Parents searching for a truly unusual name sometimes resort to creative respellings or stringing together random syllables. The result is usually a bit of a mess – a name that seems familiar, but still manages to confuse. Still, if you don’t love the throwback vibe we usually feature here, is there another option?

We suggest turning to the dictionary for inspiration, focusing on lesser-used nature names, like today’s Name of the Day: Coriander. Thanks to Kayt and Unknown for the idea.

Coriander has never appeared in the US Top 1000 for men or women, but it has been used sparingly throughout the 19th and 20th centuries for both. It appears on several reputable sites as a given name derived from the herb.

In the US, you’ll usually find cilantro on your spice rack, but it’s really just coriander by the Spanish name. It’s used in cuisines across the globe, and in fact, It’s not clear from whence this resilient plant originates – it’s been cultivated as far back as Ancient Egypt and was a staple in cookery through the ages. Your neighbor probably has some in his herb garden today.

The big question is whether this herb works best as the name of a girl or a boy. The Cory and Ander made us think of boys’ names; in fact, that’s where the discussion began. Add in Alexander, Evander, Iskander and Leander, and it seems like a masculine construction. But fictional Corianders, including the DC Comics heroine better known as Starfire, tend to be female.

The word’s derivation gives few hints. Koriannon was the Greek; apparently they borrowed the term from another language, possibly Phoenician. In Latin, it became coriandrum and in Old French coriandre. It’s mentioned in the Bible, and has been found at various archeological sites. It appears this spice is one of those rare entities with a fairly consistent name and untroubled derivation. That’s a desirable quality in a noun adopted for a child’s name; it’s those undercurrents of meaning and origin that are problematic.

But we’re still not sure if little Coriander is a he or a she. The Baby Name Guesser predicts that it is 1.757 times more likely for Coriander to be a girl; however, Jennifer is 54 times as likely to be a girl; Mary is 161 times more likely to be a she. By the site’s scale, 1.757 is pretty close to zero.

The bottom line is that Coriander offers nature-minded parents an interesting option. It’s familiar, but rarely used. And it is decidedly gender-neutral, at a moment when such names are more and more difficult to find. While there are Corianders throughout recent history, there aren’t many. Odds are your little one would never meet another.

To date, other than the few fictional uses of the name, there are no famous Corianders in any field of which we’re aware. Google the word, and most of the results will be recipes and restaurants.

This would be a daring choice, indeed. Names like Rosemary and Basil are also found in the kitchen, but have far longer use as given names. Coriander is a stand-out – not merely surprising, but perhaps eyebrow-raising.

And yet we rather like this name’s spice and spark, for either gender. And we’re quite certain it’s not likely to catch on any time soon, so if you’re looking for a rare name that will remain so, this is one to consider.

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. as a coriander, Iv never had problems at school but if one dose they can go by cori or andy

  2. I think Coriander is a beautiful name and I would certinaly consider it. Although I do find it a very feminine name. I dont know why though.

  3. I generally think names based on herbs or flora are pretty cool. But I have always been mystified that my grandmother named my dad “Rue” for his first name. But everyone in the family called him “Edward” or “Ed” which was his middle name. Until recently, I thought that the name was based on the French word for “Street”. But then I heard about the Rue plant and realize that my dad’s name was most probably based on the herb.

  4. I really don’t know what to make of Coriander! To me it seems masculine but I fear any young boy named Coriander might be in for a dreadful time of it at school…

  5. I have to say, I adore Coriander as a guilty pleasure name, but I would only use it for a boy. It’s one of the few nature names I find solidly masculine. (Basil is another one, as is Sage). And Corey/Cori sounds dated to me, I would definitely use Ander or Anders as a nickname here.

  6. I had a hairdresser that was a Cory/Corinne. Interesting. I’d never think to shorten Corinne to Cory. I have a cousin Corey (f) so to me, Corey has always been a girl. I think that the way I hear nature names, Coriander would be a girl’s name.

  7. Another, I didn’t think Coriander would be your cup of tea. 😉 And yup, I’m working on the boys’ Top 1000, too. I must say that it’s harder, possibly because trendy boys’ names tend to repeat the same elements in even closer combination than the girls’ names do.

    Lola, I agree with you that Cori is feminine and Cory masculine, though I went to college with a female Cory – it was short for Corinne. And I agree completely – Cory/Corey is stuck in the 1980s along with Mr. Haim and Mr. Feldman. Ander(s) on the other hand, it a nickname I could happily embrace.

    Rue – that’s interesting. I wonder how Rue McClanahan got her name? I’ll have to dig and see if there’s anything there. But it’s a sweet nickname for Ruby, another name that I love.

  8. I have an inordinate fondness for nature names, flowers in particular abound in my family tree, from the sedate Rose & Lily to the outrageous Eglantine (which I’m still thinking about using as a middle, somewhere!). Coriander, in my family would be solidly male, and most likely Ander(s) as a nickname.
    I find Cori to be feminine by spelling but Cory masculine, and the sound of either is masculine as well. I used to know a Kore at school (pronounced corey) and I actually prefer that as a whole, over Cori, on a girl. Cory/Corey works on a guy for me, but feels very 80’s.(I’m not the only one who thinks this, am I?) Ander(s) is definitely the way to go, here, I think.

    Coriander is not something I’d use, myself but I can easily see him as a dashing brother for Rosemary or her as a sister for Saffron or Rue. Now, Rue, there’s a nasty herb with a lousy meaning but an oh so pretty sound! (Roo. Like I’m seeing considered as a nn for Ruby! ) 😉

  9. By the way, Verity – any chance you can revise the top 100 boy list, too? If you have a spare moment, that is. 😉 Thanks!

  10. I prefer the Greek origin Koriannon – although it’s not something I would actually use. To me Coriander is an herb that I particualrly dislike, striking it right off my list. Add to that my distaste to most nature names (Celeste being the exception to that rule) and Coriander is a total no-go for me. Oh well. Let’s keep trying. 🙂 I love this blog!