After all, visiting the the paint aisle at your local home improvement store reveals the countless colors we’re not using for our children’s names.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. For every Violet, there’s a parakeet green or harbor haze – lovely in our living rooms, but not quite right as a given name.
But among the paint chips, dozens of undiscovered options await. The names fall outside of the current US Top 1000, but still feel wearable.
Many of these rare color names might be more familiar as flowers, gemstones, or the like. But given our enthusiasm for Olive and Ocean and Pearl, that’s really a bonus.
To make this list, the name has to be an actual color. This leaves some gorgeous possibilities, like golden Flavia and red Rory, off the list. Meaning alone isn’t enough.
Turns out there are still plenty of possibilities, colorful and surprising, that might suit a daughter or a son.
A type of quartz, Amethyst comes in shades of purple. The ancient Egyptians made jewelry with it; the Greeks believed it prevented intoxication, and so they used it for goblets. It’s crafted into Tibetan prayer beads and the episcopal rings of Anglican bishops. And yet, it’s far less familiar – as a gemstone, color, or given name – than many other choices. Sound-wise, Amethyst mixes up Amelia, Thea, and Scarlett, perhaps explaining why it has risen in use in recent years – but remains outside of the US Top 1000.
Auburn is a shade of reddish-brown, though it’s most famous as a university. The Alabama school takes its name from the city; in turn, the city’s name was inspired by a 1770 poem from Oliver Goldsmith. It describes “Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain.” The reddish-brown color is also associated with hair. Auburn brings to mind choices like Autumn for girls and Austin for boys, but right now it’s slightly more popular for our daughters.
We love a name in the hue of blue – just ask River and Skye. Azure means sky blue, and while it’s not used in everyday speech, it’s definitely a color name. Plus, any name with a Z sound is a bonus. Until recently, Azure has more popular for girls, but that’s switched over the last few years.
A green stone, and a pale green color, too, Beryl fits right in with so many gemstone names. It’s as tailored as Evelyn, and as vintage as Amelia. In fact, Beryl Markham was the first person to fly solo, non-stop from Britain to North America.
When Beyonce and Jay-Z named their daughter Blue Ivy, it might’ve set trends. And it did – Ivy has surged in use since 2008. But Blue remains rare – and that’s an interesting opportunity. Unlike Amethyst or Obsidian, it’s a straightforward choice, brief and easy to spell. And unlike Dove or Moss, it’s a color name first and foremost. Plus, Blue symbolizes so many positive things. There’s the sunny optimism of blue skies, the loyalty of true blue, and more.
Brick doesn’t immediately seem like one of the rare color names, and yet, brick red is familiar to all. Long-running television series The Middle gave the name to their youngest son, Brick Ishmail Heck. It might’ve contributed to an uptick in the name’s use, but Brick remains quite rare.
There’s the wine, of course, and Will Ferrell’s obnoxious Anchorman alter ego. But it’s also a color and a region in France. And with names like Zachary and Dorothy, Bellamy and Kimberly used across the years, Burgundy might be an option.
It’s the French word for cherry, but also a shade of red-pink. Rhyme Cerise with Elise; the C sounds like Celeste. In 2013, Mattel’s Ever After High gave the name to Little Red Riding Hood’s daughter. Despite being among the rare color names, Cerise sounds quite name-like and might be one of the easiest options on this list.
From the same Latin roots as celestial, Cerulean refers to sky blue. It’s a long and unexpected possibility, but this is the age of Sebastian and Julian and Caspian. At four syllables, it’s no longer than Alexander – though it’s far more surprising.
Originally the name for a type of gray metal, Cobalt is now associated with a bright shade of blue. That’s because it can also be used to color glass blue. While it’s used only in tiny numbers for boys, this is the age of Colton, Cole, Colin, and Colt. Is Cobalt all that different?
Lincoln is big. So is Penelope. Could Copper – as in copper pennies – be a colorful name inspired by the coin? It fits with favorites like Harper and Parker. And while Copper isn’t as valuable a metal as platinum or gold, it shines. Copper also conveys warmth and a certain quality of home and hearth. Think of big copper pots or planters.
A nature name borrowed from reefs, coral comes in a range of colors. But Coral signals a specific shade, the pinky-orange commonly associated with the marine invertebrates. Because it’s close to Carol, it might sound a bit baby boomer. Then again, we’re wild for Cora and Coraline, which makes Coral quite current.
