50 Unique Baby Names You’ve Never Heard Of
Looking down the list, there’s a very good chance that you’ve never heard of most of these names. They are definitely unique, but not absurd. Plus, there’s a mix of names for boys and girls, but also plenty of gender-neutral names as well.
Updated: January 8, 2023
When it’s time to pick out a baby name, it’s beginning to feel like you’ve heard them all. There’s a reason certain names, like Sophie or Emma are considered popular — because there are so many people with those names. Obviously there is nothing wrong with popular names, but some parents to be are looking for names that may be a little less common. Because, as much you may love the name, you don’t really want your kiddo to be one of five Jacksons in his class. We want to give our kids names that may help them stand out a little.
More: 50 Music-Inspired Baby Names by Genre
Often, we turn to baby name websites, or our friend Google. Sometimes those searches can offer great results. But it seems that more often than not, trying to find a name no one’s heard before is practically impossible. Lists are obviously going to push more popular names towards the top of their lists, no matter what.
One of the biggest challenges is finding a name that you’ve really never heard before. Or rather, a name no one else has heard before. Sure, you may go out of your way to find a harder to find name, but then someone finds it to be entirely common. For example, the name Leighton comes up frequently if you do a search for names you’ve never heard of. But many women in their 30s and beyond will likely know the name because of actress Leighton Meester, one of the stars of Gossip Girl.
Making this list was an exercise in what is truly a name you may have never heard of. Upon extensive looking, some names were truly unheard of names, and others were just borderline zany and unique. There were a lot of names that were just alternate spellings of popular (or more well known) names. You’ve heard of those names, but not that particular spelling. Looking down the list, there’s a very good chance that you’ve never heard of most of the names. These names are definitely unique, but not absurd. And they’re a mix of names for boys and girls, but also plenty of gender-neutral names as well.
How many have you heard of?
For more baby name inspiration check out these popular baby name lists:
- Top 1000 Most Popular Baby Girl Names in the U. S.
- Top 1000 Most Popular Baby Boy Names in the U.S.
- The 100 Coolest Baby Names in the World
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About the author
Sa’iyda Shabazz is a writer and mother to one. She can often be found in her apartment writing into the wee hours and trying to read a book in peace. She is a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and writes for several other parenting sites.
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16 Jewish Baby Names That Were Popular in the 1930s – St Annes Hebrew Congregation
By Glen Berd1 Comment
1. Joseph. Joseph is a Hebrew boy’s name that means “increase. ”Joseph was one of the sons of Jacob and a leader of the Israelites in Egypt.
2. David. David is a Hebrew boy’s name that means “beloved.” David was the second king of Israel.
3. Harold. Harold is a non-Jewish name that was popular among Jewish people. It is Scandinavian and means “army ruler.” Hal or Harry are fun nicknames.
4. Michael. Michael is a Hebrew name meaning “who is like God.” Michael is also the name of an angel in Jewish tradition.
5. Daniel. Daniel means “God is my judge” in Hebrew.
6. Samuel. Samuel is a Hebrew name meaning “God has heard.” Samuel the prophet anointed the first two kings of Israel.
7. Benjamin. Benjamin means “son of the right hand” in Hebrew. Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob, was one of the 12 tribes of Israel.
8. Barbara. Barbara is a girl’s name that means “stranger.” While it’s not a Hebrew name, it was popular among Jewish immigrants who came to the U.S.
9. Ruth. Ruth is a Hebrew name that means “friendship.” Ruth is the heroine of the Book of Ruth, who cares for Naomi, marries Boaz, and becomes an ancestor of King David.
10. Elizabeth. Elizabeth means “God is my oath” in Hebrew.
11. Martha/Matya. Martha is an Aramaic name that means “the lady.” Matya is a similar sounding name in Hebrew that means “God’s gift.”
12. Judith. Judith is a Hebrew name meaning “praised. ”
13. Edna. Edna is Hebrew meaning “pleasure.” The Garden of Eden is the setting for the creation story.
14. Sarah/Sara. Sarah is a Hebrew name meaning “princess.” In the Bible, Sarah, the first matriarch, was the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.
