Foreign names

75 Foreign Names with Interesting Meanings

When I was in school, it seemed that all my friends were named Brian or Jennifer. Those are fine names, of course, but some of us are interested in names that are a bit more unusual, a bit more… well, cool.

And as a language learner, you’re interested in foreign names from around the world because you know that they carry sounds, history and culture that’s much deeper than just the name itself.

So, here my list of 75 cool foreign names from all over the world, from Hawaii to Hungary and from Italy to India.


Chinese Names

1. Ai  (f)

Short and sweet. The meaning of this name changes depending on the accent. When spelled ài, the name means “love, affection.” However, ǎi means “friendly.” All around, it’s a pleasant name no matter how you say it.

2. Tao (m)

The Chinese don’t need too many syllables or characters for a name to make a huge splash. Brief, yet bold, Tao translates to “large waves.”

3. Liwei  (f)

Meaning “beautiful rose” in Chinese, Liwei combines the characters for “beautiful” (li) and “rose” (wei) to create a lovely name that conjures up one of the world’s most beloved flowers. 

4. Ziyi (f)

This names means “purple rain” or “purple sky, which is associated with beauty. Plus there’s that famous Prince song!

5. Jiayi (f or m)

This unisex name means “excellent” in Chinese, which is something most parents desire their children to be. Jiayi carries a air of accomplishment, so many parents choose this name to get their child started on the right path.

French Names

6. Apolline (f)

Who says only boys can be named after the son of Zeus? Certainly not the French. They’ve taken the god of music’s name and given it a feminine and melodic twist. Move over Apollo. Girls rule.

7. Rapier (m)

This name is about as badass as it gets. Rapier is the term used for slim, pointy swords. Ladies with “bad-boy” fever will be swooning for sure.

8. Amélie (f)

This vowel rich name means “hardworking.” Plus, there’s the the well known movie that forever cemented this as an essential French name.

9. Gaspard (m)

Derived from the Persian name Caspar, Gaspard means “treasurer” or “wealthy one.” It was also the name of one of the Biblical Magi.

10. Capucine (f)

This lovely sounding name is derived from the French word for “nasturtium,” a type of pretty orange flower. 

11. Thibault (m)

Coming from neighboring Germany, Theobald, meaning “brave people.” It’s a name that conjures power, which a lot of parents wish for their sons.

German Names

12. Liesl (f)

Liesl has been cool since the Von Trapps sang their way into America’s hearts all those years ago. It almost sounds like the name Lisa, but that extra “sl” sound at the end gives it a fun twist that we don’t get to hear often in names that have more Anglo-Saxon based origins.

13. Peppi (m)

When you say this out loud doesn’t it just make you want to skip? Or, dare I say, make you want to add some pep to your step?

14. Anselm (m)

This fancy sounding Germanic name means “divine protection” or “god’s helmet.” 

15. Greta (f)

Derived from the old German name Margarethe, I think Greta is a name with a cool vintage charm.

16. Falco (m)

When you think of a falcon, you think strong, right? This name, which is “falcon” in German, will supposedly give your son speed, agility and keen perception—just like the bird of prey.

Greek Names

17. Cathenna (f)

Pronunciation: Cath-EN-na

This strong, bold, beautiful name is a variant of the name Athena. If you’re unsure of who Athena is, she just so happens to be the strong, bold and beautiful goddess of wisdom and war in Greek mythology.

18. Hrisovalantis (m)

Pronunciation: Hri-soh-vuh-LAN-tis

I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Gosh, this name sounds a lot like the name Chris.” Well, you’re on the right track. That’s because, in English, that’s exactly what this name translates to. Upon first glance it looks impossible to pronounce, but it’s phonetic, so it’s a lot easier than it looks.

19. Calliope (f)

Pronunciation: kuh-LI-oh-pee

Derived from Greek mythology, this means “beautiful voice.” In classic Greek mythology, Calliope was the muse of poetry and eloquence, so it’s carries a powerful history with it.

20. Leonidas (m)

Pronunciation: lee-uh-NI-dus

Meaning “lion-like” in Greek, Leonidas is a name that will give your son confidence—at least we hope so!

21. Elysia (f)

Pronunciation: eh-LEE-see-a

Derived from the Greek word “Elysium,” this name means paradise. It’s also very pretty, with three vowels and that enticing Y.

22. Evander (m)

Pronunciation: eh-VAN-der

Evander means “good man” and he was also a legendary hero in Greek mythology. I mean, who wouldn’t want to name their son this strong name?

Hawaiian Names

23. Malia (f)

Pronunciation: Muh-LI-yuh

It should be of no surprise that Barack Obama gifted his daughter with a name from his home state. It’s a sweet variant of the name Mary.

24. Ahe (m)

Pronunciation: Ah-HEH

The only onomatopoeic name on the list. Ahe nearly sounds like what it means, which is “soft breeze.”

25. Kai (m or f)

Pronunciation: KAI

This cute and simple unisex name means “sea” in Hawaiian. Bring a little aloha spirit to your child with this name, which also happens to be very popular in Germany!

