The Name Game: Down With Nouns

10/30/2009 at 04:00 PM ET

Thinking outside the box when it comes to naming babies goes part and parcel with being a celebrity, and in their search to come up with the perfect moniker some have clearly pushed that envelope more than others. According to co-founder Linda Rosenkrantz, word names are an increasingly popular way to do just that.

“When looking for a really unusual baby name, many celebrities have started to search the dictionary for a noun or adjective that will define their child, choosing words that have rarely, if ever been used before as people-names,” she explains.

“Some of them seek words that reflect their spirituality or values, others display their appreciation for nature, and then there’s a whole range of others from the sweet Poet and Petal to the bad-boy Bandit and Rogue.”

The so-called “bad boy” names are “the most audacious of all,” Linda says. Director Robert Rodriguez is clearly a fan of this genre, with sons Rogue, Rebel, Racer and Rocket. Meanwhile rocker Jonathan Davis opted for Pirate, and Gerard Way is dad to daughter Bandit.

Tobey and Ruby Maguire; Jenna and Story Elfman – Splash News Online; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

Click below for Linda’s picks for the best “soft and sweet” word names and more.

At the other end of the spectrum are “soft and sweet” words such as Sweetheart, middle name of Tobey Maguire’s Ruby, Poet, daughter of Soleil Moon Frye; Dream, chosen by NBA All Star Allen Iverson and singer Ginuwine; and Story, son of Jenna Elfman.  Spiritual names like Angel, daughter of Melanie Brown; Heaven, daughter of Brooke Burke and David Charvet; and Trinity also offer inspiration, the latter of which was chosen by Dennis Rodman, Trace Adkins, and is the middle name of Diane Farr’s Coco.

Other celebrity parents project their values and lofty aspirations for their children by settling on noble words as Freedom, as chosen by Ving Rhames; Justice, the middle name given by Jayceon Taylor to son King; Honor, as chosen by Jessica Alba and Cash Warren; Bravery, the middle name given by Talisa Soto and Benjamin Bratt to son Mateo; Mercy, daughter of Andy Richter; and True, as chosen by Joely Fisher as well as by Meg Ryan as a middle name for daughter Daisy. Slightly less lofty are Penn Jillette’s Moxie, Macy Gray’s Happy and Adam Sandler’s Sunny.

Speaking of the sun, nature word names are on the rise. Linda cites the unisex Rain, as chosen by Marisol Nichols as well as Corey Hart; Petal Blossom Rainbow, all three names for Jamie Oliver‘s newest daughter;  River, as chosen by Keri Russell; Ocean, as chosen by Forest Whitaker; Fire, as chosen by Steve Vai; and the buzz-worthy Sparrow, as chosen by Nicole Richie and Joel Madden.

Lately there have been a few royalty-nobility word sightings, as in Kelis and Nas‘ son Knight, the aforementioned King, and Czar, middle name of Tisha Campbell-Martin’s son Ezekiel.

Of course, some word names aren’t even able to be categorized! They include Verve, as chosen by Shawnee Smith; Peanut, as chosen by Ingo Radenmacher; Navy, as chosen by Nivea and Terius ‘The Dream’ Nash; Million, as chosen by Mystikal; Banjo, as chosen by Rachel Griffiths; and, of course, Jason Lee’s Pilot Inspektor.

In addition to her work with, Linda has co-authored ten baby-naming books with Pamela Redmond-Satran. Their newest title, Beyond Ava & Aiden, is available now.

— Missy

What’s your favorite celebrity-given word name? Would you (or did you) use a word name with your own child?


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Showing 42 comments

Stella Bella on

It seems like some celebs do this because they really are that naturally cool and others do it because they want to be that cool. If you’re in the first category it works, the second category not so much…

noam on

i think some of these names are kind of cute, such as mercy, rain, and river. in general, because noun-names can be kind of “out there” (ie, peanut or czar), i like them paired with a “normal” name, like jessica alba did with honor marie. i look at names like rebel and moxie crimefighter and million and just try to imagine them attached to a senator or brain surgeon…

Snow on

My real name is Snow (born in December) and I used to hate it so much. Now Im in my 30’s I really like it but I tend to go by my middle name for work which is in comparison normal.

Jessi on

I already have some names for my next children and they are nouns/flowery/naturey names.

