BY CHRISTINE-MARIE LIWAG DIXON
When it comes to picking baby names, it can be tricky to know where to start. Should you name your little one after someone in your family? Pick a name at random from a baby name book? Ask for input from friends?
There are a lot of potential strategies you can employ to pick the perfect baby name, so why not keep things simple and isolate your choices to one letter? The letter A alone offers a plethora of gorgeous and unique baby names for your bundle of joy. Picking a name that starts with the letter A will also ensure your kid a place at the front of the line when they start school (well, as long as they are alphabetized by first name).
Still not convinced? This list just might change your mind. We’ve gathered some of the most unique and beautiful names from around the world that start with the first letter of the alphabet.
Aris is a name that has strong roots in two languages. In Greek, Aris is a modern take on the name Ares, the Greek god of war. If that’s too bloody of a legacy to pass on to your little one, don’t worry because the name is also a shortened version of Aristotelis, the modern version of the Greek name Aristotle which means “the best purpose.” Aristotle was also the name of an ancient Greek philosopher who, thousands of years later, remains one of the most influential figures in Western history.
Aris is also a Dutch name that is derived from the name Adrian which itself is rooted in the ancient Roman moniker Hadrian. History buffs might recognize the name from Hadrian’s Wall, an ancient defensive barrier that ran across Britain and was built by second century Roman emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus. It’s a lot of history for one name, but your baby boy is more than up to the challenge!
No one is sure where this distinctive English name comes from, but when Araminta rolls off the tongue with such ease does it really matter? The name dates back to at least 1693 when William Congreve named one of his characters in the play The Old Bachelor Araminta. The name’s literary legacy continued in 1705 when it was used by Sir John Vanbrugh in his play The Confederacy.
Even more significant in the name’s history is that Araminta was the real name of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Born Araminta Harriet Ross, she changed her name to Harriet around the time of her marriage to John Tubman.
After escaping from slavery, Tubman helped hundreds of other escaped slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. She also worked as a spy for the Union during the Civil War and, later in life, cared for the elderly and helped former slaves living in poverty. The name Araminta is indeed a strong one for any lucky little girl.
Pronounced AR-NO, this French take on the name Arnold breathes new life into the traditional moniker and also gives it a bit of international flair. While the name Arnaud has long been favored in France, it fell off of the country’s list of top baby name charts in 2016. The name might be considered a bit old-fashioned in Europe, but in the United States it’s ready for its time to shine, especially as Arnold has been off of the U.S. baby name charts since 2005.
Aside from sounding classy and sophisticated, the name Arnaud also has a powerful meaning that any parent would love to have associated with their baby boy. It is derived from the German terms “arn” meaning “eagle,” and “wald,” meaning “power.” The name dates back centuries in its various forms, giving Arnaud an ancient history that proves how much staying power the beloved name has.
Alya is a virtually unknown name in the U.S., but it’s one that’s on the rise in France and in Turkey where it ranks in the top 100 name for girls. This sweet name means “sky, heaven, loftiness” in Arabic.
While Alya might not be a common name, this is exactly what makes it a great alternative to other more widely-used monikers. The most obvious of these beloved names is Alia, a far more commonly used version of Alya that is currently on the rise in the U.S. and ranks in the top 700 baby names for girls. Alya can also serve as an alternative for other baby names like Allie and Aliyah, both of which make it onto the U.S. list of top baby names for girls.
Alya also lends itself well to nicknames if you want to give your baby girl a pet name. Possible diminutives include Aly and Leah.
The name Alexander has many forms, but the Finnish variation, Aleksanteri, is one of the best. Ultimately derived from the Greek Alexandros, meaning “defending men,” variations of the moniker date back to ancient times and can be found in both Greek mythology and in the Bible. Countless people throughout history have borne variations of the name Alexander, which is a top 20 name for boys in the U.S. and makes it onto top baby name charts in more than a dozen other countries around the world.
With so many people throughout history bearing the name, it’s understandable that parents who love the moniker’s legacy might also want a less common variation of it. In Finland, Aleksanteri is the variant of choice and also comes with some pretty cool nicknames including Samppa, Santeri, and Ale. Your own Aleksanteri will follow in a long line of people who have kept this name a classic for generations.
Aina is a name with several meanings in various languages, but the name is fairly rare throughout the world. It was once a top 100 name in Norway, but hasn’t been seen on the charts since the late 1980s. It’s also in the top 100 in Spain, but popularity eludes Aina in other countries around the globe. Could it be that this lovely moniker has just flown under the radar all this time? It’s time to change that!
In the Catalonia region of Spain, Aina is used as the regional take on Anna. In Latvia, the name is the feminine equivalent of Ainārs which means “sight.” The Kazakh version of the name is an alternate spelling for Ayna, which means mirror. In Finnish, it means “always” and is used there and in other Nordic countries as a variation of the name Aino. Finally, in Japanese, the name comes from the terms “ai” which mean “love” or affection,” and “na,” which means “vegetables” or “greens,” so hopefully giving your little girl this name means she never puts up a fight about finishing her broccoli!