Scarlett ranks in the girls’ Top 100, but Crimson is used for boys and girls alike. Maybe it’s because we love the color red, but Crimson is associated with several universities and their athletic teams, it might be a nod to the parents’ alma mater, as much as a color name.
This greenish-blue hue sounds like Ryan with an S. Except there’s also Cian, an Irish name with a hard C and a long ‘ee’ sound, more like Ian, and typically spelled Kian in the US. So spelling and pronunciation seem like potential hassles, but it’s an intriguing sound and likely easier to handle than, say, Cerulean.
If Levi ranks in the Top 100, why not Denim? As much a fabric as a color name, it feels rugged and familiar. Over 100 boys received the name annually in recent years. Singer Toni Braxton named her son Denim way back in 2001.
At first glance, it’s a bird name, more like Wren or Lark. Except dove gray is a specific and familiar color. That’s just enough to put it on this list, too. Doves symbolize peace, and the color is soft and gentle – but with a kind of enduring strength, too.
A big hit in the 1970s and 80s, Ebony is solidly in mom name territory now. Instead, it’s Ivory appearing in the US Top 1000. That said, Ebony is undeniably a color name, borrowed from the black hardwood grown in India, Indonesia, and Africa.
Fawn counts as an animal-inspired baby name, but it’s also an appealing shade of light yellowish-tan. The name was most popular in the 1960s and 70s, the heyday of sound-alike name Dawn. But Fawn’s not unthinkable in our age of Bear and Leo and Wren.
A nature name, Fern picks up some literary sheen thanks to Charlotte’s Web. (She’s the little girl who initially saves Wilbur until Charlotte steps in.) But it’s also a pretty shade of green, matching the plant.
Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe gave us a Garnet, along with Amethyst and Pearl. The show’s Garnet is female, but as a name, this gemstone is used in small numbers for boys and girls alike. As a color, Garnet refers to the color red. But it’s worth noting that garnets can come in multiple colors.
Ginger Rogers danced into American film history, winning an Oscar in 1940. Her birth name was Virginia. Today it’s Spice Girl Geri Halliwell – Ginger Spice – who first comes to mind. Halliwell has red hair, and Ginger refers to an earthy orange color. That puts Ginger squarely on the list of rare girl names. Reality star Jinger Duggar Vuolo – yup, with a J – might be the more famous bearer of the name at the moment, but it remains far rarer than the original spelling.
GOLDIE and GOLDEN
Names relating to the color gold double as virtue names, signalling value. Perhaps that’s why both Goldie and Golden are trending – though the related names have very different vibes. Goldie feels retro and sparky. It’s just outside the current girls’ Top 1000, and a century ago, Goldie ranked in the US Top 200. Golden leans a little more philosophical. It’s also unisex, used in nearly even numbers for daughters and sons alike.
Like Blue, Gray is immediately understood as a color name. But our long-standing love of Grayson also makes it feel a little more name-like. The many people with Gray as a surname help, too. While it’s more popular for boys, it’s also used in steady numbers for girls. And here’s a twist: the British tend to spell it Grey, while Americans opt for the ‘a’ spelling. But Grey ranks in the US Top 1000, while Gray does not.
Maybe it’s our love of Scarlett and Navy, but Indigo is also poised right outside of the current girls’ Top 1000 – though it’s rising in use for boys, too. High profile parents have been naming their babies Indigo for ages, and fictional characters include a DC Comics villain recently seen on Supergirl.
It looks like an elaboration of the chart-topping Isabella, but Isabelline is a color. The pale gray-yellow is most often used to describe animals – horses or birds. No one is certain where the word originates, but legends abound – often involving fearless women named Isabella.
Gilbert and Sullivan penned a musical titled Iolanthe back in 1882. (She’s a fairy who falls in love with a mortal, breaking all sorts of rules along the way.) It almost certainly comes from Yolanda, which ultimately traces back to the same roots as Violet. That makes Iolanthe both colorful and just vaguely on the right side of familiar.
Harry Potter gave us a witch-in-training called Lavender Brown. It’s trended steadily upward in the years since the final movie debuted in 2011, suggesting that the name has potential long after our heroes leave Hogwarts.
