Boys’ Names: 8 greats under the radar

Many people—berries included –sometimes complain that it’s harder to find names for a boy than a girl, that we’re running low on male names that are usable but not overused (outside of or as far down the Top 1000 as possible), interesting, distinctive, appealing, and authentic—names that would fit into our old Fitting In/Standing Out category.  But don’t give up the ship—there are still any number of names that belong in that golden triangle, and here we offer eight of the best underused boys’ names.

1. Auberon/Oberon—This pair of boys’ names is actually a twofer, because though they sound the same, they have somewhat different visual images: the Au-beginning lends a certain softness that the starker O-starter doesn’t have. Auberon might be a variant of Aubrey—the grandfather of writer Auberon Waugh’s (son of Evelyn), for example, was called Aubrey. Oberon is the Shakespearean spelling, used for the King of the Fairies in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, based on a thirteenth century French fairy character. Both versions have a strong but creative feel, and could go by the attractive nickname Bron.

2. Benno –Here’s one lively o-ending boy’s name that’s been overlooked, despite the familiarity of its ben beginning.  A German name meaning ‘bear’ and also a novel variant of Benjamin, it came to attention in the U.S. via the father and son duo of Benno Schmidt Sr and Jr. Senior was the venture capitalist who invented the term venture capitalist and Junior was the President of Yale University. Benno is also a saint’s name, belonging to the twelfth century Saint Benno of Meissen, the patron of fishermen, weavers, and the city of Munich.

3. JabezJabez has a rare combo of three appealing elements: a Biblical heritage, a captivating Southern accent, and a jazzy feel.  It was popular with the Pilgrims and on into the nineteenth century (there have been four U.S. Congressmen named Jabez), but it hasn’t been in the Top 1000 since 1880.  In the Bible, Jabez was referred to as “more honorable than his brethren.”  There are characters with this name in a Kipling short story, a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and The Devil and Daniel Webster. Possible downside: a literal meaning related to sorrow; compensating upside: the nickname Jaz.  Bonus: Two other biblical boys’ names with z-energy that we like are Ozias and Boaz.

4. Lorcan—Despite being a Harry Potter name (twice), and among the Top 100 in its native country, Lorcan is one Irish name that has never cracked the US Top 1000.  Lorcan has a rich background in Irish myth and history, as the grandfather of the great hero Brian Boru.  Lorcan O’Toole is the patron saint of Dublin—so it’s not surprising that Irish-born actor Peter O’Toole named his son Lorcan.  Strong, easy to pronounce and spell, Lorcan is an Irish name that would stand out from the more common crop of Connors and Liams.

5. Loyal. An upstanding, admirable virtue name we noticed when we were perusing the popularity lists of a century ago, in which Loyal ranked (in tandem with the less virtuous Royal) in the five hundreds, until it fell out of sight completely in 1948.  Even more rarely heard outside the United States, Loyal probably originally signified devotion to country rather than person, but in either case, fidelity is a great attribute to impart to a child.  And, hey—Loy could be the new Roy.

6. MaguireAnother Irish entry. Although Maguire is such a prominent  Irish surname—it ranks in the Top 40 in the Emerald Isle—this lively and cheerful family name has rarely been used as a first, unlike more familiar examples like Ryan, Riley and Reagan.  The powerful and distinguished Maguire clan was known for their courage, leadership and resilience.  Its many notable associations include the unionizing Pennsylvania coal miners known as the Molly Maguires, actor Tobey Maguire, the eponymous movie Jerry Maguire, the Disney Channel TV show Lizzie McGuire and baseball player Mark MGwire. Bonus: Two other handsome Irish surnames are Malone and Magee.

7. MercerBoth Mercer and his cool, sophisticated short form Merce project a super creative image via their artistic namesakes: Johnny Mercer was a charming and talented songwriter/singer who composed the lyrics’ for more than 1,500 songs, including ‘Moon River’; Merce Cunningham (born with the French version Mercier) was a highly influential avant garde dancer-choreographer and his name still resonates with an aura of bold originality.  An occupational name (it means merchant) that doesn’t sound like one, Mercer was used by jazz great Duke Ellington for his son—who became a respected musician in his own right, and Stone Temple PilotsScott Weiland’s son Noah was given Mercer as  his middle name.

