Classic Boys’ Names: How To Choose One That’s Truly Timeless

The group of classic boys’ names — names that have always been in the Too 1000 — is twice as large as the girls’ list, encompassing 208 names to the girls’ 114. As with the girls’ names, we broke the classic boys’ names down into categories.

There are the Core Classics, about 20 percent of the group, which include those names everyone commonly thinks of as classics:  John, Henry, William.  Then there are the Biblical names that have endured in modern usage, from Moses to Matthew. Variations and short forms such as Anton and Andy make two more groups of names that have consistently been in the Top 1000.

And then there are those names that are quantitatively more enduring that you might guess: Harley? Riley?  Hard to believe, yet the numbers bear it out. And then there are the Outliers, names whose continued use defies explanation and in some cases, sanity.

All of this gives you a wider range of options in classic boys’ names than you might initially think.  Any of the following qualify.

Core Classics



Short Forms

More Classic Than We Gave Them Credit For


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28 Responses to “Classic Boys’ Names: How To Choose One That’s Truly Timeless”

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Charlotte Vera Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 4:17 am

Love, love, LOVE Alfred, but doubt I could ever convince most of my family and friends to like it as much as I do.

I found it rather interesting that some Biblical names (John, Peter, Paul, Philip) were considered “core classic” while others (Adam, Matthew, Mark, Nathaniel) were simply in the Biblical section. Was it due to the consistent level of the name’s popularity? How popular the name was when the list first came out?

I realise that categorising these names is no easy task, I’m just curious as to the reasoning behind the decisions.

photoquilty Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 8:29 am

IDK, shouldn’t Christopher and Christian be in the Biblical category?

pam Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 9:03 am

Ah, I don’t know, Charlotte Vera. John especially to me seems to have transcended its Biblical origins, while Adam and Nathaniel especially haven’t. The others could go either way.

Lola Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 9:10 am

Amazing! Down there in ‘Outliers’ is the Other Half: Kenneth and #1 son: Leo. His Pop is there too: Stanley. Simon’s up in classics. Even my Paternal Uncles are there: James, Theodore & Richard but Pop? Wayne is surprising, but he’d be happy to know it was more classic than trendy. Even the Maternal Uncles are here: Benjamin, Edward & Stanley

pam Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 9:27 am

There is no Christopher or Christian in the Bible, although of course those names relate to Christ.

photoquilty Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 10:20 am

That was my point. How could those names be anything but Biblical?

Emmy Jo Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 10:30 am

What an interesting list! I was surprised to see quite a few on there, like Harley, Mason, Austin, Sterling, Spencer, Eugene — who knew people were still using Eugene? Was the difference between “More Classic Than We Gave Them Credit For” and “Outliers” that the former group seems more modern than one would think (so it’s amazing they were used 70 years ago) while the latter group seems “old” (so it’s amazing they’re still being used by some parents today)? I actually find a lot of the outliers to be quite fashionable, and they’re obviously mostly historical names, so I’m not too surprised at their continued use.

I actually did a blog post about “Timeless Names” that took a slightly different take on the subject. I looked at names that had maintained relatively consistent levels of popularity over the last 130 years or so and thus had not strongly dated themselves to a particular era. The list is not nearly as exhaustive, but it’s interesting to see which names seem more impervious to fashion trends. (The list did not include names like Alexander or Eugene. Alexander, for example, has been out of the top 200 but is currently ranked #4 — you’re much more likely to meet a five-year-old Alexander than a fifty-year-old Alexander. And Eugene has ranged from #20 in the late 1920s to #744 last year — you’re much more likely to meet an octogenarian Eugene than a newborn Eugene.)

Anyway, here is my list, if you’d like to see which ones I classified as timeless:

Jasmine Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 11:20 am

Blech…most of those names to me are not timeless at all, but stuffy and dated and gross! I know how to appreciate a vintage name, and recognize a classic like Alexander or Nathaniel, but Alfred, really? What is timeless about Alfred?

pam Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 11:26 am

Emmy Jo, that’s a really interesting post and a very different way of looking at the data. Someone raised the point yesterday that a number of the names that had been in the Top 1000 for all 130 years would tip off in the next decade or two, which is absolutely true of this group too. But there will NEVER be a new addition to this list….it will just get smaller over time.

