We’re taking a break from our Offbeat Alphabet Series this week, and today we’re talking about alternative names. It’s always been that there are those who don’t care about using popular names, and those who look for alternative to the popular names they love. I know this because my blog traffic is mostly people looking for alternatives to Olivia. Consider it a dream come true to all you google searchers today, because I’m going to address just that. In fact, I decided to push the boat out and come up with a list of alternatives for every name in the 2013 England&Wales Top 10.
Now, I had plenty of ideas for every name, but then I took a step back and decided that I needed to rein myself in. In my mind, it’s not a simple case of swapping out a comfortable favourite with something no one has ever heard of, otherwise this list would look a lot different. Instead, I’ve decided to go for familiar names of a similar style, so my criteria was thus:
- The name has not been in the Top 100 since 2010
- The name was within the Top 500 in 2013
- The name has risen consistently in the rankings since 2010 without stagnant or fall
So, in the end, I’m swapping out current favourites for what could be the incoming favourites of the next decade or so, which I think is more fitting than telling parents considering Jessica to instead use Cressida, a name only used 6 times in 2013. Despite this, the list of options was a fun one to compile, and it became more of a discussion piece than a list as I felt an explanation for each choice was warranted.
OLIVER -> BENEDICT
With Oliver, we’re looking for something charming, and a solid nickname option that’s also pretty popular as a standalone, like Olly. Originally I thought of Raphael, but his popularity is faltering. Then there’s Rupert, but he didn’t quite fit. In the end, I went with Benedict, where Ben once ranked as high as #34, but still is in the mix at #140.
The name Benedict could attribute some of his popularity to Benedict Cumberbatch. Indeed, up until 2010 the name was falling, down from a peak of#165 in 1999 to #449. However, the name has begun to regain ground, as in 2013 he was back up to #350 in 2013. The name comes from Latin and means blessed.
AMELIA -> ROSALIE
We’re looking for a 3-syllable flourishing name that features a ‘lee’ sound. For me, the minute I saw Rosalie, I couldn’t help but see her as ‘the one’. Like Mia for Amelia, the nickname Rosie is seeing increased use and ranks at #38.
The name Rosalie is, for all intents and purposes, an elaboration of Rose, but she’s a darn fine one at that. She’s rocketed up from #1171 in 2009 to #394 in 2013.
JACK -> TED
We’re looking for a one syllable nickname that stands well aside from his parent name. I had a hard time here deciding between Ralph, Ted and Frank. Ralph was ruled out because he has two valid pronunciations used widely in the UK and that made him a step away from the simple style we were looking for. Frank was ruled out for being not quite on trend, whereas Ted felt more current.
Ted is usually taken as a nickname for Theodore, but it is known for him to be used as a short form of longtime Top 100 name Edward. His brother Teddy broke into the Top 100 in 2013, whilst Ted rose from #278 to #179 between 2010 and 2013.
OLIVIA -> AURELIA
Olivia is similar to Amelia in a few ways, so the suggested names could cross over. We’re looking for a many syllables name, but not too many letters as with Anastasia. The finalists were Aurelia, Ariana and Elodie, with Aurelia winning out in the end for her similar sound and feel to Olivia.
The name Aurelia comes from Latin and means golden. Since 2010, the name Aurelia has risen from #567 to #327.
HARRY -> REGGIE
We’re looking for a nickname that could standalone. Lenny was a serious consideration, but his popularity didn’t quite qualify him. In the end, Reggie wins the acolade.
Reggie is a nickname for Reginald, a name that means advice and rule. He’s been on the rise for much of the last decade, rising 79 places since 2010 to #121.
EMILY -> MILA
This is another name like Amelia, that the minute I saw Mila, she felt right. She’s almost come out of nowhere in recent years, after ranking at #616 in 2010, she’s rocketed up to her current ranking of #124.
The name Mila is from the Slavic region originally, but she’s finding more and more fans in the English speaking world. The name contains the Slavic element mil, and means gracious/dear.
JACOB -> EZRA
We’re looking for a biblical choice here preferably, although Gethin was briefly considered. Jeremiah has the popularity, but seemed too long. On the flip side Malachi, Raphael, Levi and Isaiah all felt valid as alternatives, but didn’t have the popularity. I settled for Ezra in the end.
It is somewhat of a compromise choice, as Ezra dropped between 2010 and 2011, but has rocketed from #441 in 2011 to #295 in 2013. The name means help in Hebrew.
AVA -> ALBA
With Ava, the obvious choice was Ada, but I was more intrigued by the option of Alba.
Alba has a Latin origin and a Germanic one. In Latin, she derives from Albus, and thus means white/bright. In Germanic, she comes from the element alb, meaning elf.
CHARLIE -> ALBIE
Again I had two to decide between: Albie and Arlo. As Albie, like Charlie, is a nickname in origin, he gets the honour. It’s also worth noting that Charles was once popular before being overtaken by Charlie, and right now Albert is a Top 100 pick that could be overtaken by Albie in the coming years. We briefly mentioned the name Albie earlier on this week.
There were two good choices here: Iris and Skyla. The former seemed a good option, due to her similar length and starting letter. In the end, however, Skyla felt the better fit style-wise as Isla is Scottish in origins (from Islay, a Scottlish island in the Inner Hebrides) and Skyla relates somewhat to the Isle of Skye that lie off the coast of west Scotland, also in the Inner Hebrides.
As for popularity, a friend of mine became a Dad to a little Skyla last year. The name could be taken as a feminising of Skyler, itself a variant of Schuyler, a Dutch name meaning scholar. Since 2008, the name has been rocketing up from #639 to her 2013 ranking of #176.
