Bad Boy Names: Asking for Trouble?

The other day on the nameberry message boards, I heard tell of a little boy named Vandal.  And then, the next day, one of the bandmembers of My Chemical Romance named his newborn daughter (yes, daughter) Bandit.

Are these parents masochistic?  Gang members?  Or do they just love the idea of launching a bad boy (or girl) into the world?

Vandal and Bandit aren’t the only hellions in the nursery these days.  There’s Breaker, one of the seven children of Robert and Cortney Novogratz, hipster parents who own Sixx Design in New York.  Then there are Racer, Rebel, Rocket, and Rogue, sons of film director Robert Rodriguez.  (Survival tip: If you’re invited to dinner at their house, wear a helmet.)

The trends toward word names, surnames, and occupational names have certainly fueled this trend.  If Cooper can be a name, after all, why not Cutter?  If Porter, why not Power?

While the popularity list is full of newborns named Heaven, Nevaeh, and Angel, it also features a growing number of babies with these less-than-angelic names:

RYKERHow many of the nearly 700 sets of parents who named their baby boys Ryker last year realize that, when spelled Rikers, it’s the name of the notorious island prison in New York?  I’d hazard to guess not many, but maybe the association will sink in if I say it’s like naming your baby Alcatraz.

MAVERICK — Okay, this one’s kind of soft-core, but it still suggests a range-riding, sharp-shootin’ kind of guy. Either that or Sarah Palin.

GUNNAR and GUNNER — I fully admit to being one of those wimpy East Coast liberals who’s in favor of gun control, so maybe it’s just me.  But this name seems to go beyond the rabble-rousing Rockets and Vandals to some darker and more lethal level of badness.

CANNON — When regular old Gunner just doesn’t pack enough firepower.

DRAVEN — The name of Brandon Lee’s infamous undead character in The Crow.

RAIDEN — Of course, this name’s popularity is heavily related to the whole Aiden-Jaden thing.  But its meaning, and its appeal, has an aggressive edge.

BLAZEBlaise is a genuine ancient saint’s name, and Blaze Starr was a midcentury (female) stripper.  But this name is rising now for boys, more because of its fiery feel than because of its obscure connection with martyrs or fan dancers.

Other popular boys’ names are more subtly aggressive: Hunter, say, or Axel.   Harley, for both sexes, has the Hells’ Angels association.

And then there are names we’ve heard that haven’t yet hit the popularity list, but are certainly heading there, such as:

HELLER — Makes Hell more palateable by giving it a surname feel.

RAIDER — If Raiden feels too familiar, this choice gets right to the point.

WILDER — Another surname-y choice that does wild one better.

Why are parents more and more attracted to this wild kind of name?

Maybe they want to arm their kids with an aggressive, take-charge image to do battle with an ever-more-challenging world.  Perhaps they feel their sons (and daughters) will benefit from having a name that keeps people from messing with them.

Is this good parenting…..or bad?  Is naming your kid Vandal setting him up for a lifetime of trouble — or at least trouble-making?  What do you think, nameberryites?

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57 Responses to “Bad Boy Names: Asking for Trouble?”

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Jenmb Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 12:39 am

I know a couple who named their son Riker. They do know about the prison, however they are HUGE Star Trek fans. The Star Trek namesake beat out the prison connotation.

I like the name Axel. To some it reminds them of Guns and Roses, but I think of the Eddie Murphy charachter from Beverly Hills Cop.

lyndsayjenness Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 1:22 am

ooh, what about Killian?

I don’t get why you would name your baby something violent. Who wants their child to use guns and cannons? Well, I guess some people do, but I’m not sure those are the people using the names. Like, Vandal and Bandit? Really? Do they want their children to become vandals and bandits? It makes no sense. I do think Rocket is a little bit cute (I know a guy with red hair who’s last name is Rocket, I think that’s amazing). And I think Harley is cute, just don’t like the motorcycle connection.

MePregnant Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 1:30 am

BAD BOY NAMES – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry…

Tags: aggressive baby names, baby name Bandit, baby name Breaker, baby name Cannon, baby name Gunner, baby name Rocket, baby name Ryker, baby name Vandal, bad baby names, bad boy names, bandit lee way, my chemical romance baby name, ……

coolteamblt Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 1:44 am

To me, Gunnar isn’t said like Gunner. I knew a Gunnar who said it more like GOO-nar. In my understanding, it’s a legitimate Scandinavian name, a form of Gunthar, I think. But yeah, I don’t get the super aggressive names for kids. I don’t mind the names that give off a masculine vibe, but I’ve never liked word names much, especially modern concoctions.

pam Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 6:35 am

Yes, I thought of Killian, though not everyone hears that first syllable as a synonym for murder. And I agree on Gunnar. A lot of these names (including Killian) kind of soft-pedal their aggressive tendencies though I believe it’s part of why parents find them appealing, even if the connection is subconscious.

