Here’s A New Way to Honor Grandpa

Once upon a time, a lot of baby boys were named after their dads. But while some families still follow this tradition, there are many fewer juniors around than there used to be. One new twist on patronymics: son names, such as Harrison and Jackson.

Of course, most Harrisons and Jacksons aren’t the sons of guys named Harry and Jack. But we can’t help feeling that in some unconscious way, the son names have caught on because they suggest family tradition, the passing down of a name from father to, well, son….or sometimes daughter.

Popular son names for girls include Madison, Addison, Allison and Emerson. And some of the trendiest of the group don’t really feel like son names: Jason, Mason, Tyson, and Crimson would fit in this category.

Here, some great son names you may not have thought of. They stand on their own merits, but you might want to consider them as a way to honor an ancestral Carl or James.

(And a reminder that with  our search function, when you search by letter you’re not limited to ONE letter – you can search for all names that end in –son or –ley, for instance.)

ANDERSON

ANSON

BENSON

BRANSON

BRYSON

CARLSON

CHANSON

DAVISON

DAWSON

DENNISON

DODSON

EDISON

ELLISON (we see this one for girls, as an update of Allison)

ERICSON

FERGUSON

GARRISON

GARSON

GIBSON

GRAYSON

HENDERSON

HUDSON

IVERSON

JAMESON

JEFFERSON

JENSON

JUDSON

LARSON

MORRISON

NELSON

NICHOLSON

ORSON

PARSON

PATTERSON

PIERSON

ROBINSON

ROBSON

SAMPSON

SIMPSON

TENNYSON

THOMPSON

VINSON

WATSON

WILSON

WOODSON

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20 Responses to “Here’s A New Way to Honor Grandpa”

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Elea Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 7:31 am

I think -son names are very handsome on boys. I agree that it makes a nice take on a ‘Junior’ name or as a way of honouring ancestors.
I dislike them on girls, to be honest, mostly because I can’t get past the “son of” part. I feel the same way about “Mc/Mac” names on girls for the same reason.

Speaking of which, I think a lot of “son of” surnames from other countries also make pretty cool names for boys.
“Mc”, “Fitz” and “-sen” names, for example, as well as the blended Welsh ‘ap/ab’ names (Bowen, Bevan, Broderick, Powell, Price).

phaedra Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 8:22 am

I agree with Elea – a “son” name for a girl makes me do a mental double-take. (Except Allison, which has been around since medieval times at least.) But I do like these names on boys when they’re family names.

sarahsed Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 9:26 am

My son’s name is Kelson. It’s a nautical name. I think son names on a girl are absolutely ludicrous.

Bella Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 9:29 am

I see these more as last names, or if you are using your maiden name as their middle name.

SarahinJune Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 9:44 am

My son’s name is Kelson. It’s a nautical name. I’m definitely not a fan of -son names on a girl. Even Allison.

Meliss Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 10:46 am

My son’s name is Harrison after his grandfather Harry. My father-in-law was named after his uncle who died during the liberation of Holland in WWII. Me and my husband both love connections to our family.

Me and my husband just finished watching Dexter season four and Dexter names his son Harrison after his father Harry. We look like super Dexter fans! haha

itsallthere Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I love -son names. Unfortunately it would be cruel for us to use one. Johnson isn’t a name you want to place on a growing boy!
I don’t mind Alison and Adison for females, but Mason on a girl is just wrong.

Karen Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I do not feel strongly against a girl having a -son name at all. We do not have patronymic surnames here, and we don’t have an analog -dr or -dottir, etc. kinds of names for girls. A girl is given her father’s last name as a matter of custom, and if he is not actually Harry’s son and doesn’t know who Harry was, if his daughter’s last name can be Harrison, so can her first name. It’s just my opinion.

There are other patronymics that are not quite so obvious in English, -son MEANING SON, but perhaps aren’t also used in given names as much. I think it might be peculiar to some cultures to even use a surname for a first name, particularly a patronymic with no real association to the pater whose nym it was, I mean many many generations removed.

I think this is a case where females lose again culturally – most surnames sound like a masculine name, at least in the Western World, and people are uncomfortable mixing it up, and it’s true that parents of boys are shy to give him a name some girls have (why are we uptight about it?), but a boy, according to custom, always can keep his surname, and he can keep another surname as his first name “just because it sounds like a boy’s name”, while a girl will change her name to her husband’s (again, according to custom) and will be accused of stealing or having an inappropriate name if she has a surname for a first name. I don’t know why we can’t be open and share names and not divide the gender-quality of names so severely. If a girl can have a last name with -son, she can have it as a first name as well. “Feminizing it” like making it -cyn or -sanne is sort of arbitrary, but I guess it helps people who are hung up on the -son part and are still trying to use a name they like for a girl in spite of its “meaning,” and I say it’s good.

