you? You may love Beverly, an old English place name meaning something akin to “beaver stream” or “beaver meadow.”

Beverly: Surname, Place Name; Likely Meaning: "Beaver Stream" or "Beaver Meadow," or someone who lives near there; popular baby name from 1905 to 1999 for girls, until the 1950s for boys; Rare alternative to Evelyn and Everly; Vintage and Modern.

Beverly was one of the very first last-names-as-baby-names to become popular for girls. We’ve come a long way in that naming genre! I wager that most preschools have students named Harper and Avery, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if their moms or teachers are named Ashley or Taylor. Their grandmothers might be Leslie and Kelly, and their great-grandmothers could be Shirley or Beverly. The names change, but the style remains the same. Beverly was a part of the vanguard that made it cool to name a baby girl with a surname, or to name a baby girl with a boys’ name. Beverly’s old-fashioned now, but I think it’s one of the first truly modern baby names.

Beverly, like Shirley and other surname baby names, originally began as a men’s name. Indeed, Beverly became conventionally unisex for nearly 50 years before the 1950s, when it dropped out of the U.S. top 1000 for boys. I dare say that when Beverly first became popular for girls, for a brief period it was even gender neutral…as gender neutral as a name could be while trending before World War I! Even so, once it really took off for girls, there was no turning back. It was officially feminine.

What made Beverly popular to begin with? Those first names in that style didn’t come from nowhere; we know the concept of Shirley as a girls’ name came from a Bronte character . As it turns out, Beverly became popular because of a hit 1904 book, Beverly of Graustark, and a later 1920s movie based on the story. The timing is just right to imagine Beverly as a flapper or the baby of one. Beverly has a certain glamorous old-lady feel to it, making it a great choice for parents who want their daughters to sparkle and shine with confidence. There’s even the associations with Beverly Hills, California – for parents who want to evoke a sense of glitz, wealth, and celebrity – and Star Trek, for nerdy parents who love Beverly Crusher. Of course, the book that started it all isn’t even the most important literary connection to Beverly, at least not for modern parents. Today’s parents may wish to honor beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 104.

Like Everly, there’s well more than one way to spell Beverly. The most traditional alternate spelling is probably Beverley, which can be attested as a men’s name by the mid-18th century via Beverley Randolph (whose name came from a family surname). Other old spellings that aren’t currently in use for babies include Beverlee, Beverli, and Beverlye, though maybe surprisingly there’s no history of Beverleigh. There’s also Beverlyn, a rare name which peaked in the 50s but has the potential for trendiness in the 2020s and going into the 2030s thanks to the “Lyn” and “Lynn” endings that are so popular for baby girls’ names. Currently, the only two spellings parents are using are Beverly and Beverley.

Exactly how trendy is Beverly these days? Well, I think things are looking up. Beverly peaked in the 1930s and 40s before falling into near oblivion by the new millennium, eventually dipping reaching an almost 100-year-low in 2010 at just 99 girls in a year. Since then, it’s been creeping slowly back upwards – probably thanks to Everly, which started taking off right around then. Everly has actually dropped a little since its 2019 peak, but Beverly is still rising and was given to as many as 188 girls in 2021. Did Everly rise too quickly? Are parents already looking for something fresh but familiar with Beverly? Is it the vintage vibes? The nature meanings? If Beverly doesn’t take off now, I think it’s primed for the 2030s and 40s in a kind of 100-year-cycle.

What do you think of Beverly? Do you see it coming back soon? Let me know! 

American Names · Modern names · Name Lists

Baby Name Mash-Ups: Boys Edition!

Do you enjoy mashing two names together to create a third? Whether you love name games, want an unconventional honoring name, or simply like rare baby names, name mashes are a fantastic way to explore the outer bounds of language.

Yesterday, I posted a list of real girls’ names that qualify as baby name mash-ups. Today, I publish the boys’ names! All of the mash-ups listed are legitimate baby names found within the Social Security Administration‘s data set for U.S. babies born in 2021. I also list how many times they were used that year to get a sense of rarity or popularity (For context, the SSA publishes all names used at least 5 times in a year. The most popular name in the country, Liam, was given to over 20,000 babies. To be considered popular, it needs to rank in the Top 1000…which started at 217 boys for the names Atharv, Bishop, Blaise, and Davian. Sense of scale!).