Hungarian Names

26. Katoka (f)

Pronunciation: Ka-TO-ka

Just as its meaning is “pure,” the name Katoka is also a pure delight to say. It easily rolls off the tongue, but also has a warrior princess feel to it.

27. Arpad (m)

Pronunciation: AHR-pad

Speaking of warriors, if someone were to tell me that an Arpad is leading a charge against my enemies, I’d feel like I were in safe hands. It’s just as well, Arpad is also the name of a 9th-century Hungarian war hero.

28. Szabolcs (m)

Pronunciation: suh-BOHLCH

This very traditional Hungarian name means “freedom,” but use caution with this one outside of Hungary because your child will be spelling his name out for the rest of his life.

29. Csilla (f)

Pronunciation: CHEEL-a

A name meaning “star” in Hungarian, Csilla is very popular today, but again, watch the spelling, because people outside of Hungary are likely to get it wrong.

Dutch Names

30. Roosmarijn (f)

Pronunciation: RO-ze- ma-rin

Roosmarijn is vintage cool, and who doesn’t love the taste of fresh rosemary?

31. Storm (m)

Pronunciation: sto-RUM

Storm is exactly what it sounds like in English—those powerful natural phenomenon that light up our skies with lightning.

32. Fenna (f)

Pronunciation: FIN-a

Fenna is a modern and fashionable name derived from the old Germanic name “Fenja” or “Fengja.” It’s gotten really popular in recent years because it sounds so simple, cool and stylish.

33. Mees (m)

Pronunciation: mays

Mees is a nickname for Bartholomeus, and it’s also the name of the “great tit” bird. In Dutch, this one-syllable name oozes coolness.

Portuguese Names

34. Belmiro (m)

Belmiro is a name with a Germanic origin. It is derived from “bili” meaning “peace” and “mar” meaning “famous.” Who wouldn’t want to name their son with these two excellent qualities?

35. Eulália (f)

Eulália comes into Portuguese from Greek origins, from a root word meaning “well spoken.”

36. Gualter (m)

Gualter, the Portuguese equivalent of the name “Walter,” comes into Portugal from Germanic origins. Because the Germans were thought of as strong and honorable, the name still carries these qualities today.

37. Inês (f)

Inês is classic old school Portuguese, but what’s old is new again. The name is cool once again, with babies and with grannies!

Russian Names

38. Anastasia (f)

Anastasia is classic Russian name that comes from the Greek word “anastasis,” meaning “resurrection.” The most famous Anastasia was probably the daughter of Tsar Nicolas, who met an untimely death in 1918, or did she?

39. Dmitri (m)

Dmitri means “devoted to Demeter,” the Greek goddess of agriculture. Farming has a long history in Russia, so there are quite a few Dmitris, though outside of Russia, the name is still somewhat exotic.

40. Natalia (f)

Natalia is from the Latin word “natalis,” meaning “Christmas, so it’s a name that conjures up a warm and cozy time of the year, and it’s perfect for December babies.

Indian Names

41. Bhavika (f)

Indian names always have the coolest sounds, and this one is no different. Who wouldn’t want to introduce her to every passerby just for the sheer pleasure of getting to say her name over and over again?

42. Dev (m)

Dev oozes cool. While we may typically think of Indian names as being longer, this one is short and hip. And if it looks familiar to you, that’s because it belongs to a popular actor of the same name. Ever heard of “Slumdog Millionaire”?

43. Arjun (m)

A popular Indian name derived from mythology like many Indian names, Arjun has been made famous by Indian cricketer Arjun Tendulkar.

44. Aanya (f)

Meaning “grace” or “favored” in Sanskrit, Aanya sounds similar to the Russian name “Anya,” which many around the world love.

Israeli Names

45. Elanie (f)

Pronunciation: Eh-LAN-ee

For a name that means oak tree, it’s one of the lighter sounding names on this list. Elanie is rooted (sorry, had to) in strength and fortitude. It’s an airy feminine name with the strength of a forest to back it up.

46. Moshe (m)

Pronunciation: MOH-sheh

You might not recognize this name in its Hebrew form, but you’re probably familiar with the guy attached to it. He did this whole thing with the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, and saved a whole race of people. Some would say that he’s kind of a big deal.

Italian Names

47. Marielia (f)

Like the Italian language itself, this name is very melodic. It’s a combination of both a female and a male name: Maria and Elia (Mary and Elijah). What’s not to love?

48. Drago (m)

If the French Rapier is as close to tough as a name can get, Drago goes even further still. It means “dragon.” Enough said. With a name like this, any little boy can conquer the world.

49. Renzo (m)

 A short form of Lorenzo, Renzo just sounds cool coming off the tongue. It’s just a stylish name, made famous by architect Renzo Piano, who designed the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Shard in London.

50. Ludovica (f)

This name has Germanic origins and means “famous warrior” so if you want your daughter to be strong, perhaps select Ludovica. Plus there are several nickname options: Luda, Vica and Dova.

Japanese Names

51. Chiyo (f)

In Japanese it means “a thousand generations,” which is both haunting and beautiful. It also might ring a bell for many, as it’s the name of the protagonist in the popular book and movie “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

52. Fumio (m)

Doesn’t it have a bit of an Italian ring to it? Did you just imagine pasta and wine? The name is actually quite Japanese. It belonged to several notable people in Japan such as writers, musicians, politicians, artists and athletes.