8. SlaterIf you think all the occupational/er-ending names have been taken, never fear– there are still a few fresh choices in this category.  Not surprisingly, this English surname (represented these days by actor Christian Slater) refers back to its original bearer, someone who made roofs of slate. There were Slaters who emigrated to the New World as early as 1617—one John Slater settled that year in VirginiaSlater has a particularly upbeat sound, and the sleek short form Slate brings it into the gem and mineral category, also evoking nostalgic images of old-fashioned school blackboards.  And if ithe name Slater sounds familiar, you might remember that the Mario Lopez character on Saved by the Bell was called by his surname—Slater.  Bonus: Another undiscovered surname-name we like is Wheeler.

Your turn! What’s your favorite undiscovered boys’ name (that you’re not keeping secret until you can use it, of course)?

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30 Responses to “Boys’ Names: 8 greats under the radar”

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Brighton *Bree* Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 12:10 am

Wow some of these are really interesting! Especially Mercer and Loyal. Some very underused boy names I’ve discovered are

Carter *not exactly unused, but unique*

DiaLain Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 1:00 am

Great names! Other underused boy names:
Aluxio “Lux”
Axton “Ax”
Salix “Sal”

Nyx Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 2:56 am

My mom loves the name Wheeler. It’s a name of one of her uncles (or maybe great uncles). She tried to get her grand-daughter to name her son Wheeler, but he ended up being named Tanner.

I like the name Loyal, but I would most likely end up spelling it Loial (in reference to Wheel of Time) and use it as a MN.

I’m curious why Ignatius isn’t on the list. Personally, I think Iggy is a great nickname, and Inigo is a great variation of the name (another nod to a favorite of mine!).

Titch Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 7:39 am

I had a great uncle Inkerman (Uncle Inky) and think it’s a fab name for a boy. Agree that Inigo is gorgeous and underused too.

Ellen Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 8:13 am

Good list, I really like Auberon. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I can’t separate Slater from Saved By the Bell. If I knew someone who named a baby Slater, I’d probably make fun of her behind her back.

Becky Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 8:52 am

A little esoteric for my taste.

Fawn Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 9:03 am

Mercer Mayer also wrote the Little Critters children’s books. 🙂
I like Lorcan, but it sounds like a name for a werewolf or vampire, maybe it’s because it’s close to Lycan. The same goes for Lucius/Lucian.

Sarah Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 9:25 am

Lorcan is interesting, mainly for its meaning, but LEAL is also interesting with the same meaning- a softer sound than Lorcan. I love Mercer but plan on using on a girl if our third happens to be one. There have been female Mercers in movies etc. Love this website, btw!

Nook of Names Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 9:40 am

Love Auberon.

As for my personal under-the-radar favorites — hmm! Tricky! I have lots! Off top of head, I think I’d have to say (along with possible short forms)…

Orion (Olly), Arcturus (Archie), Alphard (Alfie), Amias (Ami), Jenico (Nick, Nico), Phoenix, Finbar (Fin, obviously!), Octavian (Tavy), Rufus and Ptolemy (Tolly) — though Auberon would, actually, have been on that list too :D.

Sj Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 9:43 am

Ack – Jabez has been “found” I was holding onto that one for my second secret family I intend to have. Great list!

Robyn Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 9:49 am

My favorite “off the radar” boys name is Brynolf. (It’s so far off, it’s not even on Nameberry…yet.) 😉 It is an Old Norse name combining words meaning “armour” and “wolf”. It was borne by Swedish track and field athlete Brynolf Larsson (1885-1973).
It makes a great formal name for the nickname “Bryn” for a boy, which in my opinion, is more updated than Brian and cooler than Flynn.

Mcmom Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 10:29 am

@Becky–that is a very diplomatic way to say it 🙂

NinaB Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 11:02 am

I’m with @Becky!

@Brighton *Bree*: Mika (spelled that way) is a girl’s name in Israel.

katybug Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 11:21 am

I really like Mercer! Agree with Ellen about Slater and Fawn about Lorcan.

asophie1 Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 11:25 am

I don’t think the name Wheeler will be showing up anytime soon considering right now it is used sort of as a slang word by teens/young adults as a term meaning a guy who is always advancing girls.
Or the Urban Dictionary definition:
A master pimp. Someone who is always hitting on girls. “Tom is such a wheeler, he has a girl under each arm.”

