Nameberry Picks: 13 best virtue names for boys
By Linda Rosenkrantz
When we hear the phrase ‘virtue names’ we tend to think first and foremost of the girls—Faith, Hope and Grace, Prudence and Patience. But some parents are beginning to acknowledge that there are good boys as well as girls, and considering some of the old male virtue names that have been off the grid for decades, and would make especially meaningful middles.
Abel — Okay, Abel is more biblical name than virtue, but its modern appeal hinges on its literal meaning of ready, willing, and…. Plus Abel (or Able) is such an excellent all-around virtue.
Constant—Whereas the feminine Constance has long been in common usage, Constant never has in this country—although it is heard in France. Much more usable here is Roman emperor/papal/video-game name Constantine, which has been on the US list sporadically since the nineteenth century.
Earnest/Ernest—Hard to resist starting this off with “the importance of being earnest”—but Earnest, condensed to Ernest can definitely be considered very much a virtue name. This country was at one time filled with Ernies—Ernest was a Top 25 name in the 1890s and stayed in the Top 50 through 1956, while the Earnest version was also a well-used early option, as high as Number 107 in 1907. And Ernest certainly has his share of notable namesakes, most famously Mr. Hemingway.
Justice—Now considered a unisex virtue name, the blue version made a comeback in 1994, and is now at Number 518, while Latin spelling Justus—a popular name in Germany, pronounced YOO-stus– is at 792. Steven Seagal used Justice for his son back in 1976, while Jensen Ackles recently gave it to his baby girl.
Loyal—The Boy Scout-worthy virtue name Loyal resided on the Top 1000 list for almost sixty years, peaking at Number 555 in 1890, when Loy was a popular nickname, sometimes used on its own. Dr. Loyal Davis was a prominent neurosurgeon and the father of Nancy Davis Reagan.
Noble—Like Loyal and Justice, Noble was not uncommon at the turn of the last century, as high as Number 312 in 1901 and remaining on the list through 1954. One of its most prominent bearers was Noble Sissle, an important early jazz musician and composer, who co-wrote the song “I’m Just Wild About Harry” with Eubie Blake.
Prosper—A highly aspirational choice that is, like Constant, more commonly heard in France. Prosper Mérimée, best remembered for writing the novella that was the basis of the opera Carmen, was also a dramatist, historian, translator and archaeologist.
Sincere—Sincere was something of a surprise entrant to the popularity list in 2000, where it has remained, now at Number 703. It may have been jump-started by the character named Sincere, played by rapper Nas, in the 1998 film Belly.
True—A unisex virtue name found in several forms—True, Truly, Truthful—used by Forest Whitaker and Joely Fisher for their daughters. More unambiguously male is Truman—equally honest, upright, and presidential as well. Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks have a teenaged Truman.
Bravery –We first came upon Bravery when Talisa Soto and Benjamin Bratt made this creative choice for the middle name of their son Matteo in 2005, and are somewhat surprised that more parents haven’t picked up on it. With its three syllables, Bravery is more rhythmic than the other virtuous boy possibilities, and relates to cousin name Avery.
Clement—A more subtle choice, one of Clement’s definitions is ‘merciful,’ and is often used to describe mild weather. Clement has been in the Top 1000 for as long as Social Security records have been kept, reaching Number 267 in 1911. Clement, nn Clem, is currently at Number 980 and has numerous noted namesakes, from popes to saints to British prime ministers.
Worth—Worth sends something of a mixed message: are we talking about net worth, or a more general worthiness? Worth, which also has a bit of a preppy feel, was in fairly common use in the US at one time, on and off the popularity list through the mid-1920s. Worthy is another possibility.
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on January 28th, 2014 at 12:29 am
My son is Truett and we often call him True.
on January 28th, 2014 at 12:55 am
Oooo I like the idea of Truett nn True! How handsome!
I also like Valor and Constant 🙂
on January 28th, 2014 at 2:47 am
Justice, Loyal, Noble, Prosper, Sincere, True, Valor, Bravery, Worth — come on, seriously? What 12 year old boy really wants to be named Bravery?
on January 28th, 2014 at 3:16 am
Jensen Ackles is a male actor, not female 🙂
Anyway, I love Earnest and True as a nn is very cute! The other virtue names are either clunky or very feminine sounding for males, imo. Also, what if “Bravery” is a myopic and timid child? Some of these names put the pressure on!
on January 28th, 2014 at 3:26 am
Personally, I prefer Hart.
on January 28th, 2014 at 6:56 am
I like Valor, and I like True, but only as a NN. I prefer Truitt/Truett to Truman.
on January 28th, 2014 at 8:21 am
Abel, Nobel, Prosper and Worth are my favorites from this list. I also really like Wisdom but only in the middle name spot.
on January 28th, 2014 at 8:30 am
I ran across a boy named Honest in Plymouth County, MA.
on January 28th, 2014 at 9:36 am
I have loved Noble forever! Honestly, that is the only virtue name I like for boys though.
