Ten Popular Boys’ Names Inspire 101 Fresh Picks

By: Aimee Tafreshi

baby boy pic

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.


Baby Brain

Before I had a baby, I would roll my eyes at coworkers and friends blaming their forgetfulness and general stupidity on “baby brain.” If there is ever a time for excuses, pregnancy is certainly it. But after the baby is born and the first few months pass, I thought it was time to retire the new mother card.

The baby is born and your maternity leave is over… Pull your s**t together, I thought to myself…

To all of you other skeptics out there, I am living and breathing proof that baby brain does in fact exist. Since having Baby J, I am not only dumber, but clumsier and more forgetful, too. I literally cannot remember anything.

It has become a running joke in my fourth grade class.

Last week I informed my students that I would be creating their homework for the week instead of pulling it from resources we already have.

Their response?

“So we should expect mistakes, right?”

My response?


I truly hope that my students don’t go home and tell their parents what a complete airhead they have for a teacher. Prior to every lesson I walk around in circles searching desperately for my book, papers, and/or handouts that I have somehow misplaced in the span of sixty seconds or less.

I often stand in front of the class waving papers in the air for everyone to see.

“Boys and girls? See these science notes that I am holding in my hand? I am putting them in my file cabinet. Does everyone see where I am putting them? Say it with me now. The science notes are in the file cabinet.”

My students are kind enough to leave Post-it notes all over the classroom for me.

Email my mom about homework.

Print an extra field trip permission slip.

Today is Tuesday.

And the dumb factor is way worse than the forgetfulness factor.

I make a ton of academic errors in class now, especially when it comes to math. I happen to teach the accelerated math class (how that happened I will never know), and the students are more than happy to point out my mistakes.

“Yes, I know that the answer is 24 and not 32, Caroline. I was just testing y’all to make sure that everyone is paying attention.”

My darling little students love to count how many “epic fails” (their term, not mine) I make in one day.

“How many epic fails do you think you will have today, Mrs. A?” they taunt. 

They also like to encourage me with treats. For example, if I have a day free of “epic fails,” they may bring me a bag of Goldfish crackers the next day as a reward.

This is what my professional career has been reduced to since having a baby.

And it’s no better at home.

I put clothes in the dryer and walk away without ever hitting the start button.

I dial a phone number and panic when the phone starts ringing, as I have no clue who I am actually calling.

I pull up to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon and wonder, “Have I brushed my teeth today?” For the life of me I can’t remember.

I leave for work with two different shoes on.

The list goes on and on.

Thank God it is Spring Break and I have some time to recharge. Maybe a little time off is just what the doctor ordered, because you know, the sixteen weeks I’ve already had off this year (maternity leave, holidays, & ice days) have clearly not been enough.

On another note, J’s six month pictures are finally here.



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I meant to post them last week, but I totally forgot.

Mexican Sunday

Before Baby J was born, my husband and I had the most amazing weekly ritual. You see, we both love Mexican food and drinking margaritas (What Texan doesn’t?), so we would spend the better half of a Sunday indulging in just that. We’d cook. We’d laugh. We’d nap if we wanted to nap. We knew we had it good… We just didn’t know how good we had it.

Prior to the inception of this weekend ritual, I spent every Sunday moping around the house, depressed that I had a full work week ahead of me. The Sunday Blues I called it. I wasted an entire day each week dreading the following day… That’s no way to go through life! So B (my husband’s pseudonym) and I decided that we were through mourning the premature death of a weekend, and that is how Mexican Sunday was born.

And then Baby J came along, and everything inevitably changed.

After a few weeks passed and the “newborn” dust settled, we attempted to recreate our sacred Sunday ritual. We just knew that if we could get this right, there was hope that the rest of our lives had a chance of normalizing, too.

It was early-ish on an otherwise ordinary Sunday morning, and we opted for our usual brunch selection… Migas. If you have never had migas, make them this weekend, and while you’re at it, smother them in the Queso Blanco recipe provided below, because a sprinkling of cheese simply will not do.

Here is the play-by-play of our first post-baby Mexican Sunday:

Baby screams.

Margarita round 1.

Baby refuses to nap.

Margarita Round 2.

Miraculously, Mama and Baby nap.

Dada eats migas and continues drinking.

Mama wakes up to dirty dishes, cold migas, and a sleeping husband.

Baby cries. Again.

Mama cleans the kitchen and opts out of migas altogether, because quite frankly, nothing sounds grosser than cold eggs. Needless to say, we tabled Mexican Sunday for awhile.

Now that Baby J is almost 6 months old, we thought it was time to try our luck with Mexican Sunday again. But instead of Sunday, we decided on last Saturday night, as “Date Night” just ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. On the menu: Queso, chips, corn tortillas, and of course, margaritas.

Surprisingly, Mexican Saturday was perfect, and not just because Baby J slept like a little angel through the night. It exceeded our expectations because we were able to share the food we love, in a home we love, with the understanding that life will never quite be the same again… And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Our new Sunday ritual.

This queso recipe is a collaboration of sorts between my husband, Ro*tel, and myself. And I use the word recipe loosely… It is more of an add ingredients, taste, and adjust kind of thing.

Queso Blanco

photo 1 (1)

I actually took this picture myself, y’all. 


1/4 white onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 roasted jalapenos, skinned and diced

1 raw jalapeno, diced

1 handful of cilantro, stemmed and roughly chopped

16 oz queso blanco


1 can of Ro*tel Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilis


Cut cheese into large cubes for easy melting, toss into crock pot on medium heat. Saute onion and red bell pepper 3-5 minutes. Add sauteed veggies and Ro*tel to crock pot, stir. Add roasted and raw jalapenos into cheese mixture. Allow cheese mixture to melt. Stir in cilantro. Serve hot with chips and/or tortillas.

Margarita on the Rocks 

serving size: 1 drink


3 TBS Tequila

1 tsp agave nectar

2 TBS fresh squeezed lime juice


Mix in a cocktail shaker. Serve over ice. Garnish with fresh lime and salt, if desired.

photo 2 (1)

Love my margarita glasses from Crate & Barrel. 

And for all of you Northerners, let’s be very clear about one thing. Queso is neither “cheese dip” nor “cheese whiz,” and to claim otherwise is just flat out insulting. I hope y’all try it, because once you do, you’ll never settle for “cheese dip” again.