Last week’s post about names for globetrotters took us through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and unearthed tons of potential place names for your little citizen of the world. This week’s post looks at place names in North America, South America, and the Caribbean.
I’ve only just scratched the surface of possible place names. In order to limit my list, I ignored historic names no longer in use, poetic references, small villages, regions, rivers, mountains, forests, and lots of other sources of inspiration.
Slicing up the names into continents wasn’t easy, either. There are a few North American locales that almost certainly originate in Europe, and the same is true for the South, too.
I also feel like I’m missing tons of great possibilities, so I’m hoping you’ll add to this collection.
With all of those caveats, I’m delighted by how many truly wearable names can be borrowed from the map. I’m in love with the idea of Macon and Marigot at the moment, but Santander and Serra have captured my imagination, too.
Read on for more baby names borrowed from the map!
Place Names from North America & the Caribbean
Abilene – I love the cowgirl vibe of this Texas town, plus the easy nickname Abby.
Albany – This could work for a son or daughter, though I’ll admit that I’ve never been there. Is it picturesque?
Atlanta – I love the sound of Atlanta, so close to the mythological Atalanta. It was rumored to be a favorite of the Beckhams, too.
Auburn – Worn by a color, a university, and many a town, that Au is popular for boys and girls – think of Autumn and …
Austin – Wildly popular, both as a destination and a child’s name.
Boston – Recent tragedy aside, Boston is a great town that wears well on a boy. Though it is a reminder of the pitfalls of place naming: any city can make headlines in a negative fashion.
Calgary – I’m not sure about this one. I’ve omitted Toronto and Montreal from this list, but Calgary’s Cal makes me think he might be an out-there choice for a boy that still works.
Dallas – A place name powerful enough to inspire a television series, there’s some serious swagger to Dallas.
Dayton – It makes me think of Ohio, but others will hear him as a brother to Trayton, Jayden, and company.
Decatur – Another Georgia place name. And Illinois. And Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Alabama, Texas … Most – if not all – of them were named in honor of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century American naval hero Stephen Decatur, Jr.
Denver – A musical name thanks to John Denver, the mile-high city is also capital of Colorado.
Hamilton – A preppy, unexpected surname worn by a city in Ontario.
Havana – Why is Savannah so stylish and Havana so neglected? Search me. With so much history, Havana feels like an appealing possibility.
Houston – Another storied Texas city, though the associations with NASA’s mission control are so close that Houston might feel like a problem.
Hudson – My first thought is always Hudson Bay and the Hudson River, but this is a popular place name, too, thanks in large part to explorer Henry Hudson, even though his last voyage resulted in mutiny. Another intriguing thing about Hudson: Hud was a short form of names like Hugh and Richard once, making it a possible way to honor a loved one while using an on-trend name.
Jackson – Another choice found all over the map and in a nursery school near you.
Joliette – I found this one in Quebec, a mix of Juliet and the pretty Jolie.
Kingston – Gwen Stefani put this regal place name on the map.
Macon – Rhymes with bacon, and reminds me of the mega-popular Mason.
Marigot – It’s the capital of St. Martin in the Caribbean, named for a swamp. I think it means tiny, but I can’t be too sure … it feels like a pretty mash-up of Marie and Margot.
Memphis – It was an ancient place name long before Tennessee existed.
Miami – Other great American cities, like Chicago, don’t quite fit as given name. But Miami could be just right for a daughter.
Phoenix – Popular for many reasons, including its status as a place name.
Providence – A New England name with a heavy virtue vibe.
Raleigh – As in Sir Walter, and the capital of North Carolina.
Salem – The witchcraft trials make this lean a little bit goth, but on sound alone Salem is winning.
Tulsa – If names like Lorna and Gilda were stylish, Tulsa would almost certainly be wearable. But maybe she reads a little too clunky right now.
Place Names from South America
Altamira – With Uma’s little Altalune, maybe Brazil’s Altamira can inspire parents.
Salvador – A common place name and given name with a heavy meaning – savior. Though must of us will probably think of the painter Salvador Dali first.
Santander – It’s another saintly name, this time after either Andrew, or the more obscure Emeterius. Either way, I really should have added Santander to the European list – the Colombian location is clearly named after the original.
Santiago – Smoosh together Saint and James and you’ll arrive at this popular place name. It’s also very stylish in the Spanish-speaking world, especially Argentina.
