28 baby names that bridge cultures: Arya to Zahara

Some baby names, such as Samira and Idris, have meaningful roots in more than one language.

cross cultural baby names

As more and more of us travel the world and meet people from vastly different backgrounds, we are increasingly on the search for multicultural names. Many people try to find names that work in both cultures and languages in terms of pronunciation and spelling, but have you ever considered using a name that genuinely has roots in two (or more) languages?

Some baby names, due to glorious serendipity and the finite ways that humans can put sounds together, have distinct origins in two cultures.

Here are 28 cross-cultural baby names that are growing in popularity now:

1. Anima—Anima is a name that could work in so many languages, blessed as it is with easy spelling and pronunciation. It works equally well in the East and in the West, as its roots can either come from Latin, where it means “soul," or from Sanskrit, where it means “minute, tiny."

2. Anita—This one may surprise many of you. Anita is probably most familiar as the diminutive form of Anna, but did you know that Anita is also a Sanskrit name meaning unguided?

3. Arya—Arya is becoming increasingly common in the West, as a variation of Aria and, most recently, as a nod to Game of Thrones. However, Arya is also a unisex name in India meaning “noble".

4. Asa—In English-speaking countries, Asa is best known as a biblical name stemming from the King of Judah. In this Hebrew context the name means “healer". However, Asa is also a Japanese name with an equally pleasant meaning: “born in the morning". While they do have slightly different pronunciations (AY-sa vs AH-sa), this is one cross-cultural name that could really work in an increasingly global world.

5. Asha—Another Game of Thrones name, Asha claims two distinct heritages: In India, it is a feminine name derived from the Sanskrit word for “wish" or “desire". In Africa, Asha is a Swahili name derived from the Arabic name Aisha meaning “life"

6. Azami—This name is ancient in both the Persian and Japanese cultures, yet feels fresh and modern. The Persian meaning “thistle flower" and the Japanese meaning “greatest" make this a fabulous choice for the globetrotting family raising a plucky daughter.

7. Basia—In both the Polish and Hebrew languages, Basia is pronounced “Basha" and is a diminutive of another name – Barbara and Batya respectively.

8. Baz—Baz has come into prominence since the fame of Australian director Baz Luhrmann introduced us to it (which is ironic given that he wasn't born with the name!). In English-speaking countries Baz can be short for Sebastian, Basil or Barry; however in Kurdish communities, the name Baz means falcon.

9. Caris—Caris is often used as a variation of the Welsh name Carys, meaning “love"; but it is also a name that is derived from the Greek word Charis meaning “grace" or “kindness" (the same root word as Charity or Carita). Either way, this name has a beautiful meaning.

10. Duska—Like so many of these names, Duska has two equally lovely meanings. Occasionally seen as a feminisation of the English word dusk, Duska is also a Croatian name meaning “soul" or “spirit". If claiming the Croatian heritage, the pronunciation is “doosh-ka".

11. Evander—Boxer Evander Holyfield brought this name to wider attention, which is appropriate given the meanings that can be attributed to this name. The Greek name Evander means “strong man", while the Scottish name derives from the Norse term for “bow warrior". Evander feels modern despite these two ancient roots and would work well among the 21st century's Xanders and Evans.

12. Haris—Occasionally used as a variation of the English name Harris, Haris with one r is also a Bosnian name meaning “cultivator". Harrison is still a popular name in the West, but the time might come when Haris, its multicultural cousin, might start getting a look in.

13. Idris—Thanks to charismatic and talented Idris Elba, Idris is probably one of the most famous dual citizens on this list. As an Arabic name, Idris means “to study" and is the name of one of the Koranic prophets. As a Welsh name, Idris means “lord". Both roots are powerful and positive, making this a great choice for a cosmopolitan child.

14. Kala—In the Tamil culture, the name Kala means “virtue", but over in the Pacific, Kala is the Hawaiian variation of Sarah, a name that means “princess". Kala has strength as an international name beyond these roots as a name that is easily pronounced in most languages.

