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The World Tour of Names

Some of the most popular names in the world are very unusual in the U.S.

In this article, you will find:

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The World Tour of Names

What's in a Name

Many of the most popular names worldwide—regardless of the individual country—are given in honor of revered leaders or come into broad use because of a significant event in the country's history.

Name Dropping

Traditional Irish names are difficult to pronounce if you don't know how certain consonants are sounded in Gaelic. While you may want to be as faithful as possible to how these names are spelled, it's usually a good idea to go with a phoneticized or anglicized spelling, such as Shavon for Siobhán or Donagh for Donnchadh.

Name Dropping

If you're thinking about using a Chinese name, keep in mind that it is extremely important that the name you choose is meaningful and that it blends well with your child's other names. Experts recommend making the Chinese name your child's middle name, and it's highly advisable to use a good Chinese-English dictionary to aid your search.

No passports or visas required for this junket—just a curious nature and the desire to dig into some foreign cultures as you search the world over for the perfect name, the one that will have you saying oui, si, sim, ja, or hai (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Japanese for yes!).

Remember, the emphasis here is on names that are more broadly used in their country of origin than anywhere else, so you'll see some unusual ones listed.

Boys Around the World

Uncommon but not overly so, one of these names might satisfy your taste for the unusual:

  • Adriaño: Portuguese form of Adrian.
  • Alain: A French variant of Alan.
  • Alarik: “Ruler over all” (Scandinavian).
  • Alois: This Czech name is somewhat related to Louis (“famous in war”).
  • Amiel: “People of God” (Hebrew).
  • Andor: A Scandinavian name derived from Thor.
  • Annar: “Second” (Scandinavian).
  • Ari: “Lion” (Hebrew).
  • Armand: “Soldier” or “warrior” (French).
  • Asher: “Happy” or “blessed” (Hebrew).
  • Augustine: Greek form of Augustus (“great” or “venerable”).
  • Bastien: An abbreviated name taken from the French Sébastien (“man from Sebastia”).
  • Béla: This Hungarian name is derived from Adelbert (“bright and noble”).
  • Berend: “Strong,” “bearlike” (German).
  • Bernhard: Another German name meaning “strong” or “bearlike.”
  • Bogdan: Polish name meaning “God's gift.” The Czech version is Bohdan.
  • Boris: “Battle” or “fighter” (Russian).
  • Bruno: “Brown” (German).
  • Carolos: Greek form of Charles.
  • Chai: “Life” (Hebrew).
  • Chalil: “Flute” (Hebrew).
  • Chaviv: “Beloved” (Hebrew).
  • Christos: “Annointed” (Greek).
  • Ciarán: Irish name meaning “black.”
  • Claus: This short form of Nicolaus is commonly used as a given name in Germany.
  • Dante: “Lasting” or “enduring” (Italian).
  • Demetrios: “Of Demeter” (German). Demetri, the short form, is also often used.
  • Diarmaid: Irish name meaning “freeman.”
  • Diago: Portuguese form of Diego, a Spanish form of James.
  • Dieter: Short from of Dieterich, meaning “ruler” (German).
  • Doran: “Gift” (Hebrew).
  • Dusan: A Czech name meaning “spirit” or “soul.” The feminine form, Dusana, is exceptionally pretty.
  • Éamonn: Irish form of Edmund (“wealthy protector”).
  • Emilio: This Italian name comes from a Roman clan name meaning “rival” or “emulating.”
  • Enzo: A common Italian name, it comes from any of these names that end in -enzo, such as Lorenzo.
  • Fabrizio: Another Italian name from a Roman clan name meaning “workman” or “craftsman.”
  • Federico: Italian form of Frederick.
  • François: The name of kings and presidents in France; often given in recognition of them.
  • Friederich: “Peaceable ruler” (German).
  • Gerhard: “Brave spear” (German).
  • Heinrich: “Ruler of the enclosure” (German).
  • Guillaume: This French name is closely related to William.
  • Guy: It comes from the Old French and means “leader” or “guide.” Pronounce it gee.
  • Jacek: A form of the Polish name Jacenty (“hyacinth”).
  • Jarl: “Nobleman” (Scandinavian).
  • Jaromil: “Lover of spring” (Polish).
  • Jiri: This is the Czech form of George.
  • Joaquim: This handsome name, which comes from the Hebrew Jeohiakim (“God will establish”), appears in many languages. This form is found in Portuguese. Another popular spelling is Joachim.
  • Karel: The Czech form of Charles.
  • Laurent: “Man from Laurentum” (French).
  • Liron: “My song” (Hebrew).
  • Lochlainn: Irish place name.
  • Lorenz: German form of Laurence.
  • Luc: “Light” (French).
  • Malach: “Messenger” or “angel” (Hebrew).
  • Marek: The Czech or Polish form of Mark. Mirek, which seems close, is actually a derivative of the Czech name Miroslav (“great glory”).
  • Meir: “Bright” or “shining” (Hebrew).
  • Menashe: “Causing to forget” (Hebrew).
  • Micha: From the Hebrew name meaning “Who is like God?”
  • Moshe: The Hebrew version of the name Moses.
  • Natan: “Gift” (Hebrew).
  • Noam: “Sweetness” or “friendship” (Hebrew).
  • Omri: A Hebrew name deriving from the Arabic, meaning “to live long.”
  • Pinchas: “The mouth of a snake” (Hebrew).
  • Ravid: “Ornament” (Hebrew).
  • Reinhard: “Brave counselor” (German).
  • Remi: “Oarsman” (French). Also spelled Remy.
  • Reuel: “Friend of God” (Hebrew).
  • Rishon: “The first” (Hebrew).
  • Roald: “Famous ruler” (Scandinavian).
  • Ron: “Song” or “joy” (Hebrew).
  • Shai: “Gift” (Hebrew).
  • Shimon: “Heard” (Hebrew).
  • Shmuel: “Name of God” (Hebrew).
  • Sten: “Stone” (Swedish). Also appears as Steen (Danish) and Stein (Norwegian).
  • Thierry: “Ruler of the people” (French).
  • Tivon: “Student of nature” (Hebrew).
  • Tzevi: “Deer” (Hebrew). Also spelled Zvi.
  • Uri: “Light” (Hebrew).
  • Vlad: A short form of the many Slavic and Russian names that begin with Vlad- (“ruler”).
  • Werner: “Protecting army” (German).
  • Wilhelm: “Resolute protector” (German).
  • Yaron: “To sing” (Hebrew).
  • Yigal: “Redeemer” (Hebrew).
  • Yves: “Yew bow” (French).
  • Zach: “Pure” (Hebrew).
  • Zbigniew: “To do away with anger” (Polish).

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