Finding International Boy Names

Finding International Boy Names

These physician parents are hard at work responding to the global pandemic. Let’s help them find some great international boy names due later this month!

Alyssa writes:

We have a little boy on the way, due in late May, and are looking for a name. We live in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and speak Swiss German at home. Our first child is called Lisa Amanda. We are looking for a short, simple, nickname-proof name, easy to spell and pronounce. It should work well internationally, and we would like the name to be pronounced the same in German, English, and if possible, French and Italian (sharing this characteristic with Lisa). Our last name is three syllables, and starts with H.

Names we like so far are Max, Leo, Liam, and Silas. None of them really stands out to us. However, we would also prefer if the name didn’t start with “L” so that both our children would have their own unique initials.

We would really appreciate your help with finding a few more names for us to consider! Thank you so much!

The Name Sage replies:

It sounds like you’ve already unlocked the secret to naming future globe-trotters and polyglots: keep it simple. The shorter the name, the fewer sounds to shift across languages.

Avoiding another L name seems wise; in particular, Lisa shares a first syllable with Leo or Liam. I’d rule them both out, even if you weren’t opposed to matching initials.

That leaves Max and Silas, either of which would be great. But let’s find you some fresh international boy names, too!


Adam Adam feels like an almost-classic, a name with long history. And yet, like Lisa, it’s not wildly popular today. That makes it a good match for his sister’s name, and one that will travel across languages seamlessly.

BenBenjamin shifts from English to German. (Though the French is pretty close to English.) But how ‘bout just Ben? It’s strong and simple. I’d call it timeless, though it’s currently pretty popular. If Ben feels too brief, I think Bennett works in English and German, but perhaps is more of a challenge in French and Italian.

Colin – It sounds strange, but I think it’s worth asking how identical is identical? Because almost no names sound exactly the same across languages –  some just change more subtly than others. Colin sounds pretty similar in English and German, and only slightly different in French.

DominicDominic probably fails your first test – it looks like the preferred German spelling is Dominik. But despite the c/k switch, the sound remains pretty similar from German to English, and so I wonder if it’s worth the occasional frustration. Or maybe Dominik makes the perfect middle name.

Finn Originally a name from Irish legend, Finn feels literary, too – think of Mark Twain’s Huck Finn. Like Ben, it’s just a single syllable. But unlike Ben we don’t necessarily expect Finn to be short for anything. (Though options abound.)  

Kai – In the US, we often think of Kai as a Hawaiian name. It means sea, and feels breezy and modern. But Kai has roots in German, too, as a nickname for Cornelius, or maybe Nicholas or another name.

Noah – Like Ben and Finn, Noah is popular internationally. But maybe that’s because all three names are nicely portable, little changed across many languages. I also think Noah sounds great with big sister Lisa.

ThomasTom works, too, but perhaps names like Tom and Ben feel too casual. If that’s the case, Thomas is a longer, traditional name that stays pretty similar in German and English, and only changes slightly in French.  

For sheer portability, I think I like Noah best of all. Yes, it’s popular. But that’s a benefit in this case, as your son will never have to spell, pronounce, or explain his name as he moves across cultures and languages.

But in terms of a style match for Lisa, I’m drawn to Adam or Colin. They’re both traditional choices, easily recognized. And yet, they don’t feel terribly common, either.

So Noah Dominik is my first choice, but I’d put Adam and Colin right behind.

Readers, over to you! What English-German international boy names would you suggest for Lisa’s new brother?