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Oh, the Places They'll Go: Baby Names Inspired by Geography

Kathryn Lamoreux is a college composition instructor. She loves to read and has always been fascinated by the fabulous diversity of names.

For centuries, maps have been inspiring parents in their choice of baby names, and the trend has only snowballed over the years. Here is a list of 52 of the most popular and appealing geographical names for babies, sorted into three categories: girls' names, boys' names, and unisex. There's something for everyone, so if you don't see your preferred category right away, be sure to keep scrolling! And let us know in the polls which names in each category you like the best.

From Adelaide to Virginia: 25 Place Names for Girls


1) Adelaide - The name of a German princess who became Queen of England, Adelaide today evokes both thoughts of Victorian gentility and the bustling capital of South Australia. It also fits right in with currently trendy names like Adeline and Audrey. A little Adelaide could bear the nicknames "Addie," "Addy," "Delia," or "Dell."

2) Alberta - While this name, borne by the Canadian province, has not been popular in many years, it could make a comeback with other turn of the century favorites like Josephine, and Cora. It also lends itself to some eminently wearable nicknames, including the perennial classic "Allie" and quirky, spunky "Bertie."

3) Alexandria - The name of both an ancient Egyptian city and an affluent Washington D.C. suburb, Alexandria evokes both strength and femininity. For more casual use, it can be shortened to "Allie," "Alex," "Lexi," or even "Xandi."

4) America - A red, white, and blue sobriquet that carries with it some pressure towards patriotism, America is a lovely name, even if it is a bit tough for a baby girl to live up to. It is most famously borne by the actress America Ferrera.

5) Aspen - The name of both a tree and a popular Colorado ski resort, Aspen has gained a surprising amount of popularity over the years. A pretty nature name that still sounds a bit adventurous and tomboyish because of its connections to winter sports, Aspen is a nice compromise between classic femininity and spunk.

6) Brooklyn - Although the name gained popularity in the early aughts after being used as the name of Victoria and David Beckham's son, it is now more commonly feminine, sitting at number 34 on the girls' name charts. This is probably fitting, as each syllable of the fashionable New York borough name is a common moniker for girls. Accordingly, "Brook," "Brooke," "Lyn," or "Lynn" would make lovely nicknames for a young Brooklyn, and parents may even choose to emphasize the name's femininity by spelling it "Brooklynn."

7) Carolina - A more flowery and somewhat less common variation on the classic Caroline, Carolina is a beautiful name for a budding Southern belle. Possible nicknames include "Carrie" or "Lina," and those looking for a more Spanish or Italian twist can pronounce the name care-oh-LEE-nuh, just like the Venezuelan fashion designer Carolina Herrera.

8) Charlotte - Not just a city in North Carolina, this classic baby name has been the moniker of several English queens. Accordingly, it was the name chosen by Prince William and Kate Middleton for their daughter.

9) Chelsea - A fashionable name borne by fashionable neighborhoods in London and New York, Chelsea is probably best known as the name of former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton. It is also the name of comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler and Barbie's youngest sister, Chelsea.

10) Cheyenne - A Sioux name borne by the capital of Wyoming, Cheyenne calls to mind the rugged mountains of the American West. Although the name peaked in the 1990's, it still enjoys some popularity today.

11) Florence - Like fellow geographical name Alberta, Florence hasn't been popular since the early twentieth century. However, it is a name shared by a beautiful city and an inspiring woman. Florence, Italy is home to an abundance of breathtaking architecture and one of the capitals of the art world. Florence Nightingale, who was named after the Italian city (her birthplace), was an influential social reformer and the founder of modern nursing. A little Florence could go either by her full name or the shorter "Flora," "Florrie," or "Flo."

12) Georgia - A name that calls to mind the luscious peaches famously grown in the southern state, Georgia is particularly popular in the U.K. The name borne by famous painter Georgia O'Keeffe, Georgia is lovely as it is, but it may also be shortened to the tomboyish "Georgie" or the French diminutive "Gigi."

