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Name Sage: Baby Names for Boy #3

February 16, 2016 Abby Sandel

Sarah writes:

We are expecting our third son in July, and we’re having trouble coming up with baby boy names we both love, fits with our older boys’ names, and isn’t too popular.

I’m Sarah and my husband is Daniel, so we always had our first name followed by our last initial growing up.

Our sons are Cameron and Dominic. They have family names as middles, and our third boy will also get a family name.

Their grandfather is Scottish, so we would like to have a name that is also familiar in the UK. I don’t want to repeat a first initial, so C and D names are out.

Names we have considered:

  • Ethan – too popular
  • Sebastian – unsure it’s right, and also rising in popularity
  • Harrison – my husband likes; I don’t
  • Thomas – but we call DominicDom” and it would be confusing to have Dom and Tom
  • Rhys – we both like this one, but our neighbors/friends have a Rhys
  • Zeke – my choice
  • Desmond – my choice
  • Gabriel – my husband’s choice

Help us find the perfect fit for our third boy!

The Name Sage replies:

Cameron and Dominic are such handsome names! They’re longer, and shorten easily – but they’re not so long that they require a nickname. And while they’re both Top 100 choices in the US, they don’t seem like they’re everywhere.

I do think Cameron feels slightly British; Dominic, less so. But when I look at the numbers, they’re both in steady use in the UK. Interestingly, Desmond – the name that stands out as the most English to my American ear – seems to be out of favor with British parents today.

Before we look at the rest of your list, let’s talk about popularity for a minute. It sounds like you’d prefer to avoid Top Ten names, and maybe even anything in the Top 50 or so. Rhys ranks a relatively rare Number 483 in the US, but that’s the name that repeats in your circle of friends – not Top Ten Ethan or fast-rising Sebastian.

If we cross off the most popular names on your list, Ethan, Gabriel, and Sebastian are all gone. Dom and Tom is not ideal, so let’s eliminate Thomas, too. That leaves Harrison, Rhys, Zeke, and Desmond, all of which could work – but it sounds like you don’t quite agree on any of those four.

Time to add some options!

Elliott Elliott is another surname name that’s equally well known as a given name, thanks to characters from Pete’s Dragon to E.T. to Law & Order. It could shorten to Eli if you’re so inclined. Elliot and Elliott are Top 100 choices in the UK; they’re slightly less common in the US, but not by much. Cameron, Dominic, and Elliott sound like brothers. Two other ideas with a similar sound: Everett and Emmett.

Jasper Jasper is a gemstone name that’s been worn by several prominent figures in Great Britain, from the fifteenth century Jasper Tudor to contemporary novelist Jasper Fforde. It’s a strong choice on either side of the Atlantic.

Nathaniel Nathaniel has been in the US Top 100 since the 1970s, but it’s never been wildly popular. I wonder if, like Sebastian, it feels a little bit too long and maybe not quite English enough? I’m leaving it on this list, though, because it meets your criteria so well: familiar in the UK, not too common, with a different initial and a distinctive short form.

Hugo Hugo is much more popular in the UK than the US, but that might be a good thing. It’s shorter, and I’d probably call Hugo nickname-proof, which makes it not quite a perfect match. But from a popularity perspective, Hugo is perfection.

Julian Julian might be too popular for your tastes, and yet I think it’s a good fit style-wise. Cameron, Dominic, and Julian sound like brothers without repeating sounds. Julian shortens to Jules or Jude. As for whether it’s English? Julian Fellowes is the creator of Downton Abbey.

Jonathan – Parents hoping to avoid common names often overlook names that have been in steady use for many years. But sometimes these are the best bets – they’re familiar and likeable, but aren’t likely to climb into the Top Ten anytime soon. I think Jonathan goes wonderfully well with Cameron and Dominic.

And yet, I wonder if you’re overlooking the exactly right name: Ethan. It sounds like it would be your top choice if only it wasn’t so popular. It is a long-time Top Ten name in the US, and a current Top 20 pick in the UK.

But a Top Ten name isn’t what it used to be. Thirty years ago, the Number One name (Michael) was given to more than 3% of all boys born that year. The current Number One name (Noah) was given to less than 1% of all boys. In other words, a Number One name by today’s standards wouldn’t have made the Top 20 when you were born. The result is that even Noah is less likely to be Noah J. in kindergarten.

If Ethan really is your favorite name, you should use it. It works well with Cameron and Dominic, and would be familiar in the UK as well as the US.

But if popularity is still a concern, I’d suggest Jasper. It feels slightly English, familiar but distinctive, and is definitely less popular than many of the possibilities you’ve considered.

Readers, what would you suggest to Sarah and her husband? Do you think it’s best to avoid a Top Ten name, or does Ethan seem like a good choice?

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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