Name Sage: Traditional Boy Names Needed

Name Sage: Traditional Boy Names Needed

Sarah writes:

My husband and I are expecting our third baby on February 7. We have decided that we won’t find out the gender. We’ve already used the two boy names we have always loved for our two sons: Henry Hiram (often called Hal) and Joseph Magnus. Both names carry personal and religious significance for us.

If this baby is a girl, we are considering Mary Grace. Whenever I tell people we’re thinking about the name Mary, they wince and seem to really not like it! They say it’s too common, even though my kids do not know one little girl with the name and very few people of any age with the name anymore. We also like Elizabeth and Lydia.

I have a gut instinct, however, that this next child will be another boy. My husband and I are so stuck! Nothing seems right.

I like Thomas, James, Patrick, John, or perhaps Charles. My husband doesn’t like any of these, and the name I love the most, Patrick, has been rejected because of the starfish on SpongeBob SquarePants. He has suggested Abraham called Bram, Sven, and Simon Peter – which seems very heavy to me. Ephraim is a possible middle name. We have ruled out Brigham, Phillip, Benjamin, Ezra, Judah, Caleb, and Theodore.

We tend to like more traditional first names with less conventional middles. All of a sudden, February 7th seems so close, and if this baby is a boy, he does not have a name at all!

The Name Sage replies:

It’s crazy, but true – in many circles, Mary now seems like a strange choice. The former Number 1 name feels as unusual as Zoe or Luna would have been a century ago. (Though there were over 2,600 girls given the name in 2014 – it’s far from extinct!)

And yet, it sounds like it’s The Name for your family. Your sons have handsome, traditional names. Mary fits well with Henry and Joseph, in a way that a more modern name, like Skylar or Peyton, would not. So hold your head high, and if this baby is a girl, proudly name her Mary!

Mary Grace is a lovely combination. If you want to consider some names from women leaders in the early Mormon church, I came across Emmeline (Wells) and Aurelia (Rogers), so I’ll add those to your list. But it sounds like your girl’s name is just about decided.

Now let’s talk about your choices if your hunch is right, and Henry and Joseph are getting a new brother.

Too bad that you can’t convince your husband that Patrick is perfect! It’s a great name for a son, and I love the unexpected nickname Patch. But if the animated character has ruined it for him, let’s move on.

The good news is that the pool of traditional names for boys is deeper than we often imagine. Even with Henry and Joseph already in use, and several more possibilities off the table, there are plenty of names to consider.

Peter – Much as I love the sound of Simon Peter, I agree that it’s quite a heavy name. Would you consider just Peter? It still has every ounce of religious significance, but it feels much more wearable. Peter Pan takes it in a literary direction; Peter Parker makes it a superhero name. It’s a classic choice, and a solid match for Henry and Joseph.

Simon – Of course, Simon is every bit as much a possibility. Simon feels smart, and I can image shortening this name to Sy, just like your Henry becomes Hal. Another advantage? The three names share the same style, but there’s no overlap in terms of sound between Henry, Joseph, and Simon.

William – Is it possible that William hasn’t come up? It’s among the most classic of given names for boys, in steady use in English for more than a millennium. Like Henry, William’s roots are Germanic rather than Biblical, so maybe that’s why it hasn’t quite made the cut?

Stephen – Let’s go back to the New Testament for another neglected classic. Steve is your accountant, your dentist, or maybe your favorite uncle. But it’s not quite a name for a baby. Stephen, on the other hand, seems every bit as wearable as Mason and Logan. Henry, Joseph, and Stephen sound like brothers. I also think Stephen could easily be Stef instead of Steve, a nickname that feels more current.

Matthew – We sometimes forget that Matthew is a classic with Biblical roots. Blame it on the name’s popularity. It ranked in the US Top Five from 1981 through 2006. But the name has history galore, worn by intrepid men like Commodore Perry, who opened relations between the US and Japan in the 1850s, and Arctic explorer Matthew Henson, who reached the North Pole with Admiral Peary in 1909.

SamuelJoseph has always been a popular name, but Henry is the kind of classic that has made a comeback in recent years. The same is true of Sam. And while Sam has a friendly, every-guy sensibility, the name is significant in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon.

DanielDaniel has never left the US Top 100 for boys. It’s a timeless Biblical name that brings to mind many accomplished men. The name carries a hint of Americana thanks to frontiersman Daniel Boone. It’s also worth noting that boys named Daniel in 2016 are likely to be Daniel, rather than Danny or Dan – though the nicknames are always there if you’re so inclined.

Felix – This name is a little bit of an outlier, but I wonder if it might bridge your husband’s slightly more daring tastes and your own? Felix has long history, a great meaning – fortunate – and a current sound. Felix isn’t quite as familiar as Henry or Joseph, but the name has deep roots and sounds like a good match for your older sons’ names.

I think Ephraim would be a great middle name choice, or even Abraham, Bram, or Sven. I’m drawn to Daniel EphraimHenry Hiram, Joseph Magnus, and Daniel Ephraim. It feels like it goes together well without repeating sounds or initials. But I do wonder if using just Simon or Peter might be a way to blend your husband’s favorites with a name that you can love, too.

Readers, what names would you suggest for Henry and Joseph’s little brother? I’d also love to hear your thoughts on Mary. Would you be surprised to meet a baby Mary in 2016?