Time for the list of rare girl names 2018!
In an age when some call Top 100 names “unique,” what makes a true rarity?
First, some facts: the US Social Security Administration reports on every name given to five or more boys or girls in a given year. (In other words, if four boys and four girls are named Raygun, that’s not enough to make the list. But five girls? That qualifies.) And yet, some names might feel too rare, a name no one recognizes or knows exactly how to pronounce.
Where’s the sweet spot? That differs for every family, and I suspect many of these might feel too far from the ordinary for many parents. But I looked for names that felt wearable – at least for the boldest of namers among us.
Rare Girl Names 2018: The Rules
For this list of rare girl names 2018, I’m focusing on names given to just eight girls between January 1st and December 31st of 2017. Over 19,000 girls were named Emma, the #1 name. And even at the end of the list, around #999 or so, roughly 258 girls share the name. By comparison, eight seems like a pretty tiny number.
The rules for this list:
- It must be a “Great 8” – a name given to precisely eight girls in calendar year 2017, as reported by the Social Security Administration’s extended list. Why 8? No real reason, but plenty of blog posts have focused on names given to just five children. Inching up the list slightly reveals some rare girl names 2018 that we may have missed.
- The name (generally) cannot appear in an alternate spelling higher up on the list. So long, Jourdynn, Caleesi, Destinii, and dozens of others.
- The name cannot represent a slight twist on a popular pick. Is Lura a spin on Laura or something else? It’s hard to say, so let’s just drop it.
- While I struggle with this rule, I’ve generally excluded names that are used for boys in significantly larger numbers. The exception? If the name doesn’t appear in the current US Top 1000, it might earn a spot on this list.
- Foreign imports may be included, but I’m looking for choices that could potentially feel mainstream in the US today. I may have been too conservative in this last category!
Rare Girl Names 2018: A
Amarise – It sounds like an Avon fragrance from the 80s. Or maybe a really old French name, along the lines of Amenaide. But it’s neither – at least, not as far as I know. Instead, Amarise appears to be a complete invention, first given to five girls in the year 2000. It probably owes something to the trending Amara, and maybe a little more to so many girls’ names ending in -ise over the years, from Denise to Annalise. The sound is staggeringly pretty.
Apple – Gwyneth Paltrow welcomed daughter Apple way back in 2004. Unlike many celebrity baby names, it’s never caught on, not even a little. But maybe it should. After all, we’re naming girls Willow and River, and we’ve long named them Lily and Rose. The equally edible Clementine is trending; so are Olive and Sage. It’s spare, simple, and appealing – if you can overlook the fact that it has topped lists of daffy celebrity baby names for a dozen years or more.
Atlanta – Savannah makes the Top 100. Georgia feels like a perennial favorite. So why not Atlanta? Developed by the railroad, the city went through many names, including Terminus, Marthasville, and Atlantica-Pacifica before the condensed Atlanta stuck. Rumor had it that David and Victoria Beckham considered this name for their daughter, but they went with Harper Seven instead.
Rare Girl Names 2018: B
Blanche – We’re wild for The Golden Girls‘ Sophia. Dorothy and Rose are on the rise, too. So why not the fourth member of the quartet, Blanche? It means white or fair, and seems to have traveled across medieval Europe thanks to Blanca of Navarre, who became Queen of Castille. Blanca’s granddaughter became Queen of France in the year 1200, and the French Blanche became a royal name, too. If we love Genevieve and Juliette, why not Blanche?
Briony – I thought Briony might finally catch on back in 2007, when the movie version of Atonement came out. Based on a 2001 novel, it’s a drama set against the backdrop of 1930s and 40s England. A young Saoirse Ronan played Briony Tallis, the girl who sets the drama in motion. A nature name that picks up on recent favorite Brianna, Briony would wear well. Alternate spelling Bryony was given to a mere nine girls last year.
Rare Girl Names 2018: C
Clemence – Does Clementine strike you as too darling – or possibly too edible? Clemence might work instead. It’s the French feminine form of Clement, rare for centuries in the US, though better known in France and the French-speaking world. Model-actor Clémence Poésy is one familiar bearer of the name. (She played Fleur in the Harry Potter movies!)
Rare Girl Names 2018: D
Danity – This name started out as a straight-up invention – and a recent one, too. It was first given to more than five girls in 2007, not longer after pop group Danity Kane hit it big. Formed as part of MTV reality series “Making the Band,” it didn’t last long. As for the name? Dawn Richard, a member of the quintet, drew superheroes. Danity Kane was a name she invented for a character. I think Danity could survive long after the band is forgotten; it takes something from Danielle, but fits with favorites like Avery and Kennedy.
Davia – Davina is back in the US Top 1000, so how about Davia? It shares the -ia ending of Sophia, the ‘v’ of Ava and Olivia, and feels just slightly different. It’s been used in small numbers since the 1940s, and I think it feels vaguely Italian. That’s thanks to the Palazzo Davia Bargellini, a museum in Bologna. The name might shares David’s meaning – beloved – but in Italian, it’s a surname that could come from the phrase da via – from the street.
