Name Help SochiName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!

A. writes:

My husband and I are pursuing adoption. We heard a name years ago that we love: Sochi, or maybe Xochi or Xochitl.

If we adopt a daughter with the appropriate cultural heritage, should we use the name?

Xochitl is pretty much off the table for pronunciation/phonetic reasons.

My concern with Sochi: does changing the spelling take away from honoring Aztec heritage?

Does Xochi address and fix both of those concerns, or does it in itself have both of those concerns?

Would you use Sochi even if a baby isn’t Hispanic being that it’s a name we both adore?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Hi A. –

Thanks for writing in! This feels like one of those questions-wrapped-in-questions, because there’s a lot to consider.

Let’s start with a little bit about the name itself.

Sochi/Xochi: Nature Names

As you know, Xochitl comes from Nahuatl, the languages spoken by the people historically called the Aztecs. The name translates to flower. The languages remain widely spoken in Mexico, so no surprise that Nahua names filter into use among Spanish-speakers.

Short form Xochi sounds pretty much exactly like Sochi to my ear, but a caveat: native speakers may differentiate between the two sounds in a way that I’ve missed.

Despite sharing a sound, the Russian city on the Black Sea comes from completely different roots. The city takes its name from the Sochi River – but I’m hitting a dead end trying to decipher the river’s name. It’s been a popular resort area since the early twentieth century, and some travel sites claim that it means “place by the sea.” But that might just be convenient folk etymology.

Either way, it’s a nature name – a river or a flower, depending on which continent you check.

Sochi/Xochi: Heritage Pick

Baby name data for Russia proves elusive, but I’ve never seen Sochi listed as a given name. So while Sochi might seem slightly more appropriate for a child born in Russia, it’s not quite like choosing Anastasia or Alexandra, a name in steady use.

Xochi and Xochitl, on the other hand, are used in Mexico. That means we should see some American-born girls by the name. Sure enough, in 2016, 82 Xochitls were recorded, along with six Xochis.

Fewer than five boys or girls were named Sochi last year. The only year Sochi made a dent in US naming records was 2014. Ten boys were given the name in 2014 – the same year the Olympic winter games took place in the Russian city.

Overall, I’m not sure if Sochi would be perceived as especially Latina – and perhaps not even specifically Russian. Xochi, on the other hand, does strike me as more of a heritage choice. I’d say that’s true even if your daughter’s background is Puerto Rican or Honduran or anything Latina, but not Mexican – though perhaps that also weakens the connection.

Sochi/Xochi: The Variables

Naming during the adoption process carries its own considerations. Birth parents do sometimes make requests; if the child is older, changing her birth name may be less desirable. Every family and every set of circumstances varies.

Another complication: I imagine you may not know full details of your child’s family in every scenario. I understand why you might change your name choice to reflect your child’s background, but it might not be as straightforward as we’re assuming at this point.

Still, a heritage name might be a gift, one that helps your daughter understand and explain her family story. If your daughter’s birth mother is of Mexican descent, Xochi feels like a reasonable pick, one intended in good faith to connect her to her past in a meaningful way.

And yet it sounds like your first choice is Sochi. I can’t argue that Sochi counts as an authentically Mexican name. Instead, I think you need to evaluate it as a truly unusual name. And that’s a very different set of questions.

Sochi/Xochi: The Challenges of Unusual Names

I’m an advocate for unusual names, especially when there’s a meaning behind them. But there are downsides to these choices. And it’s possible to go too far.

But I generally think most unusual names work, Sochi included. While it belongs with the rarest of names, Sochi is easy to spell and pronounce, and passes the majority of my other Crazy Baby Names tests, too. Since you can’t know your child’s wishes, I’d ask yourself a few questions:

  • How do you feel about answering questions about your child’s unusual name? In this case, it might lead to conversations about her adoption, too. It’s one thing to talk about it with friends and family, but might be less comfortable with random strangers at the grocery store.
  • Will your other children – now, or in the future – have equally unusual names? It’s one thing to be part of a family with names like Sochi, Lafe, and Bliss. But I might not want to be Sochi, sister to Will and Ava.
  • If someone truly butchers your child’s name – again and again and again – will you lose patience? I’ve been there, and can honestly say it doesn’t bother me – much. But if you’re frustrated when your own name, for example, is misspelled or mispronounced, that’s a good sign that a truly unusual name will be a difficult choice for you.