13) Helena - Both the capital of Montana and the name of Shakespearean heroines in the comedies A Midsummer Night's Dream and All's Well that Ends Well, Helena is a pretty, classic name meaning "bright, shining light." The name is also quite flexible, as it can be pronounced HELL-en-uh, hell-AYN-uh, or hell-EEN-uh. However, that flexibility might lead to headaches for little Helena as she grows up sick and tired of explaining for the umpteenth time that it's hell-AYN-uh, not hell-EEN-uh.

14) Holland - The name of Two and a Half Men actress Holland Taylor, Holland calls to mind brightly colored tulips, windmills, and wooden shoes. Unique, but eminently recognizable and easy to pronounce, it can easily be shortened to the form "Holly" or "Hollie" for a classic nickname.

15) India - A beautiful name shared by singer India Arie and the second most populous country in the world. Although this name might sound trendy, exotic, and new, it has actually been in use by English speaking parents since the 19th century colonization of India by the British. There is even a character in the Civil War epic Gone with the Wind named India Wilkes. While beautiful and wearable on its own, it can also be shortened to the adorable "Indi" or "Indie."

16) Ireland - The name of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger's daughter. Evoking images of lush green hills, shamrocks, and clover, Ireland is fresh and charming, but still quite unusual. A name that's sure to stand out in the crowd without seeming too quirky.

17) Madison - From Madison, Wisconsin to Madison Square Garden, the name of the fourth American president has seen plenty of use on the U.S. map. It became popular in the 90's and 00's after Daryl Hannah played a mermaid of that name in the 80's hit Splash. This was the very definition of a place name, since Madison got her name from a New York City street sign. Today, Madison is still a very popular name, coming in at number 15 at the time of this writing.

18) Paris - Originally the name of the Trojan prince who eloped with the Spartan Queen Helen and started the legendary Trojan War, this name is now almost exclusively feminine. As the name of heiresses Paris Hilton and Paris Jackson, this moniker radiates wealth, privilege, and femininity while also calling to mind the image of the Eiffel Tower and the scent of fresh baguettes.

19) Regina - The name of the capital of Saskatchewan, Regina is a regal Latin title, meaning "queen." Although for Roman Catholics, this name honors Regina Coeli or the Queen of Heaven, Mary, popular audiences may be more readily reminded of Regina George, queen of the mean girls in the movie of the same name. Regina can be shortened either to the classic "Gina" or tomboyish "Reggie."

20) Sahara - The largest hot desert in the world, the Sahara covers most of Northern Africa. It also makes a beautiful, easily recognizable, but not overused girls' name that evokes images of hot sun and sweeping sand dunes. Some parents may find it a more interesting alternative to the classic Sarah or Sara.

21) Savannah - The name of both the oldest city in Georgia and a grassy tropical plane, Savannah calls to mind both Southern sweet tea and lions prowling in the tall grasses of Africa. Additionally, while it may seem trendy and new, it has recently been used by that bastion of conservatism, the British Royal Family. Zara Phillips and her husband Peter used it as the first name of their daughter, the eldest great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II.

22) Sierra - A Spanish name meaning both "mountain range" and "saw," Sierra is used in the official names of a number of rugged mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Madre. It makes for a strong and beautiful nature-based girls' name.

23) Victoria - The name of one of Britain's longest reigning monarchs, Victoria calls to mind a time when the sun never set on the British Empire. Accordingly, it is the name of countless places around the world, ranging from an Australian state, to a Newfoundland city, to a mountain in Papua New Guinea. The very epitome of a strong, yet beautiful name, Victoria literally means "victory." With nickname options like "Vicky," "Vic," and "Tori," it can also easily be dressed down for more casual use.

24) Vienna - An unusual, yet gorgeous alternative to more conventional V names like Vivienne, Vienna calls to mind one of the cultural capitals of Europe. It evokes images of castles, waltzes, and-- yes-- Vienna sausage.

25) Virginia - A name with deep historical roots in the U.S., Virginia was a name used by Elizabeth I of England, commonly known as the Virgin Queen. The American state of Virginia was named after her, and the first child born to English colonists in the New World was called Virginia Dare. It has since been the name of author Virginia Woolf and dancer Ginger Rogers, who was born Virginia Katherine McMath. Virginia can also be shortened to several nicknames, including "Ginny" (the name of talented witch Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter series), "Gigi," "Genie," "Gina," and of course, "Ginger."