Desta – Eight girls were named Desta way back in the year 1900. In 1938, it was five. And in 1998, seven. It’s a name with a long history of sparing use. It means joy in Amharic, but I can’t tell how it first came to the US. It seems to trace to Ethiopia. Or maybe it comes from d’Este, the Italian noble family. Isabella d’Este, Marchesa of Mantua, was known as the “First Lady of the World” during the Italian Renaissance, a patron of fashion and the arts. Either way, this could make for a globe-spanning, sophisticated pick today.
Dory – Sure, there’s the forgetful fish of Disney-Pixar fame. But plenty of girls are named Jasmine and Nala and, hey, we’ve even seen a few Vanellopes. Dory falls somewhere between chart-topping Nora and the even more popular Ellie, a casual name that isn’t too terminally cute. It’s also a lightweight fishing boat and a sometimes-surname.
Rare Girl Names 2018: E – G
England – London makes the Top 1000, so how about England? It’s been used in small numbers for girls as far back at the 1980s. It’s nickname-proof and unforgettable, a name easy to spell and pronounce, while remaining among the rarest of given names.
Faraday – An Irish surname name, Faraday resembles the Old English word fara – traveler. (It survives in English today as seafarer and wayfarer.) Michael Faraday was a famous scientist; his work helped harness electricity for everyday use. But this probably appears as an occasional girls’ name thanks to a series of fantasy novels by Sara Douglass featuring a heroine by the name. If you’re crushed that Delaney and Kennedy are so common, Faraday might be your name.
Gibson – Yes, it’s a surname ending with -son, which almost, very nearly disqualifies it from this list. But, but, but … one of the most powerful associations is the Gibson Girl, an invention of late nineteenth century advertising. It’s tough to explain why some surnames trend girl, but a powerful pop culture association is one reason. Think Harper (author Lee) or Madison (of Splash fame). But is this reference too obscure to push Gibson to the girls?
Rare Girl Names 2018: H – I
Hypatia – Not only does this name mean highest in ancient Greek, but the first notable Hypatia was a philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician – all the way back in the 300s and 400s. She met her death at the hands of an angry mob during a conflict between the Roman prefect and the bishop of Alexandria, where she lived and taught. We’ve been re-telling her story ever since, getting parts of it wrong. But she remains a towering figure, and a worthy namesake.
Irisa – Iris could, in a few cases, be a foreign language version of fast-rising floral name Iris. But my guess is that the few parents picking Irisia found it somewhere else. Syfy original series Defiance gave us a character by the name. A tale of life on Earth after aliens settle among us, Defiance ran three seasons, and now lives on as a video game. Irisa, played by Stephanie Leonidas, was an alien adopted by the human lead character, the sheriff of the town of Defiance.
Rare Girl Names: K
Kariel – A handful of possible sources exist for Kariel, but they’re all vague and tough to track. It does sound exactly like Ariel-with-a-K. (In fact, there’s a mermaid performer in Hawaii who answers to Kariel.) Or maybe it’s a Carrie-elle smoosh with a streamlined spelling. Either way, this just plain sounds like a name, and an appealing one, for a daughter born today.
Katniss – The Hunger Games hero answers to a nature name, though an obscure one a decade years after the bestselling novel inspired a series of successful movies. Katniss refers to the edible arrowhead plant; it’s doubly appropriate because Katniss is a skilled archer.
Kayton – Take Kaitlyn, mix in Keaton and Dayton, and this is the outcome. It looks like a tailored surname name, possibly built on Kay or Kate. And it does appear on the map in the English countryside, though typically spelled Cayton. At least some forms of the surname are traced back to the Norse personal name Kati, which can be masculine or feminine, and might mean cheerful, or be derived from Katharina. It looks invented, but I still think it works.
Rare Girl Names 2018: L – M
Lysandra – You might know Lysander, thanks to the fifth century Spartan general. Lysandra is simply the feminine form of the name. She takes her place in history, too, as a queen of Macedonia in the third century BC. Neither name is common today, but Lysandra seems like a fit with so many lovely L names, as well as long names for girls, from Isabella to the similar Alexandra.
Mairi – Mairi might be the Scottish form of Mary, but other origins are suggested. And while the pronunciation is usually given as mahrEE, somewhere between Mary and Marie, it’s tempting to say it Mayree, too, isn’t it?
Martine – As sleek as Simone, this French feminine form of Martine feels sophisticated, but not inaccessible. Martine is a sister for Sylvie, an alternative to mainstream French favorites like Genevieve, and a surprisingly undiscovered name.
Rare Girl Names 2018: N – O
Noellie – A French feminine form of Noel, Noellie combines stylish sounds in an unexpected fashion. With Noelle rising rapidly in use, this rarity might appeal, too.
Olivine – It looks like an elaboration of Olive, or perhaps an attempt to reinvent Olivia. And Olivine might be those things. But it’s also a mineral, found in shades of yellow-green. That makes Olivine an alternative to Emerald.
Ondine – We tend to associate Undine with mermaids. After all, the Latin unda means wave. (It’s the root of undulate, too.) But the O spelling – more typically French – seems like the stylish choice in our age of Ophelia and Octavia.