  • Adrius = Adrian + Atreus. 7 boys were named Adrius in the U.S. in 2021.
  • Aidric = Aidan + Godric. 6 boys were named Aidric in the U.S. in 2021.
  • Alexiel = Alex + Daniel. 6 boys.
  • Amarion = Amari + Marion. 136 boys.
  • Augden = August + Ogden. 5 boys.
  • Axcel = Axel + Excel. 10 boys. Hey, some people love spreadsheets!
  • Azaiah = Azariah + Isaiah. 166 boys.
  • Azarious = Azariah + Julius. 6 boys.
  • Baxton = Baxter + Paxton. 5 boys.
  • Braven = Brave + Draven. 94 boys.
  • Breyson = Brayson + Greyson. 12 boys.
  • Briceson = Brice + Bryson. 11 boys.
  • Briggston = Briggs + Brixton. 26 boys.
  • Broxton = Brock + Brixton. 7 boys
  • Chrisean = Chris + Sean. 6 boys.
  • Dylangael = Dylan + Angel, Dylan + Gael. 6 boys
  • Eliam = Eli + Liam. This is actually a Biblical name, but it’s a great mash option. Rank: #736, and was given to 345 boys in 2021.
  • Emmerick = Emery + Merrick, Emery + Eric, Emeric + Merrick. 5 boys.
  • Ethaniel = Ethan + Nathaniel. 20 boys.
  • Faustin = Faustino + Austin. 5 boys.
  • Geremy = Gerald + Jeremy. 9 boys.
  • Gianluca = Giovanni + Luca. 180 boys.
  • Graceson = Grace + Grayson. 47 boys. This is an interesting option for parents who want to honor a woman named Grace with their son’s name.
  • Hughston = Hugh + Houston. 7 boys.
  • Iangael = Ian + Angel, Ian + Gael. 5 boys.
  • Jakayden = Jake + Kayden. 28 boys.
  • Jamichael = James + Michael. 22 boys.
  • Jaren = Jason + Daren, Jason + Karen. 34 boys.
  • Jayco = Jayden + Draco. 9 boys.
  • Jeaven = Jeremy + Heaven. 5 boys.
  • Jebediah = Jeb + Jedediah. 27 boys. This is one of the older mash-ups and one of the older psuedo-Biblical names on the block.
  • Jessiah = Jesse + Josiah. 142 boys.
  • Joevan = Joe + Evan. 5 boys.
  • Juliam = Julian + Liam. 5 boys.
  • Kaydrian = Kayden + Adrian. 11 boys.
  • Kendarius = Kendrick + Darius. 13 boys.
  • Kendrix = Kendrick + Hendrix. 98 boys.
  • Lesther = Lester + Esther. 8 boys.
  • Lloyal = Llewelyn + Loyal, Llewyn + Loyal, Lloyd + Loyal. 9 boys.
  • Maxson = Max + Jaxson. 45 boys.
  • Maxton = Max + Paxton. Rank: #994 for 218 boys.
  • Miking = Mike + King. 22 boys.
  • Nashton = Nash + Cashton. 14 boys.
  • Rhyson = Rhys + Bryson. 7 boys.
  • Rorick = Rory + Rick. 10 boys.
  • Samaj = Sam + Semaj. Semaj is backwards for James. 11 boys.
  • Santonio = Santiago + Antonio. Of course, I also thought about a smoosh of San Antonio. 12 boys.
  • Thobias = Thomas + Tobias. This spelling looks a lot like the word “phobias.” 5 boys.
  • Xaviel = Xavier + Daniel. 6 boys.
  • Zebastian = Zebedee + Sebastian. 9 boys.

What do you think of these? Several of them are Bible-inspired without actually being Biblical, which is a really interesting trend I’ve been noticing.

