Name Sage: Vintage Boy Names to Match Esme

Name Sage: Vintage Boy Names to Match Esme

Kaitlin writes:

We just found out that our second baby is a boy – and I was sure we were having another girl!

Our daughter is named Esmé. I love how unique but not off-the-wall her name is. Other girl names I loved are Arden (our choice of this baby had been a girl), Imogen (my husband nixed this one immediately), and Sabine.

Unfortunately, we have no boy names! We thought maybe Callahan (my maiden name) but our last name is a three syllable long Germanic name and I just think it could be a very long name, but my husband says we could call him Cal for short. I would also like for a name that flows well with Esmé and I don’t know if Callahan is that name.

Please help! This has really thrown me for a loop.

The Name Sage responds:

It sounds like you’ve got a great short list of names for a daughter. No wonder it’s a little tough to change gears and dream up favorites for a son instead!

Using your maiden name sounds like the perfect solution. It’s meaningful, of course. But Callahan happens to be another sweet spot name, like Esmé. Familiar, not common. Easily spelled and pronounced, but seldom shared with others.

But I can see it’s not perfect with a longer surname. Would you consider another Cal name instead? Calvin and Esmé both feel gently vintage, but with plenty of modern energy, too.

Callum, Callan, Calvert, Calloway and more names shorten to Cal, too. But style-wise, Calvin feels like the obvious choice. It’s inspired by your surname, but tweaked just a little to fit your family.

But maybe it’s Cal that doesn’t feel quite right? Let’s consider some other vintage boy names that might work:


Because you mentioned Arden, Arthur immediately came to mind. A late nineteenth/early twentieth century favorite, this name is rising in use again.


Another vintage favorite with a cool, current vibe.


Maybe you could lean into that German surname a little? Frederick is a distinguished classic, and Freddie is about as adorable as it gets. In fact, Freddie makes the Top Twenty in England. If Archie and Charlie are favorites on both sides of the Atlantic, why not Freddie?


Brief and complete, Jude’s strong sound works well with a longer surname. But it also pairs nicely with sister Esmé.


Maybe Leo feels a little too popular for your tastes. But it’s that upbeat o-ending that makes it such a good fit with your surname. After all, Esmé ends with a strong vowel sound, too. If not Leo, other boy names ending with o include Arlo, Milo, Hugo, Otto, Beau, and more.


For something more dramatic and unexpected, but still wearable, I wonder if Lucian would hit the mark? Some might pronounce it with three syllables, more like Julian, but I've usually heard it smooshed into two: loosh an.


Another option might be a name like Theodore – traditional and long, but with a bright nickname. Theo works every bit as well as other o-enders like Leo, for all the same reasons.


Because you’re considering surname names, I wonder if something like Wells would appeal? Like your daughter’s name, it offers plenty of history, but it’s never been particularly common. Hayes might be another choice.

No matter how many names offer vintage charm while still feeling distinctive and new, I keep coming back to Calvin. It’s not exactly your family surname, but it is inspired by Callahan. And it sounds just right as a brother for Esmé, too.

Please visit the forums to weigh in on the best brother names for Esmé.