15. Sharon. Sharon is a Hebrew girl’s name meaning “the coastal plain of Israel.”
16. Alma. Alma is a Hebrew name meaning “young woman.”
how did they choose names for children in Rus’?
Author Alexander Bikuzin To read 5 min Views 1.2k. Published
Popular wisdom says: «With a name — Ivan, and without a name — a blockhead.» It’s in the vernacular. And if solemnly, then: “There are no living people, and there cannot be, nameless: At the very first moment of generation, each, poor and noble, receives the Name, like a sweet gift, from his relatives.” That’s what Homer said.
But where did the names come from in Russia and whether they were always a «sweet gift» we will try to find out now.
- How were the names chosen for the children of the ancient Slavs?
- Names in Christianity
- What has changed after the revolution?
- Children’s names after the Second World War
How were the names chosen for children among the ancient Slavs?
Before the adoption of Christianity among the Slavs, the names were chosen by the parents. They had a certain semantic meaning, they were « speaking names «. For example, the third son was called Tretiak, the beloved and long-awaited daughter — Lyubava, and if they wanted the boy to grow up obedient and kind, they called him Dobrynya.
Children were also named Svetlana, Krasava, Zabava, Milusha, Dobromysl, Mstislav, Svyatoslav, Yaropolk, Svyatopolk, etc. Our ancestors were people extremely superstitious , and therefore one should not be surprised that many names resembled nicknames: Wolf Tail, Nelyub, Zhdan, Ghoul, Kruchina, Gloomy, Love, etc.
In the traditions of the Slavic peoples, associated with naming, there have always been rules (more often prohibitions). A newborn should not be given a “name for a name”, i.e. it was not possible to use a name that already has one of the people living in the same house .
Otherwise, one of the people with the same name may die. The signs are based on the belief that each name has its own guardian angel , who is not able to keep track of two people at once in the same house.
In addition, in Rus’ it was often customary to hide the real name (given at baptism), exposing a false name. Even in marriage, the wife did not call her husband by her personal name, but used other words — husband, mine, master, etc. This tradition in some way (unconsciously) has survived to this day.
Names in Christianity
After the adoption of Christianity, the name for the child began to be chosen according to calendar .
Parents or a priest made a choice from names corresponding to the eighth day after birth, on this day the child was baptized. In the holy calendar there were names of various origins: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Persian. Many of these names Russified and began to be perceived by the Russian people as their own, Slavic.
So Stefan became Stepan, Theodor became Fedor. The name Ivan (John) is found in the complete calendar 170 times (!) , i.e. almost every other day, that’s why there were so many Ivanovs in Rus’! True, sometimes the priest made concessions and , at the request of the parents, gave a different name , which on this day was not listed in the calendar.
Slavic names Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov in pre-revolutionary times were often given to children, despite the fact that Vera is found in the calendar only twice a year, and Nadezhda and Lyubov only once.
The most common names in the calendar are: Peter, Pavel, Alexander, Andrey, Mikhail, Maria, Anna and Elena. But Olga, Tatyana, Alla, Lyudmila and Ekaterina have only one birthday.
There were, however, names that carried an unpleasant semantic load , for example, Ardalion — filthy, Claudia — lame-footed, Varvara — rude, Vassa — desert, Foka — seal, and some sounded very dissonant and even comical: Dog, Dul, Proskudnya, Pavsikaky, Agathonus.
But, in any case, the child was given the name that was in the calendar, no «freethinking» was allowed here.
What has changed since the revolution?
Parents found themselves in a different position after the Great October Socialist Revolution. Registration of newborns began to be carried out by civil registry offices (ZAGS), and parents could now choose any name and even could invent a new .
A lot of names were formed from revolutionary slogans , for example, Ikki (Executive Committee of the Communist International), Roblen (born to be a Leninist), Revdit (revolutionary child), the names became popular: Oktyabrina (October Revolution), Vladlen (VLADIMIR LENIN) .
