Spices and herbs have long been a go-to source for baby names in the U.S. Rosemary has been in the top 1,000 every year from 1900 to the present. Ginger had its heyday from 1933-1989. Sage has been in the top 1,000 since 1993. Basil was a top 1,000 boys’ name from 1900 to 1971. And newcomers Juniper (2011-present) and Poppy (2016-present) prove that spices and herbs continue to inspire great baby names. So, for all you culinary geniuses and nature-loving hippies out there, check out these spices and herbs to find the right name for the budding little one who will soon add flavor to your life.
My Top Ten Picks
Native to the Middle East and parts of Europe, this aromatic plant is used for a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes (Pistacia terebinthus). Because Terebinth (pronounced Ter-uh-binth) is a pink, flowering tree, some might assume this name would only fit girls. However, based on the sound of this name alone, I think Terebinth would be a very cool name for a girl or boy. Also, I put zero stock in pink stuff for girls and blue stuff for boys; in fact, pink used to be associated with boys and blue with girls (When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?). But I digress. Terebinth could also work well as a name for Christians who want a unique Biblical name or Muslims who want a unique Quranic name, as the terebinth tree is mentioned many times in versions of each of these sacred texts. Possible nicknames: Tara / Tarah, Terre / Terra, Ereb, Rebi, Ebbie / Ebby, or Ebin.
Zeera (pronounced Zir-uh) is one of many variations of the Hindi word for cumin (Indian Spices – Cumin). I love cumin because it is a versatile spice featured in various cuisines, most notably Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Latin American (How is Cumin Used as a Spice?). But while Cumin (in my humble opinion) would make a terrible baby name, Zeera (or its other spelling, Zira) is a beautiful name for a baby girl. I also think Zee would be a really cute nickname.
The Italian word for basil, the name Basilico (pronounced Buh-zil-ih-co or, Americanized, Buh-sil-ih-co) has a lovely, almost musical quality. This name would also work especially well for Catholic parents, given how similar this name sounds to the word basilica. Since a basilica is “a large and important Catholic church that has been given special ceremonial rights by the Pope,” (Basilica), naming your baby boy Basilico could be very auspicious if you hope that your child will be particularly pious when he grows up. Nicknames include Baz, Basil, Azul, Asil, and Ico.
Despite its alias white turmeric, the spice zedoary actually tastes most similar to ginger (White Turmeric / Zedoary). That comparison makes me really want to get my hands on and cook with some zedoary, since fresh ginger is hands-down one of the best smelling, most delicious spices ever. Zedoary (pronounced either Zeh-do-airy or Zeh-door-ee) is a great gender-neutral name option, and I really like Zed as a boys’ nickname and Doary / Dory as a girls’ nickname.
According to The Spruce Eats, Elaichi (pronounced E-lay-ih-chee) is “the Indian name for black cardamom.” Elaichi would therefore be a very flattering baby girls’ name, since cardamom is a precious and expensive spice that elevates any meal it is part of. Likewise, your precious baby girl Elaichi will no doubt bring joy to your every moment. And, as a Star Wars fan, I think Leia would be a terrific nickname.
In the Urdu language (of Pakistan), darchini is the word for cinnamon. I adore cinnamon! When I was a kid, my mom used to give us cinnamon rolls every Christmas Day, so right there that gives me the warm and fuzzies. My sister-in-law Carrie also makes homemade cinnamon buns that are TO DIE FOR (or maybe to kill for is more accurate, since anyone who has already tasted these gooey, cinnamon-filled confections would definitely shank a guy to get some more). And cinnamon is of course prevalent in all of the best autumn foods and beverages, my top favorites being apple cider and pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, Cinnamon is not a great baby girls’ name choice (unless, of course, you want your child to become a stripper); but Darchini (pronounced Dar-chee-nee) is a unique boys name that does not have a similar career-related stigma. (All seriousness, though, I’ve got nothing against strippers; Americans can be so prude sometimes, geesh!)
Korarima (pronounced Core-uh-reem-a or Cur-rawr-ih-muh ) is also known as Ethiopian cardamom and is one of the many fragrant spices used in the spice blend berbere (Cardamom korarima). If you’ve never used berbere before and are interested to try it, let me know, and I’ll send you a delicious, simple recipe for berbere lentils (aka yemisir wot) that my husband and I love. The strong, smoky, warm taste of korarima definitely comes through to me whenever I taste berbere, so I think Korarima would be a great girls’ name for parents who are hoping for a bold but loving little lady. Possible nicknames: Kora, Ora, Ori, Ari, and Arima.
Saffron (pronounced Sah-fron) is an extremely delicious but ridiculously expensive spice that I’ve encountered in some of the most delicious Indian dishes I’ve ever had (and that’s a lot of dishes, since Indian food is my favorite type of cuisine). Based on how dear this spice is (monetarily), Saffron would be a good name to highlight just how precious your baby is to you. However, if you do name your little girl Saffron, be prepared for people to constantly tell you that they are “just mad about” her, and then you’ll have to live with the fact that you’re never going to get the tune to “Mellow Yellow” out of your head. “…they call me mellow…”—dammit! See what I mean?
According to The Epicentre, “cassia is an aromatic bark, similar to cinnamon, but differing in strength and quality.” I’ve always loved pretty much any girls’ name that starts with Cass—Cassidy, Cassandra, Cassie, etc. And I find Cassia (Cass-ee-uh) to be an even more beautiful, slightly less common version of those more mainstream names, so that’s why this spice name is in my top 10. I love Cass as a nickname, though Sia / Cia (pronounced See-uh) is also very pretty.
This pepper is named for the region in which it is grown in French Guiana (Cayenne Pepper). Cayenne pepper is not for the faint of heart, as just a pinch of this spice can instantly take a dish from mild to tongue-burning. So, for those parents hoping for a fiery female child, Cayenne fits the bill. Also, Cheyenne is one of my favorite baby girl names, but—alas!—that name has been in the U.S. top 1,000 since 1980. Cayenne is a unique alternative. Possible nicknames: Kai, Cay / Kay, Ann / Anne, or Enne / Ennie.
More Gender-Neutral Names
More Girls’ Names
More Boys’ Names
Comment below which of these spices would make your top 10!
Photo credit: THOR