Rare Girl Names 2018: P – R
Pacey – Pacy appears on the map in France, courtesy of all those Gallo-Roman settlers. The original was probably Paccius, from a minor Roman noble family. Pacy became a surname for those from the area, and eventually picked up an ‘e’ to become Pacey. Dawson’s Creek gave the name to Pacey Whitter, Dawson’s BFF and one of the series’ main characters. While the show aired, Pacey picked up slightly for boys, but since then? It seems equally likely to appeal to parents of a daughter.
Pollyanna – We’re mad for Madeline and Matilda, crazy about Eloise and Olivia. But not every beloved children’s character has a name that has endured. The Polly-Anna smoosh used by Eleanor Porter for her 1913 bestseller has faded. Why? Polly lags far behind Molly, of course. Or maybe it’s because Pollyanna was so relentlessly upbeat – even in quite daunting circumstances – that the name feels almost word-like … and therefore tougher to wear than, say, Susannah or Annabelle.
Rema – In Roman legend, Remus and his twin brother Romulus founded the city of Rome. Harry Potter gives us Remus Lupin. So if the masculine version of the name is found over the millennia, how ’bout the feminine version? There’s a Sanremo in Italy, suggesting the existence of a Saint Remus, but it’s actually from Saint Romulus. So things get fuzzy. Fuzzier still: I’ve found references to Rema’s roots in at least three other languages. And it does look like the Hebrew Efrem, the Arabic Reem, and many more. Call it a sleek, nicely international option.
Rare Girl Names 2018: S
Sahalie – Sahalie comes from Chinook, a Native American people of the Pacific Northwest. It means “a high and lofty place,” and might refer to heaven. Interestingly, this name was given to exactly eight girls last year, too, making it a repeat on the Great Eights list. That said, using Native American names presents a series of problems. However, Oregon’s Sahalie Falls makes it a place name ripe for discovery by daring parents.
Samsara – The second name to repeat from last year’s list, Samsara feels like a sister for Bodhi. The Sanskrit word refers to the cycle of rebirth common to many eastern religions. Definitions vary, from the poetic “wandering through” to the technical “cyclical change.” It sounds an awful lot like fading favorite Samantha, which makes it easy to imagine a girl by the name.
Season – We’re naming our kids Winter, Summer, and Autumn, so why not Season? The word name encompasses the best of the natural world, and also takes on a slightly spiritual sense. After all, if you know your Ecclesiastes – or your Byrds hit songs – to everything there is a season. (Turn, turn, turn.)
Solace – Another word name, and yet another repeat from last year’s list, Solace made headlines a few years back when a prominent Canadian politician’s granddaughter was given the name. Singer Alanis Morissette named her younger daughter Onyx Solace in 2016.
Solenne – Solange is Beyonce’s talented sister, and Solene looks like it rhymes with Jolene in English. But Solenne? The rarest of the three forms of the name might also have the most potential. They all come from the Late Latin word sollemnis – religious. There’s a ninth century Saint Solange, which lends this name some history. Pronounce it so LENN, which reminds me of another word we derive from the Latin root: solemn.
Rare Girl Names 2018: T
Temitope – Every time I glance at Temitope, I see a sister for Penelope, a Greek name with ties to myth. But it isn’t so! Instead, Temitope is Yoruba, and means worthy of thanks. It shortens to Temi and Tem, and is pronounced exactly as it reads: temi-tope. While this one is probably reserved for families of West African origin, it’s one that travels into English effortlessly.
Thessaly – Three-syllable girls’ names ending in -y have history galore, from Dorothy to Emily to Avery. We’re wild for place names, too. So why not Thessaly? A traditional region in Greece that survives today, Thessaly sounds like a given name. And indeed, there are women in history with versions of the name, including the sister of Alexander the Great, Thessalonike.
Torin – Am I breaking my rules? Torin comes from the Gaelic word for chief, and it’s used exclusively for boys. But it’s yet to break into the US Top 1000, and I find it appealing for girls, too. Maybe that’s because of all those Victorias who answer to Tori, or possibly because it looks and sounds a little bit like Robin and Lauren and other unisex names through the ages.
Rare Girl Names 2018: U – Z
Victoire – Speaking of Victoria, how ’bout the French Victoire? It’s pronounced a little differently: veek twar. According to Le Figaro, it’s quite stylish in France right now. And thanks to Harry Potter, this might be familiar to a younger generation, too.
Wallis – The woman who caused a crisis in the British monarchy was born Bessie Wallis Warfield, her middle name borrowed from a family surname. She was so world-shatteringly famous that we’ve almost come to see Wallis as a feminine form of Wallace … but it’s really just another spelling. Still, it falls somewhere between classic Alice and surnames like Harper and Ellis, so I think it’s quite wearable.
Xanthe – If Zoe is such a mega-hit, how can Xanthe remain so neglected in the US? A name from Greek myth meaning fair-haired, Xanthe seems like exactly the right name for parents after something unexpected, but not invented.
Those are my picks for the best rare girl names 2018! Are there any that you might consider for a daughter?