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Unique baby names explained

And that’s exactly what their parents wanted. Some honour favourite musicians or beloved family members. Others were inspired by nature or take a twist on cultural traditions, but they’re all the kind of names you won’t see on any top 100 list. For the past four years Kris Rushowy has written a weekly column for the Toronto Star telling the story behind these unique and creative names parents have chosen – or even made up. Here are some of her favourites:

Unique names diamond marshall - unique baby names explained Diamond Marshall

Who can forget the image of Diamond Marshall running to embrace Princess Kate on the tarmac at the Calgary airport? The little girl who met Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William during their trip to Canada last year is actually named after William’s mom, Princess Diana. Diamond, who was battling a rare childhood cancer at the time, even arranged to watch Will and Kate’s wedding on television in the hospital. Her dad says the name fits because Diamond really is a gem.

Unique names razor wilhelm chavez - unique baby names explained Razor Wilhelm Chavez Ehrke Jonathan

After naming their first-born Shira, parents Jonathan Jonathan (yes, that’s his name) and Amanda Ehrke managed to think up an even more creative moniker for their son – Razor, after reggae musician Peter Tosh (aka Red Razor X). Wilhelm, after Amanda’s German background, is also a variation on Jonathan’s middle name William. Chavez is for union activist Cesar Chavez and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. (The parents say they’re big fans of anyone radically left). 

Unique names samson fromer ever grace - unique baby names explained Samson Fromer and Ever Grace Gerstein

Now here’s one time when it did pay to listen to mother-in-law: Liza Fromer, of Global Toronto’s The Morning Show, had just given birth to her son when her husband’s mom came into the hospital room and said “Hi guys, hi Samson.” Liza thought the name was simply awesome, and much better than Sam, which she and her husband had chosen. Liza came across Ever while fl ipping through a gossip magazine and noticing that model Milla Jovovich bestowed that name on her child.

Unique names ali sher - unique baby names explained Ali-Sher Malik
Imran Malik’s mother wanted to be the one to name her first grandson and she absolutely loved Ali-Sher, which, translated from Arabic to English, is basically lion king. (Grandma, who lives in rural Pakistan, had no idea about the Disney connection when she made her suggestion.) Mom Asfa likes its connotations of courage and high status, and friends and family adore their lion king baby. It has inspired giftgiving, birthday party themes and Halloween costumes, too.

Unique names bokhari kids - unique baby names explained Nathaniel Kazim Raza, Poem Sugarah Kathleen, Asher Aix Khadir and Reverie Kamille Anwara Bokhari

Rebecca and Turab Bokhari’s two daughters and two sons all have Arabic first names – traditional for dad’s Muslim religion – and also the middle initial K to give them all another tie. Their first-born was Nathaniel Kazim Raza, followed by Poem Sugarah Kathleen. Next came Asher Aix (pronounced X) Khadir and finally, Reverie Kamille Anwara. Reverie completed the boy-girl pattern. Poem had hoped for a sister. The family calls her their “dream girl” since reve means dream in French, and reverie being a dream-like state. Anwara means ray of light in Arabic. 

Unique names harley elle - unique baby names explained Harley Elle Davidson

Her name may be Harley Davidson, but it’s not for the motorcycle. Parents Natalie and Brett wanted to carry on the Jewish tradition of choosing names based on the first letter of a family member who has died. So Harley is actually for Helen, Natalie’s grandmother, and middle name Elle is after grandfather Ernie. The name does have the benefit of lots of personalized merchandise! 

Unique names madeline pearl - unique baby names explained Madeline Pearl Kimberley

Mom is a huge fan of Pearl Jam and suggested Pearl as a name for their daughter, but dad would have nothing do with it. But in the end, because of all the trips Paul and Susan Kimberley have taken to attend Pearl Jam concerts, they agreed on Pearl as a middle name. Madeline Pearl even attended the premiere of the rock band’s movie at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, hanging out near the red carpet with her dad and dressed in her Pearl Jam onesie. 

Unique names strano kids - unique baby names explained Brenley Suzanne, Taylor River and Teagan Aurora Strano

Sarah and Jay Strano named Brenley after a member of the band Madviolet; with twin girls on the way they turned to their top three list they agreed on when pregnant with Brenley. Taylor River is named after the river in B.C. The late actor River Phoenix also inspired her middle name. Teagan means beautiful in Welsh; Aurora after the goddess of dawn and the northern lights. Brenley’s middle name Suzanne is after Sarah’s sister who lives in B.C. 

Unique names ifra ziaawan - unique baby names explained Zeeshan and Ifra Ziaawan

Zeeshan means “high status” in Arabic, and Ifra “good news” in Persian. “I figured these names would have a great meaning, and be easy for their classmates to pronounce, which was a major contributing factor for me when deciding,” says Toronto-area mom Arfa Shakeel. She’s hoping Zeeshan’s name will inspire him to study hard and become a judge. Ifra has her own take on her big brother’s name. Unlike her name, which means “good news” she says “I think his name means bad news!” 

Unique names river ken - unique baby names explained River Ken Thomas

After months of negotiations and debate, Simona and Duane Thomas of Milton, Ont. found a name they both could love: River. Simona heard it on the TV show A Baby Story, and fell in love with it. They got mixed reaction to the name, but say it suits their son. His middle name is in honour of Duane’s father. River has a little sister, Jade Hana; her middle name is a nod to Simona’s mom. 

Unique names easton avery ross - unique baby names explained Easton Avery Ross Messina

The hockey-crazed Messina family couldn’t resist naming their son after the company that makes the sticks, shin guards, helmets, gloves and pants they all wear when playing. “We are decked out” in Easton equipment says mom Siobhan. The Ajax, Ont., family says Easton already loves to skate and he too will take up the sport. The couple liked the sound of Avery, and Ross is a variation of Rose, in honour of a great-grandmother. 

Unique names cedar james - unique baby names explained Cedar James Richardson

Mike and Sandi Richardson of Milton, Ont. let nature inspire them. The couple have fond memories of trees, and of playing in fi elds and forests when they grew up – especially Mike, whose favourite place is Bruce Peninsula National Park, with thousand-yearold cedars. Sandi’s dad, now retired, builds cedar decks for cottages out in B.C. Middle name James is a popular choice in both their families. 

Unique names magnus ace - unique baby names explained Magnus Ace Cobain
Ace wasn’t quite right for a first name, but for a middle name? Now that worked. And they liked how it sounded with Magnus, which means number one, or great one. Magnus was the only name that Chris and Sharlene Cobain agreed on, although they find that some people mistakenly think they’ve named him after the 1980’s detective show Magnum P.I. Dad usually strings them along for awhile! 
Unique names davis winnifred daphne june - unique baby names explained Davis Winnifred and Daphne June McPherson

Deb McCain’s mom was Dee Dee Davis – “the coolest name I ever heard” – and her mom’s friend was Daphne. So keeping with the Ds, Deb and husband Matt McPherson called their first-born Davis, not to be a “hipster, but to give her a family name.” The second is Daphne. “We always imagine Davis as a famous author with highball glass in hand, holding literary court at the Algonquin Hotel in New York.” The family sign-off is Matt plus D3. 

Kris Rushowy covers the education beat for the Toronto Star and writes the popular What’s Your Name column telling the stories behind unusual baby names.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2012.

a man carrying two children

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