Inspired by Joaquin Phoenix's baby name? Here are 100 names inspired by the beauty of nature

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article

Joaquin Phoenix has had the internet in sobs ever since we learned his sentimental choice of name for his newborn son, his first child with actress Rooney Mara.  

According to Viktor Kossakovsky, the director of Joaquin's latest film project Gunda, the new dad has chosen to name his son River after his older brother who tragically died in 1993 from an accidental drug overdose.

The brothers shared a special bond and his name choice is a beautiful tribute. 

If the nature-themed name has triggered your interest for naming your child, this list should be of some assistance.

The Elements

Baby names inspired by fire:

fire, elements, baby names

Adara (F)

Meaning: Fire

Origin: Hebrew 

Aidan (M)

Meaning: Little fire

Origin: Gaelic

Amarkeeri (M)

Meaning: Eternal flame

Origin: Hindi

Azar (F)

Meaning: Scarlet

Origin: Persian

Joash (M)

Meaning: Fire of Yahweh

Origin: Hebrew

Langa (M)

Meaning: Sun

Origin: Nguni

Lebone (U)

Meaning: Light

Origin: Sesotho

Lesedi (F)

Meaning: Light

Origin: Sesotho

Masana (U)

Meaning: Sunrise

Origin: Xitsonga

Maletshatsi (F)

Meaning: Sunshine

Origin: Sesotho

Mishal (M)

Meaning: He who holds the torch

Origin: Arabic

Mogotsi (M)

Meaning: builder of fire

Origin: Sesotho

Mmakganya (F)

Meaning: she who light the way/ she who bears the light

Origin: Setswana

Naledi (F)

Meaning: Star

Origin: Sesotho

Nomalanga (F)

Meaning: Sunny

Origin: Zulu

Nkanyezi (M)

Meaning: Star

Origin: Zulu

Nyeleti (U)

Meaning: Star

Origin: Xitsonga

Orion (M)

Meaning: Rising in the sky

Origin: Greek

Pele (F)

Meaning: Goddess of Fire

Origin: Hawaiian

Phoenix (U)

Meaning: Dark red, deep scarlet; the mythical bird who rises from the ashes

Origin: Greek

Qaqamba (F)

Meaning: She who shines bright

Origin: Xhosa

Soleil (F)

Meaning: Sun

Origin: French

ALSO SEE Arabic baby names for boys and girls  

Baby names inspired by water:

water, elements, baby names

Assana (F)

Meaning: Waterfall

Origin: Irish

Darya (F)

Meaning: The sea

Origin: Iranian

Flynt (M)

Meaning: A stream

Origin: English

Ghadir (M)

Meaning: Stream

Origin: Arabic

Halcyon (F)

Meaning: The halcyon is generally known as a mythical bird, who could calm the seas.

Origin: Greek

Kai (U)

Meaning: Ocean

Origin: Hawaiian

Lake (U)

Meaning: A body of water which runs deep.

Origin: English

Lwandle (M)

Meaning: Ocean

Origin: Nguni

Mesi (F)

Meaning: Water

Origin: Egyptian

Motlalepule (F)

Meaning: She who comes with the rain

Origin: Sesotho

Nomvula (F)

Meaning: mother of rain

Origin: Nguni

Pule (M) / Puleng (F)

Meaning: rain

Origin: Sesotho

Rain (F)

Meaning: Condensed water which falls to the earth in water droplets

Origin: Old English

Reva (F)

Meaning: Rain; River

Origin: Hebrew; Hindi

River (M)

Meaning: A large, natural stream; peace; tranquillity

Origin: Latin-English

Storm/Stormi (U)

Meaning: Tempest

Origin: English

Talia (F)

Meaning: Dew of Heaven

Origin: Dew

Tlali (U)

Meaning: Lightening

Origin: Sesotho

Varsha; Varisha (F)

Meaning: Rain; monsoon

Origin: Hindu

ALSO SEE Zulu baby names for boys and girls 

Baby names inspired by air:

air, elements, baby names

Alizeh (F)

Meaning: Wind

Origin: Persian

Anani (M)

Meaning: A cloud, prophecy, divination

Origin: Hebrew

Aria (F)

Meaning: Air; Lioness

Origin: Italian; Hebrew

Azure (F)

Meaning: Sky blue

Origin: English

Guthrie (M)

Meaning: Free wind

Origin: Gaelic

Misty (F)

Meaning: Derivative of moist, foggy morning air

Origin: English

Nimbus (M)

Meaning: Rain cloud

Origin: Latin

Skye (U)

Meaning: Cloud; shelter; Isle of Skye 

Origin: English; Scottish

Stella (F)

Meaning: Star

Origin: Latin

Scirocco (U)

Meaning: Warm wind

Origin: Italian; Arabic

Baby names inspired by Earth:

earth, baby names

Atlas (M)

Meaning: Titan who was the bearer of the heavens

Origin: Greek

Ridge (M)

Meaning: Narrow, rough segment of mountaintop 

Origin: English

Slate / Slater (M)

Meaning: Metamorphic rock

Origin: English

Vale (M)

Meaning: Poetic term for 'valley'

Origin: Latin, old French, middle English

Gaia (F)

Meaning: Earth mother

Origin: Greek

Ela (F)

Meaning: Earth

Origin: Indian

Terra (U)

Meaning: Planet earth; in Roman mythology, Terra is the goddess of the earth. It's been alleged that Terra had four children: Summer, Winter, Spring, Autumn.

