Boys Names: Names gone wild

May 3, 2012 Pamela Redmond
wild boy names

Boy names have gone wild. You can hear a sudden growling on the popularity and starbaby lists, with sweet little babies being given such fierce animal appellations as Wolf and Puma, born-to-be-bad names like Bandit,Wilder, Maverick, Rogue and Rebel, Gunners with Colts, and others suggesting such heavy-duty gear as Cannon and Diesel, as well as the names of powerful mythological gods like Thor and Ares and Mars.  There are lots of boys named Blaze, and even one starbaby called Fire.

What’s with the fashion for fierceness in boys names?  We see it as a wish to recapture traditional male strength and power along with an impulse to leave conventional civilization behind.  These names suggest old school bad boys in a brave new world, one in which boys still throw rocks and ride dirt bikes but also wear earrings and headbands.

Here are the wild boy names we’re hearing today:

Bear: Most parents considering this name probably think more Teddy bear than grizzly. It was heard first via football coach Bear (born Paul) Bryant and then British adventurer Bear Grylls (originally dubbed Edward Michael but nicknamed Bear by his sister when he was one week old). A couple of celebs started using it as a middle name, then Alicia Silverstone made the leap to first, calling her boy Bear Blu. (Note: Grylls named his sons Huckleberry and Marmaduke.)

Buster: Even though in the 1920s and ’30s Buster became a belligerent tough-guy name for movie mobsters and prizefighters, it still was used regularly for babies, and little boys were getting Buster Brown haircuts while their parents laughed at Buster (born Joseph) Keaton and admired athlete Buster (born Clarence) Crabbe who went on to play Tarzan and Buck Rogers. Buster reached a high of Number 240 in 1911 and stayed on the list through 1957. Michelle Hicks and Johnny Lee Miller named their little boy Buster in 2008, so maybe it could become legit again.

ColtColt has reached Number 210 on the popularity list — an all-time high. The name is most likely being picked for its short, macho sound, rather than its connection to the Colt .45 or .357 magnum — or even its relation to a young horse. There are two starbaby Colts — the sons of Cole Hauser and John Rich, plus several famous big boy jocks, such as Colt McCoy — as well as a whole football team.

Diesel: Maybe it was the rise of Vin Diesel (whose childhood friends knew him as Mark, but nicknamed him Diesel because of his high-octane energy) or the line of clothing that made this a plausible baby name for some. Olympic softballer Jennie Finch named her second son Diesel Dean, Toni Braxton changed the spelling to Diezel for her boy.

FoxFox may be more wily and sly than fierce, but the name does have a bit of a dangerous edge. The X-Files character Fox Mulder shone a spotlight on the name, and the search for boys’ names ending in x makes it even more alluring. Several surnamed Foxes add to the mix — Michael J., Vivica A., Matthew, and Jamie Foxx. Girls can be Foxy and Vixens.

GunnerGunner and the authentic Scandinavian Gunnar both entered the US popularity lists in the early 1990s, but it is this more aggressive version that is pulling ahead: Gunner has risen over 500 places since 1994 — and we’d like to think it’s not just NRA members who are choosing it but rather parents who are fans of the ‘er’-ending, two-syllable boys’ names.

Jagger: It’s part jagged, part dagger, part Mick — all with a dangerous edge. Yet over four hundred innocent little Jaggers entered the world last year, joining a growing band of Lennons and Hendrixes and other junior rock stars.

Maverick: Wild boy name Maverick may mean “nonconformist,” but at Number 58 on the popularity charts, it’s now solidly conventional. Maverick was first used as a name in the late 1950s, inspired by the eponymous television show.

Rebel: Writer-director Robert Rodriguez, who has titled some of his films Desperado, Planet Terror, and Machete, followed a similar path when he named his four sons Racer, Rebel, Rogue, and Rocket. All we can say is that we hope that names are not necessarily destiny.

Talon: The hundreds of parents who named their boys Talon last year surely were not honoring the sharp claws used as weapons by birds of prey, but rather seeing it as just another in the trendy two-syllable, on-ending boys’ name category, no more threatening than Dalton or Dawson. And yet…

Thor: The hammer-wielding Norse gold of thunder, war, and strength, the Marvel Comics superhero, and the 2011 film all contribute to this name’s powerful image. Yet Thor — and its modern version Tor — are commonly found in Sweden and Norway, and Thor Heyerdahl is remembered as a noted Norwegian explorer and writer. Decidedly un-fierce is the current character named Thor on Nurse Jackie.

WilderWilder might be thought of as the artistic fierce name, harkening back to writers Thornton and Laura Ingalls as well as director Billy. Wilder is on the rise and recently broke into the Top 500. Goldie Hawn has a grandson named Wilder.

What are your favorite wild boy names?

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles


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