Sochi/Xochi: Should you use this unusual name?

If you feel confident that you can use an unusual name comfortably, Sochi has some appeal.

It feels like a class of rising modern names with international appeal. Think of Zuri. Place names continue to catch on, too. And I can imagine how you might explain curious questions. “We loved the name, and it sounds like a traditional Mexican girl’s name, so that made it feel like the right choice.”

Let’s have a poll for this one, though, because I’m not sure how others will perceive it.

Would you consider Sochi? Does it feel like a heritage choice to you?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I have a friend who’s name is sochi (spelled the traditional way). She is lovely, like her name. We have talked about her name before and she loves it and hopes to find a name equally as unique for her future children. She did say it was an Aztec name but I don’t know if she is of Aztec descent. I think it’s a happy, fresh sounding name and if you love it you should use it! Both spellings Sochi and Xoxhi seem fine. Many names are derivatives of older more traditional names (Irish names for example) so making the name more straight forward in its spelling as it relates to its pronunciation makes sense. 🙂

  2. Xochi yes, Sochi no. I live in a diverse neighborhood in Denver, so that is a likely reason, but I barely blinked an eye at Xochitl. I work with a guy named Quetzacohotl, and my daughter’s preschool has a Xiomara. I think Xochitl is a beautiful heritage choice and Xochi is an adorable nickname.

  3. I have a cousin Xochitl, nn Xoch or Xochi. (Who lived under the same roof as my grandfather Lafe for awhile – funny coincidence!)

    I have always LOVED her name. As an adult, she chose to go by her middle name, Elizabeth. So wished she’d kept Xochitl – but that’s her choice, of course.

    I went to high school with a Xochitl. She had to spell her name, sure, but so did others. Nbd.

    Please keep the original spelling, if you go with this name. Don’t turn it into Sochi. I think that is a bizarre anglicization you shouldn’t stick on your future child, who may someday grow to resent your altering her heritage.

    If you can’t stomach Xochitl or Xochi, put it in the middle spot – and use it as a sweet nickname. Please don’t butcher it.

    1. Also, I missed the part where you asked if it should be used if she is not Latina. Are you? If so, use it. If not, know many people will find it inappropriate and will question you/her on it from an appropriation perspective.

  4. I know a family with a little girl named Sojourner. They call her Soji. It sounds similar to Sochi, but it comes from a recognizable English word name.

  5. I wanted to name my daughter Ximena because I just really love it, but I got so much confusion and flak from EVERYONE when I floated it during my pregnancy. I think Xochitl is even less known and harder to pronounce in the U.S. I am pretty sure it is in wide use in Mexico regardless of ethnic heritage, but to an English speaker it still is a really hard and exotic name. So, I would use it if your family has Mexican heritage or a special enduring tie to Mexico, or if your daughter’s birth family has Mexican heritage, but otherwise I would find something else and also avoid nick name derivatives.

  6. I’m not sure about this one. To me, Sochi seems like a place name appropriate for any kid, not unlike Paris or London or Geneva. If you love that name, I think you should go with it, regardless of the child’s ancestry.

    Xochi(tl) seems distinctly Nahuatl, but I don’t think it would be appropriate for any Hispanic child (and definitely not a non-Hispanic child). Not all Mexicans are of Aztec descent, and there are dozens of indigenous languages, so even an indigenous child wouldn’t necessarily be from a Nahuatl-speaking culture. Indigenous people in Latin America still face great discrimination. Giving the name to a child just because she’s Hispanic lacks sensitivity, in my opinion, because Nahuatl is still a minority language of a minority people and not something common to all Mexicans or Latin Americans.

    Now it’s very possible that Xochi is widely used by non-indigenous Mexicans and I just don’t know that, but the sense I got in the brief conversations I had with indigenous people in Mexico was that they were fairly separate culturally and linguistically from non-indigenous Mexicans. And Nahuatl-speaking populations are obviously different from Zapotec or Mixtec speaking populations, even though they’re all indigenous. But again, these were just short conversations and I am by no means an expert, so I could absolutely be wrong.

    So I guess, in short, my opinion is yes to Sochi, no to Xochi. All the best to you and your family during the adoption process!

    1. I agree with this. I would only recommend using a Nahua name if the birth or adoptive parents have a confirmed connection to the culture.