From Austin to Washington: 15 Place Names for Boys


1) Austin - The name of the Texas state capital, Austin has a swaggering Southwestern feel. For an homage to author Jane Austen, it can also be spelled with an "e." While usually this name stands on its own, "Ozzie" or "Ozzy" could be a cute nickname for a baby Austin, with rock 'n' roll connotations thanks to heavy metal frontman Ozzy Osbourne.

2) Bronx - Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz chose the name of this New York borough for their son. The unusual name has a rough-and-tumble ring to it, like fellow monosyllabic boys' names Brock, Colt, and Cash.

3) Carson - The name of cities in Nevada, California, and Michigan, Carson is well represented on the U.S. map. It has been the name of prominent personalities from MTV host Carson Daly to Downton Abbey butler Charles Carson. With associations from contemporary to classic, this name can be whatever you want it to be.

4) Caspian - The dramatic, romantic name of the largest enclosed body of water on Earth, Caspian has a strong literary legacy as the name of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia hero, Prince Caspian, found in the book of the same name. A more casual, wearable nickname could be "Cass," but chances are, parents bold enough to choose this name may prefer the full version.

5) Eugene - The name of an artsy, outdoorsy Oregon city, Eugene has been born by a variety of figures, from playwright Eugene O'Neill to the title character of Alexander Pushkin's novel Eugene Onegin. Although it has fallen out of favor in recent years, Eugene can be shortened to the sleeker form "Gene," and its feminine form, Eugenie, has been used for Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter, Princess Eugenie of York.

6) Dayton - An alternative to the more popular unisex name Peyton, this moniker is ripe for parents looking for a unique name to pluck right off the Ohio map.

7) Diego - This name, shared by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and Star Wars: Rogue One actor Diego Luna, calls to mind California's San Diego, home to the gorgeous Balboa Park, along with one of the best zoos in the country. A Spanish variation of James, Diego is hardly a trendy newcomer, having history that is centuries long.

8) Francisco - A name shared by San Francisco, California and tortured Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, Francisco has gained popularity in the U.S. in recent years. It could be a great choice for parents looking for a name with deep cultural roots and Iberian flair. The one unfortunate drawback is the name's association with fascist dictator Francisco Franco of Spain.

9) Israel - In the Bible, this name, meaning "he who struggles with God," was given to Jacob after he wrestled with an angel. Although the name has significance for all Abrahamic religions, it has been most popular with Jewish parents since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. The spelling "Yisrael" is a common Hebrew alternative.

10) Kent - The name of a county in Southeast England, Kent is short, to the point, and rather noble-sounding, due to associations with Superman's alter ego Clark Kent and King Lear's honest servant, the Earl of Kent.

11) Kingston - Meaning "king's town," this name borne by cities in Jamaica and Ontario was chosen by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale as the name of their firstborn son. The alternative "Kingsley" also has a geographical meaning, "king's meadow" and was used for Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt in the Harry Potter series. Both Kingston and Kingsley can be shortened to the simple nickname "King," although such a name could easily go to a kid's head.

12) Orlando - An Italian variation on the medieval-sounding Roland, this ostentatious name has an ostentatious meaning: "famous throughout the land." It has been used in literature ranging from Shakespeare's As You Like It to Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. The most famous contemporary bearer of the name is probably Orlando Bloom, who appeared as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings movies and Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

13) Phoenix - It doesn't get much more hip and dramatic than this name representing both the capitol of Arizona and the immortal bird that repeatedly dies in a burst of flame, only to rise again from the ashes. A symbol of new beginnings, second chances, resilience, and immortality, this name is probably most familiar as the surname of actors River and Joaquin Phoenix. However, it has also been chosen as a first name for the children of celebrities ranging from Jillian Michaels to Nick Lachey to the Spice Girls' Mel B.

14) Trenton - Although the capitol of New Jersey may not be a particularly exotic location, this place name has been a popular first name for decades. It has a certain preppy vibe and can be shortened to the also popular "Trent."

