16 Unusual Baby Names That Are More Popular Than You Think

Liz Alterman | Jan 26, 2017 Pregnancy
16 Unusual Baby Names That Are More Popular Than You Think
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When it comes to naming their baby, most parents want a unique and creative selection that isn't going to be super common. Even if you're a parent who enjoys being ahead of the curve, you might be surprised to see how quickly these 16 baby names are gaining in popularity. 

While some names are focused on the final letter (x, we're looking at you!), others pay homage to fictional characters fans admire. 

Laura Wattenberg, founder of Baby Name Wizard, explained how she came up with this sweet 16 list: "I've assembled a cross-section of names of different styles which are sneaking up in popularity."

Even if you have a keen ear for style, some of today's rising hits might just surprise you, she notes. See for yourself!

  • Nixon

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    "Here's solid evidence that in modern baby names, style comes first," notes Wattenberg. "Nixon has a great sound, a trim surname built around the super-hot letter X. Unfortunately, it's also the name of a US president who resigned in disgrace. For a generation of parents born long after Watergate, that's clearly not a deal breaker."

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  • King

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    "King isn't a new name," the baby name expert points out. "Back in the early 1900s it was modestly common, but nothing like this. Over the past dozen years we've seen the name explode, up from 70 newborn Kings per year to a whopping 2,540." 

    It's also the name of the son Blac Chyna shares with ex Tyga, just FYI.

  • Collins


    "A surname ending in 's' for a boy -- Jennings, Evans, Travers -- is pure preppy starch. On a girl, though, it's uncharted waters. Until recently, no 's' surname had ever come close to the girls' top 1,000. Collins has changed that, leaping up from obscurity thanks to Collins Tuohy, the adoptive sister of football player Michael Oher seen in the film The Blind Side. Tuohy was given a family surname in classic Southern fashion, and parents who saw the movie liked the style," Wattenberg notes.

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  • Hazel

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    "Hazel is the queen of the 'quirky classic names,'" Wattenberg says. "Its contrarian style is a key part of its charm. Now here's the alt darling, outpacing many supposedly mainstream hits without losing its own identity. Apparently you can stand out while fitting in."

  • Axl

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    "If you just liked the sound of this name, you'd go with the traditional spelling Axel. Dropping the 'e' makes it a pure rock-and-roll tribute to Guns 'N' Roses singer Axl Rose. Axl's popularity has tripled since singer Fergie chose the name for her son, causing parents around the country to realize 'OMG, we could actually do that!'" Wattenberg explains.

  • Athena

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    "There's hardly a more powerful, classic name than Athena, the ancient goddess of wisdom and war," says Wattenberg. "Traditionally it was considered a little over-powered for an English-speaking human, though. That has changed in a hurry: The name has doubled in popularity just in the past five years."

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  • Serenity

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    "This nouveau virtue name started rising in the '90s due to a character on the animated series Sailor Moon. It then got a second boost from the spaceship Serenity of [the early '00s TV series] Firefly," says Wattenberg.

  • Giovanni


    "You can't ask for a more classic name than Giovanni in Italy, where it's the local form of John," explains the baby name pro. "The name was always a tougher sell to English speakers because its sound and spelling are far from the English classics. (It's traditionally three syllables, jo-VAHN-nee.) Today Giovanni follows in the footsteps of names like Dante as an Italian-to-English crossover hit."

    More from CafeMomThe Top 20 Most Popular Baby Names of 2016

  • Hattie

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    "Once upon a time, there were a ton of these names: Ettie, Lottie, Mittie, Nettie, Ottie, and even Zettie were common in the 1800s. But only Hattie, as in Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel, has made a sudden comeback. It was originally a nickname for Harriet, which is rising more slowly," says Wattenberg.

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  • Leonidas

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    "Leonidas is a classic Greek name, which doesn't sound so surprising," Wattenberg shares. "What's surprising is that it's suddenly being chosen by hundreds of American families of all ethnicities in honor of the ancient Spartan king Leonidas, who died at the Battle of Thermopylae. The name's popularity has risen by 2,800 percent since that battle was brought to life in the movie 300."

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  • Maximus


    "Leonidas wasn't enough ancient machismo for you?" jokes Wattenberg. "Then turn the dial up all the way with Maximus, the hero of the film Gladiator. Unlike Leonidas in 300, Maximus was a purely fictional character. His name, though, is an ancient Roman family name and well suited to an action hero of any era."

  • Ember


    "No, not Amber, the 1980s mainstay. Ember, as in the last glowing fragment of a dying fire. Give the earlier name credit for making this one sound natural for a girl. You can think of it as a red-hot update on Amber's golden glow," says Wattenberg.

  • Harvey


    "Harvey was a hot name a century ago when its sound fit in alongside hits like Irving and Marvin," notes Wattenberg. "That sound has been a tough sell in recent decades, and Harvey all but vanished. Now it's back, suddenly leaping up into the top 500 even as similar-sounding names continue to languish."

  • Jaxon


    "If you're into baby names, you may have watched the presidential surname Jackson morph into action-minded Jaxon, a top-50 hit fueled by the desirable letter X. What you might not realize is that the hybrid spelling Jaxson ranks in the top 100 as well," Wattenberg points out. 

  • Malaysia


    "Geographical baby names typically take their style from the place they represent," says Wattenberg. "Malaysia, though, seems to be all about sound. It has become an African-American favorite with an assist from Basketball Wives LA star Malaysia Pargo."

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  • Knox


    "Knox is a celebrity-sparked name that took off when actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt chose it for a son. And of course, it has the 'x' power so many parents are looking for. Yet it's still an unlikely hit. No kname -- sorry, name -- starting with a silent consonant has ever been knearly so popular," jokes Wattenberg.

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