Name Sage: If Not Riley, What?
We’d love some other suggestions – preferably not unisex.
Other names we considered:
Quinn – Also unisex
Henry – Too popular
Tucker – I don’t love it
Miles– Husband is unsure
The middle name will be James.
The Name Sage replies:
My first impulse is to try to talk you into using Riley for your son. After all, Riley ranked Number 173 in the US last year. That translates to 2,429 boys given the name. And Riley is a great name for a boy!
Except that you’re absolutely right that Riley is significantly more popular for girls. There were 4,761 girls given the name in 2014 – nearly double the number of boys. That was before the Golden State Warrior’s Steph Curry brought his adorable, scene-stealing daughter Riley to all those press conferences, and before Disney Pixar’s Inside Out gave the name to the 11-year old girl at the center of the hit movie.
You’re not asking if Riley could still work for a son. You’ve decided that it feels much too unisex to be a name for your son. That’s perfectly fair.
So let’s look for a name that’s clearly masculine, but also one that isn’t too popular. Since Henry ranked Number 33 in 2014 and seems too popular, we’ll rule out the Top 50.
I think that’s true of your style, too – nothing too outlandish. You’re looking a name that is mainstream without being overly common, and clearly masculine though not necessarily traditional.
Everett – Another –ett ending name, and one I can’t stop recommending. At Number 167, Everett is another name trending upwards. And yet, it’s got history galore and a great sound that make it very wearable for a son.
Finn – Quinn is more common for girls, but Number 234 Finn trends boy, as does Number 241 Griffin. Another similar possibility is Flynn, which has a swashbuckling image thanks to vintage Hollywood’s Errol Flynn and Tangled’s Flynn Ryder.
Clayton – If avoiding popularity is important to you, and you want something that is solidly masculine, how about Clayton? With names like Grayson, Jace, and Easton in the Top 100, it’s easy to imagine Clayton fitting in. But under-the-radar Clayton ranks just 271. A similar name? Number 203, Corbin.
Crosby – Since Riley and Henry are on your list, I’m tempted to look for an ends-in-y name for your son. How about Crosby? With associations from crooner Bing to ice hockey star Sidney, Crosby is widely recognized. But at Number 613, Crosby remains relatively rare.
Brady – Another name with sports associations and that bright ‘ay’ sound. Brady ranked Number 195 in 2014. If you’re a football fan this name is either perfect – or unthinkable! Unlike Riley and Bailey, Brady is almost never used for girls.
Rory – Rory is a great name for a boy. It’s an Irish as Riley, and goes well with James. The only downside? Rory is climbing for boys and girls. Rory currently ranks Number 416 for boys and Number 839 for girls. Plenty of names – Ryan, Logan – do chart for boys and girls, without ever really becoming unisex. But if avoiding this possibility is important, Rory might not work for your family.
Zachary – Zachary isn’t classic in the way that William or John is classic, but it’s certainly a staple name, one that feels solid and reliable. You’ve probably met lots of boys called Zach – and Zack and Zac – but the name is slowly fading. Zachary stands at Number 82, a clearly masculine name that feels modern and traditional at once.
Readers, can you suggest some substitutes for Riley?