I do think Mercer could be an awesome choice, especially for the crowd who admires New York City. I could also see it being a popular choice for girls with the potential nn of Mercy, however i much prefer it for a boy!

katywill Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 11:36 am


phoebesmom Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 11:59 am

@Brighton-Carter is almost an epidemic in the South.
The only ones I found useable on the list are Mercer (and I know 2 little Mercers) and Lorcan.

Sophie Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

You know, I’ve been on this lasts-as-firsts kick lately, but for girls. Maguire is one of my top three absolute favorites for a girl (nn Maggie)! This list is good, though. Going with the Inigo (sorry, too Princess Bride for my tastes 😉 commenter above, one name I haven’t heard really ever is Indigo, maybe nn Indy? I love color names too, and it has a very nice regal connotation as well.

Ann Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

These are so names I would expect Nameberry to suggest.

Leslie Owen Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Three off the top of my head, one Saxon, one Biblical, and one Virtue:

Alfric, meaning elf-rich, is cooler, I think, than Alfred, even though I love Alfred too. Geoffrey Household used Alfric for one of his heroes. NNs are Alfie, Ricky, Rico.

Jotham, one of the Kings of Judah, son of Zadok and Jerusha. Means G-d is perfect. One of the good kings. Used by Barbara Michaels in one of her books.

Wrestling, used by William Brewster for the last of his sons and one of my ancestors (on the paternal side). Wrestling comes from the story of Jacob and refers to Jacob’s wrestling with the angel; a reference to the name Israel.

I second the poster about Wheeler. I wouldn’t recommend its use because of its urban slang reference.

Lolly Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I absolutely love Lorcan. It sounds a little too similar to Logan and Lachlan for me (both popular choices in our area).

I also really like Orberon (this spelling). It reminds me so much of when I was a little girl and my dad would take me and my sister on crazy walks through the forest – every time we would tag along willingly, hoping to see the forest fairies and their king Oberon he’d told us about. I might even find myself using it as a middle name one day!

anniebee Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I always laugh when people go ‘why isn’t X name on here’. There are so many names, if Pam and Linda listed them all, the post would have thousands of names on it.

I am really loving the name Loyal. What a great name! I can’t think of many virtue names for men, but I really dig this a lot. Can’t think of how it would work for a baby or with nns, but it’s my favorite. Also like Mercer, especially knowing the meaning.

Agree w/ pps – Slater won’t be anything but A.C. Slater for a loooong time for me.

Some that I love –

Grover – love the meaning of one who tends trees and if you can get past the Sesame Street reference, it seems very natural and rustic

Percival – though I’m hearing this more on here lately

Sullivan – same as Perce


Lawrence – I think the nn Larry makes this dopey, but with different nns like Law? it would sound a lot nicer

Earnest – another great virtue name for boys I’m digging

Gilbert – one I have always loved from Anne of Green Gables and I think nn Gil or Bert sound cute and not terribly dated (maybe just me though)

Lola Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Loyal is a favorite, along with Auberon & Lorcan. I’m actually surprised Lorcan is still obscure, it feels so current! 😀 While I like Loyal, I’ll probably use the related ( and mentioned!) Royal, as that’s a family name on my Paternal side. What a great list, though!

lagilliana Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Personally I would never use Loyal. Or any virtue name for that matter. When you give a child a virtue name you are putting pressure on them to live up to it, maybe without meaning to.

I like Oberon, “Obie” is a cool nickname….

linzybindi Says:

August 11th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

I love Loyal, Maguire and Mercer. Great names!

Some of my favorite under the radar names are…

Martina Says:

August 13th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

When I saw Slater, I immediately thought of A.C. Slater from Saved By The Bell!

FablesofLove Says:

August 13th, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I think that Amadeus, Leopold, Thaddeus and Desmond. I think that the list is great.

I think that Mercer and Auberon/Oberon are great names.

calou Says:

August 15th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I have Sims called Oberon (nn Oby) and Lorcan, lol. I can’t get past Benno being a CD tower from Ikea, though.

kvthomas Says:

January 29th, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Cedar, Mercer, Noble – all great. How about River, Whittaker (Whit), Zeke, Jessup, or Fisher?

ozdust Says:

March 1st, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Interesting seeing Benno on the list.
My Great Grandfather was born in 1904 Josef Benno (Surname)

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