Baby Boy Names: Strong Classics

Charlie's brother needs a strong name fit for a fighter

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

When you’re facing a challenging pregnancy, choosing a strong name can feel auspicious, maybe even necessary. Let’s help this mom find the right boy name for her little fighter!

Elizabeth writes:

I’ve just found out that I’ll be delivering early due to some complications that have also landed me in the hospital on bed rest.

All this time with nothing to do has me going in circles about the name for our son. Given how tiny he will be, I want a strong name. Middle name will be a family name (probably William but we’ve got a few options if the first name doesn’t work with that).

We had narrowed it to Ezra or Leo, but neither feels quite right to me now. I love Samuel, called Sam, and my husband loves Isaac, called Ike, but we both have some resistance to the others’ choice.

Our older son is Charlie and my husband and I both have very traditional names, so I don’t feel like we can go too far afield, but using the obvious William for a first boy name felt a little too British monarchy-themed for us.

We seem to both like short, strong names (or at least a short, strong nickname). What are we missing?! Given all the bad luck we’ve had lately, I’m feeling due for a strike of brilliance here!

The Name Sage replies:

First, we’re thinking of you and your family. The right name can inspire and encourage, and it sounds like that’s exactly what’s called for right now!

But what, precisely, lends a name strength? Sometimes it’s sound or meaning. For other names, there’s an image, like mighty Leo the Lion.

And, of course, classic names often convey strength simply because they’ve been in use for so many centuries, worn by scientists and saints and kings.

Since you’re hoping to stick with more mainstream choices, we can probably rule out Powers and Blaze, Ari and Koa, Alaric and Kenelm. But that still leaves dozens of possibilities.

Let’s look at some options that tick at least two of the three boxes: meaning, sound, and image.

Alexander, called Alex Alexander the Great lends this classic name some might. The meaning helps, too: defender of men. Despite all that toughness, it’s still a traditional, approachable name for a son. Charlie and Alex sound like brothers. And if you like the ‘z’ sound in Ezra, maybe Alex’s ‘x’ will add to the name’s appeal.

Finn Finn means fair, as in blonde. The name instantly brings to mind two figures. First, there’s Finn MacCool, the hero of many an Irish legend. There’s also Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, which lends the name more of an Americana vibe. If Finn feels incomplete, there’s Finley, meaning fair-haired warrior. And Fintan means white fire, which also feels powerful.

Jack – It’s possible you already know a few boys named Jack. The traditional name remains widely used. And it’s a go-to for fictional characters, from nursery rhyme figures like Jack-Be-Nimble and Jack and the Beanstalk, to today’s men-of-action. Think 24’s Jack Bauer and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. It reminds me of Ike from your husband’s list, but also of Sam, from yours.

Luke – Speaking of Ike and Jack, how about Luke? It’s an impeccable Biblical classic. While the name refers to a place – Lucania, in the ancient world– it probably takes its name from the Latin lux, light. That feels like an uplifting choice. Plus, it’s a favorite for fictional leading men, from Cool Hand Luke to Luke Skywalker.

Maxwell, called Max – In Latin, maximus means the greatest. Maxwell is a surname form with the same roots. Is it a big name for a little guy? Probably. But that’s the point, right? Max sounds like a brother for Charlie. Both names feel sort of humble and homespun, but can be quite grand and powerful, too.

Miles Some connect Miles to a Slavic word meaning gracious, but I’ve added it to the list because it’s also related to the Latin word for soldier. Plus, Miles makes us think of a distance to cross, a journey to begin. It might be shortened to Milo, an upbeat o-ender in the key of Leo. But Miles makes a great boy name on its own, too.

Peter – The name comes from the Greek word for stone, a name meaning better known than many thanks to the New Testament. It signals permanence and strength, too. Peter Parker makes it a superhero name, too.

Theodore – You’ve mentioned Leo, which brings to mind lions. Theodore makes many of us think of bears, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt. It actually means gift of God, which might also be an appealing meaning. Short nickname Theo feels casual and upbeat, a fitting brother name for Charlie.

Overall, I still love your two original front-runners, Ezra and Leo. But if you’re looking for something just a little different to consider, Miles, Alex, and Max are my favorites. They’re traditional, but not in the same royal family category as Charles and William.

Readers, what would you suggest as a strong and inspiring name for Charlie’s brother? And tell us: what makes a name feel strong to you: meaning, sound, or image?

What makes a name feel strong?

