By Aimee Tafreshi
Throughout my childbearing years, I curated a list of potential boys’ and girls’ names. In the boys’ camp, the list was glaringly short compared to the possibilities for team pink. 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 favored names varied among stylish choices like Hudson and Emmett, classic picks 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.
1. Noah has enjoyed a presence in the Social Security Administration’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 three 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 biblical 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 143), Judah (Number 235), Ronan (Number 335), Nash (Number 344), Thaddeus (Number 703), Alton, Boaz (nickname Bo), Jorah, Lazaro or Tobiah.
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 cracked 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: Corbin (Number 221), Rory (Number 378), Rhys (pronounced Reese) (Number 513), Callum (Number 683), Cael, Cian (pronounced KEE-en), 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 five 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 spot for 13 years straight from 1940 through 1952. This name titan once again returned to the Top 10 in 2014, after a 21-year hiatus. For an alternative to the cool and durable James, consider the following strong and classic male names: Theodore (Number 99), Vincent (Number 109), Edward (Number 158), Victor (Number 160), Oscar (Number 181), Maximus (Number 197), Rex (Number 682), Magnus (Number 860), Seamus (Number 948), 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 desire a similar vibe, think about one of these promising names: Ezra (Number 92), Ezekiel (Number 148) Malachi (Number 162), Atticus (Number 350), Enoch (Number 788), Ephraim (Number 928), Canaan, Jericho 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 that 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? Declan (Number 112), Cole (Number 115), Brantley (Number 121), Bryce (Number 131), Rowan (Number 219), Joaquin (Number 321), Jensen (Number 396), Kellan (Number 398), Garrison or Stellan.
6. Although Gabriel (Number 22) has enjoyed a presence in the Top 1000 since 1900, this biblical name has experienced its greatest popularity during the past eight years in the Top 25. Gabriel lends itself to the friendly and preppy Gabe for a nickname, and I nearly gave either 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 108), Emmett (Number 139), Gael (Number 220), Gage (Number 242), Gideon (Number 328), Ellis (Number 419), Quentin (Number 483), Bartholomew/nickname Bart, Galen or Yael.
7. Carter, a trendy surname name, achieved its highest usage to date last year at Number 24. 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 119), Dallas (Number 255), Knox (Number 258), Archer (Number 289), Anderson (Number 305), Cruz (Number 324), Dalton (Number 327), Walker (Number 341), Beckham (359) or Porter (Number 375).
8. Though not (yet) in the Top 10, Luke recently hit its stride, 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 97), Jude (Number 156), Mark (Number 196), Peter (Number 206), Rhett (Number 274), Seth (Number 278), Malik (Number 379), Ace (Number 418), Tate (Number 421) or Piers.
9. Is the name Wyatt your huckleberry? With its western roots, Wyatt sits at its highest peak ever at Number 34, and I see it breaking the top 25 in the future. If you want to keep the outlaw vibe, try Weston (Number 120), Maverick (Number 184), Beau (Number 203), Jasper (Number 215), Lane (Number 296), Colt (Number 337), Boone, Django, Townes or Wilder.
10. Hunter, a name that calls to mind a polo-clad lad sailing on Martha’s Vineyard, has hovered steady in and around the top 50 for the past 20 years. Though this name’s not completely played out, consider giving one of these gallant options a go: Dash (Number 766), Blaise (Number 805), Baylor (Number 811), Bishop (Number 989), Bowie, Bridger, 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 modern taste but not destined for overuse.