15) Washington - Although not commonly used for babies, the name of the first American president, the U.S. capital, and a Pacific Northwestern state is familiar as a given name because of famous bearers like author Washington Irving and scientist George Washington Carver. Fans of the cult sci-fi series Firefly may even enjoy nicknaming little Washington the short and simple "Wash."


From Chandler to Sydney: 12 Unisex Place Names


1) Chandler - Although the best-known Chandler in recent years is, of course, Friends' Chandler Bing, this Arizona city name has been picking up some steam recently as a name for girls.

2) Dallas - Both a large Texas city and a popular 80's soap opera, Dallas has been a semi-popular boys' name with serious cowboy connotations for decades. More recently, it's seen use as a girls' name as well. It is the first name of Demi Lovato's older sister Dallas Lovato and the middle name of Ron Howard's daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard. A more feminine spin on the name is the less common, less Texan "Dalise."

3) Dakota - A Sioux name used in almost equal numbers among boys and girls, Dakota means "friendly one" and has a bit of a Western spin. The most famous bearer of the name is I Am Sam actress Dakota Fanning.

4) Denver - This seemingly trendy place name actually reached its peak in the 1920's. but it reentered the top 1000 boys' names in 2015. Well-known Denvers include Denver Pyle, who played Uncle Jesse in The Dukes of Hazzard, musician John Denver, and Sethe's daughter Denver in Toni Morrison's Beloved.

5) Indiana - A name charged with adventure, courtesy of Indiana Jones, the classic hero played by Harrison Ford. "Indy" or "Indie" could make a cute nickname for either a male or a female Indiana.

6) Lincoln - More than just the capital of Nebraska, this name calls to mind the memory of the American president who saved the Union and signed the Emancipation Proclamation. As such, Lincoln is a strong, honest name that conveys integrity. Fans of the Zelda video games or the musical Hairspray may even choose to use the nickname "Link" for their baby Lincolns.

7) London - Few cities have inspired the kind of praise that the U.K.'s cosmopolitan capital has received throughout the centuries. Samuel Johnson famously summed it up by writing, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." A more grounded alternative to the airy, romantic Paris, London has been used as a name for boys and girls since the mid-90's. Most notably, Carson Daly has a daughter named London Rose, and Disney's The Suite Life of Zach and Cody featured a parody of Paris Hilton named London Tipton.

8) Memphis - A Greek name meaning "enduring and beautiful," Memphis is the name of both an ancient Egyptian city and a Tennessee city steeped in blues and rock 'n' roll heritage. While the name is still more popular for boys, it has also gained popularity among girls in recent years. Memphis is the name of one of the penguins in Happy Feet, as well as one of Bono's daughters.

9) Raleigh - The name of a city in North Carolina as well as Elizabethan explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, Raleigh has a soft and pleasant sound that works equally well for boys and girls. Although still uncommon, it has been featured as a first name in the movies Pacific Rim and The Royal Tenenbaums.

10) Salem - Unfortunately, this Biblical place name meaning "peace" is most prominently associated with the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in the Massachusetts town of the same name in 1692. It is also the capital city of Oregon and was featured as the name of a snarky 500 year old witch sentenced to spend a century as a cat in the Archie comics series and TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

11) Shiloh - The name of a Biblical city and a Jolie-Pitt child, Shiloh is both ancient and trendy, with religious and secular appeal. Although the name means "peaceful," Shiloh was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. A bundle of contradictions, this unisex place name has something for everyone.

12) Sydney - The name of Austalia's most populous city, Sydney has been a popular name for both men and women for several decades. Prominent female Sydneys include Alias protagonist Sydney Bristow and Scream survivor Sidney Prescott. On the male side of things, it is the first name of the Tale of Two Cities hero Sydney Carton and respected actor Sir Sidney Poitier-- who incidentally named his own daughter Sydney Poitier.



If you enjoy lists like these, please let me know in the comments what kinds of names you would like to see featured next!


Bella on October 30, 2018:

Arizona is the best place name! It can be used for a boy or girl.

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