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?
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on July 28th, 2015 at 11:08 pm
What about Quentin? Quentin James is a great name & one I’ve considered if we have a third boy!
on July 28th, 2015 at 11:21 pm
on July 28th, 2015 at 11:30 pm
I really like Beckett or Declan
on July 28th, 2015 at 11:35 pm
Love Crosby James–my favorite of the suggestions.
on July 28th, 2015 at 11:56 pm
I actually prefer Riley more for a boy than a girl!
And another name I’ve heard but never seen on any list~
Ridgely…..I really liked it when I heard it on a little boy!
on July 29th, 2015 at 12:06 am
Crosby is the only choice that I really like. It is a great name.
I would vote for Sidney, which was mentioned. I like it on a boy way more than on a girl.
on July 29th, 2015 at 12:40 am
I do love Riley on a boy. I want to suggest Addison, which already hit/is hitting its peak for girls, so it can only really go down from there. Maybe it will start going up for boys?
Sidney is another name I like, with the i seeming more masculine than Sydney.
Kelley- Kelly was popular for girls, and maybe it’ll work for you.
I know I’m going against what you want but suggesting unisex names, but maybe these will work since your original was Riley (which is awesome! Think National Treasure)
on July 29th, 2015 at 2:51 am
Seconding the suggestions of Weston and Connor.
on July 29th, 2015 at 3:05 am
I would like to suggest Kyle, which has some of the same sounds as Riley, and has Celtic heritage. 🙂
on July 29th, 2015 at 6:31 am
I love the suggestion of Rory. It’s the perfect alternative to Riley and Rory James sounds great together.
Other suggestions: Casey, Brody, Rafferty, Corey
on July 29th, 2015 at 6:43 am
So sad Riley has gone to the girls. I prefer more feminine girls names personally.
How about Ryle? Or
on July 29th, 2015 at 7:22 am
What about Quincy? Similar to Quinn but much less likely to be given to a girl. My husband is a Quincy James and the name is very handsome, classic, yet unique! 🙂
on July 29th, 2015 at 8:05 am
What about Rollo? However, from the suggestions I like Clayton & Griffin.
on July 29th, 2015 at 9:31 am
on July 29th, 2015 at 10:37 am
Riley has tipped firmly into girl territory for me. I like the suggestions of Brooks and Beckett and wanted to also suggest:
on July 29th, 2015 at 12:11 pm
Loving Everett James. Very handsome pairing.
Crosby James is cool, and down to earth and gives me the same vibe as Riley.
on July 29th, 2015 at 1:48 pm
For another Irish “R” name that is used (almost) only for boys, how about Ronan? If you’re more into Irish surnames my favorite is Sullivan.
on July 29th, 2015 at 6:09 pm
From the Name Sage’s suggestions I like Beckett & Clayton (my daughter went to a prom a little over a year ago w/a Clayton). From pps’ suggestions I like Quentin, Weston, & Archer.
Evan (full disclosure: Evan James was one of my two boys’ name combinations if my daughter had been a boy…it’s also the name of Bruce Springsteen’s son)
on July 29th, 2015 at 8:13 pm
I would suggest Reilly same sound but definitely not feminine
on July 29th, 2015 at 10:06 pm
Reagan was my first thought as a replacement for Riley!
on July 30th, 2015 at 7:11 am
Beckett, Everett, Brady, and Rory are great ideas!
I would echo a spelling change from Riley to Reilly, which seems to be tipped toward males.
My top suggestion would be Rafferty James – it has the easy feel and cool guy image of Riley with more unusual oomph, and Rafe is a cool nickname (or RJ). Other ideas:
Ross / Roscoe
Tobin / Toby
on July 30th, 2015 at 12:24 pm
I love unisex names so you may not want my opinion but my favorites on this list are Beckett, Everett, and Finn. Beckett was on the top of for a boy and once we found out we were having a girl my mom actually suggested that it could still work. I love unisex names but Beckett? No.
Although I love the name Rory, it’s definitely unisex and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it tip more towards the girls. My cousin is named Rory (boy) but I’ve heard it more and more on girls recently.
I’ve never heard of Brooks, but it reminds me so much of Brooke that I can’t picture it as a super masculine name.
I also love the suggestions of Ronan, Rafferty, Quincy (my brother’s name) and Declan!
I met a little boy last week named Raglan. His mother named him after the Irish poem “On Raglan Road”. Adorable! It suited him so well.
on July 31st, 2015 at 11:45 am
I can only think of one substitution for Riley James just because my little brother has a similar name. My parents decided if he wanted to drop his last name and become a rock star he could lol. My little brothers name is Cody James. I think it would be nice fore a girl or boy and as well all the names suggested are very nice as well.
on July 31st, 2015 at 3:33 pm
I think it’s a real shame you feel like you can’t use Riley. Where I live it is really popular for boys and hardly ever used for girls. I really love it as a boys’ name.
My suggestion for an alternative would be Harley. It seems cool and spunky like Riley and it also shares some of the same sounds as Henry. Another possibility could be Harvey. Either Harley James or Harvey James would work well.
on August 1st, 2015 at 1:07 am
I would suggest Kieren. Its decidedly masculine, while having a similar feel to Riley.
Other names I liked:
Quinn (or maybe Quincy as an alternative?)
on August 1st, 2015 at 10:33 am
My only original suggestion is Rigby, which is a name I love and sounds great with James!
on August 2nd, 2015 at 12:41 pm
What about Ridley, Ripley or Reid?
on August 2nd, 2015 at 4:11 pm
What about Reilly? I think this is a more unusual, but traditional spelling that is used more often for boys than for girls, and it might make the name feel masculine enough.
I also love Quinn and Rory, and thought of Ronan as another alternative.
on August 3rd, 2015 at 6:28 pm
Rhys James (Reese or Reece)
Schuyler James (Skylar)
on August 25th, 2015 at 5:55 pm
I really loved the name Kaden James for my son but my husband had other plans so we didnt use Kaden. I’ve always loved that name and its masculine in my opinion. It even has options for nicknames like KJ or Kade
on September 5th, 2015 at 10:32 pm
Great choices! I like Beckett, Everett, and Crosby (Crosby being the most “unusual”) from Abby. From other nameberries the names I think work with either popularity, style, and/or roots, I like Weston, Declan, Wesley, Jonas, Wiley/Wylie, Milo, Nico, Griffin, Bennett, Reid, and Tristan. Since Tucker is an occupational name some others I thought my work (though some are less popular) are Shepherd, Booker, Baxter, Archer, Fisher, Fletcher, Foster, Porter, Tanner, Thatcher, Turner, Tolliver, and Walker. Good luck!
on October 1st, 2015 at 9:47 pm
I quite like Finn James.
on October 10th, 2015 at 2:07 pm
I LOVE Everett or Sidney James. I like Sidney and Everett on boys more than girls.
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