What baby name mash-ups can you come up with for boys? I spotted Apollo and Pablo together in the boys’ data and misread together them as Apablo, so there’s an option!

American Names · Modern names · Name Lists

Baby Name Mash-Ups: Girls Edition

Whether you like to call them mash-ups, smooshes, compound names, or something else, it’s always fun to find or create names that mash two names together into one. It’s a great way to explore language, and sometimes you can find a new and unexpected appellation that way. Here is a list of real girls’ names for the creative mind to construct and deconstruct from two other names! Most of these probably aren’t meant to be mash-ups (indeed, many are unique and unconventional spellings), but who doesn’t love name games? All the mash-ups are listed with the number of baby girls who received the name in 2021, according to data from the Social Security Administration. If rare and uncommon baby names are your thing, I think you’ll enjoy these mashes too – only one of them is in the top 1000.

  • Adaleine = Adeline + Madeleine. 8 girls were named Adaleine in 2021.
  • Adamari = Ada + Amari. 32 girls were named Adamari in 2021.
  • Adamaris = Ada + Stellamaris, Adam + Damaris. 37 girls.
  • Alyssandra = Alyssa + Alessandra. 20 girls. This may be a genuine mashup in some cases.
  • Amberley = Amber + Emberly. 28 girls.
  • Ameliana = Amelia + Emiliana. This maximalist version of Amelia was used 40 times.
  • Ariellie = Aria + Ellie, Ariel + Ellie. 6 girls.
  • Arianelly = Ariana + Nelly, Ariana + Annalee, Ariana + Nayeli. 26 girls.
  • Avangeline = Ava + Evangeline. 23 girls.
  • Baisley = Bailey + Paisley, Bailey + Haisley. 12 girls
  • Bellanie = Bellamy + Melanie. 8 girls.
  • Brystal = Bristol + Crystal. 14 girls.
  • Callaway = Calla + Calloway. 41 girls.
  • Delaila = Delilah + Laila. 9 girls.
  • Delayah = Delaney + Malaya, Delaney + Leia. 9 girls
  • Elizabella = Elizabeth + Isabella, Elizabeth + Arabella. 21 girls.
  • Elliotte = Elliot + Charlotte. 53 girls.
  • Elouise = Eloise + Louise. 216 girls.
  • Embersyn = Ember + Emersyn. 6 girls.
  • Emmarie = Emma + Marie, Emily + Marie. 174 girls.
  • Eunique = Eunice + Unique. 10 girls.
  • Francely = Frances + Aracely. 10 girls.
  • Giabella = Gianna + Isabella. 24 girls.
  • Gwendalynn = Gwendolyn + Adalynn. 10 girls.
  • Havanna = Havana + Savannah, Haven + Savanna. 15 girls.
  • Hayeslee = Hayes + Haisley, Hayes + Paislee. 5 girls.
  • Hazeley = Hazel + Haisley, Hazel + Paisley. 9 girls
  • Janellie = Jane + Ellie. In reality, probably a variant of Yaneli? 8 girls.
  • Jenesis = Jennifer + Genesis. 379 girls with a national rank of #745. This is the only popular mashup baby name I list here.
  • Jeweliana = Jewel + Juliana. 5 girls.
  • Lauralai + Laura + Lorelai. 5 girls.
  • Lehlani = Leilani + Kehlani. 43 girls. Like Alyssandra, I suspect this is a genuine mashup.
  • Lydiann = Lydia + Ann. 11 girls.
  • Maevery = Maeve + Avery. 17 girls.
  • Maisley = Maisie + Haisley, Maisie + Paisley. 35 girls.
  • Makinsley = Makayla + Kinsley, Makenzie + Kinsley. 19 girls.
  • Marilena = Maria + Elena, Maria + Helena. 21 girls.
  • Marleaux = Marlowe + Beaux, Marlowe + Devereaux. 5 girls.
  • Melaney = Melanie + Delaney. In reality, the pronunciation is probably identical to Melanie. 8 girls.
  • Myrcella = Myrtle + Marcella. I know, I know…Myrcella comes from Game of Thrones, but I can dream! 5 girls.
  • Parys = Paris + Carys. 9 girls.
  • Pauleth = Paulette + Arleth, Paula + Arleth. 13 girls.
  • Persephanie = Persephone + Stephanie. 6 girls.
  • Reigna = Reign + Rayna. 33 girls.
  • Renesmee = Renee + Esme. The original name smoosh! 161 girls.
  • Roselani = Rose + Leilani, Rose + Kehlani. 9 girls.
  • Serinity = Serenity + Trinity. 19 girls.
  • Sophonie = Sophie + Stephanie. 5 girls.
  • Taylani = Taylor + Leilani, Taylor + Kehlani. 16 girls. 
  • Tayleigh = Taylor + Kayleigh. 12 girls.
  • Zoella = Zoe + Ella. 28 girls.