Abby Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 6:46 am

I know a pair of brothers called Gunnar and Magnus. Somehow knowing his sib’s name makes Gunnar look more like a heritage choice and less like an uber-masculine choice.

I do think that most of these choices are over the top – I can only hope their middles names are James or William!

pam Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 6:57 am

And yet Gunnar and Magnus are both big, assertive if not patently aggressive names. Maybe parents feel a need to arm (sorry, can’t resist) their kids with names that will help them take care of themselves in a frightening world.

Nephele Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 7:39 am

That baby picture you chose as an illustration just totally cracked me up!

I would add “Ferox” to your list. It’s a Roman boy’s name. Its positive meanings are “courageous, high-spirited, brave.” But its bad-boy meanings are “wild, unbridled, ferocious.”

— Nephele

Jaime Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 10:06 am

I know a little boy whose parents actually named him Rowdy!!!

Nephele Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 11:41 am

Jaime, I wonder if little Rowdy’s parents might have been Clint Eastwood fans? Clint Eastwood’s first major role was in a 1960s western series on TV, in which he played a character named “Rowdy Yates.”

Linda and Pam, if you’re reading this and planning to add the name “Rowdy” to your database, you might want to reference this. Clint Eastwood makes any name work for me!

Nephele Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 11:43 am

Forgot to mention that the title of Clint Eastwood’s western series was [i]Rawhide[/i].

— Nephele

linda Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Nephele— We hear ya!

robynkit Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 12:47 pm

My neice named her boy Canon. We laughed uproariously and said he should be nick named boom boom. But she didn’t name him after arsenal, she named him after a set of books in Scripture. I still don’ t like the name.

Her next son was named Blaze. That generated even more laughter as Blaze is traditionally a horses name! Ok Blaise Pascal, maybe? No, just Blaze.

teabee Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Riker is 100% Star Trek to me: between Star Trek fans and people who make fun of them, there is a lot of potential Star Trek attention generated by such a name. Of course, if there are enough of them I suppose it wouldn’t be an issue for long.

Honestly, I think of most violent/sassy/cowboy names as dog names and have to restrain myself from being rude.

Hadapurpura Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Don’t forget little Adolph Hitler, the onw who didn’t get his birthday cake.

Emmy Jo Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 4:05 pm

I met someone who named her child Canon as well, after the canon of Scripture. Her other three sons had Christian C names, too, though I can’t remember off the top of my head what they were. Actually, one of the names was probably “Christian.”

Gunner is my mother-in-law’s maiden name. She HATES it. My mom thinks it’s really cool and is pushing for us to use it on our first son. I can see its coolness factor, and I like the fact that it’s a family name, but on the whole it sounds a bit too ueber-masculine to me. I like my boys’ names a bit softer.

Wilder is one that actually appeals quite a lot. Though its meaning is rather wild, its sounds are soft and romantic. It makes me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder out on the prairie, or handsome young men riding through the windswept moors of Northern England. I’d put Wilder in a different category entirely from names like Maverick, Gunner, Vandal, and Cannon. Now, Wildman (another family surname for us) DOES sound a bit more aggressive. Can you imagine if we named our son Wildman Gunner? 🙂 It would be a legitimate heritage choice for us. But don’t worry — we’re not going to!

A Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 6:00 pm

My twins, Theodore and Esmé, are in grade 1, and there are 4 Nevaeh’s, 2 Heavens, 1 Angel, and twins named Gunnar and Cannon. I’m not joking. Also, Gunnar and Cannon have a baby brother named Typhoon.

linda Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Wow–that’s quite a dichotomy!

caitlin Says:

June 3rd, 2009 at 12:53 am

I have to admit, I like the name Bandit. Bandit Lee, it’s cute. I put it in a group with Scout maybe, a similar tone to it, oh and Rocket is okay (must be the -t ending?)… Don’t dig the others on the list so much, probably because I’m not into the surname thing and so many of them end in the surname-y -er and -en sounds. Haven’t met any kids with these kind of names; I wonder if I’m in the wrong place or they just aren’t showing up yet.

JustADad Says:

June 5th, 2009 at 8:35 am

I think it’s a horrible, tasteless trend that reduces the kids to caricatures.

Tirzah Says:

June 5th, 2009 at 4:55 pm

I know a boy named Crash.

