Popular baby names are just that for good reason – they’re well loved, and most of them have gone through generations of use and have stood the test of time. One big problem with the most popular baby names, though, is that if you have your heart set on one of them there’s a good chance someone in your circle might use it before you do and you need to find alternatives.
For some people that’s no problem – if a distant cousin uses it there’s no reason that you shouldn’t as well. But on the other hand, if your sister beats you to it, maybe you should consider another option.
Right now the top 5 most popular girl names are: Olivia, Emma, Charlotte, Amelia, and Sophia. As a name consultant, I’m often working with clients who need alternates to these tried and true names.
Alternatives to Popular Baby Names
For the purpose of this post, I’m using the parameter of choosing names that had less than 1000 uses in 2022. I did this to avoid some of the more obvious options a lot of people have already considered (i.e. Olive instead of Olivia) and to hopefully introduce you to some new names you may not have heard of!
Alternatives to the name Olivia
Believe it or not, Olivia was once a rare name. William Shakespeare used this spelling in Twelfth Night in 1602. It’s thought to be based on the names Oliva or Oliver, or directly pulled from the Latin word “oliva” meaning “olive.” Olivia jumped into the top 100 in 1990 going from ranking 122 to 72 and grew steadily, reaching the top 10 in 2001 where it has since remained.
Rare alternatives to the name Olivia
These are based on the overall vibe and phonetic sounds of Olivia, some leaning more into the vibe of the name and others leaning more into the sounds.
Azalea is floral name, after the Azalea shrub. Ultimately, the word Azalea was derived from the Greek word azeleos meaning “dry.” The name Azalea made it’s debut in the top 1000 in 2012 at 892 and is currently ranked 404.
Lavinia, like Olivia, is a name featured in Shakespeare. This one is always a controversial name due to the fate of the character, but truly I don’t believe too many people beyond Shakespeare aficionados would make the connection. Lavinia has an unknown meaning, and it hasn’t ranked since 1929.
Vidalia is the feminine form of the name Vidal, and has never ranked in the United States. The name means “of life, or vital.”
Saint Odilia was a nun and the patron saint of Alsace. The story goes that she was born blind and gained her sight upon her baptism. Odilia has never ranked in the United States, though it did rank in Brazil until the 1970s.
Olivet is a last name as a first name, that I think should begin to be used more often. It’s classy and understated, but still very unexpected and beautiful.
Alternatives to the Name Emma
Emma has roots as being a short form of German names that began with irmin- and means “whole” or “great.” Emma is no stranger to the popular list in the United States, ranking in at number 3 way back in 1880. While it hasn’t spent the last 150 years in the top 10, it reestablished it’s top 10 spot in 2002.
Rare alternatives to the name Emma
I based my suggestions on the vibe of Emma – sweet, simple, and pretty along with the general sounds in the name. Again, I wanted to ensure a variety of “vibes” within my suggestions so hopefully there is something for everyone.
Alma is an English and Spanish name that gained popularity after the Battle of Alma in 1854. The name was seldom used before that, and is thought to be inspired by the Latin word almus meaning “nourishing.” It also is the Spanish word that means “the soul.” Alma has been in the top 1000 every year since they began recording the rankings, and is currently ranked 482
Noemi debuted in the top 1000 in 1955 ranking 999. Today it is ranked 643, having had a big jump between 2021 and 2022. Noemi is primarily Italian alternate to the more familiar name, Naomi. The meaning Is “pleasantness.”
Etta originates as a shortform of the name Henrietta, along with other names ending with that suffix. The singer Etta James created her state name from her own name, Jamesetta. For the last 5 years, Etta has come in and out of the top 1000, currently not ranking.
Calla is a floral name coming from the true Calla, along with the Calla Lily. Both flowers grow in marshy areas and have white blooms. The name was inspired by the Greek word kallos meaning “beauty.” Calla have never found much popularity in the United States, last ranking in 1897.
This is an anglicized name from the Irish Ailbhe meaning “white rock.” In legend, this is the name of a warrior. Elva used to rank in the United States steadily until 1970. It hasn’t ranked since 1973.