One of my favorite name mash-ups didn’t even make the 2021 data. Gwenevieve (Guinevere + Genevieve) has popped up a few times starting in 2008. You could also mix Gwendolyn and Lillian to get Gwenllian, which is a Welsh name…however, the double ‘l’ sounds different in Welsh than in English, so just be mindful. Other possible mash-ups include Hermione (from Hermia and Ione), Isadora (Isabella + Theodora), Tallulah (Talia + Lula), Jaylannie (Jayla + Annie), and Davinity (Davina + Divinity).

What are some of your favorite baby name mash-ups? Would you ever consider using one? Let me know and read the boys’ list!

American Names · Modern names

Name Profile: Xyla

Xyla is a name nobody seems to know much about. It’s so ultramodern it looks futuristic. It’s rare yet trendy. And when the Social Security Administration releases their list of America’s most popular baby names of 2022 in May, it’s likely to debut in the top 1000. Given to 233 girls in 2021, Xyla teeters on the edge of popularity.

There is so much to love about Xyla:

  • Names beginning with ‘x’ are unusual, to the point that only 4 names (Xavier, Xander, Ximena, and Xiomara) currently rank in the top 1000. Names combining the letters ‘x’ and ‘y’ are even rarer; in the 2021 SSA extended data that goes down to 5 uses, only 3 names begin with ‘Xy.’ One of the other two is Xylah, a variation of Xyla.
  • It’s short and sweet. Today’s parents love names like Max and Ava – names that are easy to spell, easy to say, and don’t have nicknames. Xyla is a little trickier to spell than those names, but it’s uncomplicated. You get the point as soon as you see it.
  • Xyla works as a nature name! One possible derivation is Xylon, the Latinized spelling of an Ancient Greek word meaning “wood.” Plants contain something called a “xylem,” and mycologists (people who study fungi/mushrooms) might appreciate Xyla as a short form of Xylaria. Xyla is an unconventional choice for parents who love plant names and more general nature names, but it fits nicely with other modern nature baby name options like Indigo and Azalea.
  • Xyla can have musical associations. A musician or music-lover may choose Xyla to reference the xylophone.
  • Did I mention it’s futuristic? Xyla is visually satisfying in the way that Xerox sounds. I don’t know about you, but it makes me think about spaceships and people living in a century beyond our own. And to top that, 1999 was the first year it ever appeared in the SSA birth data…Xyla definitely has a hopeful, space-age new-millennium vibe, something we sorely need right now.
  • It sounds like a bell. Move over Tyler and Kyla; Xyla is here to play!
  • Speaking of Kyla: if you don’t like the ‘Z’ sound of Xyla, you could always Hellenize the pronunciation and treat the ‘x’ like a ‘kh,’ in the way that Khloe is a legitimate spelling of Chloe because of the original Greek ‘chi.’
  • There aren’t many ways to spell it yet. Of course the most popular version is Xyla, but Zyla trails in hot pursuit at 211 girls (don’t be surprised if both Xyla and Zyla are in the 2022 Top 1000). Zylah and Xylah are less common options.

