Alistair and Co.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 1.01.52 PM.png

I’ve noticed two primary and near-universal signs that a name is about to be popular: a) meteoric rise in usage and b) a plethora of alternative spellings appearing.  It also matters how far the name is from the very bottom of the popularity pool.  

Alistair is on my radar for entering the American top 1000 in 2016. 194 baby boys were given this particular spelling in 2015, up from 178 in 2014 and 132 in 2013.  Compare those numbers to 42 in 2005 and 19 in 1995.  In 2015, the least popular boys’ name was used 202 times, putting Alistair at a precipice.

Alistair is an alternative spelling of Alasdair, a Scottish Gaelic form of Alexander (#8 in the U.S.).  Alasdair was given to 36 boys last year, up from 29 in 2014.  After Alistair, the most popular ones are Alister (84 boys) and Alastair (47 boys).  The total count of Alistair-spellings within the 2015 SSA data is nine; the others are Allister (46 boys), Aleister (28), Alastor (10), Allistair (8), and Alistar (6).  All of those spellings were more common in 2015 than in 2014, excepting Alistar.  Additionally, Alyster appeared in the extended data between 2012 and 2014, and Alastar in 2011 and 2013.

My introduction to this name was the Harry Potter character Alastor Moody, paranoid “auror” (a kind of specialized magical law-enforcement officer) and presumed professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Ironically, Alastor isn’t even related to Alistair and co., though Alistair, via Alexander’s definition (approximately “defender of men”) is probably closer to the character’s personality than the meaning of Alastor, which originally meant “avenger” in Ancient Greek and was an epithet for Zeus.  Of course, the question now is this: are baby Alastors named after Moody, mythology, or in conjunction with all the Alistairs? The extended data suggests the third option. Alastor first appeared with 5 or more uses in 2011, long after the character was first introduced and indeed, a year after his last movie appearance in Deathly Hallows: Part 1. In 2015, there were 10 boys given this spelling, up from 7 in 2014. It’s certainly possible that the parents of the boys called Alastor rather than Alistair, Alasdair, etc. are Harry Potter fans, but if we start to see more Alastors it’s because we’re seeing more of the other renditions.  If anything, the rise of Alistair may have granted a little visibility to an otherwise overly eccentric baby name from the Potterverse.

The rise of Alistair in the U.S. has been a slow and steady percolation over decades.  Perhaps strangely, as popularity rose here, it mostly decreased in the U.K.  Alistair is barely still a top 500 name on the England/Wales charts; 20 years ago he was solidly in the top 200, but now straddles the line between top 300 and top 400.  It doesn’t even rank in the Scottish top 100, despite its provenance.  Other spellings, including not-anglicized Alasdair, fare even worse.  I suspect that American popularity of Alistair is aided by the trendiness of other other Scottish names like Lachlan (#768) and Callum (#683), which are both relatively new to the top 1000 and our naming lexicon.  Both those names are rising throughout the U.K. as well as the U.S., which leads me to wonder if Alistair might be due for a revival on their side of the pond…or at least a stabilization.

Thoughts on Alistair?  Do you have a favorite spelling?  I’m partial to Alastair and Alasdair, though I’m even fonder of good old Alexander

General name info links:

“Rank of the Name Bellatrix in Nigeria”

A particularly intriguing search term popped up yesterday in my site’s analytics – “Rank of the Name Bellatrix in Nigeria.”  Since I blog mostly about rare names, I expect most people will probably discover my site in the quest for an unusual moniker.  Still, I was surprised to see this.

I’ve decided to try and respond to the prompt as if were asked this personally.  On a side note, if any of you have similarly unusual name questions, I’d be delighted to answer!  My email is listed on my contact page, along with a link to this site’s Facebook page if you’d prefer to message me that way.  Or, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post!   

First, some information on the name:


  • Origin: Latin
  • Meaning: Female warrior
  • Popularity in United States: 5 girls in 2015.  Bellatrix was most popular in 2009 and 2012 – both years, given to 12 girls. 
  • Popularity in England/Wales: 4 girls in 2015 (#4736). 
  • Namesake: Bellatrix Lestrange
  • Other uses: Star in constellation Orion (the Hunter). 
  • Themes: Harry Potter, astronomy, war, villains, magic, Bella names
  • Nicknames: Bella, Belle, Trixie

My question – would you be able to overcome the associations with Bellatrix Lestrange and name your child Bellatrix

As to the original question regarding the Nigerian rank of Bellatrix…the answer is “impossible to determine.”  I searched, and found no definitive government list of popular Nigerian names like we have for the U.S. and U.K.  I did find a Nigerian parenting blog with several posts about popular names (including this one about English-language girls’ names), but all it told me was what is perceptibly popular.  Bellatrix wasn’t mentioned anywhere.