Adlai is a rarely seen Hebrew name that can be traced back to the Old Testament. Its ancient roots prove that the name has staying power, in spite of its rarity. Adlai appeared on the U.S. baby name charts from 1891 to 1893, although it never rose past a rank of 480. A shortened version of Adalia, the name’s origins are unclear but it’s charming enough that we can forgive its lack of pedigree.
If you give this name to your little one, your grandparents might recognize it as the name of Adlai E. Stevenson, a U.S. politician who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 and 1956 but then went on to become chief U.S. delegate of the United Nations from 1961-1965. Two decades before that, Stevenson helped to found the U.N., cementing his place in history. Now there’s an inspiring legacy for any little boy!
The name Avalon conveys magic and enchantment and is literally the stuff of fairy tales, making it a fitting name for your little princess. Steeped in fantasy, Avalon is the name of the mythological island paradise where King Arthur was brought after his final battle so that his wounds could be healed. According to mythology, King Arthur has not been seen since, although it is thought that he will one day return when Britain truly needs their legendary leader.
Surprisingly, the name Avalon never pops up on top baby name charts. It would make a great alternative to the name Evelyn, having a similar sound but being far less common than the more traditional name which is seeing widespread use in more than half a dozen countries across the globe. Plus, the name just has a really cool history that your daughter will love to share with anyone she meets.
The name Ashwin comes from the Sanskrit word “ashvin” which means “possessed of horses.” In the Hindu religion, the Ashvins are the twin gods of the sunrise and sunset. In spite of its incredible origins, Ashwin is far from popular in the U.S. In fact, it has never been seen on the top baby name charts.
In spite of the rarity of the name Ashwin, it has a decidedly stylish feel thanks to its “n” ending. This makes it fit in with the modern name trend of names ending with “n.” Some “n” ended names that have taken over the charts in recent years include Jason, Jaden, Grayson, Hayden, Braden, and Aidan. Ashwin is a great way to take part in the trend if you like the way these popular names sound, but still want to make sure that your baby boy stands out from the crowd! Plus, you get to nickname him Ash — who doesn’t love a good Pokémon reference?
This exquisite and underused name comes to us from the Philippines. In the Tagalog language, the name Amihan means “north wind” or “winter storm,” but its history has even deeper roots. According to ancient Filipino legend, Amihan was one of the first beings to inhabit the universe, along with the gods Aman Sinaya, god of the sea, and Bathala, god of the sky. The personification of the northeast wind, Amihan was believed to bring cool breezes to sailors and fisherman, so long as they were pure of heart.
When war broke out between Aman Sinaya and Bathala, Amihan transformed into a bird and flew between sea and sky, flying faster and faster until the realms were brought together and the gods were forced to meet. Amihan negotiated peace between them and, as a symbol of the truce, Bathala planted a seed at the bottom of the ocean which sprouted into a bamboo stalk. Hearing voices from the bamboo, Amihan pecked at it until two human beings, a male and a female, emerged. These two humans, Malakas and Maganda, were the first people from whom all other humans are descended.
Andrew is one of the most widely used names in the world, appearing on top baby name charts in more than half a dozen nations. Originally coming from the ancient Greek name Andreas, the name is derived from the word “andreios” meaning “manly” or “masculine,” a legacy that has made it popular with parents for centuries. The name makes an appearance in the New Testament of the Bible and, over thousands of years, has spawned many alluring variations.
One of the most notable versions of Andrew is the Scandinavian variation of the name, Anders. While it has fallen off the charts in Denmark and Norway, Anders is surprisingly on the rise in the United States where it ranked in the top 800 names for boys. It’s not the most impressive statistic, but give Anders a little bit of time and we might just see it explode in popularity.
Other fantastic but underused versions of the name include the Finnish Antero, Eastern European Andrei, and the Lithuanian Andrius.
Coming straight from the pages of Greek mythology is the name Andromeda. The name comes from Greek terms “aner” and “medomai” and means “to be mindful of a man.” According to legend, Andromeda was an Ethiopian princess who was meant to serve as a sacrifice to the sea monster Cetus. She was saved by the hero Perseus, and her name now serves as the name for a constellation.
Author J.K. Rowling also used the name in the Harry Potter series, giving the name an extra layer of magic for fans of the franchise.
Andromeda is a rarely used name in the U.S., and never pops up on the baby name charts. This is a shame, because the name is a beautiful one and comes packed with so much history that it’s hard not to fall in love with it. Some parents might be put off by the sheer length of the name, but Andromeda can easily be shortened to something simpler for day-to-day use such as Annie or Andi.