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Do you worry there are no interesting names left for boys, or that only girls can have unusual names? Not so! For the final list of the year, here are a dozen rare names for boys that were recently used for real babies by Australian parents.
In Greek mythology, Arion was an immortal talking horse who was the son of the sea god Poseidon, known for being extremely swift. The horse is referenced in the Percy Jackson fantasy series, and the Mistubishi Starion is meant to be a cross between star and Arion. There was a real person named Arion in Greek history – a famous poet and singer. However, even he became legend, as a folk tale sprung up that he had been kidnapped by pirates and miraculously rescued by dolphins, who were attracted by his beautiful singing and carried him safely to shore on their backs. The name may be from the Greek for “braver”, and is pronounced AR-ee-on. This name fits in well with the trend for AR names, has fashionable Ari as the nickname, and sounds similar to Aryan and Orion.
From the Greek name Basileios, meaning “king”. Saint Basil the Great was a 4th century bishop and one of the fathers of early Christianity. A great theologian and preacher, he cared for the poor and was one of the founders of monasticism. Recognised as a Doctor of the Church, in Greek tradition he brings gifts to children on New Year’s Day, making him an eastern version of Santa Claus. A common name in the east, there are numerous other saints named Basil (including Basil the Great’s father), and a few Byzantine rulers. Brought to Britain by the Crusaders, we often think of Basil as a particularly “English” name, thanks to actor Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes, Basil Fawlty, and Basil Brush, and it has a rather old-school gentlemanly feel. The herb basil has the same meaning as the Greek name. Basil is also an Arabic name meaning “valiant, courageous”, so this would be an unexpected cross-cultural choice with the Australian nickname Baz or Bazza.
Roman family name. The Cassii were of great antiquity, and said to be one of the noblest families in Rome; the Via Cassia in the city is named after them. They seem to have been from southern Italy, where they owned large estates, and their name may not be Latin in origin, but Oscan; the meaning of Cassius is probably not traceable. One of the best known of the family is the Cassius who instigated the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. Famously, William Shakespeare writes of him as having “a lean and hungry look” in his tragedy Julius Caesar, while in Dante’s Inferno, he is chewed by Satan in the centre of Hell, alongside Judas Iscariot. Despite this, the name came to be associated with those who stood up to tyranny and injustice. There are two saints of the name – Cassius of Clermont, and Cassius of Narnia (are you able to resist a saint of Narnia?). The name is strongly associated with boxer Muhammad Ali, who was named Cassius Clay after his father, and his father was named in turn after a politician who worked for the abolition of slavery. Depending on how you pronounce it, you can use either Cass or Cash as the nickname, both of which are on trend.
Norse mythology tells of a monstrous wolf who is the son of Loki and a giantess; Odin raised the wolf himself, but the gods kept him bound in fear of his power. It is foretold that at the end of the world, one of this wolf’s sons will swallow the sun, and the other swallow the moon. All fetters will break, and the great wolf will go free, with flames burning from his eyes and nose. In a great battle, he will swallow the god Odin, killing him, but Odin’s son will in turn slay the wolf. The wolf is called Fenrir, meaning “fen-dweller” (a fen is a type of wetland), or Fenrisúlfr, translated into English as Fenris Wolf. Fenris has appeared as a character in comic books and video games, and in fantasy novels such as Arthur Quinn and the Fenris Wolf. Norse mythology names are in fashion at present, and this one is very cool.
Scottish surname after the historic kingdom of Fife, on a peninsula in east Scotland between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth. The region is one of the country’s historic counties, and is the location of St. Andrews. Once a Pictish stronghold, Fife became a politically important area, and until the 15th century, the Earl of Fife was the highest peer in Scotland, and had the privilege of crowning the nation’s monarchs. The meaning of Fife is not known – it was originally Fib, and according to legend, Fib was one of the sons of the founder of the Picts. The name Fyfe has nothing to do with the flute known as a fife, which comes from the German for “pipe”, although this does give it a rather musical feel. Known in Australia as the surname of AFL footballer Nat Fyfe, and cartoonist Andrew Fyfe, this is a handsome Scottish choice with plenty of history.
From the Latinised form of Yehoyaqim, a Hebrew name meaning “established by Yahweh”. In the Old Testament, there was a king of Judah with this name, and his name is transliterated as Jehoiakim; it seems to be a throne name, because he was named Eliakim by his parents. According to early Christian tradition, Joachim was the name of the Virgin Mary’s father, and he is venerated as a saint in Christianity and honoured in Islam under the name Imran. Legend states that Joachim was a wealthy, pious man married to a woman named Anne; although they loved each other dearly, they were unhappy at their childless state, believing it to be a sign of God’s displeasure. At the climax of their story, an angel tells Anne that she is pregnant, and that her child will be known throughout the world. Anne joyfully rushes to meet her husband, embracing him at the city gate to tell him the glad tidings. The name Joachim has been more common in continental Europe than in English-speaking countries, and was used amongst royalty: a contemporary example is Prince Joachim of Denmark, the younger brother of Crown Prince Frederik. Strong and distinctive, this has familiar Joe as the obvious nickname.