THOMAS -> MAXWELL
Plenty of T- names were considered here – Tobias and Tristan, for example – but none adhered to the popularity rule. Tate does, but he seemed too short. I finally settled on Maxwell, who has a similar feel and an easy nickname of Max, as Thomas has Tom.
Maxwell is a Scottish surname that’s over time become used more frequently as a first name; the name means Mack’s stream. From a ranking of #145 in 2010 to #114 in 2013, there’s a very real possibility that Maxwell could enter the Top 100 in a year or twos time.
JESSICA -> ATHENA
She has a unique sound to her, so instead I looked for a name that was equally statement and of equal length. I considered Verity, but her popularity has been somewhat inconsistent. Then there’s Harmony, who was rising until she dropped off in 2013. Adelaide could maybe be a contender in a few years time, and Tabitha has been more plateau-ing than rising. In the end – and since I couldn’t nominate Cressida – Athena felt the most fitting of all the names I went through.
Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare. In 2010 the name ranked at #583, and has risen since then to #437.
OSCAR -> RUFUS or RUPERT
I considered Rupert for Oliver, and in fact he could also be an alternative to Oscar. However, poor Rupert was sidelined once more in favour of Rufus, before I relented and let them share the honour.
Whilst the two names appear quite similar, they do not share origins. The name Rufus comes from the Romans, and means red-haired in Latin. The name has been on a steady rise in 1996, and is currently at #237. On the flipside, Rupert is an Old German form of Robert, which means bright fame. In 2010 the name ranked at #360, and has risen more than a few places since then to #213.
POPPY -> ROBYN
There were so many choices here for me to decide between. Penny is similar to Poppy, but I wanted a nature name – this also sidelined Bonnie and Luna. It came down between Robyn and Pearl, and my gut told me to go with Robyn. She was the same rank in 2010 and 2011, but I’m letting it slide because she’s works on all other levels for me.
Whilst Robyn is decidedly feminine, the name Robin is considered more unisex. Most would presume the name to come from the bird, but (s)he actually derives as a medieval nickname for Robert. The name was within the Top 100 in the 90s, but she has started to rise again after spending the majority of the turn of the century falling. Since 2010, she’s risen 54 places to #119, which means she may be poised for a triumphant return to the Top 100.
WILLIAM -> CASSIUS
With William, we’re looking for something a Prince could wear. Now, I had plenty ideas of old classics that could work here: Christopher, Tobias, Jonathan, Maximilian, Richard and even Montgomery. Sadly, they’ve all experienced either inconsistent popularity or continuous fall. In the end, I had to turn to more modern classics for inspiration. The choice was between Barnaby and Cassius, but with Barnaby spending as much time plateauing than rising, the honour falls to Cassius.
It seems a surprising choice, and I’ll openly admit that this name is one that I’ve loved for a very long time. However, it appears he is one the current crop of parents are loving too, as he was at #481 in 2010, and now at #363. The name, however, doesn’t have the most wonderful of meanings: he comes from Latin and potentially means empty/vain.
ISABELLA -> ARABELLA
Both Emmeline and Penelope were contenders with their ‘el’ sounds and 3-syllables, but they didn’t feel quite right. It seemed that, with Isabella, we’re looking for preferably a -bella name, and we have that with Arabella. However, an honourable mention should go to Mabel.
The name Arabella is another one we mentioned earlier on this week. She’s a medieval Scottish variant of Annabel, a name that means lovable. The name has risen form #228 in 2010 to her current ranking of #157.
JAMES -> MYLES
My first consideration with this name was Miles, but in the end Myles is the spelling I went with because he’s had a more consistent rise in popularity and is currently the more popular spelling (albeit only by 3 places).
The name comes from the Germanic name Milo, which was brought over to Britain by the Normans as Miles. The name could come from the Slavic element mil, which means gracious. Alternatively, he could come from the Latin word miles, which means soldier. The name currently ranks at #177, up from #210 in 2010.
SOPHIE -> THEA
Vivienne and Sylvie were options, but Thea shares Sophie’s Greek origins. She also has the girly sound that translates well into adulthood.
In Greek, the element theos means God(ess), which might put parents off. The name can either be pronounced with a silent h (like Tia), or not – I hear both used as frequently as the other. Theia is also the name of the Greek Titaness who is the mother of Selene, the goddess of the moon. Fittingly, her name is given to a proposed planet from the beginning of the solar system that was the size of Mars which collided with Earth to create the moon. Thea had a massive soar in rank between 2012 and 2013, going from #225 to #121.
GEORGE -> BEAU
I’m stepping away from the classics to go with Beau here. It may seem like a bit wildcard, but stay with me here. My thinking for this is both names have spellings that you wouldn’t think if you’d only heard them said, plus both are one-syllable. You also can’t really shorten them. I wasn’t so sure of the popularity, and briefly considered dropping Beau in favour of Lloyd or Noel, but I’m sticking to my guns instead.
The name Beau means handsome. The problem with Beau is from 2010 to 2013 he’s only risen 5 places from #180 to #175, so it’s not like he’s going anywhere fast.
MIA -> LYLA
Something that is short and could be a nickname for many popular names felt like the brief here. The name Annie was a choice, but I was looking for something more nouveau. Emmie could have worked, but she fell between 2012 and 2013. In the end, it came down to two: Zoya and Lyla.
The name Lyla comes from Layla and means night in Arabic. The name was basically nowhere in 2004 at #1715, before a dramatic surge to #303 in 2005. Now, the only thing I could find to explain this is that in 2005 the band Oasis released an album called Don’t Believe the Truth, for which the lead single was called Lyla, which was the UK number one single for a week in May 2005. She now ranks at #114.