Leslie on

My daughter’s name is Holiday and we get such positive feedback about it. I wanted her to have a name with a positive connotation, and I think it really suits her. I know if someone doesn’t like it, they usually call her Holly. 😉

Sophie on

I still can’t get over Pilot inspector or Diva Muffin .I know they aren’t my children and i shouldn’t care (which i don’t really) i just don’t understand why someone would think those are good names for a child (maybe if i knew their reasoning… it just seems a bit cruel to me. And I like unique names- i just think some celebs take it too far. Sorry if i offended any one)

I think Poet and Mercy are beautiful names, I also quite like Winter as a girls name (one of Harlow Maddens middle names).

Story Elias also works quite well, but i think its because as Noam said, the slight out there first name is paired with a ‘normal’ middle name. Elias also reminds me of bible stories (not sure why, is it related to the name Elijah maybe?), so when I hear/read Elias my immediate asscociation is story/ies- which might be why i think it flows so well

Julie on

I not much of a fan of the “noun” names. Adjectives and virtues I understand (especially as a middle name.) Some of the “noun” names are just trying to hard to be different.

essi on

It’s none of my business, but I wish that people would choose the ‘trendy out-there’ names as middle names for their children. Kids laugh at kids (adults do too!)…and I know that they can learn to rise above it all, but childhood is hard enough without bearing an embarrassing or insulting name that has really negative connotations in society.

Vera on

I love the name Ever, and if hubby won’t let me at least use it as a middle name then I will give it to a pet or something, it’s beautiful!

BillieHarper on

I actually really love Nicole Richie and Joel Madden’s babies (both Harlow and Sparrow) and I’m absolutely smitten with the choice of Story by Jenna Elfman. I do think that some noun names can get a little…weird, but for the most part, if the correct noun is picked, it actually works really well.

Margaret on

My fave celebrity “word” name? Two words: Audio Science.

Elle on

I really like the name Navy. I have always thought that sounded cute for a little girl.

computerag on

Bandit. Wow.

Micheley on

Leslie-I had a teacher who’s daughters name was Holiday. I think its a beautiful name.

Seraphina on

Rachel Griffiths named her son after a famous Australian poet named Banjo Patterson, so it isn’t like she named her son after the banjo instrument! I also thought Honor was a Russian name…could be wrong about that though. I like Story and Justice. Sparrow is still strange to me, I can’t imagine actually calling a person Sparrow, especially a boy.

Sarah M. on

Elle (#12) – I knew some people who had a daughter named Naavey (sp?), pronounced Navy. Very cute!

I think it really depends on the name. Some are beautiful and some are awful.

J on

That tiny Captain America tee-shirt can be found at Target for about $5.99. I just picked one up a few weeks ago. It has that worn look to the silk screen image. 😀

kai on

Rogue, Rebel, Racer and Rocket?? I never heard that before.


Lauren on

I love Rogue and Rebel. I’ve always loved the word Renegade as a name and think these two fit in nicely. One of my daughters has the middle name Chaos so the nouns as names thing is something I’ve definitely explored. If I do have another son I will be pushing for Renegade or Rogue or Rebel, something with a little edge to it.

I do love Audio Science too, I think it’s a lot of fun and really interesting sounding. A a teacher it’s always interesting to see who has the most unusual names in my class, particularly when I tend to be surrounded by numerous Courtney’s and Destiny’s all day long.

cait5 on

yeah, banjo is not a noun name… it is a reference to banjo patterson the poet (who is equivalent to Walt Whitman to an American… known by every single person in the country). On the other hand, there is very little country music in australia and not many australians would even associate the word “banjo” with a stringed instrument. For example, in Australia a very common chocolate milk powder is Milo. It is not fair to say that Liv Tyler named her son after chocolate milk powder because she is American. Rachel Griffiths is Australian and clearly named her son after our national poet.

angela on

My girls have two very normal noun names- Lily and Grace

Kate on

I’va always wanted to name a son ‘Storm’; I don’t think it’s too far out there, but I’d use it as a middle name anyway paired with a traditional first name such as ‘James’

Shawna on

Well my son has a normal first name (Elijah) but his middle name is Zion which is a bit more out there. I am into more unique names than my husband is. If I had named them myself my son would have been Zion and my daughters would probably have been Eden and Rain. Some of the celeb names are really crazy and I think the parents must have been hopped up on pain killers or something.