Lapis lazuli is a blue stone prized across millennia. In Latin, lapis means stone. Lazuli is borrowed from an Arabic word meaning sky or heaven, which lends even more meaning to this intriguing rarity.
If Lily and Layla and Lyric are names for girls, why not Lilac? The name’s on-trend sound, combined with its botanical and colorful connotations, make it one of the most intriguing rare color names on this list.
Maud meets Maeve for a straight-up color name that’s virtually never used. And yet, the pale purple color is more name-like that many choices on this list. It could be the perfect pick for a daring first or middle.
Playwright Moss Hart is probably the most famous bearer of the name, though he’s not necessarily a household name nowadays. Moss refers to a type of plant, and it’s a very pretty shade of green, too. As a surname, it might be related to Moses.
A type of volcanic rock, Obsidian is typically black – though sometimes it’s a very inky dark blue. As rare color names go, Obsidian is one of the rarest. But it’s gained in use in recent years, possibly because it fits the Sebastian/Julian/Caspian sound mentioned earlier.
Olivia is a white hot name for girls, and Oliver isn’t far behind for boys. Tailored, edible Olive is racing up the charts, too. Olivine could feel like an elaboration of Olive, but it’s actually a mineral that comes in a lovely shade of green.
It’s a lovely flowering plant, and a shade of purple, too. Perhaps the biggest drawback to using Orchid is its etymology – it literally means testicle, thanks to the shape of its roots. That said, Orchid claims a modest history of use, stretching back into the 1920s.
Another edible option, Plum is a fruit – and a deep reddish purple color, too. It’s among the most unusual of the rare color names on this list, but Plum does sometimes surface as a daring middle possibility, too. One more reason to embrace this name: besides the color and the fruit, plum can also mean excellent.
A dark, reddish-orange brown, Russet brings to mind potatoes, as well as apples. But Russet also feels like an updating to former favorite Russell.
A sable is a small mammal, known for its luxurious dark fur. It’s a very dark brown or black, and we tend to think of it as glossy, too. The name briefly peaked in the late 1980s, when we met Sabella “Sable” Colby on Dynasty spin-off The Colbys. It remains in use in small numbers today.
A spice name, associated with a deep golden yellow color, Saffron sounds like a name. Long-running BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous included level-headed daughter Saffron. Actor Saffron Burrows also keeps the name in the spotlight.
A glittering gemstone name, Sapphire is a vivid blue color. With choices like Ruby so popular, Sapphire has risen steadily in recent years.
Slate brings to mind both a type of rock and the shade of gray most commonly associated with the material. Surname name Slater – once given to roofers – is even more popular, and let’s not talk about Grayson. But Slate feels like the color name, a short and strong choice for a son.
A shining metallic name, Silver has been used in small numbers for boys and girls over the years. The name was boosted by second generation 90210 character Erin Silver, known exclusively by her last name.
It’s a Disney princess name, and a weather term, too, but it immediately brings to mind the color white. Daring baby namer Ashlee Simpson’s daughter with husband Evan Ross is named Jagger Snow. (The couple loves color names. Jagger’s little brother is Ziggy Blu.) Could a new live action version of Disney classic Snow White expected in 2022, will the idea of Snow as a name catch on?
Like Slate, Steel feels strong and maybe dramatic – it’s an action hero name. But it’s also a shade of gray, and that puts it on the list of rare color names. Steel has been used in small, but rising, numbers since the 1980s. The spelling Steele is even more popular.
It’s a dark greenish-blue color, borrowed from a duck. Teals are small ducks, found throughout North America – there’s an excellent chance you’ve seen one. But the color appears mostly on the male’s head and wings – and is far easier to see when they’re in flight. That means we tend to think of Teal first and foremost as a color name. It rose for girls in the 1990s, but today is used in small numbers for boys and girls alike.
It’s the national flower of Scotland, as well as a shade of light purple. It’s virtually unused as a given name, but this is the age of Theodore and Thea, so a nature name starting with Th has at least some potential.
Another extreme rarity, Viridian is a fresh green color. It comes from the Latin word for green, viridis. Not only is a color, it suggests vibrant, blooming nature – an energetic and optimistic image.
What are your favorite rare color names?
First published on November 13, 2015, this post was revised substantially and re-published on June 24, 2021.
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