Taking advantage of the freedom of choice, parents gave their children sometimes very strange and unusual names . Geographical names — Altai, Amur, Kazbek, technical names — Hypotenuse, Algebrina, Tractor, Turbine, etc.
At the same time, the influx of foreign names is increasing : Robert, Eduard, Eric, Zhanna, Josephine. By the middle of the 19th century. for every twelve purely Russian names worn, there were at least a thousand «imported» ones — of foreign origin.
Baby names after WWII
«Fashionable» names of the 20-30s did not stand the test of time, and after the Great Patriotic War, children began to be called the usual names , although some of them continued to live in the names of their fathers and grandfathers.
In the 1950s and 1960s, many Lyudmil, Tatyan, Galin, Vladimirov, Valeriev, Viktorov were born. In the 70s, Oksana, Marina, Irina, Elena, Olga appeared, among the boys — Denis, Sergey, Alexandra, Alexei, Andrey. In the 80-90s, Alina, Victoria, Arina, Karina, Nikita, Maxima, Artyoma came into fashion.
The name is directly related to nationality. Receiving the name of his people, the child involuntarily begins to reckon himself with his history and character.
At present, it can be noted that gradually lost traditions come to life . Now many, choosing a name for a newborn, prefer national traditions of naming. Which, of course, speaks of the awakening of interest in the history of their country, of showing respect for their roots and ancestors.
A name is part of a person, part of our history.
Russians in Hollywood in the 1930s
Archival project «Radio Liberty this week 20 years ago». The most interesting and significant of the Radio Liberty broadcast twenty years ago. Unfinished story. Still living hope. Could Russia have gone the other way?
Difficulties, successes, failures of Russian silent film stars in the West in the 1930-40s, the fashion for Russian and the influence of Russian style on European and American cinema. First aired 6 Feb 1997.
Ivan Tolstoy : My interlocutor is Natalya Nusinova, a Moscow film historian, who is familiar to our listeners from a number of programs on the history of Russian cinema. The topic of today’s conversation is Russians in Hollywood. On our waves, Natalya Nusinova has already talked about Russian actors and filmmakers in pre-war Europe, mostly in the 1920s. Now the scene will move across the ocean and will be devoted to the next decade, the years of the 1930s. Many of the Russian filmmakers who first emigrated to Europe then moved to America. And when did this process begin and what pulled them across the ocean?
Natalya Nusinova : In most cases, America was like a second stage of emigration for filmmakers. You can even say that it was re-emigration from Europe. Like a new search for happiness. For Mozzhukhin, for example, this happened in 1925. He just starred in the film «Casanova» by Alexander Volkov and immediately went to America to try his hand there. True, he starred in only one film, in 1927, directed by Edward Sloman, the film was called «Hostage», was not very successful. Mozzhukhin tried in every possible way to adapt to Hollywood stereotypes, he underwent plastic surgery, his famous long nose was cut off, but he did not become a Hollywood hero. They also shortened his last name, from Mozzhukhin he became Moskin. True, by the way it is spelled (I found his brother’s letters in the archive), I realized that, rather, he called himself Moskvin, because this surname is spelled through «u», but no one there understood it. Around the same time, Victor Turzhansky arrived, who worked in Paris and Berlin, who also changed his name and became short Victor from long Vyacheslav.
Mozzhukhin tried to adapt to Hollywood stereotypes, he underwent plastic surgery, his famous long nose was cut off, but he did not become a Hollywood hero
Maybe even in this name change there was a desire to encode the idea of victory — Victor. Dmitry Bukhovetsky came from Germany. Fedor Otsup, who in general was such a cinematic cosmopolitan, our Soviet Max Ophuls, he made films all over the world, in the late 40s he came to America. But the basis of the American film emigration was Olga Baklanova, Alona Azimova, Vladimir Sokolov, Maria Uspenskaya, Richard Boleslavsky, Akim Tamirov, the famous actor, Mikhail Arshansky and many others. Mikhail Chekhov already belongs to the second wave — he came to America at 1943 year.
