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Are Scientists Too Weird?

My husband and I both admire Nikola Tesla, and we're thinking about naming our daughter Tesla (and calling her Tessie). Is it too weird?
- Science lover

Let's run through a few names that have made America's top 1,000 lists in recent years:

Lexus, after a luxury car
Nautica, after a clothing label
Raiden, after a video-game character
Cannon, after a war weapon
Gage, after a horror-film child
Alizé, after a liquor

But you, wild woman, want to name your daughter after one of the greatest scientists and inventors of all time? A name that's unusual but has a simple, name-like form and classic nickname?

No, I don't think that's too weird. In fact, I think it's pretty awesome. I particularly like that the name comes with a meaning and story to share with with your child -- a scientific meaning, which is a scarce commodity in girls' names. (Scientific unit tables are rich in boys' names, like Newton, Watt and Pascal, and the name of Nikola Tesla's much less likeable rival, Edison, is a fast-rising choice for boys too.)

The one potential obstacle to your name choice is that it's so good, you have competition...competition that could move the name Tesla into Lexus territory.

Tesla Motors is a new entrant in the luxury automobile arena. The company named itself after electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla to highlight its focus on all-electric powertrains. At this point, I don't think that Tesla cars have taken command of the name. But if the company succeeds and grows, the balance could easily tip that way. (Imagine trying to name a child Cadillac because you admire the French explorer who founded the city of Detroit.)

Call this a green light for style, but a caution sign for unpredictable terrain ahead.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

February 11, 2013 11:47 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think Tesla with the nickname Tessie is great! I don't think I'd be too worried about the car yet, I imagine it would be several years before they become name worthy. Even then, it will all depend on if the cars are seen as a "Luxury" brand or not.

If the car makes you nervous, you could always do Nicola, or even Nicola Tess.

February 11, 2013 11:54 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My four-year-old has a Tesla in his class. As a nerd, I instantly recognized and appreciated the origin. Another parent didn't but still thought it was a nice name. Her two younger brothers have similar style of names but I can't remember either. I definitely encourage you to go for it!

February 12, 2013 1:39 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Excellent name and great nickname! It might steer her into the STEM professions. It communicates to your daughter and the world that you have high hopes for her.

February 12, 2013 3:48 AM
By lothelena (not verified)

I LOVE this! Do it!

February 12, 2013 9:54 AM
By Kayt (not verified)


One of my dear friends has a five month old Tesla Anne. She was actually born within 48 hours of a Tesla Joelle in the same birthing center in our Denver suburb. Isn't that cool? The Tesla's mamas are now friends. Despite my anecdote, it's a rare name, but sounds familiar because of Tessa. I say go for it. I love hearing the name.

February 12, 2013 1:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

A lot depends on where you're from. Here in Seattle, I know pl-enty of people who either own or covet the car. (We don't have money, but we know people who do.) They call their cars "Tessie." They would all know of the origin of the name and would appreciate the significance, but I have no doubt they would think of the car first. As it gets more popular, which we hope it will, more people will be aware of the car and have no clue where it got it's name. That's not necessarily a bad thing - but I wouldn't go I into it assuming people won't go there first. I love the NN "Tess," BTW!

February 12, 2013 2:05 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Another vote for "go for it!" Our daughter shares her first name with a famous female scientist as well. Tesla is first and foremost a science name. The car thing doesn't really cross my mind. I've *heard* of Tesla Motors, but only in passing and not very often. If it makes a difference, I live near Detroit and my dh is in the auto industry. Anyway, love the name!

February 12, 2013 2:38 PM
By Sadie (not verified)

I love the name and would consider it for my own child, especially as my fiance likes it. Unfortunately, a woman who I cannot stand named her daughter Tesla (her daughter is probably a teenager now) and even though I think the name is awesome, I think of that lady every time I hear the name and it makes me angry all over again.

But just because I'm uncomfortable using it for my own child's name thanks to a bad mental connection to it doesn't mean I dislike the name in general and definitely urge you to use it if you like it! It's super cute and unique and your daughter will love it, I'm sure.

