What's in a Name? Naomi Watts' Son, Alexander "Sasha" Pete

Celebrity Moms Jul. 23, 2010 AT 10:43AM
What's in a Name? Naomi Watts' Son, Alexander "Sasha" Pete Credit: SANTIAGO BAEZ/2010 RAMEY PHOTO

Happy 3rd birthday, Alexander "Sasha" Pete Schreiber!

When Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber were naming their first son three years ago, they each chose one with deep family meaning. Alexander was the name of Liev's Ukranian-born maternal grandfather, who had inspired and helped raise him, and Pete was the name of Naomi's father, the road manager for Pink Floyd, who died when she was a child.

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From the beginning, the baby boy was known by a nickname -- not Alex or Alec, the usual American-British choices, but Sasha, the Russian diminutive. Russian nicknames like Sasha and Mischa (thanks to Mischa Barton) have become quite trendy, though used in this country more for girls than boys.  Sasha is currently No. 261 on the girls' popularity list, while it doesn't show up on the boys' list at all.

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Alexander, a strong name of Greek origin meaning "defender of men," has long been popular in the U.S., never ranking under the low 200s since 1880. It's been in the top 25 since 1992, and last year jumped into fourth place, with more than 18,000 newborn boys who'll be answering to the name (plus another 5,000 Alexes).

Ever since the appearance of Alexis Carrington on the TV show Dynasty and Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties in the '80s, American baby namers have enthusiastically adopted the whole family of Alexi names. Among celebrities who have children named Alexander, Alexandra, Alexandria or Alexis are David Bowie, Ray Romano, Lauren Holly, Kevin O'Connor and Wolfgang Puck.

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In using her dad's nickname Pete as a middle name rather than the full name Peter, Watts followed another emerging trend, as seen in Amanda Peet's Frances Pen (for mom Penny), Angie Everhart's Kayden Bobby, Sara Gilbert's Levi Hank, and Kourtney Kardashian's Mason Dash (her father's nickname).

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When Sasha's baby brother was born in 2008, he was called Samuel Kai, making for a cute, alliterative pair of names.

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