I then read a little on Nigerian naming practices, which are complicated and fascinating!  Among some ethnic groups, factors such as birth order and twin-birth (or even both) can determine the child’s name.  In the Igbo ethnicity, as this article claims, first-born daughters almost always have “Ada” somewhere in their name.  Specific circumstances can lead to certain names.  Something else to consider that the first article touches on is the use of aspiring/quality names like those of Goodluck Jonathan (former President) and his wife Patience.

Ultimately, Bellatrix might belong to a few Nigerian girls, but I doubt she’s very popular there or anywhere.


Below the Top 1000, Part 26 (Boys)

Greetings!  This week, I’ve selected some of the names given to only 18 or 19 baby boys in 2015.  My source is the Social Security Administration, which publishes America’s most popular baby names every year and also an extended list.  This extended set includes every name bestowed at least 5 times in that year, with very few exceptions.

Anyway, enjoy the names! 🙂

  • 19: Aeron, Albin, Alfie, Amogh, Anastasios, Arath, Artemis, Aviv, Aws, Bartholomew, Calloway, Cassian, Charlton, Creek, Darvin, Davinci, Drexel, Friedrich, Grover, Hannibal, Hendricks, Itai, Izael, Jaaziah, Joaquim, Judas, Kailash, Kartier, Kristoffer, Langdon, Lucan, Mateen, Maximos, Mousa, Myking, Ostin, Parrish, Redding, Roper, Sebastiano, Serafin, Taavi, Taiga, Theoden, Thoryn, Thurston, Tobiah, Tuck, Welles, Wheeler, Yuto, Zorian
  • 18: Adlai, Adric, Alban, Aloysius, Altair, Aquiles, Arun, Athanasios, Badr, Chantz, Dallis, Degan, Dmitriy, Eriberto, Etienne, Ezrael, Faustino, Frederik, Gable, Godwin, Gurfateh, Hewitt, Irwin, Jaking, Jayko, Johncarlos, Kainalu, Kamsiyochukwu, Kelsey, Khalifa, Kyllian, Lynkin, Manasseh, Mansour, Margarito, Mustapha, Napoleon, Olaf, Panagiotis, Prescott, Promise, Rand, Rich, Rockford, Rutledge, Seneca, Sneijder, Stanford, Thad, Townsend, Trigger, Ubaldo, Vivek, Woodson, Yehudah, Zayvier

What do you think of these names?  Let me know in the comments!

Previous five posts in this series:


“AND MY AXE!”  These are some of the most famous and meme-ified words from Lord of the Rings, alongside “one does not simply walk into Mordor,” “my precious,” and “they’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!”    

But here I am thinking about names and saying “AND MY…Jax?”  Some of the trendiest boys’ baby names this decade contain the sound “ax.”  Jaxon feels like the new Jayden, and Max the new MattJaxson, now a top 100 name, has only appeared in the extended data since 1991 and the top 1000 since 1999.  25 years is incredibly young for a name, though admittedly, notorious Nevaeh is even younger at 19.  However, men’s names also diversify and mature more slowly than women’s names, which basically renders Jaxson a kindergartner and Nevaeh his 3rd-grade sister.

How about we play a fun game?  I dare you to read each of the following names aloud, preceded by “And my…”  For example, “And my Baxter!”  Parents often use this kind of exercise to decide whether their chosen baby name would sound good on a doctor or lawyer.  This evolution of the game simply serves to find a name that sounds good with the meme.  The names you’ll see below were all given to American babies in 2015, according to data from the Social Security Administration.


Jaxon – #44.  A wildly popular variant of Jackson, which ranks #17.  Jaxon is also in the English/Welsh top 100. 

Jaxson – #84.  Another version of Jackson.

Maxwell – #113.  The most popular long-form of Max, and one of the older names in this set.  Popularity was fairly volatile until the 1970s, but usage has been fairly steady in the top 200 for the last 25 years.  One of the most famous associations is the Beatles song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

Max – #118.  Of all the names here, this is the only one that’s been in the top 1000 every year since 1880.

Braxton – #122.  This is actually one of the older names here.  He’s been in the top 1000 since the 1980s, but appears in SSA birth data during most of the 20th century.  It’s no wonder this is a “classic” ‘ax’ name – potential namesake Carter Braxton was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

Axel – #123. 

Maximus – #197.  I was surprised to learn that Maximus has only appeared in the extended data since 1997, considering it’s Ancient Roman.  Of course, I’m not surprised that he’s only popular because of Gladiator, which was released in 2000.  There were only 11 boys named Maximus in 1999, but there were close to 200 the next year and almost 900 in 2001.

Jax – #214.

Paxton – #229.

Maximiliano – #302.  This ‘ax’ is a little unwieldy, but can’t you appreciate its six syllables?  Maximiliano is positively melodic!

Daxton – #388.