53. Haruki (f or m)

This name can be given to both boys and girls and means “shining sun.” Japan’s most famous Haruki is novelist and writer Haruki Murakami.

54. Sakura (f)

Probably one of the most famous Japanese words, Sakura is the word for the blooming of the cherry trees each spring in Japan.

Middle Eastern Names

55. Zahra (f)

Pronunciation: ZAH-ra

This name is appealing to many native English speakers, perhaps because it’s both simple and exotic. I’ve come across several people who’ve mentioned their admiration of the name Zahra. It has two meanings. In Arabic it means “white” and in Egyptian it means “flower.”

56. Driss (m)

Pronunciation: Driss

The name alone evokes the image of a dude on a motorcycle, wearing aviator sunglasses and smoking a cigarette. Ironically though, Driss comes from the Arabic verb darassa which means “to study.” But studying is cool too, right? Yeah, you know what, scratch the irony. Let’s go with studying is cool.

Nigerian Names

57. Uchenna (f)

Pronunciation: Oo-CHEN-a

This euphonic bit of Nigerian goodness is perfect for the modern monotheist. It means “god’s will.” She’s got some big shoes to fill, but at least she’s got a great name she can flaunt while filling them.

58. Ajulo (m)

Pronunciation: Ah-JOO-loh

Most of us probably would not want to be labeled by our birth order, unless that label was Ajulo. The name means “second born,” and the Ajulos of the world surely revel in it because of the awesome name that comes with it.

British Isles Names

59. Ailsa (f)

Ailsa Craig is a tiny island off the coast of Scotland. The name Ailsa means “Island of Alfisigr.” Alfsigr means “elf victory,” so really, the name is quite enchanted on all fronts.

60. Coinneach (m)

With a name that means “handsome” and sounds like the name of a popular brandy, this Scottish moniker screams masculinity.

61. Radha (f)

In the English language we’re all for the silent consonant. This is next level though. These letters don’t correspond to the sounds that we’re familiar with. All the fun in Irish names lies in getting the pronunciation down—which tends to be quite simple in the end.

62. Seamus (m)

Did your hearts skip a beat, Harry Potter fans? You’re welcome. There will always be great affection for the beloved, Gryffindor, Seamus. So go ahead, flutter away hearts, flutter away.

63. Cillian (m)

Coming from the traditional Irish name Cillín, Cillian means “war,” but don’t tell that to Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who doesn’t believe in war at all.

64. Imogen (f)

This name has Celtic origins and means “beloved child.” Musician Imogen Heap and actress Imogen Poots have both made this name popular.

Spanish Names

65. Adelina (f)

Spanish names tend to always have a melodic sound that rolls off the tongue. This one is no different. It’s both sweet and grandiose, two traits anyone would want in a name.

66. Lucero (m)

Latinos and Hispanics love light. For example, in Spanish when you say “to give birth,” you say dar a luz which literally means “to give light.” Also, Luz is a very popular name for girls in Spanish-speaking countries. So, there was no way the boys were being left out of this light show. Lucero is sure to shine with a name meaning “bright light” or “bright star.”

67. Alba (f)

Alba means “white” in Latin, so the name brings up feelings of purity and lightness—always good qualities in a name.

68. Gael (m)

 Originally of Gaelic origin, Gael has gained popularity in Spanish-speaking countries. Mexican actor Gael García-Bernal is probably the most famous Gael, known for being in the films “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “Amores perros.

69. Azul (f)

Meaning “blue” in Spanish, Azul is a pretty name that conjures wonderful feelings like calmness and tranquility.

Vietnamese Names

70. Tuyet-Hanh (f)

Pronunciation: DWIT-hahn

Here’s another combo name. Tuyet means “snow” or “snow white” and Hanh means “apricot tree” (lucky it’s not an apple tree!). Lame joke aside, you’ll find that this exotic name is quite fun to say, and you’ll be wishing that you had a friend named Tuyet-Hanh so you could shout her name incessantly, like I do with my own Tuyet.

71. Vinh (m)

Pronunciation: Vin

Who doesn’t love a Vinny? Anytime Americans hear the name Vin or Vinny, we’re thinking of the actor Vin Diesel or a slick-talking Brooklynite. It’s unlikely that they make the same associations in Vietnam, but that doesn’t make the name any less exquisite.

Scandinavian Names

72. Freja (f)

A popular name for girls derived from Norse mythology, this name is associated with the goddess Freya, who represents fertility.

73. Odin (m)

Derived from Norse mythology, Odin is the top god in Norse religion, so it’s a great choice for a name.

74. Astrid (f)

This name means “beautiful goddess.” It gained popularity due to Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author of Pippi Longstocking.

75. Leif (m)

A classic Scandi name with Old Norse origins, Leif means “heir” and is often associated with the well known Norse explorer Leif Erikson, who may have “discovered” North America before Columbus or anyone else.


So, maybe you’ve heard some of these names before, and maybe they’re all brand new. Either way, your world has expanded and it can keep expanding.

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