Jasmine, maybe it wasn’t clear that this list is quantitative rather than qualitative. What is timeless about Alfred isn’t that it always sounds stylish but that it’s remained in widespread use in the U.S. for 130 years. So whether a name sounds especially dated now, like Alfred, or especially fashionable, like Mason or Harley, it still qualifies as “timeless” using these quantitative criteria.

jaime Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Wow, I was surprised to see my dad’s name (Jerry) on that list. Strange what really looking at the data can tell you…

smismar Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Malcolm and Douglas are very very close to the top of my list. I would also consider Jerome (but I doubt DH would like it), Arthur, Simon, Theodore (darn Chipmunks), Emmett, and Jasper (darn Twilight).

Elle Says:

November 20th, 2010 at 10:47 am

I think this list is great. Many of these names are in my family history…Alfred being a big one. We have 3 or 4 in the tree. Henry, Victor, William, Michael, Frank, Bryant, Dean, Ernest and Howard are also very prevalent in my family.

Some of my favorites are on this list too…
I love Theodore! The nickname Theo is just adorable to me.
Andrew, Daniel, George, Henry, Adam, Julian, Morgan, Conrad, Cyrus, Julius and Leo are my favorites from the list. I love looking at names in this way.

You are very right Pam…this list will never have names added to it. Sad.

jillian Says:

November 20th, 2010 at 5:10 pm

photoquilty, by your logic Tiffany is a Biblical name. I think most people would require that “Biblical names” be names that appear on people in the Bible, either old or new testament. Names that developed later from Biblical or Christian (which are not necessarily the same thing) concepts or events may be religious names or even Christian names, but are not Biblical if they are not in the Bible.

Belatrix Says:

November 21st, 2010 at 2:09 am

Cyrus is a name in the Bible as well, of a Persian king. Not sure why it is in the outliers category instead of Biblical.

Becca Says:

November 22nd, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Great post! Thanks for all your hard work!!

trich323 Says:

November 22nd, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I wonder if the reason there are twice as many boys names as girls names is the tradition of naming boys after their fathers. I have a sister-in-law who was so happy not to have a boy because she would have been pressured to name him Howard Eugene!

pam Says:

November 22nd, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Yes, that’s exactly the reason. I daresay a lot of these names — Howard and Eugene are good examples — would have fallen off the Top 1000 a long time ago did they not remain in use because of family tradition.

Rachel Says:

November 25th, 2010 at 1:14 am

Alexander is my second favourite boys name and Paul is my husband’s favourite boys name. Go timeless names!

Regi Says:

November 25th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I used to love the name Alfred.. It seemed old-man chic. until I started dating an Alfred, and now it just seems like an awkward name. It seems way less chic and way more old man.

Raymond Says:

November 26th, 2010 at 3:51 am

I used to love Raymond.Raymond is a gorgeous name in my eyes.But there you have given good names.

Jenn Says:

November 29th, 2010 at 10:39 pm

How did Zachary not make this list anywhere??

Brittney Gonzales Says:

November 30th, 2010 at 10:56 pm

i like Geovanni

maria Says:

December 1st, 2010 at 9:02 pm

who likes Edward Hugh oris Hugh Edward better?

lo Says:

December 2nd, 2010 at 6:59 pm

This makes me feel so much better. Over Thanksgiving my mom and her sister mocked me for considering Elias for our next boy. It was awesome seeing that it’s never come close to leaving the top 1000.

Leslie Owen Says:

April 14th, 2011 at 1:06 am

Brittney, the name is Giovanni (pronounced Jo-vahni), Italian for John….As for Christian and Christopher, perhaps you should have had a category for saints’ names, which would have solved the problem….Christian as a name didn’t start really showing up until after Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

An interesting alternative to Alfred (which I love) is Alfric, a name Geoffrey Household used in one of his novels.

Classic names in my family are Thomas, George, Philip, Charles, and Louis….I wish people were more inclined to use classic names today, as it’s hard to imagine a judge named Jaydin.

Classic Boys’ Names: Let’s hear it for Henry! – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

November 1st, 2011 at 12:28 am

[…] in many ways Henry is the most perfect of the classic boys’ names—as historic as James and John and William –yet with a quirkier edge that makes it seem […]

amandaberry Says:

January 1st, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Ya’ll forgot Gregory and Jeffery/Geoffery

ElizabethAntoinette Says:

April 23rd, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Is there a sister post for this? I love the concept of a name that’s never fallen outside of the top 100 but find it difficult to find girls names meeting that requirement.

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