Name Sage: Traditionalish Baby Boy Names

In search of a boy's name that's traditional but offbeat, with ties to aviation.

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

It’s off to the wild blue yonder for this week’s challenge! First-time parent Allison is seeking a boy’s name that feels traditional, but still slightly offbeat, with possible ties to their loved ones’ names and the world of aviation.  

Allison writes:

We are expecting our first little one at the end of September and I want to find the perfect name that will be a definite honor to someone in our life, but will also carry itself in originality.

Our baby’s sex will be a surprise, so we need a couple of girl and boy name options. We have a clear direction with a girl: My husband has always loved Amelia, and whether it’s currently trendy or not, I’m ready to let him have that pick. Also, it aligns with the fact that I was named after an aviation entity, Allison, my dad being a pilot.

My second pick for a girl would be Jonah, since his mother’s name is Joan. My mother is Lisa, so we could use Elisabeth (or something else?) as a middle to honor her.

We’re having the most difficult time, however, with baby boy names. Family names that I am trying to work with: David Carl (his dad) Paul Scott (my dad), Oliver, Douglass. We’re tending to like surnames as first name options: Brooks, Hayes, Abbott, Anderson, etc.

I was hoping to find an offbeat-but-still-classic first name and create a few options for a middle name that aren’t exactly the same name as the inspiration.

The naming process is overwhelming and we are trying to figure out where to start!

The Name Sage replies:

I think you’re wise to put personal significance before a name’s popularity. Amelia honors your father’s vocation and pleases your husband – of course it’s your top choice!

Let’s work on finding something every bit as appealing for a son.

Surnames with ties to aviation seem like logical choices, and happily there are many.

We can also work on taking inspiration from your family names. It sounds like you’re leaning towards keeping those in the middle spot. Since you’re open to reinventing the family name Joan for a daughter, I wonder if you’d also consider masculine forms of the name, like John and Jonathan, for a son’s middle name.

Here are my top suggestions for a boy’s name:

Davis Davis picks up on David, from his grandfather. It has that great surname style you like, including the ‘s’ ending of Hayes and Brooks. But it also works as an aviation-inspired name. Davis Aircraft Corporation was founded way back in 1928. While Davis has never been as popular as the classic David, it has a long history of use, and could wear well on a son born in 2016.

Hayes Hayes is already on your list, and it seems to strike exactly the right note. It feels traditional, but it is a little out of the ordinary, too. I went looking for an aeronautical tie, and found this: British aircraft manufacturer Fairey Aviation was based in Hayes, outside of London, in the early twentieth century.

Hardy Hardy fits right in with surname names for boys like Brady and Riley. It strikes a nostalgic note, thanks to amateur detective brothers Joe and Frank, of The Hardy Boys fame. And, of course, Hardy sounds like hearty – a positive association. British company Hawker Aircraft briefly manufactured a model called the Hardy in the 1930s. Despite the popularity of similar names, Hardy is relatively rare. It was given to just 43 boys last year.

Curtiss or Curtis – If names like Hardy and Hayes seem too thinly connected to aviation, Curtiss – as in the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, founded back in 1916 – seems like an obvious one to consider. But since both Curtis and Curt peaked in the 1960s, maybe it’s not quite the style you had in mind.

Charlie or Charles Charles is a classic, and though it’s not a surname name, I can’t resist including it on this list. After all, Charles Lindbergh was the first to cross the Atlantic solo, and Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. Any of the Charles names could also be a nod to Carl, yet another member of this traditional name family.

Thatcher Thatcher seems like the kind of surname name that might appeal to you. And guess what? There’s a build-it-yourself, single-seater aircraft known as the Thatcher CX4.

Walker – Another ends-in-r name that feels traditionalish, Walker also has ties to the wild blue yonder, thanks to Walker Air Force Base.

Pierce – This might be a stretch, but Richard Pearse of New Zealand built a monoplane around the same time as the Wright Brothers. Spelled Pierce, it’s a surname related to Peter. While it has a long history of use, it’s never been common – and I think it exactly hits the traditional, but offbeat, note.

Because Davis touches on your family names and relates to your subtle aviation-inspired name, I love the idea of Davis Oliver or Davis Jonathan for a son. I also think a name like Charlie Hayes or Charles Pierce could be very handsome, and honor your loved ones beautifully.

