Boys’ Names 2013: Soft new choices

by Pamela Redmond Satran

Sssssssssh, have you heard the secret?

There may be a lot of Wild and Wilder names around these days, but boys’ names are also going in a softer direction.

The sh sound is stylish — or should that be shtylish? — for baby boys’ names, introduced by Joshua and Sean and led these days by such trendy choices as Asher and Dashiell.

Among the attractive sh names for boys are the following:

Asher — The Old Testament Asher, which means “fortunate, blessed, happy one,” was one of Jacob’s twelve sons who gave their names to the clans of Israel.  Contemporary diminutive: Ash.

Ashton –This English name meaning “ash trees place” became a mega-hit in 2004, mostly thanks to TV star/model Ashton Kutcher’s popular prank show Punk’d.

Bishop — Actress Reese Witherspoon got the ball rolling on ecclesiastical occupational names when she named her son Deacon in 2003.

Cash — A diminutive of Cassius or an economy-inspired word name, cool name Cash may also pay homage to American music legend Johnny Cash.

Cashel — In Ireland, a cashel is a circular stone fort or castle. Paired with the contemporary diminutive Cash, this Gaelic name may combine the perfect balance of old-world and modern feel.

Cassian — This Latin variation of Cassius alludes to Saint Cassian who was the patron saint of stenographers. The monk and ascetic writer, John Cassian, introduced Eastern monasticism into the West. If Cassian feels too traditional, exchange the C for a K like actor Patrick Wilson did for his son Kassian in 2009.

Cassius — This Shakespearean name meaning “hollow” has an ancient feel and an august American legacy: boxer Muhammad Ali was originally named Cassius Clay after his father, who was in turn named after the famous emancipationist Cassius Marcellus Clay.

Dashiell and DashDashiell originated as the Anglican form of the French name Chiel, but its meaning is unknown. Diminutive Dash is simple and handsome and may also, for better or worse, reference the Kardashian sisters.

Elisha — Though it sounds feminine, comparable to Alicia and Elissa, this Hebrew name is male and means “God is my salvation.”

Fisher — This fun occupational name broke into the Top 1000 in 2004.  Another spelling that nudges it further into surname territory: Fischer.

Hamish — This traditional name meaning “supplanter” is actually the Scottish variation for James. Though it hasn’t quite made its mark in the U.S. yet, it currently sits in the Top 50 in South Australia.

Ishmael – Not many parents call their sons Ishmael these days: The name made most famous by Moby Dick was briefly among the Top 1000 in the late 1990s for the first time since 1916.  The Biblical Ishmael was Abraham’s first son with the Egyptian servant Hagar. In Islamic tradition, it is believed that Ishmael was the ancestor of the Arabs.

Joshua — This name mixes an old-world biblical feel with the laid-back popularity of its diminutive Josh, resulting in its spot in the Top 10 from 1983 until last year! In the Old Testament, Joshua was the successor to Moses who ultimately led the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Krishna — In the Hindu Sanskrit tradition, Krishna was the human incarnation of the god Vishnu, a valiant figure who represented love and joy. Though it represents a male deity, this name is often used for both boys and girls in Hindu families.

Marshall — This French name meaning “one who looks after horses” is perhaps best known in contemporary America as the birth name of outrageous rapper Eminem.

Misha — The Russian diminutive of the male Mikhail, Misha was introduced to American by the ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Actress Mischa Barton made it more unisex.

Nash — This English surname came into fashion with the appearance of TV police drama Nash Bridges in the 90’s and the mathematician John Nash of the highly-praised film A Beautiful Mind.

Oisin — This Irish name can also be spelled phonetically as Osheen, which sounds a lot like Ocean.  In Irish mythology Oisin was the son of Finn McCool and Sadb, a goddess who was transformed into a deer.

Rush — This English name meaning “basket weaver” could suggest excitement and danger, if not for its best known pop-culture reference, commentator Rush Limbaugh.

Sasha – A diminutive for Alexander, Sasha is often used for boys in Russia, though in the U.S. there are now 30 girls named Sasha for every boy.  The Obamas use this nickname for their younger daughter Natasha, and singer Beyoncé chose it for her alter ego Sasha Fierce!

Seamus — As the Irish form of James, Seamus is notable the name of the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

Sean —  Meaning “God is gracious”, Sean is the Irish variation of John and might also be spelled Shaun or Shawn.

Shane – Another Irish variation of John or Sean, Shane is a cool guy name reminiscent of the 1953 cowboy movie.

Shaw – Surname-name Shaw is both familiar and distinctive: It’s never appeared in the Top 1000.

Shay or Shea — Though Shea is a common surname in Ireland, it can be spelled phonetically as Shay and means gift.  For both sexes, Shea is the more popular spelling and the name is slightly more popular for girls, but only slightly.

Shepherd — This pleasant occupational name can be spelled in a number of variations, Shepard, Sheperd, and Sheppard, which all yield the likeable nickname Shep.  It was chosen for their youngest child by Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld.

Sheridan — This Irish male name may sound tranquil but it means “wild one.”

Sherwood — This English surname which means “bright forest” harkens back to Robin Hood’s favorite haunt.