As far as middle names go, I recommend avoiding anything that starts with a vowel so the names don’t bleed into each other (Xyla Ann is going to sound like Xylann, which is a cool name idea but probably not what you’re looking for). You want contrast between sounds, which means hard consonants in this case. My recommendations for middle names include Bee, Rose, Bronte, Frances, Monet, Cove, and Robin.

What do you think of Xyla? Would you use this modern moniker? What’s your favorite spelling? Let me know!

Modern names · Name Lists

Nature Names for a Christmas Baby

The Holidays aren’t just celebrations – they’re feelings. Christmas is one day, but we associate an entire season with mistletoe, carols, and eggnog. Though the flowers are gone and the leaves have died away, we cling to whatever ecological beauty remains. Still, when you reach a time of year that’s meant to be joyous and happy, nostalgia and fondness for our surroundings abound. It’s only natural that these feelings and associations transfer to baby names for children born at this time of year.

Here’s a list of nature names associated with Christmas and the Holiday Season:

  • Holly – a 70s and 80s mom name that’s starting to come back, this name is about as Christmasy as it gets! For more information about Holly, check out my post from earlier this month. US Rank: #465.
  • Ivy – Usually mentioned in conjunction with Holly thanks to the song, Ivy is a great pairing option with Holly if you’re having twins. A vintage plant name, it’s all the rage right now. Rank: #49.
  • Douglas – Ranks at #739. We might think of Douglas as a vintage boys’ name, but it’s also a type of fir tree! Bring on the evergreens! Speaking of…
  • EvergreenEvergreen is an extremely rare and unique baby name usually only given to girls, but I think it makes a great gender-neutral name option precisely because of its rarity! Only 6 girls were named Evergreen in 2021.
  • Frost – Frost is trendy among the namenerds of Instagram, but this surname has only ever been used as a baby name a handful of times.
  • Spruce – I’m surprised Spruce doesn’t have a baby name history because it rhymes with Bruce and fits firmly within the nature names trend. Get moving, parents!
  • Poinsettia – A beautiful red and green flowering plant that blooms in glorious Christmas foliage.
  • Pine – Actor, tree, and possible baby name? You decide on that last one.
  • Snow – Everyone loves snow until they have to drive in it. Still, it’s one of the prettiest things on the planet, and the parents of 56 baby girls agreed on paper in 2021! Or maybe they just love Game of Thrones (who knows?).
  • LumiLumi is the Finnish word (and name) for snow! 57 girls were named Lumi in 2021. Read more here.
  • Ice – If Snow is feminine, Ice is unisex. 9 boys and 6 girls were named Ice in the U.S. in 2021, 8 girls were named Icy, 44 girls were named Icelynn, and 5 girls were named Icylinn. The latter two might be variations of Iceland, which was given to 6 girls.
  • Apricity – An intriguingly rare word name that means “the warmth of the sun in winter,” Apricity is a holiday darling of Instagram’s baby naming community.
  • Solstice – Okay, we’re just past the solstice, but there’s something lovely about the idea that the days only grow longer from here. 16 baby girls were named Solstice in 2021.
  • RobinRobin is unusually old-school for a gender-neutral name, but that’s part of what makes Robin so great! It can be an honorific for Robert, Robin Williams, or reference the beautiful bird. It currently ranks #896 for boys and #916 for girls.
  • Amaryllis – If you love Greek Mythology, flowers, and Christmas baby names, Amaryllis is for you! 67 girls were named Amaryllis in the U.S. in 2021.

Do you have a favorite nature name for Christmas? Let me know, and have a Merry Christmas! 

American Names · Modern names

Name Profile: Crimson

This generation’s parents choose from a wide variety of color names for their children. Rose and Violet are also flowers, Gray is short for Grayson, and Blue often lands in the middle spot. Scarlett (a variation of Scarlet) is wildly popular for girls right now. And yet, there’s another color name that’s on my mind today: Crimson.

Crimson has never ranked in the U.S. Top 1000 for any gender, which makes it rare. Across the country, only 43 girls and 24 boys were named Crimson in 2021. While the name doesn’t even rank on any Top 100 lists for individual states (and considering how regional names often are, that’s worth checking), there is one place it’s historically semi-popular.