Readers, what would you suggest to Allison? Are there other surname names with a traditional, but not too common, feel with ties to aviation?

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About the author


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
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14 Responses to “Name Sage: Traditionalish Baby Boy Names”

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mrsbuntain Says:

May 24th, 2016 at 11:11 pm

What about Dashiell with the nickname Dash?

dresdendoll Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 2:41 am

Houston Hayes
Sully Abbott
Avian Oliver
Wilbur Douglass

Connie25 Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 5:53 am

Maybe Shepard after Alan?
If you’re willing to go there, Buzz, as in Buzz Aldrin (also Buzz Lightyear’s namesake)
Fabien, the main pilot character in the book Vol de Nuit (Night Flight) and the French Didier, also from the novel.

KirstGee Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 6:01 am

Not an Aussie are you? Our fav pilot is Sir Charles Kingsford Smith ! Charles is great or even Kingsford for something a little different.

Janie_Larkin70 Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Please don’t use Jonah for a girl! It sounds ridiculous on a girl, at least tp my ears, and there are a dwindling number of exclusive boy names. On the other hand, would you consider Jonah for a son? I love that name…for a boy!

How about Johanna for a girl? That’s so pretty, and doesn’t seem destined for the top ten.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, beloved baby!

Sweetchariot Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 4:06 pm

I like Brooks a lot-I think it’s an overlooked name. Burke is similar and had a nice Scottish flair. I like Burke Douglass!

SweetPiper Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 8:15 pm

How about Neil, as in Neil Armstrong?

Or how about Beau, as in Boeing aircraft?

Both are under-used and lovely traditional names.

Maerad Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Jonah would be a great choice for a boy! Jonah Davis or Jonah Douglas would be great!
The person you honour doesn’t have to be the same sex as the child, and Jonah is such a handsome name! Much better suited to a boy in my view. Jonah Davis would be great, although it does only honour his side.
Jonah Scott is also incredibly handsome and since your dad is a pilot, it’s got an aviation theme!

jtay07 Says:

May 25th, 2016 at 9:13 pm

I did some searching on famous aviators and here’s what I found:

Hughes – Howard Hughes
Cole or Coleman – Bessie Coleman
Bennett – Floyd Bennett
Wilson or Willem – Wilbur Wright
Ellis – Hunter Ellis
Ford or Harrison – Harrison Ford
Hart or Hartmann – Erich Hartmann
Noel – Noel Wien
Linden – Charles Lindbergh
Anderson – Scott Anderson
Miles – Miles Browning
Conrad – Max Conrad
Campbell or Reeve – Robert Campbell Reeve
Tucker – Sean D. Tucker
Barnes – Pancho Barnes
Warner – Emily Warner

Also I found a Navy pilot from the mid-1900’s named Scott Crossfield and another pilot named Scott Anderson, so your family name Scott could be a tie to aviation too!

meek Says:

May 26th, 2016 at 8:55 am

How about Carlton after Carl

thorn144 Says:

May 26th, 2016 at 10:26 pm

Why don’t you consider Jonah for a boy? I actually never considered it for a girl, and now that you make me think of it it would be such a cute girls name! But also strong and handsome on a boy. I like your surname picks! Hayes, Brooks, Abbott are great. And some of Abby’s picks are too but I feel like you weren’t necessarily looking for specifically aviation ties so that was a bit unexpected. But, I love the suggestions of Davis, Walker and Pierce! Charles is also great. Classic but not too popular. Please let us know what you choose!

jtay07 Says:

May 27th, 2016 at 11:18 am

Here’s some other options in case you don’t need something with aviation ties:


Bobcat108 Says:

May 27th, 2016 at 12:01 pm

McDonnell & Douglas are both aircraft-related names that would work well as boys’ names. Link may be a possibility as well. (Edwin Link invented an aircraft simulator for would-be pilots to train in…they were known as “Blue Boxes” & were used to train much of the U.S. Army Air Corp during WWII. My dad worked for Link almost his entire career; one of the projects he was associated w/was the simulator for the lunar landing module.) I like Curtiss/Curtis; it may not have been out of style for 90 years, but it’s been at least 50 years since it was popular, I think.

This page was fun to browse through for names:

wishing4199 Says:

May 29th, 2016 at 12:10 pm

What at Wright? As I was reading this, with the reference to the Wright brothers, I thought that is a interesting name for a boy. Wright with a more traditional middle like David or Jonathan is really nice.

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