By Linda Rosenkrantz
Yes, Noah is the Number One name for boys, and N is probably the most popular ending for boy names, but—aside from the Nicholas nexus and Nathaniel/Nathan—N is among the least used first initials. And yet, if you’re looking for an N-starting name for your baby boy, there are quite a few unique baby names that make greatly appealing options.
We first became aware of using the surname Nash as a first name with the 1996 debut of the TV show Nash Bridges, starring the dashing Don Johnson. And sure enough, the name debuted on the Social Security list the following year, entering the Top 500 in 2011, and now at its highest rank ever, #34. Sharing the trendy ash sound with Ash, Ashley, Asher, Cash, Cassius, and Dashiell, Nash has the potential to rise even higher.
This diminutive of Nathaniel and Nathan has seen success as a stand-alone option via interior designer Berkus, drummer Parker, statistician Silver, drummer Parker, several football players, fictional characters on Six Feet Under and Gossip Girl—and of course kid detective Nate the Great. Nate is currently #392 in Nameberry. Another strong one-syllable nickname name: Nye.
A rarely heard, swaggering cowboyish name publicized by the 1961 film The Guns of Navarone—which was not a Western but an epic war adventure film about a fictional Greek island called Navarone. Priscilla Presley named her now grown post-Elvis son Navarone. A somewhat related name is the swashbuckling Spanish Navarro
Many degrees cooler than the traditional Ed and Eddie nicknames for Edward, the gentler old-fashioned Ned is on the brink of a comeback, partly via the heroic character Ned Stark on Game of Thrones (full name Eddard). The onetime boyfriend of Nancy Drew, Ned has been off the US list for four decades, but is now #581 in England and 612 on Nameberry.
Looking for a Biblical name beyond Noah? Nehemiah, with the same iah ending as Jeremiah, Zachariah et al, was a governor of Judea who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Some other Old and New Testament possibilities: Naaman, Naphtali, Nebadiah, Nemuel, Nicodemus.
An o-ending name that has never gotten much love, but is familiar by way of the little orange fish in Pixar’s Finding Nemo, the Captain in Twenty Leagues Under the Sea and the fantastic early comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. Could make a really cute and unusual choice.
It means new and indeed it couldn’t sound more nouveau, sleek and moderne, which it has since Keanu Reeves wore it in The Matrix in 1999. Neo is more popular in Germany, where it’s in 153rd place, and in France at 465, than it is in the US.
A name with rich Greek mythological history: Nestor was an Argonaut who helped fight the centaurs, was noted for his bravery and, in the Iliad, for his wise advice to younger warriors. In James Joye’s Ulysses, a chapter is named after Nestor. As Esther has come back to life, there might be some takers for Nestor.
Though it’s actually a form of the Irish, Nigel comes across as uber British and has never really been fully accepted in the US, though it was on the US list from 1971 to 2010, peaking in 1994. But if Alistair could emigrate successfully, why not Nigel? It ranks at #628 on Nameberry.
A strong river name with a very different image from that of the Frasier brother Niles, and which makes a nice addition to the list of water names. It saw some use at the turn of the last century. Nilo is the Spanish and Portuguese form.
Two classic Scandinavian forms of Nicholas, with Nils a current Top 20 name in Sweden. Easy to spell and pronounce, they are naturals for parents with Scandinavian backgrounds, but also work well with Anglo surnames. The historic Nelson, attached to noble namesake Nelson Mandela, was used by Celine Dion for one of her twin boys. Also in this family: Niels, Neil, Neal and Neel.
One of the best virtue names for boys , Noble was a Top 500 name through the 1950s, and is beginning to see a revival, now up to 603 on Nameberry. Noble Sissle was an early jazz legend. Another viable word name: North.
The one name on this list that’s rising rapidly; at #71, the cool and friendly Irish surname is at its highest point ever, after entering the Top 100 in 2011—it’s also 26 in France. Pitcher Nolan Ryan spurred it on, and its has become a favorite among sports celeb dads.