Shiloh – This Biblical and Civil War place name tipped toward the girls’ side when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie chose it for their daughter in 2006; there are now about three girls named Shiloh for every boy, though the name works equally well for either gender.

Tavish — The Scottish variation of Thomas, this charming name gives off a more traditional ethnic feel than the usual alternative Travis.

Thanks to our intern Denise K. Potter for research help with this blog.  Photo by Georgia Brizuela.

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22 Responses to “Boys’ Names 2013: Soft new choices”

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maggiemary Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 7:38 am

I love Asher, Cassian, Cassius, Dashiell and Elisha.

alzora Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 7:46 am

I love the “sh” sound for girls, but had never really focused on it for boys. Nice list! Sheridan and Sherwood have such a distinguished yet whimsical feel to them. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how well they flow with my surname.

CynthiaJane Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 8:16 am

I love Asher, Bishop, Cassius, Dashiell, Hamish and Shepherd.

My 8 yr old son , oldest of 4, with a fifth due in Sept., is Asher David. My next oldest brother is Dashiell James, named after Dashiell Hammett. The author chose to use his mother’s maiden name for writing, and gave his actual first name , Sam, to his most famous detective, Sam Spade. My parents were having a Dashiell Hammett revival when my Mom was pregnant and decided they loved the name, and then gave Dash a family name for a middle. He’s 32 and still loves his name!

calypsotheoneandonly Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 8:19 am

About Krishna being used for both genders – actually, they’re two different names. Krishna is used for guys a lot, but never for girls. That’s Krishnaa – in mythology, Krishna was the incarnation and Krishnaa was the birth name of his cousin (who went by a different name all her life). They’re pronounced slightly differently – Krishnaa has a long ‘ah’ sound at the end that Krishna. I guess it’s a bit like Philip and Philippa.
Sorry for the lecture….

ruolan Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 8:24 am

Ishmael and Sheridan are my favorites! I never knew the meaning of Sheridan, but think it’s funny Mrs. Bucket “boo-kay” named her son “wild one”.

lindsW Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 8:34 am

Yep, Asher just keeps getting more and more nudges toward my favorite name…

@CynthiaJane — your oldest son might have a name twin if I get my way (not that I’m even pregnant or TTC). Asher fits my desire for a biblical, OT name and David is my brother’s name, as well as being biblical/OT. It’s definitely my favorite name combination right now.

joyfulmomto8 Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 8:43 am

Love Asher!!! Shay and Joshua are also favorites of mine! Great list!

Haannahh Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 9:33 am

Cash is adorable, and I lovee Rush! Names that have the word “ham” in it like, Hamilton, Hamish, Hamlet etc…there the biggest no no’s!

JessicaT11 Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 10:37 am

@ruolan I so love that you just referenced Keeping Up Appearances.

TenthMuse Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 11:25 am

Like lots of these. Favourites are Cashel, Cassian, Dashiell and Oisin. Met a delightful little Oisin the other day who really suited his name! Can only see Sheridan on a girl, though, probably because of UK actress Sheridan Smith.

elliebean13 Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I really annoys me that Elisha, Sasha, & Shiloh are all of the sudden girl’s names. I know a little boy named Shiloh and boys named Sasha and Elisha.

frustratedauthor Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I love so many of these names! My favorites are Shiloh (LOVE for a boy), Dashiell, Oisin, and Misha. Misha makes me think of male actor Misha Collins, and that makes me happy. 🙂 And I used to have a massive crush on Baryshnikov.

Mischa Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I’m a big fan of “softer” boys names and some good ones are on this blog. I love Cassius, Elisha, Joshua, Dashiell, Oisin, Ismael and Shane. Bishop, Cashel, Shea, Tavish and Shepherd would be interesting and quirky choices for the middle spot.

alphabetdem Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Love Dashiell, and like Cassius, Asher, Sherwood, and Sheridan. I just had a friend in May use Asher as a middle name.

As a side note, I LOVE the picture!

NameLovingWriter Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Shai (pronounced Shy) is my favorite SH name

DayKen95 Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Love Cassian, Dashiell, Rush, Sasha, Seamus, & Shepherd. Shaw is one I’ve never thought of, I really like it though. Shia is another name I adore.

maddiejadore Says:

June 8th, 2013 at 1:26 am

Shepherd…… Oh I do love that name so very much….

Mclevine Says:

June 8th, 2013 at 2:15 am

I love Aston, Cassius, Sheridan and Oisin. I would also add Shannon to the list – I think it may make a comeback one day.

RedRobin Says:

June 9th, 2013 at 2:31 am

I’m sorry, but I really dislike Sherwood. I kind of like the name Shaw though.

amyhope Says:

June 9th, 2013 at 9:48 am

I love Shea! I considered it for all three of my kiddos but DH wasn’t on board. I love Shiloh too, and my friend has a little boy named Asher.

tori101 Says:

June 10th, 2013 at 1:43 pm

So many great choices! My favourites are Asher, Ashton, Ishmael, Joshua, Marshall, and Sean.

Concerning Sasha I hate this name for a girl, I love this choice for a boy kinda prefer the spelling Sacha.

lalala__lauren Says:

August 23rd, 2013 at 8:16 pm

As I read this, I was whispering in my head the entire time cause of that “sh” at the beginning! Seamus is definitely growing on me. I like Shiloh, but can’t imagine it on anyone but a dog.

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