Justice is great and very masculine sounding, but it’s not for me. Most virtue names sound much too feminine. Prosper is interesting. I had never thought of that one. Seems like Star Trek fans might use it though. haha
on January 28th, 2014 at 10:25 am
Truett, nicknamed True, is awesome! I think Merritt makes a great virtue name and is quite wearable. I know a 5 year old Royal, which isn’t really a virtue, but reminds me of many of the names on this list. He wears it well but I would be curious to know how he feels about it as he gets into his teen years.
on January 28th, 2014 at 10:26 am
Also meant to add that I know a Justus, a 30-something guy, and it’s a very cool name!
on January 28th, 2014 at 10:46 am
I love virtue names for boys. These would all make striking middle name choices.
on January 28th, 2014 at 12:55 pm
Noble (I babysat a little boy named this, with sister Flor@), Loyal, Earnest, and Prosper are all loves of mine. I also like True as a nn for Truman, and Merit, Brave, and Abel – I knew a boy named this also.
on January 28th, 2014 at 1:17 pm
Most of these are not my thing, but I am shocked at how much I am liking Worth. I love Merit, but mostly for a girl, I do wish it made the list!
on January 28th, 2014 at 2:20 pm
I’ve liked Justus since seeing it in a ancient Roman movie, but spelling has the potential to get confusing; Justin is another that falls within the Biblical (New Testament)/virtue category….
Ernest and Clement still carry that old, crusty sound; brings to mind similar name, Clarence.
I could really see Loyal, Nobel, True, Valor and Bravery being used as middle names:
-Loyal reminds me of LLewellyn, which is a cool cool name. I can see the appeal of nn Loy.
-Nobel reminds me of Noel and has a nice sound.
-True is very simple and as others have said, I do like Truett as a longer name for this.
-Bravery’s sound isn’t too far off from Brodie or even Bradley
Be still, my heart, Valor has got to be my FAVORITE tho! Might be something to consider since husband likes the “man of valor” title that God gave to Gideon of old. I know a middle aged man named Valentine who goes by Val… I’m not too keen on Valentine, however Valor is certainly another means to that end. Valor is similiar to female Valerie (Valora, anyone?) or unisex/nature Valley. I wonder why Valor hasn’t come to the surface before now? I could completely envision a little Walter (Walt) and Valor (Val) sibset…. 😉
on January 28th, 2014 at 2:23 pm
Oh, and about Worth/ Worthy: I’d much rather use Worthington.
I’m all for praising a person’s value, but couldn’t a name like Worthy go to a person’s head??
on January 28th, 2014 at 5:12 pm
Sad to see people spelling Noble like the Nobel peace prize.
on January 28th, 2014 at 5:29 pm
I’d like Valor for a girl. It’s a cute alternative for Valerie potentially? All in all, I’m really not a big fan of virtue names for guys. I think virtue names are better on girls. Some of them I like, like True and Noble, but ahhh… no thanks for me! I’ll stick with Grace and Love!
on January 28th, 2014 at 6:27 pm
I like a lot if these but my last name is a noun so most don’t work.
on January 29th, 2014 at 5:03 am
I love Prospero and Merritt, but Noble and Valor are good too.
on January 29th, 2014 at 2:29 pm
I have an uncle named Constantino, Tino for short. I really like some of these names. I’ve been loving virtue names for girls (Verity, Mercy, Prudence and the like) but I didn’t think there were too many for boys. My favorites are definitely Valor and Justice. I like True (Truly) but I see it more as a girl’s name than a boy’s name.
on January 31st, 2014 at 3:48 am
I dislike every single one of those. A few might be ok for girls, but I would never use any of those of a boy.
on June 16th, 2015 at 8:06 pm
The name Abel has nothing to do with the word “able” other than that they sound the same. Abel is the son of Adam and Eve, a holy man whose sacrifice was accepted by God. Abel was killed by his brother Cain, whose sacrifice was not sincere or a sign of love or commitment, like Abel’s. Cain as a baby name will always raise eyebrows–it’s associated with deception and also with evil. Anyway, Abel is a lovely name, but not for the reason mentioned in the post.
on September 6th, 2017 at 9:13 pm
I think Merritt works as well, although I prefer it on a girl.
on February 16th, 2018 at 3:44 pm
Valor and Bravery/Brave have been on my list for AGES. I super love them!! And a lot of virtue as well as word names actually. I think a lot more grace, compassion and respect are needed when it comes to names because every person has a different style and there is absolutely NO WAY to tell if a child will or will not like their name or whether or not they will be bullied for it. If everyone stopped worrying and judging and exemplified compassion and acceptance to their kids, no one would care who’s named what anymore! We can all love and hate names according to our personal style just like we love and hate everything else; it makes us who we are. Everyone needs to stop judging what people like and what names they choose
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