  1. ASound
  2. BMeaning
  3. CImage
  4. DSomething else
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About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at
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14 Responses to “Baby Boy Names: Strong Classics”

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Ibsen Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 12:02 am

Hi Elizabeth,
We are one in the same with naming! We wanted a strong name for our son and Charles and Ezra were in our top three! I loved the name Leo but we had a hard time finding a longer name we both liked. We found Leopold which means, Brave People, or Bold as a Lion. Our Leopold is a brave and strong kiddo and Leo as a nickname is perfect. Lots of love to you and yours!

Liberty_Bell Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 5:18 am

How about Christopher nn Kit?

elise12 Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 6:22 am

I really like Samuel and Isaac. If those aren’t working for you, I love Jack or Luke for you. Short, strong names that go so nicely with Charlie.

stepx Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 6:28 am

finding a classic that is not overused is tricky. I mean Jack is great but i can guarantee your boy will have others in his least one….with that name. Same for Sam. That doesnt bother some people and i can understand that.

What about John_? its actually less used these days…slightly.


Thomas……which is very classic but also very very much used.

There are some older far less used classics around….Stanley, Arthur, are two. Even more unpopular these days….Clarence…which i like but many do not , or Floyd or Doyle.

beynotce Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 10:11 am

“Jack is great but i can guarantee your boy will have others in his least one….with that name….What about John_? its actually less used these days…slightly.”

What utter nonsense. If this letter-writer is in the US, all the Johns, Jacks, Jacksons, and Jaxons combined will make up less than 1 in 50 boys born this year – hardly enough to “guarantee” there will be several in any class. And John is still more popular in the US than Jack.

lindsW Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Clark a la Clark Kent! Strong sound, strong association.

jpruitt76 Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 12:42 pm

I like Sam and Leo best from your list. I like Luke, Peter and Jack best from Abby’s. How about George? Or Grady? Or Grant, Reid or Burke? They all sound very strong to me. Or Griffin which actually has strong in the meaning?

zsazsa00 Says:

March 6th, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Hello I want to throw Andrew in the mix. It means strong and manly. I personally have been loving Andre and have added the French variant to my list. Personally because of Andrew Wiggins (Ender from Ender’s game). I love the lit connection.

But there are a lot of Andrew’s out there from sports to politicians that maybe you can find a connection that works for you? And I think Charlie and Andrew nn Drew sound great together (Andy is also a possibility but Drew seems to have a stronger sound to back up that name’s meaning).

Good luck, and may your birth be quick and easy so you get to see your little guy soon and healthy!

LoubieLou Says:

March 8th, 2019 at 12:47 am

I love Angus, shortened to Gus, meaning one strength…
Seems to have everything for you???

JDBee Says:

March 8th, 2019 at 7:17 pm

First, I’m sorry to hear that you’re having complications. My sister had a very hard pregnancy with her fourth child so I have a lot of sympathy for you and your baby boy.
Your family is in my thoughts.
I really like the name isaac, if only for the uplifting biblical story behind it.
I also really like Leo.

32lolo Says:

March 10th, 2019 at 3:24 am

I find boys names like Fletcher Spencer or Carter are strong names because of their origination as surnames, they have more oomph to them if you know what I mean !! you can still get a great nickname like Fletch.. Still sounds strong. Fletcher William isnt too far out with a Charlie already in the family?
Or Fergus is another strong one which works with Charlie, the meaning of this name is really strong etc. Of course different names have different connotations for everyone.

all the best 🙂

ashbee Says:

March 10th, 2019 at 4:55 pm

Leon nicknamed Leo
Arthur (meaning bear) nicknamed Art
Strong historical figures Winston and Lincoln
Felix (happiness)
Thomas (Tom)
Harrison (Hank or Harry)

I really like all your choices and wish you the best for your pregnancy!

mrsbuntain Says:

March 11th, 2019 at 10:07 pm

I think their are some great suggestions here. Here are a few more.
Thomas – Tom
Nathan – Nate
Simon – Si
Louis – Louie
Angus/August – Gus
Sampson/Samson – Sam

Cordelia16 Says:

April 23rd, 2019 at 5:40 am

Not sure if you’ve had the baby yet, but if not, what about Zane?

It seems to fall between Samuel and Isaac stylistically and is not overly popular. The initial Z gives it some strength, and its meaning is “gift of God” or “God is gracious”.

From Name Sage’s list, I like Maxwell (nn Max) and Luke, both strong names that also sound good with Charlie.

Best of luck!

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