Boy Names: The new traditionals

A Name Sage baby brother challenge

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

He says “strong traditional.” She says “unique.” Where’s the middle ground for naming a son?

Kelly writes:

My husband and I can’t agree on boy names. Our daughters are Mischa and Nova. He wants a “strong traditional” boy name, but I like unique and I don’t think any traditional names work with our girls’ names.

We originally liked Theodore and calling him Theo, but now they are popping up everywhere. Another idea we had was Wellington and calling him Wells. However, a recent Bachelorette contestant was Wells, so my husband says that’s out. We also liked Lincoln and calling him Link, but his cousin just named his son that.

Any ideas? Maybe a traditional long name with a non-traditional short name?

The Name Sage replies:

Oh, the challenges of naming a boy! Even the boldest namer will often play it safe when it comes to sons. Our definition of acceptable boy names continues to broaden – and that’s a good thing. Yet the impulse remains to find something slightly more conservative for a boy.

The good news: you’re both open to compromise.

It also sounds like your husband has a generous and flexible definition of “strong traditional.” If he were limiting his suggestions to the most classic of names – the JohnJosephWilliams – this might be difficult.

But names like Wells and Lincoln occupy a middle ground. Call them new traditionals. They aren’t recent inventions – they’ve got history galore! And yet, they weren’t regularly used as given names until the last decade or two.

Today they’re often more popular than you might guess. Lincoln ranks in the current US Top 50, more popular than Robert or Timothy.

New traditionals don’t sound like the names you heard growing up – which makes this style a good match for Mischa and Nova. Let’s consider some classic picks with unexpected nicknames, too. Between the two options, there must be a name you both love!

Beckett, called Beck Beckett sounds thoroughly masculine, thanks to that hard ‘k’ sound. It works in full, but also shortens to friendly nickname Beck.

Brooks Wells makes me think of Brooks. They’re both water-related names, with distinctive sounds and an ‘s’ ending. But Brooks brings to mind buttoned-down Brooks Brothers and country music. It’s an appealing mix of associations with plenty of strength.

Cassius called Cash Cash is flat-out cool, thanks to music legend Johnny Cash. Muhammed Ali was born Cassius Clay; it’s an old form of a Roman family name. It’s edgy and current, but with a formal side, too.

Charles called Chase – Sure, most boys named Charles answer to Charlie. But possibilities abound. Chase ranks in the current US Top 100, so it’s possible you might meet one or two. But Charles-called-Chase feels distinctive.

Jonathan called Jack – When it comes to traditional names that feel strong and current, it’s tough to beat Jack. Every action hero answers to Jack, from Pirates’ Sparrow to 24’s Bauer. The list goes on! It’s friendly, and if it’s a touch too short, pairing it with Jonathan works.

Knox – The letter X makes nearly any name stand out. And yet, they can still feel at least slightly traditional. That’s why long-time surnames like Knox have become rising choices for first names. I like the sound of Mischa, Nova, and Knox quite a bit.

Lennox – Or maybe Lennox? It shares the same characteristics of Knox, but comes in at two syllables. Mischa, Nova, and Lennox seem like siblings. Plus, Lennox ranks inside the current Top 500, but remains relatively underused.

Nicholas called Nico – In the 1990s, Nick felt like the coolest of the classic names. Nicholas has faded since then, but remains a Top 100 staple. Nico, on the other hand, is very much a cool, modern pick, a logical alternative to Theo.

Wilder Wilder counts as a traditional surname, but it feels edgy and strong. A little bit outdoorsy, a little bit buttoned-down, kind of rock’n’roll, Wilder appeals to plenty of parents.

If you’re after a rock-solid traditional with an unexpected nickname, I’d put Charles-called-Chase at the top of the list.

But since Wells and Link were your almost names, I suspect choices like Lennox and Wilder and Brooks might hit the right note. They’re all strong choices, with a traditional feel – even though they’re good matches for the modern, bold sounds of their sisters’ names.

Readers, what would you suggest as a brother for Mischa and Nova? Are there other traditional-name/unexpected-nickname combinations I’ve overlooked?

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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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16 Responses to “Boy Names: The new traditionals”

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FelicitySmoak Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 2:45 am

Montgomery nickname Monty

tfzolghadr Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 6:44 am

Mischa, Nova, and…
Hayes, Corin, Atticus, Fraser, Stanton, Sterling, Sullivan, Torin, Tobin, Tobias, Walden, Whittaker “Whit”, Rainier, August, Alden, Hudson, Linden, Truman, Merrick, Ronan, Rowan, Desmond, Hugo, Jericho, Jasper, Cassian, Oren, Keane, Dante, Grey, Samson, , Solomon, Reuben, Soren, Fox, Anders, Archer, Felix, Amias, Emrys, Alec, Lachlan, Matthias, Ogden, Booker, Langston, Byron, Ewan, Griffin, Greyson, Griffith, Cormac, Phineas, Anderson, Xavier,

Erin Beth Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 7:09 am

I love sim any of the suggestions, especially Brooks, Knox, and nn Chase. Weldon could also get you Wells.

macy13 Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 8:43 am

What about Charles but with the nickname Arlo? Arlo was the first name I thought of when I read you both liked Theo. I also love the previous posters suggestions of Jasper, August and Truman!

jpruitt76 Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 9:30 am

I think Beckett was spot on. A few others:

Daniel, nn Dane (or, just Dane)

jpruitt76 Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 9:32 am

Oh, forgot Boden (nn Bodhi), Brody, Grady and Grayson (Gray).