15. Kamal—In both the Hindi and Arabic cultures, Kamal is a masculine name that stems from quintessential cultural symbols. In Hindi, as the masculine version of the name Kamala, Kamal evokes the lotus flower; in Arabic, as one of the ninety-nine qualities of Allah, Kamal is associated with perfection.

16. Ken—Could it be time to reclaim this one from Barbie? Ken is a Japanese name meaning “healthy; strong," while in English is it used as a shortened form of Kenneth, a Gaelic name meaning “born of fire" or “handsome". Ken would work so well for parents looking for something that is powerful and positive in both the East and the West, if we can get past the doll!

17. Kim—Kim has not two but three heritages, making it truly international! In Scandinavia, Kim is often used as a shortened form of Joachim (meaning it is pronounced Keem). In Vietnam, Kim derives from the word for gold and is used as a feminine name. In the West, Kim is used for both boys and girls, often as a standalone name in the case of boys, and as a shortened form of Kimberly for girls. Kim is sometimes seen in Russia as a name used by Soviet die-hards as it is an acronym of the Communist Youth Party. Who'd have thought a Kardashian could be so cultured?

18. Laila—Laila is best known as one of the many spellings of the Arabic name Leila / Layla meaning “night" and in this vein has shot to popularity in the US (currently in the Top 200). However, the Sami people of Finland have long used this name as their version of Helga – a version which is probably more pleasing than the original to most English speakers.

19. Lina—In Latin-based languages, Lina is often used as a diminutive of any of the dozens of feminine names ending in -lina, such as Carolina, Adelina, Selina, Evangelina etc. In Arabic, Lina is a stand-alone name meaning “tender". Over in India, Lina is also a stand-alone name derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “united". A name that works in so many cultures is a bit of a superstar in this age of the global village.

20. Lulu—As a German diminutive of Louisa, Lulu is a cute-as-a-button girls' name that feels modern and spunky. Lulu is also an Arabic name, meaning “pearl", and could be used by anyone fond of a gemstone name.

21. Malik—In Arabic, Malik is a powerful name meaning “king". But less well-known is Malik's Greenlandic roots – there, Malik means “wave". So there you have it – a name that works in the desert and in the snow.

22. Nia—Being short and sweet is almost enough to make any name international – but Nia has roots in both Africa and Wales. In Swahili, Nia means “resolve" or “purpose". In Wales, Nia is used as the local variation of Irish Niamh, and therefore means “bright". Nia has a third claim to multiculturalism in that it is and also has significance as the fifth day of Kwanzaa – an African-American celebration honoring African heritage across the African diaspora.

23. Noor—Dutch parents have long used this traditional diminutive for Nora or Eleonora as a stand alone name – so much so that Noor now has its own diminutive: Noortje. As such Noor is a perennial favorite of the Top 100 in both the Netherlands and Belgium. However, Noor is also an Arabic name meaning “light". Wouldn't Laila and Noor make a cute sibset for an international family?

24. Paz—Most of you will be familiar with this Spanish girls' name meaning “peace", but did you know that Paz is also a Hebrew name meaning “gold"? In its Hebrew usage, Paz can be both a feminine and a masculine name.

25. Raisa—In Yiddish, Raisa is “rose" and in Arabic, the name is the feminine version of Rais meaning “leader". Beyond the Middle East, Russia claims Raisa as a name harking back to a 4th century martyr. Raisa works in so many places – a true rose of a name.

26. Samir—Samir is an Arabic name meaning “companion in evening talk", one of the most fabulous name meanings out there, we think! In Sanskrit, Samir means “air" and is therefore a popular name in India as well. Samira is the feminine version of the name in both cultures.

27. Talia—Talia is an Indigenous Australian word meaning “by the water" and is common as a girls' name in Australia (sometimes spelled Tahlia). Talia is also a Hebrew name meaning “dew from God." Talia can also be used as a shortened form of the Russian name Natalia.

28. Zahara—If Angelina used it, you know it must be multicultural. Zahara is a Swahili name meaning “flower", and is also a Hebrew name meaning “to shine". In its similarity to the name of the desert, Zahara is likely to retain a distinctive and exotic feel to it, even as Zara becomes more commonplace.

Originally posted on Nameberry.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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