From the Greek form of Eleazar, a Hebrew name meaning “God is my help”. In the New Testament, Lazarus of Bethany was the brother of Martha and Mary, and one of the followers of Jesus. He was famously brought to life by Jesus, four days after his death, and his story contains the shortest and perhaps most quoted sentence in the Bible: “Jesus wept”. This is the biggest miracle performed by Jesus in the New Testament, and one which leads directly to his own death and resurrection, which Lazarus foreshadows. Lazarus is regarded as a saint, and according to Christian tradition, he lived another thirty years after his raising, and never smiled again. Jesus also told a parable about a beggar covered in sores named Lazarus, and because of this, the name Lazarus became associated with the care of those with leprosy, with leper hospitals called lazar houses. It’s currently in the news as the surname of Glenn Lazarus or “the brick with eyes”, rugby league star turned senator. A name that embodies a spectacular miracle of hope, Lazarus is an eye-catching choice that fits in with current trends, and has Laz, Lazar, and Lazy as nicknames.
Japanese name meaning “truth, faith, sincerity”, and pronounced mah-ko-to. It is unisex, but more common for boys. Makoto is often used in Japanese video games and manga, so may be reasonably familiar to some English-speakers. It’s an attractive boy’s name with a very positive meaning and easy to pronounce; exotic but not too strange. The baby I saw in a birth notice had Mako as his nickname; if this sounds similar to Marco, it would make the name seem like an appealing cross-cultural name choice.
Anglicised form of the Irish surname O’Rioghbhardain, meaning “son of Rioghbhardan”. Rioghbhardan is a Gaelic byname meaning “royal bard”. Poets and singers were held in high regard in ancient Irish society; they were not mere entertainers, but also historians, scholars and advisers to the king. The O’Riordans came from Tipperary, and are strongly associated with Cork. Ballyrearden in Cork is named for them. The surname has recently become well known because of American novelist Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson fantasy series, and others. Riordan is pronounced REER-dun, or REE-uh-dun, but the surname has taken on such a variety of pronunciations, like ROAR-den, ROY-uh-dun and RYE-uh-dun, that you might feel free to say it in almost any way you like. Rio could be used as the nickname.
English surname derived from Royse, a medieval form of Rose; it is thus one of those rare surnames taken from a female name rather than a male one, and could honour someone named Rose . The name is strongly associated with the luxury car brand Rolls-Royce, co-founded by English engineer Sir Frederick Royce. A famous Australian namesake is botanist Robert Royce, for whom the genus of shrubs Roycea is named. There are several famous sporting Royces in Australia, including former AFL star Royce Hart, who played for Richmond in the 1960s and ’70s. Roy names are bang on trend at the moment, and if you’re one of those people who get all het up about girls with masculine surnames like Addison and Mackenzie, here’s your chance to even the score slightly.
Swedish name of obscure origin. The first known person with the name came to Sweden from Germany in the 16th century, so it may be from the German language, yet the name is not used in Germany, which casts doubt on that theory. It isn’t a particularly common name in Sweden, but has become known here because of Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, who has been in such films as Good Will Hunting, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Thor. Stellan became a celebrity baby name when actors Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connolly named their son Stellan after their friend Stellan Skarsgård. This is a handsome heritage choice which sounds to English-speakers like a masculine form of Stella, and so may be understood as having the same meaning – “star”.
Anglo-Saxon name meaning “wolf power, wolf ruler”, and pronounced with the first syllable to sound like the word wolf. Wolves were numerous in Anglo-Saxon times, and it’s not surprising that wulf was a common element in Old English names. The Anglo-Saxons saw the wolf as a symbol of warrior strength, and in stories wolves were protectors of the god Woden, and of royalty. The gloriously named Wulfric Spot was chief councillor to King Ethelred the Unready; his mother was a noble lady named Wulfrun, and the city of Wolverhampton is said to be named after her. Saint Wulfric of Haselbury was a 12th century hermit who managed to wield quite a bit of influence as a prophet and healer even over royalty; he correctly predicted the death of Henry I. Despite these interesting namesakes, Wulfric is a name more common in fiction than real life, and you may know it as one of the middle names of the wizard Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter. An English name with plenty of history but little contemporary use, this fits in well with the current fashion for animal names. Despite its ferocious meaning, it seems eccentric and lovable to me.
The public’s favourite names were Stellan, Cassius and Riordan, and their least favourite were Joachim, Royce and Makoto.
(Photo shows St Andrews golf course in Fife, recognised as the home of golf)