Look, I no longer live in the South and don’t pay much attention to sports beyond checking how my college’s football team is doing, booing the Dallas Cowboys, or rooting for Germany or England in the World Cup (I know…they lost). I only recently attended my first MLB game and everything had to be explained to me! Even so, this bookish gamer nerd knows about the University of Alabama vs. Auburn rivalry. You might be asking “what does college football have to do with baby names?” The answer is “a lot” if you live in Alabama.

Crimson Tide refers to U. of Alabama’s varsity sports teams, but the football program is especially famous for its rivalry against Auburn University. Over the years, the Tide has inspired a lot of parents to name their babies Crimson, Krimson, and Crimsyn. According to this 2010 post from Nancy’s Baby Names, at least one child has been named Crimson Tide straight-up! Alabama state name data first registers Crimson as a baby girls’ name in 2002 (their stats, like the national data, only publishes names used at least 5 times), and as a baby boys’ name in 2006. It peaked in 2012 with 25 Alabamian girls receiving the name, and it continues to appear in the state data most years (though one year, it showed up in Tennessee?). In 2021, the latest year for which we have data, 7 girls in Alabama were named Crimson. Out of the 42 girls called Crimson nationally last year, a little under 17% were born in just the one state out of fifty. Krimson additionally appears in the state data exclusively as a girls’ name, even though it’s unisex nationally.

Now that we’ve established the popularity of Crimson and related names in Alabama, what about the university’s rival Auburn? Does that affect naming in the state? I would wager yes! Auburn appears in the state’s name data as a girls’ name starting in 1994 and ending in 2015 (it listed as a boys’ name in the 20s and 30s). Sure enough, in 2015, 6 girls were called Auburn in Alabama out of 52 nationally – accounting for about 11.5% of American girls named Auburn that year. If it’s not popping up at the state level in 2021, it’s likely because the national numbers on Auburn are down by about half (27 girls) from 2015. Curiously, auburn and crimson are both shades of red.

What do you think about Crimson? Do you know anyone with a sports name? Let me know!

Note: The Social Security Administration provides both national and state-level baby name data, which I extrapolated for this post.

American Names · International · Modern names

Name Profile: Lumi

Lumi pronounced "lou + me" Means "snow" in Finnish.

Does a name ever get stuck in your mind? Like, you hear it for the first time and then you can’t stop thinking about it? That’s been me for the past week and a half since I joined Instagram (P.S., my handle is @wellinformednamer). I’m seeing the name Lumi everywhere and it’s imprinted! Pronounced like “Lou + me”, Lumi is a Finnish name meaning “snow.” As my neighborhood sees its first snow of the year, this name feels apropos of the weather. 

Although I’ve been seeing Lumi all over Instagram, the sightings are almost always discussion from other name enthusiasts or Finnish posts about the weather. Only 57 American baby girls were named Lumi in 2021, which means it’s still pretty rare here. It’s a lot more popular than it was 5 or 10 years ago though; from its U.S. data debut in 2008 until 2017, fewer than 20 babies a year were named Lumi. It spiked in 2018 and 2019, peaking at 68 girls with the name in the latter year. I’m not 100% sure what caused the jump, considering Americans aren’t usually too familiar with Finnish names. Lumi is popular in Finland, though, where it’s now a Top 50 baby name for girls.

So why name a baby Lumi? Lumi hits a sweet spot for baby names in 2022 and 2023 because it’s short, unique, international, and nature-adjacent. If you’re having a baby during snow, winter, or the December Holidays, it makes for a great seasonal option. There aren’t many nickname choices, it’s easy-to-spell, and vowel-heavy (even the consonants it does use are popular ones). If you do want a longer name, you can make it short for Lumina (another name on the rise). Chances are, a baby Lumi isn’t going to meet another Lumi in the classroom. And according to this post from Nancy’s Baby Names about Finnish names, it changed gender associations over time in its original country, which means it probably started off as a men’s name before it became popular for women (just like so many unisex and gender-neutral names in the U.S). So while Americans almost exclusively name daughters Lumi, I think it could work for any gender.