ScarlettsMom Says:

June 8th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

My best friend named her son Ryker in 2001, after Ryker’s Ridge in her hometown of Madison, Indiana. I never would have thought to associate it with a prison, but I’ve learned that other people have some bizarre associations when a girl informed me that people would automatically think of “The Scarlet Letter” when they heard my daughter’s name. Oookay.

I think Ryker is a perfect name for a boy – it’s decidedly male and yet playful and not too serious. It’s listed on other baby name sites as a Dutch or German name (from Richard) that means “strong power” or “to become rich.”

apolonia Says:

July 2nd, 2009 at 11:06 pm

what’s wrong with John, Joe, Jim???

Allie Says:

August 4th, 2009 at 9:48 pm

What can’t you people see in the cuteness of these names?!?!

Dave Says:

March 26th, 2010 at 9:52 am

I named my son Crash! His middle name is Theory

pplz Says:

April 8th, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Isn’t edward like a bad and good guy name???
It’s SOOOOO cute!!!!!

shawnna Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

My son’s name is Draevyn (pronounced Draven) but I’ve never seen The Crow. My 2 favorite authors are Edgar Allen Poe & Arthur Conan Doyle so I took the “D” from Doyle, added it to “raven” from my favorite Poe poem, & changed the spelling. I was hoping for a literary child. I never knew it was anyone’s movie name.

Ashley Says:

August 10th, 2010 at 10:02 pm

So Gunnar is a Scandinavian name, it means warrior and has nothing to do with guns. And if you think warrior is a bad meaning you should also dislike Earl, Wyatt, Edith, and possibly Charles.

Now think that maybe the parenting may have more to say in the child’s growth than their name?

Rylen Says:

January 12th, 2011 at 12:51 am

I think these names are cool. And perhaps there are reasons they named their children this? I know a kid with the name Blaze because his mother had extreamly bad heartburn while she was pregnant. I also know a Bandit. He was named that because his parents wanted to add a letter from their names as well as his grandparents names. His parents names are Nicolas and Diana, and his grandparents names are Ida, Timothy, Beatrice, and Anthony. How many things can you come up with that actualy works out of N,D,I,T,B, and A? It just so happened to work.

Andrea Says:

February 27th, 2011 at 3:00 am

I do think perhaps it’s because parents are trying for a “cool” factor where there kid wouldn’t be picked on — I say this only because a guy at work was going to name his kid “Shooter”. He said no one would pick on his kid with a name like that…

The other side of this coin is that game-playing parents often use similar names as their handles in the online world. They are use to seeing these types of names and therefore do not find them odd — hence the new neighbor’s son “Viper”.

Emily Says:

February 28th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I knew a little boy named Bladen. I dislike this trend…

Caden Says:

April 7th, 2011 at 12:18 am

The name doesn’t make the kid, it’s just something to address them by. My brothers names are Axel, Ryder, Rave, and Hunter. Does that mean all of them are going to turn out to be bad? And what about Jeffry Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Gary Ridgeway(Green River Killer), David Burkowitz(Son of Sam)? I don’t see Jeffery, Ted, John, Gary or David on your list of bad boy names and they were some of the worst bad boys in American history. If you people seriously think that the name makes the person, then we should be worshiping all the little Jesuses running around out there

Rixer Says:

April 8th, 2011 at 8:27 pm


Crash Theory is the best name in the world. I love it! So very badass!

Everyone else,

Gerard Way (of My Chemical Romance) named his daughter Bandit which I think is very punk rock. Mike Dirnt (of Green Day) named his son Brixton (after the Clash song “Guns of Brixton”). Lots of really badass names out there. All you gotta do is look.

Actually, I came up with a bunch of names by misreading stuff! I read “Ares” as “Avec” which means “with” in… French I think? Anyway, names are everywhere.

Lucky*Clover Says:

April 19th, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Ryker is a name I’ve been hearing more and more of, but I don’t see it as a bad boy name. If I lived in New York and someone named their son Ryker, I might think, “that’s kind of strange”, but I live far from New York and don’t really think people would make that association. I’m guessing the popularity has more to do with the trendy Ry and er sounds than anything else. I did see in our local paper that someone named their son Wrecker, now that’s a bad boy name!

Megan Says:

April 29th, 2011 at 12:54 pm

What about Canon as in the camera brand? My husband is a photographer. I thought it would be cute as a middle name for our baby boy. Ironically as well, he was an artillary man in the military for four years and their specialty is cannons! I think I prefer the spelling of the one “n” though, as to emphasize my husband’s new passion.

Kalikeli Says:

May 15th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I do like some of these, but the trend has gone a bit too far in some cases – I’ve just heard about a little boy names Furious. Now that’s just weird. What would his nickname be – Fury? Maybe Russ.