Maximilian – #437.

Dax -#548.

Axton – #698.

Axl – #761.  I think the growing popularity of Axl corresponds more to the character on ABC’s The Middle than to Guns and Roses.

Maxim – #778.

Maxton – #805.

Maximo – #852.

Maxine – 231 girls. Maxine is the highest ranking ‘ax’ name for girls, but barely misses the cut for the top 1000.  Maxine‘s peak popularity was in the 1920s, and she’s been out of the top 1000 for twenty years.  But, raw usage has nearly doubled from ten years ago.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she reenters the top 1000 by the next Twenties.  That would be centennial serendipity. 

Baxter – 68 boys. 

Pax – 63 boys, 6 girls.  Pax is the Roman personification/goddess of peace.  As a boys’ name, it’s probably meant as a nickname for Paxton

Saxon – 41 boys, 5 girls. 

Jaxiel – 29 boys.  Yaxiel – 13 boys.  Jaxiel and Yaxiel appear to be inspired by Bible names, but I don’t know if they are Biblical themselves.  If they are, the Bible names that come to mind are Jahziel (29), Jehiel (9), and even Ezekiel (2755/#148).  While there’s very little information on either of these names, a quick Google search suggests that both spellings almost always appear next to Spanish surnames.

Maximino – 28 boys.

Saxton – 28 boys.

Jaxie – 24 girls.  Adorable!

Zaxton – 17 boys.

Ajax – 16 boys.  The image of Gimli presenting a household cleaner as a weapon cracks me up, but Ajax is a rather ancient name.

Axavier – 13 boys. A curious phonetic spelling of Xavier.

Maxima – 13 girls.  Feminine form of Maximus, and the name of Mark Zuckerberg’s daughter.  She’s called “Max” for short. 🙂

Galaxy – 11 girls, 5 boys.  If Gimli had a cell phone…

Axelle – 10 girls. Feminine form of Axel.

Maxfield – 10 boys.

Thaxton – 10 boys.

Axe – 8 boys.  AND MY…wait.  The important question we must ask ourselves: is it Axe like the weapon or the body spray?

Braxley – 8 boys, 7 girls. 

Laxmi – 7 girls. 

Yaxeni – 7 girls. 

Jaxlynn – 6 girls. 

Drax – 6 boys.  The thought of Gimli offering up Drax the Destroyer is kind of hilarious. 

Axiom – 5 boys.  The words “maxim” and “axiom” both refer to some kind of truth.  Both are on this list…twin names?

Baxley – 5 girls.  Baxlee was also given to five girls.

Thoughts?  Feel free to ax me questions in the comments.

Links to general information/data about names:


Zuzu is the latest rare name to catch my attention!  Twenty baby girls were given this adorable name in 2015, according to SSA extended data.  Zuzu is all kinds of fantastic – like Lulu with zest!  It can be short for Susan, Susanna, or any number of ‘Z’ names including Zuleika and Zuri.  I cannot wait to see if this name takes off.

Most of us have seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, which turns seventy this year.  For those who haven’t watched it yet, the premise is that an angel shows despondent George Bailey scenes from his life – that is, George’s life had George never existed.  Evidently, I haven’t seen it in ten years or more, because I had no recollection that George’s daughter was actually called Zuzu, short for Susan!  Zuzu famously quotes: “Look Daddy.  Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”  From what I can find, her nickname was supposedly a reference to Zu Zu Ginger Snaps, which were popular in the early 20th century.  For more information on the cookies, they have their own blog – worth a read!  P.S. – Watch the movie.  They always show it at the holidays, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long.

I’ve also noticed that Zuzu is a character name in at least two children’s television shows from the last decade.  In the British show Peppa Pig, Zuzu is a zebra with a twin sister named Zaza and an older sister named Zoe.  The other show with a Zuzu is the Australian Zuzu and the Supernuffs.  Their influence on the name is probably negligible, though – Zuzu first appeared as a baby name here before either program hit the waves.  Peppa Pig has only been around since 2004, and Supernuffs was released in 2013.  At least in the U.S., the first babies distinctly named Zuzu (and not Susan or another formal name) I’m aware of were born in 1999.

What do you think of Zuzu?  Would you use it as a nickname or treat her as a standalone? 

Below the top 1000, Part 25 (Girls)

Hi everyone!  This week’s batch of rare names is rather large, and since this is only a selection of some names from the 20-22 range of the extended data…there are plenty more.  You’ll find many more girls’ names towards the bottom of the barrel than you will boys’ names.  Parents tend to be more creative when naming their daughters than their sons.  While the below names are currently far too rare for the American top 1000, the Social Security Administration notes that 78.81% of males born in 2015 were accorded names in the top 1000; only 67.90% of females born last year were also given top 1000 names. 

