Alternative Spellings To Put A Twist On Classic Names

Let's not beat around the bush. Naming a baby is hard. Not only is there a seemingly endless list of names to choose from — especially in an increasingly connected world in which people are inspired by names from other languages and cultures — but there's a lot of pressure to pick a name your kid will like. Choose a name that's too old-fashioned or obscure, and they may get made fun of by their peers. Then again, selecting something too trendy also has its drawbacks — anyone who has had to go by their first name and the initial of their last name in school because multiple people in the class shared their moniker know this all too well. 


While people of days gone by might have been content to give their kids classic names and not balk, psychology professor Jean Twenge told the BBC that the modern era is all about standing out. "As American culture has become more individualistic, parents have favored giving children names that help them stand out – and that means more unique names and fewer common names," said Twenge.

Of course, no magic spell will pop out the perfect baby name, but one effective method of striking a balance between the new and the old is to pick out a classic name but change up the spelling just enough to make it feel fresh. While this doesn't guarantee your baby's name will be one-of-a-kind, it might just be the baby naming solution you're looking for.



We might love the name Olivia, but so do a lot of parents all over the globe. Per Behind the Name, the name Olivia ranks high on baby charts in more than two dozen countries, including Australia, Canada, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, and the United States., where it has been in the top 10 baby names for girls since 2001. It's easy to see why, especially with celebs like Olivia Wilde, Olivia Colman, and the late Olivia Newton-John dominating pop culture. 


What's an Olivia-loving parent to do? Consider Alivia, an ever-so-slightly different variation of Olivia that sounds the same but looks quite different. It might only be one letter off of the original, but Behind the Name users think that the name Alivia feels "modern" and "refined." It also lends itself to some cute nicknames that don't work for the "o" version of the name, such as "Al" and "Allie."


The name James is one of the most popular names in history. According to data gathered by the Social Security Administration, it was the most popular name given to boys in the U.S. from 1922 to 2021. While it wasn't the most popular every year, it never fell out of the top 20 over the course of the century and was given to 4.6 million babies in that time period.


While the classic name is in no danger of becoming old-fashioned, some parents might see it as a little too widely used. According to Behind the Name, its roots are centuries deep and can be traced back to the Biblical name Iacobus, with the "modern" form having been in use since the 13th century.

Jaymes, on the other hand, feels much fresher. While it made a brief appearance on baby name charts in the 1980s, this spelling variation has never really caught on. The addition of the "y" breathes fresh life into the name and allows it to be divided in half, with the first part — Jay — making an adorable nickname.


Nameberry CEO Pamela Redmond told the Daily Mail that "Z names are cool for Gen-Z," and we couldn't agree more; something about the letter "z" just feels fresh and current. The similarity in sound between the letter "z" and the letter "s" means that they can often be swapped out for each other, such as with Isabel/Izabel or Jasmine/Jazmine.


One "z" variation we absolutely love is Zofia, a spelling variation that helps differentiate it from the far more common Sofia, which is a top-ranked name for baby girls in more than two dozen countries, per Behind the Name. The name is beloved in such countries as Australia, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and Scotland. While also wildly popular in the United States, it's outranked Stateside by the even more widely used Sophia.

Spelled with a "z," however, and the name stands out a bit more — although perhaps not in Poland, where this spelling variation originates. While unranked in the U.S. in Poland, Zofia has been one of the most popular names for baby girls in the 21st century.


Another spelling alternative to a classic name with an unexpected "z" is Vinzent. We're used to seeing this traditional name spelled with a "c," and this variation has been borne by many famous figures such as Vincent van Gogh and Saint Vincent de Paul, per Behind the Name. Dating back to the Middle Ages, this name's deep roots mean that it is beloved but is also due for a more modern twist.


While Vinzent isn't a new spelling, the comparative rarity of this German variant feels fresh outside of Europe. As noted by Nameberry, the name Vincent isn't only an old one but is also packed with a powerful meaning; it comes from the Latin word for "conquering," so this would be a good baby name choice for parents to instill a fighting spirit in their little one. Plus, something about that "z" smack in the middle of the name just looks really cool.


While there are many ways to spell this traditional name, Elizabeth is the most common. Its enduring popularity might have something to do with British queens Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. The name is so beloved that it even gained traction as a name for boys in the United States in the late 19th century, even appearing on baby name charts (albeit barely ranking in the top 1000) as late as 1989, per Behind the Name.


The name Elizabeth has Biblical roots and comes from the Hebrew name Elisheva, which means "my God is an oath." Popular variations include Isabella and Elisabeth, and there are a lot of diminutives of the moniker that have become given names in their own right, such as Lillian, Betty, Elisa, and Lilibet — famously the name of the daughter of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who named her after Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

With so many iterations of this popular name and centuries of staying power, it might seem like any possible variation has been tried already. But Elyzabeth is an alternative spelling that hasn't become widespread yet, making it a modern and unique take on this classic name.



Felix is a fine name, but it is one that has been used quite a lot. Per Behind the Name, its use dates back to the Middle Ages and is rooted in Latin, meaning "lucky" or "successful." Popular in many countries, including the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden, Felix gets a lot of circulation, so it's understandable that parents who love the sound of the name might want to give it a slightly different look.


Phelix is a Greek variant of the name that can be found in the Bible. While it sounds exactly the same as Felix, something about the "Ph" makes this incarnation of the moniker feel a little bit softer and rounder. Even though its long history makes it just as much of a classic, the fact that Phelix is used so rarely in the modern era means that it might as well be brand new. Bestowing the name Phelix upon your baby will hopefully help to ensure their own good fortune throughout their life.


