Life

How to pick a unique baby name

31st January 2017Written by: Mary Bolling

Are you jack of boring baby names? There’s never been a better time to buck the trend.


Almost 310,000 babies were born in Australia last year. It’s the nation’s biggest-ever rug-rat haul, and competition is hot for a unique baby name to stand out from the crowd.

As well as saving teachers from classrooms full of Olivers and Olivias – number one names in 2015 and 2014 respectively - demographers say a memorable name can also deliver life-long benefits. In the US, some doting parents pay thousands for branding experts to provide a pitch-perfect appellation, designed to make an impression in a pile of college applications or job interviews.

Meanwhile, a UK survey recently found one in five new mums had experienced “namer’s remorse”. The top regret? That the name was too common.

So where to find the perfect “personal brand” for your kiddo? Take tradition and flip it.

Family ties

For the first half of the 20th century, John and Margaret reigned supreme as Australia’s top baby names. Often, bub was being named after granddad, grandma, or great-aunty-Maggie-with-the-fortune.

Nowadays, obscure branches of the family tree are ripe pickings for fresh options. For every Tom, Dick and Harry there’s a ready-for-reinvention Ernest, Bernard and Clive – or Maisie, Dulcie and Fay. (Name meanings: dedicated, strong as a bear, cliff, pearl, sweet, and fairy.)

Just hit the history books with a name meaning guide in hand, and you’ll find a vintage fit for the next generation in no time.

Fame game

We’ve always named our kids after the rich and the famous – first and foremost the royals, with William at number two and Charlotte at number one in Australia last year. But especially with rock royalty, more cred can come with the famed surname, like Dylan, Marley, or Bowie.

Taking the trend further could see swapping Audrey for Hepburn (Scottish region), Angelina for Jolie (pretty), Heath for Ledger (tribal spear) or Ethan for Hawke (fierce).

Or, still want that royal seal? Think royal houses like Windsor, (riverbank with a winch) or increasingly popular title-names Duke/Dame, Prince/Princess, or even Queen/King variations Queenie/Kingsley.

Binge baby

Forget classic literature – there are hot new names in whatever mum and dad are binge-watching.

Recent TV hits have already inspired a rush for Ragnar (strong counsel) from Vikings, Game of Thrones’ favourites Arya and Khaleesi (noble, and no meaning), and Piper (pipe player) from Orange Is the New Black.

In 2017, look for plenty of stand-out character names. Iron Fist features samurai Colleen (Gaelic for girl). Short-and-sweet Gus and Mickey (majestic, gift of God) are the comic leads in Judd Apatow’s Love. And HBO serial based on the Aussie book Big Little Lies features Celeste and Ziggy (heavenly, victorious peace).

Or, for more local flavour, Cleverman’s Koen (brave), Blair (field dweller) and Alinta (fire/flame) are back for season two in 2017.

Use the force

In the 80s, boy’s name Luke came from nowhere to hit top ten lists – thank you Star Wars. In 2017, will Wonder Woman see a surge for Diana (goddess) or maybe Amazon (all women)? Can Disney’s Beauty and the Beast reboot boost Belle (beauty)? And the Blade Runner sequel will only prop up Blade (wealthy glory), or even Deckard (similar to Decker, meaning roofer).

Determined to stay further ahead of the curve? Take an on-trend name and tweak it. While weird spellings and superfluous hyphens are out, Luke easily becomes Luka (Italian region), Seth reinvents as Zeth (appointed one), Mia shifts to Mika (gift of God) and Fiona becomes Viona (fair).

So really, (almost) anything’s possible? But get in quick. Even if your perfectly unique name is stolen eventually, at least your kiddo will be the first.



Mary Bolling is a Melbourne-based writer and communications adviser, and mum to baby Bonaventure (good fortune). So far, he’s the only one.

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