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Looking to take your baby name quest outside the box? Check out these unusual and creative sources of baby name inspiration.
Hobbies can be a wonderful – and surprising – source of baby name fodder. "My husband and I love to sail, so we chose a nautical name: Oceana," says one mom.
Another explains, "My husband and I met through singing. Because music means so much to us, we named our daughter Aria, a solo piece in an opera." (Check out our list of other ear-pleasing musical names.)
So take a look at your own interests. Are you an art buff? Consider names inspired by famous artists. A sports fan? Shoot for a name that borrows from basketball, baseball, football, or soccer.
When it comes to the things you love, don't be afraid to cast your net wide. One mom told us that she and her partner found baby name inspiration in the title of their favorite album.
What dreams are made of
Choosing a name can be tough, especially if you find your mind churning obsessively on the topic. So give your conscious brain a break and let your rich subconscious pick up the slack; the perfect baby name just might come to you in your dreams.
"When I was pregnant, I had a dream that I was chasing a little boy named Benjamin. That's what we ended up using," one mom says.
Of course, sometimes it's hard to remember your dreams. Keep a notepad or your phone by your bed so that when you first wake up, you can quickly jot down any dream imagery or names floating through your head.
Your baby's name could be lurking within your own. "All the letters in our child's first and middle name come from the letters in my name and her father's name," one mom tells us.
For example, you could rearrange Carrie and Damian to create Darcie Marina.
Along these same lines, some parents combine part or all of their first names to create a name for their child. James and Lynn can recombine into Jamilyn, for instance, and Harry and Alison into Harrison. Of course, not every set of names lends itself to this trick – but when it works, it's pretty awesome.
All in a day's work
You may not view your workplace as a source of baby name inspiration, but a fantastic name could be awaiting discovery in your latest job assignment, the name of a distant colleague, or a city where you do business.
One couple, for example, named their baby Gavin after an airplane at the husband's workplace. Another, in the book business, borrowed the name of a publishing company, Sage.
Objects of desire
It's an often-overlooked fact that the English language is full of beautiful words for inanimate objects. "We named our child Lathe after a piece of machinery," says one mom. Another reports that her baby was named Packard, for an old car. Still another used the name of her favorite perfume, Chanel.
The next time you spend an afternoon out running errands, keep your eyes peeled for objects with interesting names – like Magnolia (the tree), Borden (the brand of milk), or Cabriolet (the car).
If you like an object's name but don't want to bestow it on your child, you can always use it as a jumping-off point for a similar-sounding alternative.
Gamin' and namin'
Plenty of parents-to-be turn to movie and book characters for baby name inspiration. But what about characters from another realm?
Video and computer game characters can have fascinating names – like Sephiroth from Final Fantasy or Minsc from Baldur's Gate – or names that cross over into the mainstream, like Mario from Mario Brothers or Lara from Tomb Raider.
"We named our child Alyx after a character in an online game," says one mom. "We love it."
The world of mythology
Mythological names are lovely and distinctive – and infused with cultural history and meaning. For example, Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, and Zhongli Quan is one of China's mythical "eight immortals."
For more ideas, browse our lists of mythological names and names inspired by African gods and goddesses.
Borrowing from the kids
Don't worry, we're not suggesting that you steal your sister's favorite baby name right out from under her pregnant nose (though a surprising number of people do steal baby names!).
Rather, think back to kids you knew once upon a time. Remember that sweetly named boy you babysat 15 years ago? Or the kid at summer camp with the unique name?
"I used the name of a child in an afterschool program I used to volunteer in," one mom tells us, and another says, "An elderly coworker used to tell me stories of her childhood friend. The name of that friend is what we decided to name our baby."
From lit to life
Writers give lots of thought to their character's names – and some parents are inspired enough to use these names for their babies. "We named our child Helen after a character in a poem," one mom told us.
Want some literary inspiration? Hit your bookshelf or your local library, or read through our lists of names inspired by children's books and comic books.
For some parents, naming their child after a pet is the perfect choice. "When I was pregnant, my beloved dog Luli was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live," says one mom. "She was my best friend, so naming my baby after her was a nice way to honor her memory."
If you want a name inspired by – but not identical to – a pet's name, look up the name in our Baby Names Finder and poke around to find something similar.
If your baby's due date falls near a holiday (or you happen to love a certain holiday and want to show it), there are lots of baby name ideas just waiting to be plucked from the festivities.
"Because my son was born the day after St. Patrick's Day, we chose a Celtic name," says one mom.
For loads of holiday-themed names, check out our lists inspired by Valentine's Day, April Fool's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holidays.
Where to go next:
- Baby name inspiration lists
- Baby Names Finder
- Awesome alternatives to popular names