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Modern Traditional Boy Names

February 5, 2020 Abby Sandel
modern traditional boy names

If it’s a girl, they’re all set. If it’s a boy, this kiddo is currently nameless! Time to call in the Name Sage.

Jordan writes:

I am expecting baby number three in April and my husband and I cannot agree on a single boy name. We are not finding out the gender this go around and not knowing the name or the gender is driving me crazy!

We have a son named Kai Anthony and a daughter named Lilah Alexa. I loved the meaning of both names and they flowed well together, but haven’t found anything that fits for the third if it is a boy. I like the name Phoenix but my husband hates it.

We like the name Quinn if we have a girl, which is my husband’s middle name. He does not like Quinn for a first name for a boy though.

Out last name ends in -er which eliminates a lot of names, too! We could use some suggestions.

The Name Sage replies:

Most things in parenting get easier with experience. Somehow naming isn’t one of them!

It sounds like you’ve used your favorites, and now you’re feeling stuck.

The obvious solution, of course, is to use Quinn for a boy. It’s a true unisex option, given to over 800 boys in 2018, along with nearly 3,400 girls. But that’s the challenge. Because it ranks in the girls’ Top 100, I’m guessing your husband sees it as feminine. Factor in a handful of high-profile female Quinns, and I suspect he’s not alone.

Since we’re ruling out Quinn and Phoenix, let’s think about the kind of name that would sound just right for Lilah and Kai’s brother.

We’re looking for a modern name with a strong sound and a good meaning. Anything ending with –r is almost certainly off the list because of your surname. I’m guessing you prefer your names shorter and nickname-proof. And I’m going to avoid other unisex-trending choices, even though some, like Rowan and Finley, might otherwise fit.

But that’s not quite the full picture. While Kai and Lilah feel at home in 2020, both have plenty of history. I think that means we’re avoiding the truly new names, and leaning towards something grounded in the past, even if it’s novel as a given name today. Call them modern traditionals,  names that aren’t quite either,  but manage to be both.

Would you consider:

Boone – It shares roots with the Latin word bonus, meaning good. We still sometimes hear boon in English to mean a good friend – a boon companion – and bon is the French word for – yup, you guessed it! – good. Frontiersman Daniel Boone makes the name feel nicely rugged, too.  

Crew – Like Boone, there’s something quite capable about Crew. It always strikes me as preppy, thanks to rowing, and, of course, clothier J. Crew. But there are also wrecking crews and motley crews, so it’s not too buttoned-down.

Hale Boone and Crew both make the current US Top 1000. If you’re after something completely different, may I suggest Hale? It comes from an Old English word meaning healthy or whole. And while it’s rare as a given name, it’s familiar thanks to figures like Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale.

Hayes – Believe it or not, Hayes is cousin to Aidan, and shares the same meaning – fiery. Like Kai and Lilah, it’s a favorite for children born in recent years. And the ‘s’ ending has an appealing, scissor-y sound that makes the name stand out.

Jude – Strictly speaking, Jude belongs with the ancient names. It appears in the New Testament, and has been popular ever since the Protestant Reformation. But history aside, Jude sounds bright and modern. Better yet, if you’re a Beatles fan, it comes with a built-in lullaby.

Knox Phoenix makes me wonder if another x-ending name would satisfy? Knox means hill, but it’s broadly associated with Fort Knox in the US – where the country’s gold repository is kept. That lends the name a different vibe. Drop the K and nox is the Latin word for night, so if you’re looking for a tie-in to the natural world, that’s there, too.

Lawson – I’ve suggested lots of one-syllable names, but I think there are some great longer options. Lawson means “son of Lawrence” and Lawrence ultimately comes from laurel, as in the plant used to represent victory in the ancient world. While choices like Jackson, Hudson, and Grayson are Top 100 staples, Lawson remains just a little bit different.

Torin – Many of the names I’ve suggested started out as surnames. I wonder if you’d prefer something like Torin? It’s an Irish name meaning chief, and it’s just the right mix of familiar and unexpected. I think Kai and Torin sound great together.

The first suggestion I thought of is still my favorite – Hayes. I like the subtle nature name tie-in, the distinctive sound, and the way it sounds with Kai and Lilah.

If not Hayes, I’d rank Jude a solid second choice. Even without the famous song, this seems like an old school pick at home in the twenty-first century.

Readers, would you name a brother for Kai and Lilah Hayes, Jude, or something else entirely?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

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