I like Axel (spelled Aksel, it’s a whole different name) and particularly like Blaise. I see it as a bright, ardent light, fire, passion, devotion, rather than something violent. Similar to Ignacio, or even Rhys which means fiery.

I knew a Gunnar when I was a teenager and he was indeed a “bad boy” but a good one, if that makes Amy sense 🙂

Hannah Says:

May 18th, 2011 at 8:44 am

My brother’s name is Wilder, and the name fits him perfectly. I often wonder if he went by his first name, William, if he would’ve been a different kid. I know if I went by my first name, Martha, I wouldn’t be quite as cool 😉

Vicky Says:

May 24th, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I named my son vandal. He has two first names and a middle name so in the future he can go by any that he decides he likes best.

littlebrownpony Says:

June 8th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I know someone who named their son Folsom. Yes, like the prison.

TimR Says:

June 28th, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I know a blog that used an image of someone’s child on a website for an article called ‘Bad Boy Names: Asking for Trouble?’ without the parents permission. That’s is pretty bad too isn’t it? Almost illegal in fact.

Colleen Says:

August 9th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

The name Killian (more commonly spelled Cillian in Ireland) is a traditional name meaning “bright-headed.” As in, intelligent.

Aidan (Aiden, Aedan) means “fiery warrior.”

The Celts were war lords, therefore most names are somewhat aggressive. But couldn’t naming your child something that means “fiery warrior” mean they might fight, but not with violence? It might inspire them to fight poverty or diseases. It might inspire them to fight (maybe not literally) for what they believe is right. In the end, it’s bad parenting–NOT the name–that can lead children to inappropriate actions.

helovesme Says:

April 13th, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Wilder is currently our number one pick for our baby should they turn out to be a boy. It is a reflection of nature, our true passion, that inspired us, not a bad ass connotation.

SunshineinApril Says:

June 27th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I know a Cougar Crash.

ANDYMAN1216 Says:

September 18th, 2012 at 12:55 am

I have a Porter Steel, Agent Steel (my middle name is Steel also), and twins Copper Calamity and Maggie Maehem. Strong aggressive names…

kungfualex Says:

October 4th, 2012 at 9:00 pm

My last name is Killian. I wouldn’t use it for my son’s first name because I’m estranged from my father, but if we were still close I’d absolutely use it.

Also, there’s just as much chance a kid will rebel against their name as live up to it. I have yet to meet a woman named Chastity that struck me as particularly chaste, for example.

As for prisons, I thought most of them were named after people or places, which would mean they had completely valid names that wound up with a bad association. I’d much rather see someone using the family name Folsom than Hoar.

mallowd Says:

May 13th, 2013 at 3:02 am

This is pretty funny because I know someone with two sons names Maverick and Cannon (Yes, I thought of Canon cameras also @Megan)!! I think some of them are ok, but maybe because I’m used to them. I think it’s odd for parents to name their son Ryder/Rider….ummm am I the only that thinks this is waiting to be sexually explicit? Ride her, Ryder! I didn’t know about the NY prison for Ryker/Riker. But Vandal definately just makes me think of Vandalism. Gunnar/Gunner is actually a town (a redneck town from what I understand) near me so I think of that, but also a gunman so to speak. I actually like Killian, but never considered “kill” in it, I just have a thing for K names for boys! I think some cute but maybe assertive boys names would be Storm, or Blaze/Blase (which I also thought was kind of cute)! I also think more unique/odd or word names fit well in the middle name section ie Tyler Storm or Evan Blaze, etc. IMO in this day-in-age almost anything goes!

mallowd Says:

May 13th, 2013 at 3:02 am

then again I don’t think anyone should name their kid Thief, or Raper

Jennifer410 Says:

January 21st, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Vandal is a European tribe name. I know someone who named her sons Roman, Vandal and Dane. (all European tribes) Although the Vandals did take over Rome and are the root meaning behind the word “Vandalism”, they were a tribe – I wish Nameberry would include that in the meaning. Vandal is also the name of a band. I think its a cute name if you can get past the negative connotation.

Pam Says:

January 21st, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Thanks, Jennifer — added

taliesin Says:

March 8th, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Well, Gunnar shouts Scandinavian/German to me and I like Killian, but I also like Gillian, so it’s the sound rather than any violent image. For some of the rest of the above names, keep Child Protective Services on speed dial. A boy named Shooter is going to be picked on and not because of a GUN association. I’m doubting the parenting skills of someone who would name her child after her heartburn.

If you don’t like John or Robert, Tyler or Connor, and want a tough guy / wild west image there is nothing wrong with Wyatt or Colton or Dalton. I’d name my son Buffalo Bill Cody before I’d name him Vandal or Shooter.

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