Baby Name Alternatives to Charlotte
Charlotte is the French feminine form of the name Charles meaning “man” or “army.” This name was popular in Europe before it crossed over and began gaining popularity in the United States. It’s remained in the top 500 most popular every year, but entered the top 10 in 2014.
Alternatives to the name Charlotte
When choosing alternatives for the name Charlotte I was focusing on the sounds, nicknames, and general vibe.
Colette was originally a short-form name derived from Nicolette. It’s a French name that ranked in the United States between 1928 and 1986, and then not again until 2012 and it remains in the top 1000 today.
This name is an English from of Henriette, which is a feminine form of the names Harry and Henry. Harriet ranked consistently until 1970, and then reemerged in the top 1000 in 2019 for a single year.
Charlize, like Charlotte, is a feminine form of the name Charles. This is most commonly a South African names and has gained recognition thanks to the actress Charlize Theron. Charlize is currently outside of the top 1000, having last ranked in 2015.
Ottilie is a German form of the name Odilia which comes from uodil meaning “heritage” or ot meaning “weather, fortune.” Ottilie has never been popular in the United States, but it was in the top 1000 in Brazil through the 1960s. In recent years we’ve seen interest in Ottilie picking up thanks to YouTuber Zoella using it for her daughter.
Sheridan is a last name as a first name and comes from the Irish O Sirideain which means “searcher.” Sheridan has briefly ranked in the Untied States for both boys and girls, though it hasn’t ranked for either since 2002.
Alternatives to the name Amelia
Amelia actually comes as a variant to the name Amalia (which is one of the alternate suggestions) and is entirely separate from the name Emilia, which a lot of people believe to just be an alternate spelling. Amelia was the number one name in England and Waled between 2011 and 2015, and entered the top 10 in the United States in 2016.
Alternative name ideas for Amelia
These ideas for alternatives to the name Amelia are definitely the most “on the nose” as far as this blog post goes. I was able to find a lot of phonetically very similar names with one wild card.
Aurelia is the feminine form of the masculine name “Aurelius” meaning “golden.” Aurelia was consistently in the top 1000 most popular names until the 1950s. It wasn’t until 2012 that it redebuted at 999, and sits at 490 today.
Short form of Germanic names beginning with the element amal and means “vigorous” or “brave.” This is the original form of the name Amelia, though Amelia has taken over in popularity. Amalia is currently ranked 580, after reemerging in the top 1000 in 2013.
The name Amelie is simply the German variant of the name Amelia, though it sounds like a mashup of Amelia and Emily. Amelie made it’s reapperarnce in the top 1000 in 2003 at 882 and is currently ranked 872.
Adelia is an elaboration on the English and Spanish name Adela meaning “noble.” Adelia consistently ranked in the top 1000 until 1928, and hasn’t been seen in the charts since.
German form of Iseult meaning “ice battle” Isolde is very seldomly used, and has multiple pronunciations including ee-zawl-duh and i-sol-duh. It has never ranked in the top 1000 most popular baby names.
Alternate options for the name Sophia
Sophia is a Greek name that means “wisdom.” This name was popular with European Royalty in the middle ages, but didn’t begin to gain popularity in the United States until the 1990s. It sat in the number one most popular spot for three years between 2011 and 2012.
Alternate ideas for Sophia
Sophia is the name that tripped me up the most of all! I could have found a few more if we weren’t working within the “less than 1000 uses” parameters, but overall I feel like these fit well as alternatives.
Fiona is an Irish name and the feminine form of the name Fionn meaning “white, blessed.” It made it’s first appearance in the top 1000 in 1990 at 934 and is currently ranked 357.
This is a variant of the Italian name Silvia, though Sylvia has historically been the more popular spelling. Sylvia has always been in the top 1000 and was at it’s most popular in 1937.
This is the feminine form of the name Seraphinus which originally means “fiery ones.” This is one of those special names that have only ever ranked for one single year in 2019 at 997.
This is my favorite spelling of the name Sonya which actually is Russian diminutive of the name Sophia. Sonja peaked in popularity in 1938.
Euphemia comes from a Greek name meaning “to use words of good omen” and hasn’t ranked in the United States since 1903.