Naming a boy has always been a little bit different.
It isn’t harder, necessarily. For some parents, settling on a son’s name is a picnic compared to naming a daughter.
But there are definitely some differences in the way we think about boys’ names.
- Around 79% of all boys born in the US receive a Top 1000 name. For girls, that statistic is much lower – about 67%.
- Since 1880, 23 boys’ names have ranked in one of the top five spots. But the number for girls? 42, or nearly double.
- More variants of popular names are in use for girls. Classic John remained the #1 name for boys for generations, while we named girls Joan, Jeanne, Janet, Joanna, Janelle, and Jane.
- Plenty of parents worry that their favorite boy’s name will be borrowed by girls, causing confusion for Avery, Riley, or Emerson. There’s no such concern when naming a daughter.
The overall picture? Fewer names to consider, and a narrower definition of what makes an acceptable boy’s name.
Let’s take a look at nine different ways to name a son – and where this week’s highest profile names fit on the scale.
It’s hard to go wrong with a name that has been bestowed for generations. The pool of possibilities is small, but they’re great names, time-tested and almost universally well-received. William and Joseph are two more. You might expand the definition to include names like Henry and Alexander – though they’re less consistently popular in terms of numbers, they have the same feel.
One hundred years ago, few men answered to Ryan or Carter. But after decades in the Top 100, a name stops feeling novel and starts to feel comfortable. Evan is your brother’s college roommate, Jason is one of the dads at playgroup. The names aren’t classic in the traditional sense, but they’re accessible and familiar.
With deep roots and great stories of their own, there’s a cluster of up-and-coming names like Declan to consider. Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump and wife Elisa Yao chose this name for their firstborn. Declan is as Irish as dad’s name, borrowed from a fifth century saint. Declan has ranked in the US Top 1000 for less than two decades, but he’s #121 now – pretty popular, and on the rise.
First there were the -aidens and -aylens. Now there are the -axtons. Maxton is the name of Ashton Kutcher’s new nephew, and at #817 in 2013, the name is more common than you might guess. Or maybe it seems even more common, with so many other Max– names in use, and plenty of boys answering to Braxton, Paxton, and Jaxton, too.
Duana recently wrote about ultra-male names like Maverick and Cash, and she’s right – they can end up sounding more like comic book characters than real boys. A boy called Crew might grow up to be a professional snowboarder or an artist. But maybe Ryker is a gifted cellist and Blaze pursues a career in accounting. Awkward, right? Maybe not. After all, Maverick is currently #272 in the US, meaning his name might be brash, but it’s not unusual.
Scores of names have long histories and are well known in English: Walter, Arthur, Louis, Hugh. They’re just not very popular in 2014 – which means that while they have the same enduring feel as James, they won’t be as universally appreciated. The great advantage of names like this? They’re just as substantial as James, but odds are that your Arthur or Albert will rarely have to share his name.
American parents used to give their kids the English version of a name, regardless of their background. Now parents are reclaiming their roots and embracing names like Rocco and Santiago, Nikolai and Gunnar. Zoe Saldana is expecting twin boys with husband Marco Perego, and she recently shared that all of the grandparents are suggesting names from their cultures: Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Italian. A bonus? Honoring your family’s heritage can be quite stylish.
Family surnames have always been passed down from generation to generation, but choosing one for the sound alone is a more recent phenomenon. Langston, Stetson, Garrison, Miller, Foster, Bridger, and Cortez are all up-and-coming surname names. Some feel as crisp as James. Others are more like Maverick. What’s certain is that more parents choose this approach now than ever before.
Facebook alum – and Mark Zuckerberg’s big sis – Randi Zuckerberg has welcomed son #2. Randi and husband Brent Tworetzky have a son named Asher, and now he’s joined by Simcha. Both names have Hebrew roots, and share a meaning: happiness or joy. They’re calling their new arrival Simi for short. With just 51 boys called Simcha in 2013, it is the rarest on this list. It’s a daring name, but one that works.
What’s your style when it comes to naming boys?