February 12, 2013 3:05 PM
By Kira (not verified)

Tesla is wonderful in all senses, and Tessie is an adorable nickname. I picked the name Sequoia for my daughter before Toyota came out with its SUV. People associate my daughter's name with California state tree, but no one has mentioned the auto.

February 12, 2013 3:40 PM
By Megan W. (not verified)

I was too chicken to name either of our sons after Linus Pauling. I love the name Linus, and have a little regret. If you love it, go for it.

February 12, 2013 4:27 PM
By Allie (not verified)

I love the idea of Tesla as a name, though I do worry the motor company will ruin it (as they ruined the beautiful Spanish classic, Mercedes). Having said that, there's always Nikola. I know several Nicolas.

February 12, 2013 5:24 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Tesla is also the name of an old heavy metal band.

Please give your daughter the dignity of a real first name rather than someone's surname. Nicole or Nicola would be tributes to Mr. Tesla without banging the world over the head with the obviousness of it all.

February 12, 2013 6:48 PM
By Karolyn (not verified)

Big fan of an academic name that "sounds like" a first name. Emerson is growing for girls too (there was a column about the -son names for girls recently). Living in OKC, it would read first as "Tulsa" to many.

I think my DH would go for Durkheim if it was at all possible. Tesla is a great modern first name.

February 12, 2013 7:13 PM
By Tessa (not verified)

I'm a Tessa who's friends with another woman named Tessa (and we became friends BECAUSE of our names, initially!).

Every now and then, somebody will mishear one of us as, "Tesla" -- but we both think it's fabulous, as we're proper nerds.

I say go for it!

February 12, 2013 7:33 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think that Tesla is an awesome name! The scientific tie is great and the name sounds adorable too! Go for it!

February 12, 2013 8:14 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's pretty - and there's the vampire Tesla in "Sanctuary" who is an interesting character.

February 13, 2013 3:19 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like it for a boy even better than for a girl, but it's great either way! I'd use the actual name, Tesla, rather than nickname Tessie.

February 14, 2013 4:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Absolutely go for it! It's a beautiful name and has great history. If we have a boy we will be naming him after Jonas Salk. I hope people get the reference!

February 15, 2013 12:28 AM
By Erinne (not verified)

My daughter is Ada after Ada Lovelace, so I say go for your nerdy name! My husband has a friend whose daughter's name is Pascala, as well.

February 17, 2013 3:56 PM
By Sid (not verified)

Here in the Bay Area, there are lots of young Teslas running around. It doesn't sound like a far-out choice to me at all.

February 19, 2013 1:23 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

don't forget the band Tesla

February 22, 2013 3:21 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

"Please give your daughter the dignity of a real first name rather than someone's surname. "

Lots of first names are also someone else's surname. I think Tesla is a great name. Nicole is too common and therefore the connection is lost, and Nicola is a male name so you may as well go with Tesla.

Some female scientists, if you want to go that route:
Ada Lovelace
Lise Meitner
Rosalind Franklin
Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil
Maria Mitchell

February 27, 2013 3:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The vampire named Nikola Tesla in "Sanctuary" is supposed to be the actual Nikola Tesla. The story in the show is that Nikola Tesla was one of the people injected with vampire dna in the 1800's, making him immortal. And vampir-ish

March 1, 2013 1:28 AM
By 3 sgc 3 (not verified)

Karolyn, I actually live IN Tulsa, and I don't think Tesla reminds me of Tulsa at all. In fact, I like the name a lot. I have never heard of the car company, but would totally get the science reference, and think it's all the cooler for that. :-)

March 5, 2013 10:24 PM
By Beth (not verified)

Yep, a Tesla right next door to me in the Bay Area. Watch out: I think the name may actually end up being over-used.

March 27, 2013 11:09 PM
By Beth (not verified)

Actually, now I think "Used Subaru Forester" is a much more original name.

November 28, 2013 2:38 PM
By Buy Bane Vest Black (not verified)

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July 4, 2014 4:37 PM
By Jamison (not verified)

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