Gia.berry Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 10:55 am

My favourites are Beckett ‘Beck’, Brooks, Knox and Lennox. They all seem both traditional and unique and are really cool names. They sound great with Mischa and Nova too.

sarah1800 Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 3:12 pm

My favorites are Lennox, Cassius, Griffin, Nico, and Arlo. Other ideas: Atlas, Dakota, Ezra, Ivan, Nikolai, Raphael, Shae, Victor, Xander, Xavier

Bassilly Says:

November 8th, 2017 at 4:37 pm

I love Beckett & Lennox, but I think Brooks & Knox are awesome with Mischa & Nova. I also like Mischa, Nova, & Maddox.

HannahMali Says:

November 9th, 2017 at 12:02 am

I really think Lennox suits. For other options…….What about Oscar? Or Cyrus? There is Murray, Hugo and Orson. My great, great grandfather in the UK was named Stanford so I quite like that one.

HannahMali Says:

November 9th, 2017 at 12:12 am

Forgot to add Stanford can be shortened to Ford.

EloiseT Says:

November 9th, 2017 at 5:47 am

Some fantastic suggestions! You could also use Callum/Callan or Evren.

blackcatsmeow Says:

November 9th, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Beau makes a strong name. Beauregard can be a fuller name if you feel one is needed.

Colton- Colt or Cole both strong names that sound quite masculine.

Abraham or Abram with nick name Abe. Honestly I feel like this is such an underused gem of a name. Reminds me of Theodore, but less common.

Wesson, or Weston nick name West or just West. Strong names with history. Have a strong N ending. West is a name that calls up a strong masculine image.

JamiJae Says:

November 9th, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Dexter called Dex- While the namesakes for this name aren’t the best, Dexter has a fun nickname in Dex. Dex has that X that is becoming oh so popular in a lot of other names, but is unique enough to give him an edge. Dexter is a Latin name that means “dyer, right-handed” and ranked #441 last year. So like Mischa and Nova, he would have a standout yet respectable name.

Lawson called Laws/Law-This name just sounds cool. Lawson like Dexter has an edge about it that sets it apart from the rest. It ranked at #435 last year, and while it is likely he would be the only Lawson in school, the name isn’t entirely unfamiliar.

Rhodes called Ro/Ody- I admit this name might seem a little off the beaten path, but I felt the need to throw it out there anyway. Rhodes ranks on Nameberry at #655 and means “where roses grow”.

Dashiell called Dash- Dashiell comes from a French surname. While it hits many of today’s trends, it also fits well with your request for something unique. Dashiell is a distinctly masculine name with a flashy and cool nickname. As far as I could find, it only currently ranks here on Nameberry (#129).

Jonah called Joe/Joey/Jon/Jonas- Jonah fits nicely with your daughters, Mischa and Nova. The name sounds like it fits right in, and yet is distinctly masculine. It also allows for a lot of relatively strong nicknames as well. Jonah ranked at #150 last year and means “dove”.

I hope these suggestions helped you hone in on the right name for your family! Congratulations!

JamiJae XxX

Kjh446 Says:

November 12th, 2017 at 5:19 am

I like Beckett/ Beck and Cassius/ Cash with Mischa and Nova.

Some of my favourite strong and classic (ish) boy names with adorable nicknames:

Sorry for any repeats..

Winston- Wynn
James- Jem
Silas- Si/ Cy
Joseph- Zeph
Augustus- Augie or Gus
Lucas- Luca
Jeremy or Remington- Remy
Isaac- Ike or Zeke
Jasper- Jazz
Oscar, Ozzy, Oz
Benjamin- Benji
Carlisle- Lyle
Thaddeus- Thad, Theo
Roman- Roe, Rome, Romeo
Tobias- Toby
Matteo- Theo, Matt, Matty
Quentin- Quinn
Lachlan- Locke
Alexander- Xan, Xander

Another idea is to use a name that ends in -son and call him Sonny- Mischa, Nova and Sonny matches super well in my opinion.

Good luck with your search!

AD10 Says:

November 13th, 2017 at 11:04 pm

Traditional name with a non traditional nickname?

Alexander nicknamed Zane!

Mischa, Nova, and Zane. Perfection! 😍

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