Lumi is fun to consider for middle name combinations. Some of the best middle name options for Lumi either have only one syllable (like Rose, James, or John) or at least three (Evergreen, Anastasia, Jonathan). Nature combos are great too (Ocean, Azalea, Storm). I’d avoid combos like Lumi Marie that are challenging to say quickly, and while I think Lumi Louise works (you can shorten to Lulu!), “Lumi Louis” rhymes a little too much if the ‘s’ in Louis is silent. Unless it sounds amazing to you, try to stay away from middle names that would repeat the “ee” sound at the end of Lumi; likewise, names starting with “Mi” don’t work great in the middle name spot (Lumi Minerva) but shine when reversed (Minerva Lumi). Lumi and Luna probably shouldn’t be in the same name either. For good measure, here are some great potential middle names for Lumi:

  • Lumi Anastasia
  • Lumi Evergreen
  • Lumi Fritz
  • Lumi Sophronia
  • Lumi Jasper
  • Lumi James
  • Lumi Cecilia
  • Lumi Rosalie
  • Lumi Emmanuel / Lumi Emmanuelle This combination is great specifically for Christmas babies.
  • Lumi Evangeline
  • Lumi Elizabeth
  • Lumi Azalea
  • Lumi Kit
  • Lumi Christopher
  • Lumi Ocean
  • Lumi Storm
  • Lumi Kehlani
  • Lumi Frost

What do you think of Lumi? Would you use it? What other middle names would you try with it? Let me know!

Sources: Social Security Administration data and (linked twice above) Nancy’s Baby Names.

American Names · Modern names



Are you looking for a Christmas or Holiday-themed baby name that works during the rest of the year? How about Zuzu? Just nineteen baby girls were given this adorable name in 2021, according to Social Security Administration extended data. Zuzu is all kinds of fantastic – like Lulu with zest! It’s best associated with Susan owing to pop culture references, but may have derived from one of Susan‘s Central European relatives like Zsuzsanna or Zuzanna. Ultimately, all of those descend from Shoshannah, a Biblical Hebrew name meaning “Lily.” Zuzu also looks a lot like a Yiddish name (Zusa) meaning “sweet.” Considering its distinctive sound, rarity, positive meanings, and proximity to trending ‘Z’ names like Zora, Zola, and Zara, I’m surprised more parents haven’t jumped on Zuzu yet.

Most of us have seen the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, which turns seventy-six this year. For those who haven’t watched it yet, the premise is that an angel shows despondent George Bailey scenes from his life if he had never existed. I haven’t seen the movie in ages, but George had a daughter named Zuzu, which was probably short for Susan! Zuzu famously quotes: “Look Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” From what I could find, her nickname was supposedly a reference to Zu Zu Ginger Snaps, which were popular in the early 20th century. For more information on the cookies, they have their own blog – worth a read! P.S. – Watch the movie. It’s wholesome and a classic, and someone’s probably streaming it this time of year. 

I’ve also noticed that Zuzu is a character name in at least two children’s television shows from the last twenty years. In the British show Peppa Pig, Zuzu is a zebra with a twin sister named Zaza and an older sister named Zoe. The other show with a Zuzu is the Australian Zuzu and the Supernuffs. Their influence on the name is probably negligible, though since Zuzu first appeared as a baby name in the U.S. before either program hit the waves. Peppa Pig has only been around since 2004, and Supernuffs was released in 2013. The first time Zuzu (and not Susan or another formal name) appeared as a American baby name with at least 5 uses (the minimum for inclusion by the SSA) was 1999. If anything, the classic movie probably has the most influence besides internet name enthusiasts.

