By: Aimee Tafreshi
Throughout my childbearing years, I have kept a list for potential boys’ and girls’ names. The girls’ list is about twice as long as the boys’ one. Girls seem to have a myriad of naming options, even borrowing from the boys (i.e., James, Wyatt, Hayden, Sawyer and McKinley) for a modern twist. There are gender-neutral girls’ names (Blair, Peyton, Quinn), retro girls’ names (Lottie, Lucille, Olive), frilly girls’ names (Lilliana, Annabella), exotic-sounding girls’ names (Catalina, Arabella) and made-up girls’ names (Brylee, Gracelyn, Julissa). But oh yeah, this column is about boys’ names…
In the boys’ camp, I could never come up with as many options as I would have liked. When my first child – a girl – was born, I almost named her Brooke. But I loved the name Brooks even more, and given my perceived dearth of boys’ options, I was thrilled to bestow the name upon my second child, a boy. When it came to my youngest son, my name options varied among stylish choices like Hudson and Emmett, classic options like Henry, and names that I felt a connection with like Beech (husband said no way!) and Blaine (the winner!).
As I delved more into the world of baby names, I discovered that there is a treasure trove of boy names just waiting to be unearthed. Boy names are great because there is a strong collection of classic names, Biblical names, (mostly) non-annoying trendy names and interesting word names that are ripe for the picking. As many of us parents are drawn to the same boy name choices, I have put together a list of 101 name alternatives to some of the most popular baby boy names used today. These names are inspired by the original and may share similar origins, sounds, letters or styles.
(Numbers in parentheses refer to a name’s popularity ranking on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) “Popular Baby Names” list; a name not followed by parentheses is ranked below the top 1000 most used boys’ names.)
1. Noah has enjoyed a presence in the SSA’s top 1000 baby names since 1900. In the mid-90s, Noah took off and began its ascent to Number 1, a position it has held the last two years. Noah calls to mind the biblical Noah, the character Noah from The Notebook and Noah Wyle of ER fame. It’s not surprising that this cool and softer-sounding name has climbed the ranks. For parents looking for a similar feel to Noah but wanting to avoid the most popular boys’ name in the country, consider these choices: Jonah (Number 138), Judah (Number 243), Nash (Number 364), Ronan (Number 366), Thaddeus (Number 732), Alton, Boaz (nickname Bo), Lazaro, Tobiah or Jorah.
2. Liam was a relative latecomer, breaking into the SSA’s top 1000 in 1967, after which it drifted in obscurity. The Irish Liam picked up its pace in the mid-90s and broke into the top 100 in 2006, now sitting high at Number 2. If you are after an Irish-inspired or softer sounding boys’ name, think about these cool names: Rory (Number 416), Rhys (pronounced Reese) (Number 483), Callum (Number 729), Cael, Cian (pronounced KEE-en), Corbin, Cormac, Deegan, Eamon (pronounced AY-mon), Edmund, Lyle or Rafferty.
3. James has an illustrious history on the SSA’s top baby names list as a moniker bestowed upon presidents, royalty, biblical figures and pop culture icons. James remained in the top 5 of baby names for a period of at least 80 years, beginning when the government made available these statistics from 1900. James reveled in the Number 1 name spot for 13 years straight from 1940 through 1952. This name titan once again returned to the top 10 list this year at Number 9, after a 21-year hiatus. For an alternative to the cool and durable James, consider the following strong and classic male names: Vincent (Number 104), Theodore (Number 126), Victor (Number 152), Edward (Number 160), Oscar (Number 183), Maximus (Number 192), Rex (Number 663), Seamus (Number 900), Magnus (Number 977), or Chester.
4. Elijah, a biblical and literary name, began gaining traction in the early ‘90s and steadily climbed to the Number 11 spot in 2013. I predict that Elijah will break into the top 10 and continue its climb to the top. For parents wanting to avoid an uber popular name but who desire a similar vibe, think about one of these promising names instead: Ezra (Number 119), Malachi (Number 179), Ezekiel (Number 181)/nickname Zeke, Atticus (Number 370), Enoch (Number 721), Ephraim (Number 928), Jericho (Number 948), Canaan or Jethro.
5. Aiden popped onto the top 1000 scene in 1995, perhaps influenced by the actor Aidan Quinn, who played Brad Pitt’s brother in a movie of the same year, Legends of the Fall. During Aiden’s meteoric rise to popularity, modern parents may have associated the name with Sex and the City character Aidan Shaw, Carrie Bradshaw’s amiable boyfriend. For those ready to give another name a turn, how about these pleasing to the ear choices? Cole (Number 116), Brantley (Number 120), Declan (Number 122), Bryce (Number 131), Rowan (Number 239), Joaquin (Number 326), Kellan (Number 385), Jensen (Number 395), Garrison or Stellan.
6. Although Gabriel (Number 24) has enjoyed a presence in the top 1000 since 1900, this biblical name has experienced its greatest popularity during the past seven years in the top 25. Gabriel lends itself to the friendly and preppy Gabe for a nickname, and I nearly gave both of my sons this name. However, its burgeoning popularity scared me off. For other parents afraid of a name becoming too in demand, try one of these viable alternatives: Micah (Number 109), Emmett (Number 156), Gage (Number 202), Gael (Number 213), Gideon (Number 349), Ellis (Number 443), Quentin (Number 471), Yael (Number 910), Bartholomew/nickname Bart or Galen.
7. Carter, a trendy surname name, achieved its highest popularity to date last year at Number 27. I predict Carter will continue its climb into the top 20 in the next few years. For those parents looking to distinguish their sons, here are some other upscale surname choices to add to your list: Harrison (Number 127), Dallas (Number 268), Knox (Number 286), Cruz (Number 290), Archer (Number 303), Anderson (Number 304), Dalton (Number 312), Walker (Number 327), Cohen (Number 342), or Porter (Number 368).
8. Though not (yet) in the top 10, last year Luke found its greatest popularity of record, climbing to Number 28. Many parents find Luke appealing for its biblical roots, cool vibe and simplicity. If you already know three baby Lukes, think about one of these new (or new again) choices: Nathaniel (Number 94)/nickname Nate, Jude (Number 162), Mark (Number 189), Peter (Number 204), Seth (Number 250), Rhett (Number 338), Malik (Number 376), Ace (Number 379), Tate (Number 388) or Piers.
9. Is the name Wyatt your huckleberry? With its western roots, Wyatt sits at its highest peak ever at Number 28, and I see it breaking the top 20 in a few years. If you want to keep the outlaw vibe, try Weston (Number 136), Maverick (Number 206), Jasper (Number 218), Beau (Number 228), Lane (Number 295), Colt (Number 339), Boone, Django, Townes or Wilder.
10. Hunter, a name that calls to mind a pink polo-clad lad sailing on Martha’s Vineyard, has hovered steady in and around the top 50 spots for the past 20 years. Though this name’s not completely played out, consider giving one of these dapper options a go: Blaise (Number 845), Dash (Number 951), Baylor (Number 958), Bridger (Number 986), Bishop, Bowie, Flint, Gentry, Ledger or Ranger.
Whatever your style, the only limits when it comes to naming boys is your imagination. There are plenty of untapped names that are within the bounds of good taste but not destined for overuse.
Aimee Tafreshi is a mother of three young children and former litigator who has contributed to Nameberry.com, Fé Fit and her own blog, aimeetafreshi.com. She also enjoys teaching Zumba in her spare time, seeking out Mexican food dives (in Florida!) and watching Texas football.