Hot Baby Names: Max in the Spotlight

November 2, 2009 Pamela Redmond

Max, the name of both the child hero and the young actor who plays him in Where The Wild Things Are, is one of the hottest boys’ names these days.

Max can stand on its own or may be a short form of the ancient Roman name Maximus, which means “greatest,” or of Maximilian or Maxwell.  It’s one of the down-to-earth cigar-chomping grandpa names last popular a hundred years ago and enjoying a huge revival now.  Like brothers Sam and Jake, Max is unpretentious and friendly but also sounds cool.

Celebrities led the way in launching the revival of the name, starting in the late 70s and early 80s.  Stars who are the parents of now-grown kids named Max include Dustin Hoffman, Henry Winkler, Steven Spielberg, and Nora Ephron & Carl Bernstein.

More recent celebrity baby Maxes include:

MAX – With brother Bob, one of the infant sons of Charlie Sheen.

MAX AARONGilbert Gottfried‘s son, born this year.

MAX LIRON – Christina Aguilera’s one-year-old son.

MAXIMILIAN DAVIDJennifer Lopez & Marc Anthony‘s twin boy.

MAXWELL EDWARDLance Armstrong‘s baby boy.

MAXWELL MARKSon of Kerry Katona of the Atomic Kittens.

MAXX THOMASScott Hamilton’s son

Besides the character in the Maurice Sendak classic, other pop culture influences on the revival of the name include:

MAD MAXMel Gibson’s 1979 character.

MAXIMUS,– Russell Crowe’s character in Gladiator

MAXWELL (MAX) Smart – lead character in television show and movie Get Smart

MAXWELL’s Silver Hammer – Beatles song

MAX – female character played by Vanessa Redgrave in Mission Impossible

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen and his best friend call each other MAX, though that isn’t the real name of either of their characters.

Starting as a Roman family name, Maximus was an early monk and theologian from Constantinople.  Maximilian grew out of Maximus and has been born by saints, kings and emperors.

Maxwell has a somewhat different root: It’s an old Scottish surname meaning Mack’s stream, which derives from the Scandinavian Magnus, which also means great.  (Will Ferrell and Kirsty Swanson both have little boys named the related MAGNUS)

All forms of the name have been rising on the popularity list in recent years.  The name’s 2008 standings are:

MAX 126




Taken all together, there were nearly 9000 boys in the US given the name last year, which puts it in the Top 50, right between Jordan and Robert – much more popular than it seems!

The parent who loves Max but wants something a bit more, well, wild might want to consider the Italian MASSIMO, the French MAXIME, the feminine MAXINE, or the Scottish MACK.

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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