Ivan Tolstoy : Was the position of filmmakers in America different from their position in Europe?
Natalya Nusinova : In this regard, it is best to recall the words of Nina Berberova. In her book of memoirs, she writes about the difference in the position of emigrants in France and in America from a cultural and ethical point of view. Nina Berberova writes: «France demanded more obedience to itself, often forcibly changed people, reborn them — whether you like it or not — so that they sometimes did not notice this process. There were many reasons for this: there was a tradition of Russian Europeans who lived in Paris when something; there was French literature, one way or another entered the consciousness of even a semi-intellectual back in his school years; emigrant children growing up in France and bringing the skills of a new country to their families; and even some, a few, have some memories of their fathers and grandfathers , who traveled here, brought from here to Russia something that for some reason was not in Penza.In America, the situation was different: there was never a tradition of coming here; America could not exist; literature (painting and music) was almost unfamiliar to the newcomers; emigrant children not only did not bring new skills to the family, but, thanks to the principles of the American school, went further and further in their protest against the first generation. The circle of Russians in New York, both old and new, consisted mostly of provincials. In Paris, it was the opposite, and the preservation of the Penza psychology was among them in great force. «To the words of Nina Berberova, one can add that with regard to cinema, it was the other way around. In everyday life, as she writes, in America, national identity was preserved more than in France when it comes to cinema, Hollywood was very hard on the rules.0005
Ivan Tolstoy : Well, well, the Hollywood myth is usually a fairy tale about success and fabulous enrichment, but in relation to Russian filmmakers of the first wave, did this myth justify itself in general?
Natalya Nusinova : The fates were, of course, different, and one cannot generalize, but it seems to me that, in general, the story of the Evreinov family’s trip to Hollywood is quite typical. The wife of Nikolai Nikolaevich Evreinov, playwright, director, theorist and theater historian, Anna Alexandrovna Kashina-Evreinova, recalled in her memoirs how, at the very beginning of their life in exile, in a difficult period for them financially, on May 1925 years in Paris, she posed for a portrait of the artist Sorin. And in the studio of Sorin, she accidentally met an American land dealer Philip Meiner, as she writes, «a man who was aiming at patrons.» Already in November of the same year, from New York, Meiner began to persistently invite the Evreinovs to move to America. Anna Alexandrovna writes: “In January 1926, we left for America. On this significant occasion, I gave a ball, renting a large studio in Montparnasse. Sineast Miklashevsky, our great friend, now deceased, photographed us at this ball, and therefore it is easy for me to remember many of my many, about sixty guests. Here is the artist Savely Sorin (now deceased), and his imitator, the artist Verbov (now in America), flirting with the notorious Salome Andronikova. And next to it, the artist Bilibin is discussing something with Quil and his wife Tishchenko «Quil. Which of the Russian artists did not know the open house of Quills in Paris of that era. Here I am with Professor Speransky, my teacher at the Bestuzhev courses. Behind me is the unfortunate Marina Tsvetaeva with her husband Efron. And here is my husband with the American journalist Sonya Tamar and the writer Budkovskaya, also now deceased. Near them is the teacher of the gymnasium Popich, familiar to all Russian Paris. There were also a lot of Frenchmen. The journey to America aboard the Leviathan was adorned with an event that seemed almost prophetic to the Evreinovs. «We went to the America of childhood dreams, to America, where concern for daily bread, and even more so about money, is unknown. Where any enterprise inevitably brings income. In a word, we went to America of the myth we created. Our dining room neighbor turned out to be Rudolf Valentino «In those years — the most famous cinematic artist. Isn’t it a mythical meeting? Every day several times to meet and talk with Valentinino himself, who seemed to have descended from the screen to introduce us to the realm of mythical America.» Immediately upon arrival, however, it turned out that the contract, which the «philanthropist» Meyner tried to impose on Evreinov, was draconian, and the living conditions were unbearable. The rescue came unexpectedly. The directorate of the Guild Theater, which decided to stage Evreinov’s play The Most Important, invited him to watch the production. The Evreinovs got the opportunity to come to New York from Cleveland, where they were kept almost in prison, to enter the local artistic environment. However, already at 1927 year they had to return to Paris.
