If you check the annual Top Baby Name list as a general What Not To Name My Baby reference — as many modern parents do — then this is the list for you.
You’re looking for a baby name that’s cool and usable, but you’d prefer if your child wasn’t one of many Jessicas/Michaels/Sophias in school — destined to be identified with a last initial. You moan and groan when your favorite formerly unique names (Henry, Penelope, Oliver) creep up into the “popular” zone, and you take your naming seriously.
And so I give you some of the coolest baby names that haven’t hit the Top 1,000…yet:
First up, the ladies…
A less-popular alternative to Amelia.
First of all, how about that meaning? Mabel is one of those old-fashioned granny names coming back into fashion — but not fast enough to make it into the Top 1,000. Use it before it starts climbing.
Meaning: A bird
A sweet songbird of a name.
Meaning: Estate ruler
In a world where Emmas and Ellas abound, Etta is a similar yet jazzier cousin.
Meaning: The golden one
A more glittering, star-struck cousin to the Disney-inspired Aurora.
There’s something about “Em-“ names that are especially attractive (Emma/Emily/Emilia/Amelia), and Emmeline has the classic femininity without the modern trendiness.
Beyond the attractive meaning, Margot feels both classic and exotic, with a trendy o-ending.
This is an especially cool middle name option, similar to Mae and Rae. It’s also a vintage choice deserving a comeback.
Meaning: Renowned warrior
Another vintage name that’s starting to register on our radar.
Meaning: White circle
It’s not so much “in” anymore, but it’s not so far out that it’s unfashionable. I think Gwen has a classic appeal.
Meaning: Flower name
Similar to Lily, Daisy, and Iris, Magnolia is an ultra-feminine flower name with a unique spin.
Meaning: Heart; Daughter of the sea
A sophisticated yet stylish name that’s hanging out just below the Top 1,000 list.
Meaning: A diminutive of Rose
A perkier version of Rose.
Meaning: Flower name
The spunkiest of feminine flower names, which is popular overseas (Poppy is in the UK’s Top 20).
It sounds like friendly Daisy, but with the attractive nickname option of Mae. And it’s all wrapped up with a vintage vibe.
Meaning: “Born on the island of Delos”
A popular nickname for Cordelia (another Outside-the-Top-1,000 pick), Delia has a poetic feel.
Despite the slightly off-putting meaning, Remi has a modern quirkiness that’s very much in style right now.
Meaning: Mild, merciful
This is a buzzed-about name in the online naming community, but still completely off the nation’s radar. Read: Your friends will think it’s cool, but your parents will give the stink eye.
Meaning: Flourishing, prosperous
Florence has all the qualities of a chart-climbing name — vintage, exotic, feminine, and it’s even a place name. Will Florence and the Machine give it a boost up? Maybe, but it currently ranks way down in “unique” territory. So have at it.
Well, it means princess; we can start with that. And it’s also a super happy and friendly name — with a trendy mid-century flair.
Meaning: Marsh flower
This one feels like it should be popular, but it’s totally not. So that’s probably exactly what you want in a name.
Maren is a unique variation of Mary — so you could easily use it as a more modern namesake.
Meaning: Divinely beautiful
Well she’ll always love the meaning of her name — that’s for certain. The name “Astrid” is pretty popular over in Sweden and Denmark, and it’s heard more frequently in the name-enthusiast community, but your little girl probably won’t have multiple Astrids in her class.
Meaning: Son of Ellis
She might have to go through her life saying “N-no ELLison, not Allison,” but it’s a unique “Elle”/”Ellie” name.
Flower names are extremely popular right now, but there are a few attractive options that haven’t fully caught on yet, like Poppy and Iris. Add “Flora” to that list. (Also: the Disney connection, obviously)
And now the boys…
Meaning: Color name
The more formal version of Grayson/Greyson is quickly scooting up the ranks, Grey is an attractive color name that’s hanging just below the Top 1,000 list. It could be an especially awesome middle name choice.
Meaning: Son of Garret
A more modern twist to the outdated Gary, and Garrison also has the trendy feel of a place name and/or surname name.
Taj made two brief appearances in the Top 1,000 (1976 and 1998), and it has a cool vibe that consistently leaves it lingering in “unique but usable” territory.
Magnus exudes power (and maybe a little ego), so it might require a strong personality. But with the right personality — man, it could soar.
Meaning: Grinder of grain
It’s still pretty unique, but it has the trendy “surname name” and “occupational name” qualities.
Meaning: Dweller at the ford
He might have to live with an association to cars, but it’s becoming a rising surname name.
Meaning: Roof thatcher
Another occupational-meets-surname name that’s trendy yet unique. It’s also a modern twist on Tyler and Taylor.
Meaning: Occupation name
Perhaps following in Deacon’s path?
We all know the extreme popularity of Biblical names (like Noah, Caleb, etc.). And Enoch is a strong Old Testament name deserving of a revival.
Meaning: English rank of nobility
Again, it takes the right personality — but it might be right for you.
Meaning: Son of Jordan
A hybrid of popular Hudson-Jackson, Judson could provide the right kind of alternative. It also kind of sounds like 80s-favorite “Justin”.
It’s short and punchy, with a vintage flair and trendy hard “O” sound. This is certainly a cool choice.
Meaning: “Horse trainer”
A modern upgrade to Taylor.
English and Irish surnames are sprinkled throughout the Top 1,000, but this unique Spanish surname could have the unique flair you’re looking for.
Meaning: Tree trunk
Cormac has never made it onto the US Top 1,000 list, but it’s a traditionally Irish name steeped in Celtic culture.
Meaning: Cellar master
A German surname that has the trendy “two-syllable name ending in ‘-er” thing going for it — i.e. Cooper, Asher, Ryder, etc.
Meaning: Renowned warrior
A friendlier version of Louis — and it makes the French pronunciation easier to recognize (rather than having to say “It’s Lou-ee, not Lou-iss”).
Meaning: “Lives near the ford by the cliff”
You’ll have to take the Big Red Dog association into consideration — you know, for kids — but Clifford is starting to come back into fashion.
Meaning: “Hill shaped like a bow”
It has the same two-syllable feel as trendy Mason and Owen, but it has a cooler “Bo” nickname.
Clarence just might have enough old-man charm to climb back into the spotlight, a la Henry.
Is the name “Rocky” above the Sylvester Stallone association yet? It has the punchy strength that suggests it’s on its way back.
Ralph is a name with literary and historical significance — plus a dash of old-man appeal.
Meaning: Tall man’s town
Probably most notable for the Langston Hughes association, this could be an unexpectedly cool name choice.
Ulysses is a heavy name to carry, but the right little boy could carry it high.
All baby name meanings via Nameberry.com.
Read more of Michelle’s writing at Early Mama.