Nature Names for Boys

Nature Names for Boys

Their firstborn is Cedar. Now they need ideas for nature names for boys that are just as perfect for his little brother.

Lisa writes:

We have a son named Cedar, and we’re expecting another boy in September.

If it was a girl, we were considering Aurora, Juniper, or Sequoia. I know Juniper and Sequoia could be nature names for boys, but we are hesitant.

We’re looking for another unusual name, preferably one that has no religious connotations, references nature – we especially love plant names, is easy to spell and pronounce, and feels somewhat gender neutral.

His middle name will be my (German) surname; last name is my husband’s (Irish) surname, which is also a common first name and sometimes causes confusion.

We’ve considered Jupiter (but is it too out there?), Hawthorn/e (too surname-y?), Zephyr (too close to Cedar?), and Salix (the Latin genus for willow trees, but maybe too confusing?)

Thoughts and suggestions welcome!

The Name Sage replies:

Sticking to a theme can be tough, but when it comes to the natural world? Most families could name a dozen kiddos without running out of inspiration.

I think your current shortlist already includes a name that would make a perfect brother for Cedar. But let’s look at your maybes in a little more detail.

Zephyr and Cedar do seem awfully close. Not because they reference the outdoors, but because they’re both two-syllable, ends-with-R picks.

The shared R-ending might rule out Jupiter, too. But Jupiter strikes me as in the realm of mythological names, a brother for Atlas or Orion, not so much Cedar.

As for Salix? It works … if you don’t mind explaining the name. And probably spelling it, because it could be Sallix or Salex or maybe Salyx. I tend to agree with your sense – it crosses a line into too-obscure territory.

That leaves Hawthorn, and I think it hits the same mark as Cedar. We instantly recognize it as part of the natural world, but it still sounds name-like. It’s easy to pronounce. And while some might name a daughter Hawthorn, it leans masculine. I think that probably meets your slightly unisex definition, too. The only possible headache is explaining that your son’s name is “Hawthorn-without-the-e,” or maybe “Hawthorn like the plant, not the author.”

That seems like a minor hassle. But if I can’t talk you into Hawthorn as a first name, let’s look at some other possibilities:

Ansel – Since you’re considering less obvious nature names like Zephyr and Jupiter, would you be willing to expand your list to include artists known for capturing the outdoors? Ansel Adams is probably the best-known photographer of landscapes in the American West.

BayBay does double duty: not only is it a body of water, but there’s also the bay laurel. This name spiked in use for girls a few years ago, thanks to a character on an ABC Family series, Switched at Birth. But now the numbers show Bay leaning unisex. In 2018, 17 girls and 6 boys received the name. Like Cedar, it has a strong, bright sound.

Canyon – Does two C names make a pattern? Maybe, but I think Cedar and Canyon sound nicely distinct. They’re both outdoorsy nature names for boys with just a hint of ruggedness. Another bonus: 142 boys were named Cedar last year; there were 117 newborn Canyons. They’re equally unusual, but not completely out-there rare.

Heath – Back in the 1970s, Heath reached the Top 250 in the US. Credit television westerns; in the 1960s, a young Lee Majors played Heath Barkley on The Big Valley. But today the name is just inside the US Top 1000, and feels more like a brother for Meadow than a pint-sized cowboy.

Linden – Another tree name, Linden might be mistaken for Lyndon, as in the 38th US president. It sounds a little bit like Linda, too, but it’s used in slightly higher numbers for boys, so I think this meets your criteria nicely.

OceanRiver and Kai are fast-rising favorites for boys. Ocean isn’t that far behind, though it remains well outside of the US Top 1000. (166 boys and 116 girls were given the name last year.)

Ridge – It’s a short, sturdy name that brings to mind mountain trails. Though perhaps it’s too common? Ridge has been inside the US Top 1000 for the last few years; in 2018, 342 boys were named Ridge, which makes it about twice as popular as Cedar.

Sorrel  – Herb names like Rosemary and Saffron tend to go to the girls, but Sorrel is so rare that it doesn’t seem especially feminine. It also refers to a reddish-brown color of a horse, so it’s another double-dip nature name.

Overall, I still find Hawthorn tough to beat. But I think Bay and Canyon also make great brother names for Cedar.

Readers, let’s have a poll with my final three suggestions. Please share your ideas in the comments, too!