Origin: Latin

Wekesa (U)

Meaning: Born during the harvest

Origin: African

Sienna (F)

Meaning: Earthy colour, reddish-orange colour; Tuscan town

Origin: Italian

Savannah (F)

Meaning: Level, tropical grassland; Open plain 

Origin: Spanish; Taino (Native American)

Nirvana (F)

Meaning: Place of great bliss

Origin: Sanskrit

Eden (F)

Meaning: Place of pleasure, delight

Origin: Hebrew

Isla (F)

Meaning: Island

Origin: Spanish

ALSO SEE Spring-inspired baby names 


Baby names inspired by trees:

trees, baby names

Abungu (F)

Meaning: Of the forest

Origin: African

Aspen (F)

Meaning: Deciduous broad-leaf tree

Origin: English

Cedar (U)

Meaning: Umbrella title for trees of a certain species

Origin: English

Forest (M)

Meaning: Woodsman

Origin: French

Ilana (F)

Meaning: Oak tree

Origin: Hebrew

Hadassah (F)

Meaning: Myrtle tree

Origin: Hebrew

Juniper (U)

Meaning: Coniferous tree part of the cypress family

Origin: Latin

Lesley (U)

Meaning: Small meadow/ fortress

Origin: Gaelic

Linden (M)

Meaning: A tree part of the Tilia species 

Origin: Old English

Oakley (M)

Meaning: Oak wood or clearing

Origin: English

Matsimela (U)

Meaning: Roots

Origin: Sesotho

Willow (F)

Meaning: Species name for over 400 deciduous trees and shrubs

Origin: English

Baby names after flowers:

flowers, baby names

Many baby girls are often named after different types of flowers. There are occasions where people name their babies after flowers, but in their native languages and in accordance with their culture. Boys are seldom named after flowers.



Brier: The French variation of Heather









Keeya (F)

Meaning: Flower

Origin: Sesotho








Meaning: Flower

Origin: Zulu


Meaning: Beautiful flower

Origin: Zulu


Meaning: Flower

Origin: Sesotho



Sethunya (F)

Meaning: Bloom/ Flower

Origin: Sesotho

Shiluva (U)

Meaning: Flower

Origin: Xitsonga


Baby names inspired by herbs:

herbs, baby names

Basil (M)

Meaning: Regal

Origin: Greek

Lavender (F)

Meaning: Name of the plant known to bring about a sense of tranquillity and alleviates anxiety 

Origin: English

Marjoram (F)

Meaning: Name of herb and flower

Origin: Mediterranean

Rosemary (F)

Meaning: The rosemary plant; dew of the sea

Origin: Latin

Sage (U)

Meaning: Wise and knowing; Herb plant

Origin: Latin


Baby names inspired by wild creatures: 

animals, baby names

Fox (M)

Foxes are known as smart, creative and cunning wild animals. Celts believed the fox would be a guide in the spirit world and it was revered for its wisdom.

Leo (M)

Meaning: Lion

Origin: Latin

Lynx (U)

Meaning: Luminescence

Origin: Latin; Greek; Old English

Melissa (F)

Meaning: Honeybee

Origin: Greek

Baby names inspired by birds:

bird, animal names

Dove (F)

Doves are often recognised as a symbol of peace and tranquillity. 

Falcon (M)

The falcon is known as a fast, agile bird. Even though its smaller in size, it is one of the many powerful birds of prey.

Hawk (M)

Hawks, who also fall into the class of birds of prey, are said to be one of the most intelligent bird species. While they are violent raptors, some tend to be quiet and gentle as well.

Lark (F)

The lark is a melodious small to medium sized bird, but it also features in mythology and literature where it is a symbol for spiritual daybreak.

Sparrow (U)

Generally sparrows are small, 'stocky' birds. They are often referenced in literature and religious texts. They're social birds and don't mind interacting with humans.

Wren (U)

This bird could be likened to that of the robin - it is also a songbird. 

Baby names inspired by precious stones:

gem stones, precious stones, baby names

Amethyst (F)

Meaning: Jewel; Purple birthstone for February

Origin: Greek

Garnet (F)

Meaning: Pomegranate; Jewel name

Origin: French

Gemma (F)

Meaning: Precious stone

Origin: Italian

Onyx (U)

Meaning: Gem name; Deep, jet black colour

Origin: Greek

Pearl (F)

Meaning: Precious; birthstone for June

Origin: Latin

Ruby (U)

Meaning: Deep red birthstone for July

Origin: Latin

Sapphire (F)

Meaning: Precious stone; Birthstone for September

Origin: Hebrew

Which of these names has got your attemtion? Have you given your baby a name inspired by nature? 


Share your stories and questions with us via email at Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 509 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 6242 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
11% - 816 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.