In this global culture, many of the same boys’ names are popular in both Europe and the US: Noah, Jacob, and William, for instance. But there are other names that seem to flourish there while going largely ignored here. Not every European name can make it in America, but here are ten we consider ripe for appropriation:
Albin is one of those unusual-yet-simple, ancient-yet-sleek names that seems to offer everything for the modern baby namer. An offspring of the Latin Albinius – there was a saint with that name – Albin means white or fair. But the only place it seems to be well-used is Sweden, where it ranks in the top 50. In the US, there were only 12 boys named Albin last year and another 8 named Alban. Another, even more unusual variation is Aubin.
Anton, the German and Scandinavian form of Anthony, touched bottom in the US over the past few years before taking a decided turn upward in 2014. In Germany, Sweden, and Iceland, it’s a Top 50 name. Anton is one of those rare names that manages to be thoroughly Eurostyle yet completely familiar at the same time. Use it to honor a grandpa Anthony….or grandma Ann.
This diminutive of Sebastian is popular in Germany, Scandinavia, and Chile but has never ranked in the US Top 1000. The Bastien spelling is used in Spain and France. While Sebastian itself is in the US Top 50, there were only 123 baby boys named Bastian in the US last year. Because of its similarity to the word bastion, it also connotes strength. Plus it comes with its own short form: Bas.
We’ve seen a major trend over recent years toward boys’ names inspired by popular girls’ names. In the US, Emmett has been the masculine counterpart to top girls’ names Emma, Emily, and Emilia. But in Europe, where these names are also widely popular, the trendiest boys’ version is Emil. A Top 50 boys’ name in Germany, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway, Emil fell off the US Top 1000 three decades ago. Just over 100 boys were named Emil in the US last year, though Emilio and Emiliano are popular among Latin parents.
Florian, an ancient saints’ name with a flowery meaning, is popular in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, but was used last year for only 16 boys in the US. But just as we’ve been slower to rediscover Florence and Flora, so too might we be ready to embrace Florian. Bonus: Florian is the patron saint of firefighters.
Mika is the short form of Mikael – a version of Michael – used on its own as a name in Europe. Popular in both Germany and the Netherlands, it might make a modern version of the overused Michael or Mike. But don’t be surprised if Americans insist on pronouncing it like Mike with an a at the end, when the actual pronunciation is mee-ka.
Nils is one of those European names that most Americans know but almost nobody uses. There were just 22 boys named Nils in the US last year, while in Sweden it was in the Top 20. Nils is a Scandinavian spin on Nicholas and is pronounced like the plural of Neil.
Osian is the much more approachable Welsh version of the Irish Oisin, an important mythological name with the sweet meaning of “little deer”. Both versions of the name are popular throughout the British Isles. And Osian goes beyond the unusual in the US, where there were no boys recorded as receiving the name in 2014. The pronunciation in Wales is oh-shan, with the a pronounced as in….as or shall. But many Americans will familiarize it to ocean.
Is Sander a more appealing short form for Alexander than Xander or Zander? We think so, yet only 26 boys in the US were named Sander last year. Sander was Number 23 in Norway last year and is used wherever they spell the long version Aleksander. But Sander works well on its own and can be a perfect modern way to honor an ancestral Alexander.
The Dutch Tygo, a jaunty name in the Top 40 in the Netherlands but virtually unused here, would make a sleek unusual choice. Tygo is a spin on Tycho, the name of a Greek saint and a Danish astronomer. Other variations of the name include the Danish Tyge and the Swedish Tyko.
The adorable European boy pictured here from the cool kids’ eyeglass company, Very French Gangsters.