Doubling up on vowels is an easy and effective way of changing up a name's spelling without altering it beyond recognition. Finnish names often do this, notes Nameberry, with the language giving us vowel-heavy names such as Eeva, Veera, Joonas, and Leevi that seem familiar yet fresh to American eyes.


One Finnish variation of a classic name that is especially alluring is Aada. While Ada is the more common version of the moniker and finds a place on baby name charts in a handful of countries, including Belgium, Northern Ireland, Italy, England, Wales, New Zealand, and the United States, Aada is quite popular in Finland and also sees use in Estonia. Per Behind the Name, the name Ada comes from the German "adal," which means "noble," and is derived from names with this element like Adelaide and Adelina, giving a deep meaning to this name no matter how it is spelled.


Adding a different vowel to a classic name is another way to shake up its spelling. The name Sage is short and sweet, but throwing in an "i" after the "a" gives it a bit more pizzazz without altering its sound or meaning. It can also help differentiate it from the other meanings of sage — while the original has a lot of character, this spelling is also used for the spice and as a word for a person bearing great wisdom (per Behind the Name). While we're sure your baby will one day be wise, "Sage Sage" looks a bit repetitive as a nickname. "Sage Saige," on the other hand, feels more current and will help your baby stand out from a sea of Sages.


While Sage is seen as a gender-neutral name, Saige is gaining traction as a feminine name. Don't let that stop you, though. According to The Bump, this spelling could be used for your baby regardless of gender. That makes it a smart — or should we say sage? — choice for parents looking for a gender-neutral name.


Maybe your baby is due during the warmest time of year, or perhaps you're a summer lover and want to name your little one after the season. You're far from alone in that desire, though — while Summer only began to gain traction as a baby name in the later 20th century, it has become quite widespread since then, per Behind the Name. This modern classic evokes warmth and sunshine, so it's easy to see why so many parents wanted their little ones to bear it. Even though its use as a given name is more recent than some other classic names, it could still do with a bit of a twist. 


Enter Sommer, a variation of Summer that is also the German form of the term. While the difference between the two name spellings is just one small letter, Sommer offers a vibrant take on the name with a little bit of international flair — perfect for your future summer-loving jetsetter.


Sometimes, making a name shorter is the key to giving it a new spin. While Luke is already short and sweet at just four letters and one syllable, it can be abbreviated to Luk or even Luc, a French and Welsh variation of the name that is as charming as it is brief. The name can be traced back to the Greek name Loukas, notes Behind the Name, and was originally used to describe someone from the historical region of Lucania, located in present-day Southern Italy. The Bump adds that the name means "light" in the Lucanian language of Oscan (which is now extinct, per Britannica) and may be further connected to the Latin word lucendo, which means "a sacred wood grove," making this a good pick for nature lovers and star gazers alike.


The many incarnations of this name, which include Luca, Lucas, and Lucky, have transcended cultures and endured for generations. Although Luc is not a new spelling of Luke, its obscurity in most of the world means that it will feel original to many new parents who are looking for that perfect name for their little one.


While a silent "e" at the end of the word may seem old-fashioned (early modern English is littered with examples such as "crosse," "newe," and "laste"), in some cases, it can make a classic name sound new. Faith is a popular name for girls and has been for centuries, coming into vogue in the 17th century as a virtue name — names reflecting spiritual and moral values, popularly given to babies by Puritans. Per Behind the Name, Faith is popular in many countries and is a favored name for baby girls in the United States.


Adding an "e" to the end of the name gives us Faithe, a far less common variation of this sweet name that has been beloved for so many generations. If you want to remind your little one of the importance of being steadfast and trustworthy, then naming them Faithe is a good way of instilling those values in her while also staying current.


You've heard the nursery rhyme. "Old King Cole was a merry old soulAnd a merry old soul was he;'He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl/And he called for his fiddlers three." The verse dates back centuries, per All Nursery Rhymes, with the first version being published by William King in the early 18th century.


The roots of the name Cole goes even further back, though; legendary Celtic ruler Coel Hen was born in the 4th century, and some believe the rhyme is about him (via According to Behind the Name, it may also come from the name Nicholas and is also a last name. Cole really took off as a baby name in the late 20th century and remains popular for boys across the English-speaking world today. Swap out the "c" for a "k" and the name gets a burst of modernity that takes it into the 21st century.


The letter "y" is a strange one. While it is often considered a consonant, the letter can also be used as a vowel. In fact, according to Merriam-Webster, it sees more use as the latter. Swapping the versatile letter out for another vowel in a name is a good way of updating a moniker. Take, for example, the name Jordan. Per Nameberry, the name ultimately comes to us from Hebrew and means "flowing down." While you could change out the "a" in the second syllable for any number of vowels, something about "Jordyn" seems far more modern than "Jordin" or even "Jorden."


While the name Jordyn is more popularly used for baby girls, this classic staple has seen use for boys, too, notes Behind the Name, making this a solid gender-neutral choice for parents looking for something that is simultaneously classic-sounding but also a little out of the box.


Clocking in at just two syllables and four letters, Alis might be a short name, but its history is long (via Behind the Name). Alis is the Welsh version of the more widely used Alice; the name comes to us from the Old French name Aalis, which in turn is derived from the Old German name Adalheidis. Alice has been used for centuries, gaining widespread popularity in France and England in the 12th century — that's nearly a thousand years of being a classic moniker. 


Maybe you're a fan of the Lewis Carrol book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" or the animated Disney film based on it. Perhaps you're an avid reader of Alice Walker's novels or an aficionado of Alice Cooper's music. Whatever your reason for liking the name, it's clear that there are already a lot of Alices in the world, but not many bearing the Welsh iteration of this classic moniker. With the alternative spelling of Alis, you get all of the historical and artistic connections of the name Alice with a fresh twist. What could be better?