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Courtney and Joel are expecting a baby next month, and although they have agreed on a girl’s name together, are having more difficulty deciding on a name for a boy.

Courtney thinks of her name as “typically 1980s”, and has often had to share her name with someone in her classroom or workplace, so she likes the idea of her child having something a bit more unusual so they can have their name to themselves. However, Joel thinks that unusual names can be a burden for a child, and would prefer something reasonably common.

Meaning is extremely important to Courtney, and she wants the name to be relevant to their lives: they already have a son named Israel, which has a strong meaning, and reflects their faith.

Should they have another boy, Courtney’s choice for their son’s name is Arrow. She likes that it’s a unique name, and has connotations of strength; there are several Bible verses she likes about arrows, so that it would seem to be another name with a religious meaning. Joel worries that Arrow is just too different.

Courtney wants to know if Arrow is too unusual, and whether people think Israel and Arrow would work as a brotherly sibset?

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It’s the age old debate on baby names – should our children’s names make them stand out, or fit in? Most of us want something in the middle, and agonise over finding a name that manages to both stand out and fit in simultaneously.

And of course everyone has their own opinion on what makes a baby name “too unusual”. Some people think even Top 100 names are a little out there, while others think almost any name they’ve ever seen on a real person is “too common”.

Although you say that you and Joel are at odds when it comes to unusual names, it seems to me Joel must be fairly open-minded. You have a son named Israel, and that is not a common name in Australia – although it’s not unheard of, and famous people like Israel Folau give it plenty of publicity, I estimate there would be less than six Israels born in any state per year. That’s quite a low amount.

Perhaps Joel liked Israel because it’s a name from the Bible, with a history of many thousands of years, so that everyone has heard of Israel, even if they don’t know anyone with the name. Maybe it hit a sweet spot, so that Israel was neither too common for you, nor too strange for Joel.

Arrow is even less common than Israel, but it’s not unheard of as a baby name. I have seen a few children named Arrow, and it’s getting some use as a middle name – including Bobby Arrow, the son of radio host Tim Ross. The name does have some history, being used since the 18th century, and can be found in Australian historical records from the 19th century, although mostly as a middle name – there are only a couple of people with the first name Arrow.

To me, a name that is very rare is not necessarily a “weird” name. A couple of weeks ago, a blog reader named Michelle asked about two rare girls’ names her partner was keen on, Maida and Maeva. I have seen even less children with these names than those called Arrow (in fact, I’ve seen exactly zero babies named Maida or Maeva), but they fit in really well with current trends in girls names, and would not seem strange amongst classmates named Maeve, Mia, Maya, and Mae.

That’s a good way to get a baby name that’s both uncommon but not too strange – find one that is in rare use, but fits in with contemporary name trends. It may get attention for being out of the ordinary, but hopefully most people will find it refreshing rather than confronting. Could Arrow be one of those rare-yet-on-trend names?

I think Arrow fits in with the trends rather well. From the bounding popularity of Archer, and solid performance of Fletcher (maybe even Beau, which sounds like Bow), it would seem that names connected with archery are on the rise. Furthermore names connected with weaponry in general are doing extremely well, because I regularly see boys (and occasionally girls) with names like Hunter, Gunner, Colt, Blade, Gauge, Bowie, Sabre, and Steele.

I’m a bit skittish about the trend for “weapons as baby names”, but Arrow seems much more than just a weapon. It’s connected to tales of derring-do, like Robin Hood and William Tell, and romance, because of Cupid’s arrows of love. It’s also a superhero name because of the Green Arrow – another hot baby name trend, and in the public consciousness because of the television series, Arrow.

And you are drawn to Arrow for reasons of faith, because arrows are mentioned in the Bible, where it describes “the Lord’s arrow of victory”, which “will flash like lightning”. In the Bible, arrows often symbolise the judgement of God. Arrows also symbolise having a clear direction to follow, swiftness and protection, and also mental alertness and toughness.

The name Arrow is on trend because of its sound too – names starting with Ar- are very fashionable, as witnessed by Archer, Ari, Ariel, Aria, Ariana, Aryan, Arthur, and Arlo. Names ending with an O sound are fashionable too, like Hugo, Indigo, Django, Marlowe, and Arlo again. Arrow doesn’t sound that much different to Arlo, when you think about it.

One of the reasons that makes simple English vocabulary names easy to bear is that everyone knows how to spell and pronounce them; unless you fiddle around with the spelling, there’s no headache involved. People might be surprised by the name Arrow, but there’s no cumbersome explanations necessary.

I think Israel and Arrow work really well as brothers. They’re both unusual names that are still very familiar, at least as a nation and a noun. They’re strong and meaningful, and Arrow really takes Israel is an interesting direction, while Israel possibly makes it clearer that Arrow has been chosen for biblical reasons.

So to me Arrow is not too strange as a name, and I briefly mentioned it on the blog as a name which seemed as if it had a lot of potential. But what about Joel – could Arrow ever hit his sweet spot the way that Israel did?

UPDATE: The baby’s name was Gabriel!

84% of people polled believed that Arrow wasn’t too unusual a name to use on a baby. 34% thought it was a bit unusual, but people would soon get used to it, while 19% admitted the name was too unusual for them to use, but that they would find it interesting on someone else’s child. 10% thought it was a very unusual name, but they considered that positive, as it made the name cool and different, and another 10% didn’t think it was really that unusual, as it fitted in so well with current name trends. 11% didn’t think Arrow was unusual in the least. 10% thought that Arrow probably was too unusual, as they couldn’t imagine it on a real person, while 6% thought it was a really weird name.

81% of people polled were in favour of Israel and Arrow as a sibset. 37% thought it was okay, 26% thought it was a good choice that worked well, while 18% saw it as a perfect match. 14% thought it wasn’t so good, and might need a rethink, while 5% considered it a complete mismatch.