Serra – A common place name, could Serra be an update for Sarah, or would it be too confusing?
Quito – I don’t like the way “quit” looks in this Ecuadorian place name, but the sound key TOE is appealing.
Which place names have I missed? Would you consider any of these as names for a child? Met any kids with great place names?
Sara A. says
I see Calgary as a spunky girl’s name with twin braids, freckles, and skinned knees. I floated Providence past my RI husband and he started cracking jokes about a family of New England towns. One that stood out to me as a boy’s name was Warwick.
I did a post on Chicago neighborhood names here: http://smynameissophie.blogspot.com/
I think Chicago is useable, it has the nickname Chi (Shy). Maybe I’m just bias, Chicago is my hometown.
Maybe Havana is out because of Havianas or Hava Negilla. Both wrong town!
I grew up in Hamilton ON and I cannot imagine naming a kid after the city. It’s not a horrible city by any means but it is known for its steel production, which leads to smog and grossness. The escarpment and lake are pretty though!
A few of these seem to hefty for my tastes, although there are definitely some gems up there.
I really like Calgary, although I would use it on a girl. Maybe in a middle spot paired with Elliot, or the slightly more girly Eliette?
Luján is used as a girl’s name in Argentina, usually as María de Luján. The virgin of Luján is the patron saint of the country and there is an annual pilgrimage to the basilica in the city of Luján.
Malvina is also used as a girl’s name there – the Falkland Islands are called Las Malvinas in Spanish.
I grew up near Albany- not especially picturesque. 🙁 But not in as bad shape as a lot of other rustbelt cities in upstate NY. and hey there’s the King Lear connection, so I can understand how it might have appeal.
Albany, Decatur, Macon, and even Atlanta to an extent are kind of grungy, not so picturesque/nice areas of Georgia. I’d never use them.
Former Calgary resident chiming in to say that Albertans pronounce it cal-gry (2 syllables) and its nickname is “Cowtown” and it has a reputation as being rather redneck. 🙂
I know a family with a Kingston and Georgia, and another family with a Vienna and Breton. I do have a soft spot for place names!
I think there was a Disney show character a couple years ago named Portland, which I loved!
I know of two baby girls named Vienna, and in each instance, the mother is from Vietnam while the father is American (European descent). I think the name Vienna was chosen because of it’s similarity to the Vietnamese name Vien.
We live near the University of Maryland, and there were three college girls in front of me while waiting to check out at Target last night. I heard two of their names – Suki and Vienna!
Joliet was a prison in Illinois. It’s pretty, but not really usable in the US.
Ceiba (Say-buh) is a Latin American tree (Kapok), but La Ceiba is also a port city in Honduras.
Im reading Beautiful Creatures.. and it is set in the South, the mysterious uncle character is named Macon, I assume after the southern city. I really love it, and think you are right, it is a fresh take on Mason, but could be misheard as Bacon.
Macon is also a character in Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist.
As for Serra being an update for Sarah, that wouldn’t work for me. You get the same sound but lose all the classic qualities of the original. (However, I think “Sera” as a nn for Seraphina is another matter, and I might consider that. I’ve read that the Afflecks chose that name because their older daughter wanted her baby sister called Sarah.)
I love the look of Marigot but wasn’t sure how it’s pronounced until I found this video (so ’80s) of the song Marigot Bay which was a hit in 1980: ma REE go.
But the meaning of Marigot gives me pause: Swamp? I looked for another meaning or source of the name, but that seems to be accurate:
“‘Marigot’ is a French West Indian word meaning a spot from which rain water does not drain off, and forms marshy pools.”
Behindthename includes a user-submitted entry:
Other Scripts: Marigot
Other Forms: Marigaux
Variation of Margot.
While another baby name website sees the name as a form of Margaret:
Origin, Meaning, and Pronunciation of Marigot
Meaning: The name of several cities in the French Caribbean, from Margaret, “Pearl”
Two French language baby name websites don’t have Marigot in their data bases.
Still, I think the name is lovely and usable, especially if one thinks of it as a combination of the French Marie and Margot
And adding to its appeal is its use as the name of designer pajamas: “Marigot Collection Pajamas are created using the finest cottons and cashmere, in a palette of classic and complimentary colors. http://www.marigotcollection.com/pages/shop