15 Unusual Baby Names That Are on the Rise

2016 has been a year of many thing, including an interesting list of most popular baby names! The names that are on the rise as we head into 2017 are unusual at best, having been inspired by everything from surfing, to a NYC neighbors, to Hamilton. You may not have heard of any newborn with these unique monikers…yet. But in the months to come, you’ll be meeting a whole lot of little ones with these 15 hot baby names.

1. Koa

You got it, like Noah but more surfing-related. The wood used to make surfboards is called koa, and it’s a material native to the Hawaiian Islands. About 160 boys were named Koa last year; this may seem like a small number on the whole, but this is twice as many Koas as were born five years ago and 10 times as many from 2000. Give it a few years, Koas of the world, it will catch on.

2. Wells

Infant sleeps in crib.DepositPhotos

Wells is an English surname popularized as a baby name by pregnancy guru Rosie Pope, who uses it as a short form for her son Wellington. The name means “spring,” which gives it a calming, natural feel. Nearly 100 baby boys were named Wells in the US last year.

3. Saskia

Saskia is a Dutch moniker and is most famously remembered as the name of Rembrandt’s wife. Although the name is still extremely rare, given to fewer than 20 baby girls last year, we think the ancient roots and fresh feel of the name could make it a prime choice for the next big name in the US.

4. Theodosia

Baby GirlFlickr via user ARING

Every Hamilton fan in the world gets this one. But it’s not just the name being popularized by this smash-hit musical that puts it on top of the names-to-watch list. All names The-related are having a moment, with Thea newly-arrived in the Top 1000 for girls and Theo vaulting up the boys’ chart.

Theodosia makes a unique addition to the class — although this name may have been on the girls’ Top 1000 a century ago, no babies were given this name last year. But trust us, go listen to Hamilton and you’ll understand why this name is about to go right to the top.

5. Neo

Similar to Theo is its rhyming name, Neo. Latin for “new,” Neo got its start as the name of Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix series, which also spawned hit name Trinity. 80 boys were named Neo in 2015, but we see it following Theo and Leo up the official ranks as 2016 draws to a close.

6. Ragnar

Baby BoyFlickr via user Nsrnatik

Very Thor, right? The History Channel show Vikings turned Norse warrior Ragnar Benson, along with his less-than-melodic name, into a modern hottie. While only 30 baby boys were named Ragnar in the US last year, all signs point to this strong, unique name preparing to skyrocket.

7. Calypso

This fun name might make you think of calypso music, upbeat Caribbean music that makes you want to dance like no other genre. However, Calypso has ancient roots associated with it: Calypso was famously a Greek nymph who delayed the hero’s return home in The Odyssey. A mere 15 baby girls were named Calypso last year, but we think this elegant name could seriously catch on.

8. Zephyrine

Baby girl is sitting in a vintage pramDeposit Photos

There is a male and female take on this note, and both have roots in ancient Greek mythology: Zephyr was the God of the West Wind. Used throughout Europe but virtually unknown until recently in the US, Zephyr was chosen by tech mogul Sean Parker for his infant son and was used in the US for 126 boys last year, along with 25 girls. The full name, Zephyrine, is so unusual that it’s not recorded at all on last year’s Social Security list.

9. Kaiser

Traditionally, we think of the word “kaiser” as a German ruler; this is a ancient name with powerful, royal roots. However, Teen Mom Jenelle Evans, cleverly made Kaiser more mainstream by shortening it to Kai. Kaiser is also prime for widespread popularity on the heels of other titular names, such as Saint, King, Prince, Duke and Messiah.

10. Mika

Baby Boy 2Flickr via user Eric Flemming

Mika has both male and female varieties, but strangely, they both have very different origins. As a girl’s name, Mika is Japanese and means “beautiful fragrance,” while the male Mika is a short form of Mikael, the Scandinavian and Finnish version of Michael.

Mika was given to nearly 200 baby girls in the US last year, its popularity which is undoubtedly spurred by its similarity to fashionable names like Mia, Mila and Mikayla. On the boys’ side, Mika was given to 50 babies, though we see it climbing as a successor to Michael and Luca.

11. Astoria

No, not the trendy NYC neighborhood. We’ve seen names like Brooklyn and Bronx take center stage, but now the newest New York City place name to become a trendy baby name is Astoria, the Queens neighborhood named after titan of industry John Jacob Astor. Writer JK Rowling used Astoria as the name of grown-up Draco Malfoy’s wife in The Cursed Child, which will undoubtedly influence baby names to come.

12. Seren

babyPopSugar

Seren may sound strange to our American ears, but it’s a popular girls’ name in Wales, drawn from the name of an ancient goddess and meaning “star.” Fewer than 50 girls were given the name in the US last year, but we see that rising dramatically, given that Seren is a name that’s both exotic yet approachable.

13. Leonidas

THIS…IS…a name that is quickly nearing the Top 500 in the US! This name of an ancient Spartan warrior-king was catapulted into the modern world by 300: The Movie. Although this was several years ago, this name continues to be popular among modern parents. Throughout Europe, the pronunciation is “lee-OH-nee-das,” but most Americans say “lee-oh-NYE-das.” And just think about it, this would be an adorable name to shorten to Leo!

14. Alba

Baby smiles at cameraWikiMedia

We LOVE this name! We’re considering call dibs, honestly. This ancient Roman name meaning “white,” last fashionable more than a century ago, is making a serious comeback. More than 150 baby girls were named Alba last year and we predict it will climb into the Top 1000 before 2020 as a successor to Ava and Ella.

15. Lula

You might think of Lula as a combination of popular names Luna and Lila, two trendy girls’ names heavy on the lilting, lovely L sound. Lula has lagged behind other fashionable L names, but that may be exactly why parents are turning to it now; overexposed names are definitely not “in” for 2016. Just shy of 100 girls were named Lula last year, and we expect to see many more to follow.

Do you know anyone with these unusual names? Were there any that you loved or hated? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.