LucyMarie on

I was on this train so long ago. When I was 15 I decided I had to use the name Chance for a son. It took forever and a day to come up with a middle name I liked, but I went with Michael (most common boy name at the time). Now I am 40–Chance is 14 and a freshman in high school–and I still love his name. He does too which is a blessing! I agree that a child with an unusual name should have a more common middle name if only to get through middle school!


Tia on

Since a noun by definition is a ‘person, place, thing or quality’ wouldn’t every name technically be a “Noun Name?”

j.U.d.E. on

Eh Sophie! Yeah! Elias = Elijah, it’s just different languages/origins, but it’s the same name.

miaow on

Thankyou Sarai for explaining that so well. “Banjo” is not a crazy noun name anymore than calling your girl Monet…

Jessi on

My cousin’s name is Chance Michael, LucyMarie! Lol Irony

And I still really like Story, Poet, Violet, Rose, Lili (Lily), Marigold, River, Autumn, August, Grace, Aloe, Poppy and alot of other names.

Tabatha on

I have a Trinity and Kentley….both girls. I often am asked where I got Kentley from. I like different names.

Kim on

We call my son “River” but his given name is Joshua River. We wanted a strong, male nature name, but we were apprehensive about leaving him without other more traditional options. Joshua is his father’s name which has biblical roots. But honestly, if I could do it over again, I would be more brave and switch the order of his names. Note: I do like to mix traditional names with more untraditional names to avoid going overboard like “Bronx Mowgli” or “Heaven Rain”. I say one unusual name, first or middle, per child.

Just a thought, I think that “Evergreen” is also a strong nature name. It makes a good middle name, as in “Charles Evergreen” and has very postive connotations. It makes me think of enduring youth, smells of the forest, winter, and mostly, the green movement. Someone could also make it a first name “Evergreen Joseph” and call him “Ever.”

Ann on

I have a good friend who was pregnant with a girl. She had ‘Kate’ all set (which went well with her son, Cole) for this upcoming arrival; however, no middle name was selected. About 2 weeks before birth her mother sent her a geneology story about her family. It turns out that my friend’s great-grandparents came to America from Germany on the boat named the “Kate Hunter”…lo and behold her Kate now had a middle name. What a great story huh?

Jessi on

Kim I think that with a son I might use River as a first name such as River William or River Addison (as Addison means “son of Adam” and a boy’s name). I love it.

I never thought of Evergreen, I have to add it to my list!! I love it Kim!

However I do agree that only nontraditional name should be per child! Not both nontraditional names!!

I might use Charles Evergreen! Such a strong name! I love it. Thanks for the idea.

jessjess on girls are named Kaden River and Bailey Phoenix in honor of my favorite actor.

Dahlia on

I have a friend who named her son Seven and they call him “Sevy.” I think it’s cute. But in general, I wish some of these people would give some thought to what it would be like to be spend your adolescence and adulthood saddled with a name like “Peanut” or “Speck” (I’m looking at you, John Mellencamp!).

Lys on

I have friends who choose the name ‘Maverick’. At first the ‘Top Gun’ association was too much for me but I have really grown to love it!
For short he’s called ‘Mav’ or ‘Mavi’. It really suits him.

Michelle on

I love the name Seven. I’m into some unusual names too but never had the guts to name my son any of them- his name is Jack!

LogicalMama on


Finleigh on

My mother named me Finleigh and my twin sister Courtleigh, both were original at the time. My daughter’s name is Lyric Everlyn. I like it when people name their children not so common names but not too out there. Pilot and Apple were cute for all of five minutes. My favorite would have to be Story Elias (Jenna Elfman) for a boy and Poet Sienna Rose (Soliel Moon Frye) for a girl. I guess the 80s are back for clothes and the 60s hippie days are back for naming children.

afuaor on

How lovely children named after pets. Personally our family is sticking with human names. Our dogs are Rebel and Bandit and our cat is Peanut

Talia on

I always liked the name Nevaeh, which is “Heaven” backwards, but I would never name my kid that. I like rare names, but not super freakish names. My best friend is named Fairii and she hates it. I don’t love it, but it’s not a horrible name. It was cute for her as a kid, just not very appropriate for her as she grew and became a teen and an adult. My sister is pregnant with her second baby girl. Her first baby girl was named Leah and she’s considering naming this one Divine or Forever. Her husband wants to name the baby Leaf so that her name will be like Leah’s, but my sis hates that name. I used to write stories as a kid about characters with names that were like Dreamer or Eclipse. I always said I would name my kids that. I ended up naming them Elise and Kristina.

sssss on


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