Since it’s already a nickname, you don’t need to worry about shortening it further! As far as potential middle names go, Zuzu stands out enough on its own that it might not need an equally rare or exotic second…though you’re certainly welcome to use one! If you use a standard middle name and call your child something like Zuzu Marie, Zuzu Rose, or Zuzu Lynn, she’s already going to be the only Zuzu in her class and might be the only one she ever meets. On the other hand, I could see something spunky like Zuzu Pixiebelle or Zuzu Tigerlily working if you want to go all-out. Monosyllabic names like Kate and Fay work great too! Anyway, here are a few great potential middle name combos for Zuzu

  • Zuzu Mae
  • Zuzu Noel
  • Zuzu Circe
  • Zuzu Frost
  • Zuzu Lux
  • Zuzu Frances

What do you think of Zuzu? Would you use it as a nickname or treat it as a standalone? Let me know! 

Originally Published November 13, 2016.

American Names · Analysis · Modern names

The Name Holly

Holly US Rank 465 Graphic.

For one reason or another, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about the name Holly lately! Now that we’re into the month of December, that seems especially fitting.

Holly is the perfect name for a baby born around the Holidays because it evokes a sense of place and feeling for a joyful, magical time. It can take a religious association like the Holly & Ivy carol, but because it’s a plant it can also be as secular as the eggnog and jingles we fill our lives with in December. A baby Holly could be born to a family of any religious or cultural background who simply enjoys the time of year or celebrates a holiday in early winter and wants to commemorate the baby’s birth.

I’ve noticed that Holly is starting to rise in popularity again after a 40-year decline. It peaked in the 70s and 80s, but it doesn’t feel as dated as some of the other names that were trendy then. I suspect that’s because it’s never been in the top 10 or even the top 25, which makes it harder to associate with one specific era even if it belonged to one! At its most popular, Holly ranked only #48 in 1979 and 1983. Currently, it ranks #465 with 668 baby girls, slowly creeping from its most recent low point in 2016 at #526 (589 girls). Why has Holly stabilized and grown? My guess is that there’s a couple of things going on.

One of the biggest things the name Holly has going for it in the 2020s is that it’s a nature name. Nature names are massively trendy; I’m sure you know at least one baby girl named Violet, Hazel, or Willow. River is popular for any gender. Though Holly doesn’t have the vintage-American style laurels that Magnolia and Olive boast, it is the name of a tree (however seasonally specific). Today’s parents love tree names! You can’t find a corner of the internet where even tree-adjacent names like Asher and Oaklynn aren’t being discussed. For nature-loving parents having a December baby, Holly is the name to choose.

The other thing I think may be associated with Holly‘s growing popularity is the rising trendiness of similar-sounding names. Holland debuted in the top 1000 for girls in 2014, and now ranks its highest at #638 (462 girls; 87 boys also received the name). When one name becomes popular, similar names grow in turn; though Hollyn is still rare, it was given to 135 girls in 2021 – more than double the number named Hollyn in 2016 (56). Hollynn is an ultra-rare spelling at 11 uses, but 5 years earlier only 6 girls were given that spelling. You can also find babies named Hollynd, Hollin, and Hollan. Another increasingly trendy name to consider here is gender-neutral Hollis, which was given to 163 girls and 199 boys in 2021. Similar sounds boost names together by creating familiarity.

What do you think of Holly? Would you use it? Do you have any other ideas why it’s getting more popular? Let me know!

American Names · Modern names · Opinions


The name Terra is on my mind this Earth Day.  Terra is the Latin word for “earth,” though as a name it’s more commonly a variant of Tara.  It can also mean “country.”


Terra first appeared in SSA birth data in the early 1940s, but didn’t become popular until the early 70s.  She peaked in 1980, just three years after Tara did.  Terra only remained in the top 1000 until 1996, but a decent number still receive the name every year – indeed, 95 girls were named Terra in 2016 (Tara was given to 262).  Additionally, 22 boys were named Terran, which is sometimes used in sci-fi as another name for humans (the most recent examples I know of are Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 1 and “Star Trek: Discovery”).

Besides being an alternative to Tara, Terra could be treated as a modern nickname for Teresa.  You could also use Terra to honor a Terrence, a Terry, or even an Eartha!  It would also be a fun name for the child of someone who works with dirt, i.e, an archaeologist or farmer.

What do you think of Terra?