Advertising representing Russian silent film actors in America. 1917
This, of course, is such an extremely sad story of the American experience of the Evreinovs, but it cannot be said that America turned out to be manna from heaven for Russian emigrants in general.
Ivan Tolstoy : Tell me, please, by the beginning of the 1930s, when the main wave of Russian emigrants moved to America, cinema was already sound. How did this affect the position of Russian filmmakers? And, first of all, the actors?
Natalya Nusinova : You are absolutely right when you link these two topics, because the problems of Russians in America, of course, were to a very large extent connected with the arrival of sound in cinema, with the problem of language. It was not only an American problem, it was a problem for Russian actors all over the world. At one time, Jean Renoir wrote about the Albatross studio in France that the arrival of sound was a real Waterloo for these actors. Mozzhukhin spoke several languages with difficulty and with an accent, for example, he did not know how to grind, in France they even tried to write roles for him without the letter “r”, but in any case he had to play the roles of legionnaires, Russians, and so on.
…the problems of Russians in America, of course, were connected to a very large extent with the arrival of sound in cinema, with the problem of language. It was not only an American problem, it was a problem for Russian actors all over the world
In Hollywood it was a problem for all foreign stars, the rare exception was a foreign star who fit into the Hollywood sky. Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman — these are perhaps a few names that can be listed in this regard. Researcher John Russell Taylor in his book on immigrants in Hollywood writes that all European accents seemed the same to Hollywood filmmakers, so European actors, accustomed to a variety of roles in their homeland, had to switch to the role of a person of some, not necessarily their own, but someone else’s nationality . The author of a book about Mikhail Chekhov, his biographer, Finnish researcher Lisa Bückling, describes in detail the difficulties that Mikhail Chekhov faced in Hollywood due to his accent. «We all know for ourselves how funny and strange a foreign accent sounds in Russian when we occasionally hear it in a foreign film. Cinema has the ability to exaggerate the sound, and the accent of the hero in the film is more noticeable than the accent of our interlocutor in life.»
Ivan Tolstoy : Have Russian filmmakers in America ever tried to set up their own Russian studio?
Natalya Nusinova : Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko had such an idea, who visited Hollywood in 1926 and proposed the creation of a Russian film studio, where, as he wrote, «Russian art, those techniques, the spirit that constitutes the features of the Russian theater, Russian music, Russian literature, which has worldwide success. Nemirovich-Danchenko wrote a blueprint for a Russian script that he was going to offer to American studios. But his colleague director Vladimir Turzhansky, more experienced in relation to the tastes of the American audience, objected. First, that the play is too long and will take too many meters. Secondly, from the point of view of public Puritan morality, a lover with a husband is unacceptable. Third, two suicides and one death are unacceptable. Fourthly, a hero is unacceptable who renounces a million-dollar fortune and goes into a life of deprivation and suffering. This will not meet with the sympathy of the public. Apparently, there was a clash of two national psychologies, and it was impossible to impose on the American audience, with the power of Hollywood canons, the features of Russian dramaturgy. The requirement for a happy ending in Hollywood was stronger than in Europe, so very often filmmakers introduced into their films, for example, the motive of sleep, because it was the easiest way to save the hero from all misfortunes — he woke up, and everything terrible turned out to be a dream. This was done in Protazanov’s first émigré film, A Terrible Adventure, but it was very often used, in particular, in films that were staged by Russians in America. So the secretary of Nemirovich-Danchenko Bertenson left an entry in his diary 1925 years old: «In the MGM studio, director Bukhovetsky prepared the film» Anna Karenina «. There is an assumption to stage it in such a way that the fact that Anna throws herself under the train turns out to be only her dream, but in fact she eventually marries Vronsky» .