Anyways, enjoy!  And if any of you are participating in NaNoWriMo need character names, I hope this can be a resource to you. 🙂

  • 22: Adaliz, Aixa, Alabama, Albany, Arora, Ashleen, Avalene, Benita, Cleopatra, Cyan, Dalexa, Daviana, Dreya, Dru, Filomena, Inga, Ixchel, January, Jaylianna, Jeanelle, Jennavieve, Kadiatou, Kathlyn, Koralyn, Mable, Mamie, Montgomery, Munachimso, Nalaya, Nayelis, Noriah, Parnika, Persia, Phyllis, Riva, Rosabelle, Ruchy, Safari, Savvy, Tamsin, Tennyson, Thora, Winnifred, Yulia, Zaidee, Zoila, Zuly, Zunaira
  • 21: Aaralynn, Aissata, Amada, Analis, Aolani, Arcadia, Arella, Avital, Bergen, British, Ciel, Darling, Delfina, Devany, Elka, Ellanore, Erina, Fae, Frimet, Gurnoor, Harleyquinn, Idalia, Isolde, Joya, Kallista, Laramie, Lazaria, Liat, Lilou, Melaina, Neda, Niharika, Saffron, Solveig, Vanity, Viridiana, Willamina, Zuleika
  • 20: Aasiya, Adair, Adithi, Aella, Aerith, Allure, Aluna, Anberlin, Anoushka, Aveya, Beaux, Blue, Breslin, Camry, Chidera, Cosima, Deyanira, Dionne, Domenica, Evangelia, Evolette, Fatimata, Fawn, Ginny, Gracia, Isidora, Island, Isyss, Jalayla, Jood, Jovana, Kindle, Latoya, Lorenza, Loxley, Mccartney, Menucha, Rosey, Ruqayyah, Saylah, Sneha, Swayzee, Tynleigh, Vasilisa, Zamzam, Zoella, Zuzu

Thoughts on these names?  I’m curious about the origin of Zamzam, myself. 

If you’d like to see more rare names, here are the last five posts in this series:

Names and Doctor Strange

I just saw Doctor Strange!  There’s something so fantastic about Benedict Cumberbatch acting in a Marvel film.  Imagine Dr. House + Inception, and you have this movie. Maybe Cumberbatch is turning into a character actor for the “eccentric/misunderstood/rude genius” trope, but I for one can’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes-types.

Speaking of Cumberbatch…I relish the fact that there are two (!) actors named Benedict in this movie!  The other was Benedict Wong, who ironically played Wong…eponymous, much?  Benedict is a fairly rare name in the U.S.  Already ranking in England and Wales at #341, it’s not yet a top 1000 name on this side of the pond.  Still, Mr. Cumberbatch inspires an American rise in popularity.  151 boys were named Benedict in 2015, up from 137 in 2014 and 108 in 2013.  There was another usage spike about 10 years ago, probably from the accession of Benedict XVI to the papacy.  Otherwise, Americans encounter the obstacle of the Benedict Arnold association.  Even if people have forgotten the history after over 200 years, they remember that name connotes “traitor,” in the way that “John Hancock” also now means “signature.”  The name Benedict itself has a much more pleasant meaning – “blessed.”  Ultimately, I think the Marvel treatment could finally push Benedict into the American top 1000 despite historical connotations.  I estimate this will happen in 2017. 

Many of the other actors in Dr. Strange have really unusual names too.  Besides the Benedicts, the cast also includes a Chiwetel (Ejiofor), Tilda (Swinton), and Mads (Mikkelsen).  Rachel (McAdams) is the popular outlier.  Chiwetel doesn’t appear in the extended data, though I wonder if it will as that actor becomes better-known (Fun fact: Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor were in The Martian together).  Tilda was given to 18 girls in 2015, and is rising – that might have more to do with the rising popularity of Matilda (#533)Mads is a recent newcomer to the extended data, first appearing in 2011; 13 U.S. boys were named Mads in 2015. 

Nicodemus is the name of a minor character!  Given to 30 boys in 2015, it’s a Biblical name which derives from Greek and means “victory of the people.”  A boost in 2016 and 2017 is possible but not necessarily going to happen; he’s listed as Dr. Nicodemus West in credits and cast lists, but he was always called Nick or Dr. West if I heard correctly. 

Two character names I think we should watch out for as potential debuts in 2016 or 2017 data are Mordo and Kaecilius.  They might be too strange (heh heh) for most parents, but Drax debuted last year via Guardians of the Galaxy.  I also think it will be very interesting to see if Strange becomes a baby name, though I don’t hope for that to happen.  Wong is a contender to reappear. 

Have you seen Doctor Strange yet?  What did you think?  And how about the names?  Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

P.S.  If you haven’t seen it, there are two scenes during the credits – one at the beginning and one at the end.  I always see people leaving the theater after a Marvel film because they don’t realize there’s more.