Photo by Nemirovich-Danchenko with a dedication to Evgeny Vakhtangov, 1922
Ivan Tolstoy : Please tell me, is the idea of creating a Russian studio in America, was it up in the air or was it based on some American interest in Russia?
Natalya Nusinova : Of course, there was interest, and even very great. Somewhere since the late 1920s, many Russian émigré publications in Europe have noted the fascination of American filmmakers with the realities of Russian life. So, for example, in the newspaper «Illustrated Russia» there was an article by the critic Alexander Morsky «Fashion for Russian». He writes: «We found an inexhaustible source of irresponsible inspiration — old Russia and its transitional revolutionary period. Now pictures of «Russian» content in America are pouring in like from a cornucopia, and one another is more shameless and ignorant of our morals, our culture and society. Whatever picture , then a masterpiece of spreading cranberries, every release is an evil, rude mockery of our past.The Americans, and after them the entire European public, like these films, they have a lot of color, exoticism, a lot of new, popularly presented information about this strange land of ice , polar bears and the Grand Dukes. No one will dare to raise his authoritative voice in defense of our history, literature, civilization, even if he could, because, and this is the most painful, the most terrible for us, these films are staged not only with the participation of many Russian filmmakers , but under the guidance of Russian observers.
Ivan Tolstoy : Has Hollywood’s interest in this «land of ice and polar bears» changed over time? Has it turned into an interest in the Soviet Union?
Natalia Nusinova : I would rather say that the Soviet myth replaced the Russian myth. There was an attempt to mythologize Soviet Russia in the same way as pre-revolutionary Russia was mythologised. It’s just that the «land of ice and polar bears» was replaced by the country of the Kremlin and Lenin’s portraits. There were such films as «Moscow mission» by Curtis or «Song about Russia» by Grigory Ratov with Mikhail Chekhov as the father of the heroine. The most famous film about the Soviet Union was made by non-immigrants. It was «Ninochka» by Lyubich. But the difference is that «Ninochka», which in our USSR for a long time was considered an anti-Soviet evil film, is a deliberate satire, and «Song of Russia» is a spontaneous parody, conceived as a love melodrama. The closest thing in terms of genre to «Song of Russia» and similar films is the operetta.
In «Ninochka» Greta Garbo in a pioneer tie is marching on Red Square on the day of the parade, and this is a parody. And in the «Song of Russia» the heroine-collective farmer performs a concerto for pianoforte by Tchaikovsky at the conservatory, and after that drives around the village on her tractor , are made with sympathy for an ally, and therefore this is an awkward attempt to adopt a formation that looks like a parody. The representation of Soviet life in a film that glorifies the USSR and parodies the Soviet of Deputies is no different from each other. In Ninotchka, Greta Garbo, wearing a pioneer tie, marches through Red Square on the day of the parade, and this is a parody. And in The Song of Russia, the heroine-collective farmer performs Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto at the conservatory, and after that she drives around the village on her tractor, which she herself drives, and this is without ridicule. Most likely, the genre of such films as «Song of Russia» can be defined as pro-Soviet kitsch.
Ivan Tolstoy : What did the idea of creating émigré cinema in America degenerate into, or I will formulate my question this way: what is the fate of Russian filmmakers in the West as a whole?
Natalya Nusinova : Perhaps, summing up our conversation with you both in that part of it that concerned Europe and that part of it that concerned Hollywood, we can say that gradually the idea of creating Russian cinema in the West resulted in what was quite naturally, into the assimilation of Russian filmmakers in Western cinema. In Europe, this process was slower, America subjugated filmmakers almost immediately. But in both cases, the unexpected result was that a Russian myth was created, which the filmmakers brought with them, a myth was created about Russia in cinema, whether it be a myth about pre-revolutionary Russia, or a myth about Soviet Russia. And the Russian style, in addition to the will of the filmmakers themselves, began to influence the development of Western cinema.