MollyK Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I have never heard Dennison before. I guess we could use it if we have another boy since my father in law’s name is Dennis. But Dennison is definetly not my favorite of the -son names.

My niece would have been named Edison if she had been a boy. Named after an old relative named Edison. My nephew’s name is Gustav nn Gus, so if they would have had Edison then they would have had Gus and Ed. Glad she was a girl!

ahappyrobot Says:

March 23rd, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Good point, Karen. We do not have patronymic surnames in America, so does the -son ending really matter that much? Isn’t a -son name on a girl just as arbitrary as, say, Jameson on a boy with a father named Eric? The “son of” meaning doesn’t apply for either name, you know? Just sayin’.

Azure Says:

March 24th, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I agree with Karen and Robot. We should cut and paste Karen’s reply every time this issue comes up, just to show the other side.

Annika Says:

March 26th, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I don’t think the nonexistence of a patronymic naming system means that the meaning of a name becomes totally oblivious. There are still a lot of people who know that the name means son of XY. And especially because patronymic names are very common in English speaking countries (in Wikipedia’s list of the most common US surenames there are 11 patronomyc names among the top 20 – 8 if you don’t count the Spanish ones: Johnson, Williams, Jones, Davis, Wilson, Anderson, Jackson, Thompson, Rodriguez, Hernandez and Martinez) I don’t think it’s a great idea to give your daughter a name like “Emerson Jones” or “Addison Taylor”. But I might be a little biased because where I live (Germany) you don’t even use last names on boys; but then again Müller, Schneider and Jäger would sound a lot worse than Miller, Taylor and Hunter…

Connie Says:

June 13th, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I personally myself don’t like – Son- names on girls. My Nephews name is Mason, and I just couldn’t picture this on a little girl. I love the name Kelson, this is what i’m going to be naming my son, when I have one. Some of other -son-name I like are:- Grayson, Kayson, Harrison.

Joslyn Says:

December 20th, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I think that, with a few exceptions like Alison and Madison, all other “son” names should remain on the masculine side of the naming coin. A good, unique boys name is getting harder to find. Can’t we just agree to leave these to the boys?

Jossiechris Says:

December 20th, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I really can’t stand Tennyson, Addison, and Mason on a girl! The obvious unisex names like Ryan and Alex are tried and true. Parents need to stop taking all the good boys names and trying to make them into unique girls names. Because then we get to the point where the name is just uncomfortable for either to deal with, are you a boy or a girl?

Emmy Jo Says:

December 30th, 2010 at 3:26 am

I actually know a 40-something woman named Dennison. Her parents were WAY ahead of their time.

And I do want to point out that Allison doesn’t have the same origins as the “-son” surnames. Allison is a medieval English diminutive of the French form of Alice. It has always been feminine.

Katie Scarlett Says:

August 2nd, 2011 at 12:17 pm

My 9 yo son is named Gibson. We named him after my uncle,grandfather and great grandfather. Other than in my family I had never heard of it as a first name.(It was my g,g,g grandma’s maiden name) I liked it because it was a family name and it wasn’t hard to spell/pronounce. Now there are 2 characters on TV with that first name. I was shocked the first time I heard the kids name on iCarly. A lot of these names are great strong names. I’m so glad they are becoming more popular.

doneal Says:

January 10th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Has anyone explored the different naming traditions in the North and the South? (East/West, too, for that matter.) In the context of these posts, however, what strikes me is how much more usual it is in the South to name a girl using a family last name–often her mother’s. Names that come to my mind are: Landis, Drayton, Larkin, Ripley, Curtis; these are all women whom I know.

GrecianErn Says:

September 28th, 2012 at 10:45 am

I think it’s all about preference. How many people give their children ethnic names when the children have none of that particular ethnicity. My sister and I have Irish names, our brother Hebrew. We aren’t either. We’re of German, English and Native American decent.

@Annika- aw… “Emerson Jones” is at the top of our girls list. nn Emme. With one of the Top 8 most common last names on Earth… we need someone uncommon where we live. While she won’t be popular in Germany, Emerson sounds great here.

I also have a fondness for names ending in “N.” I think they mostly sound well together. we have an “-in”, “-an”, and “-on” and they roll nicely together.

CsprsSassyHrly Says:

June 8th, 2013 at 12:15 am

I don’t mind the -son names, but it usually depends on the name. Jackson and Mason I love because of their association with Jackson Belville on Gilmore Girls and Mason I-Forget-His-Last-Name on Dead Like Me, which was my first association with the name and I’ve loved it ever since.

But there are other ways you can honor a grandfather when you add their name. You don’t have to just add -son. That technique isn’t always going to sound good as a first name… Abel turns into Abelson? Gregory turns into… What? I can’t even come up with a name…

For the longest time, I had decided on the name Elena Aurelia, after my maternal grandparents’ mothers. (My grandma was upset that her mother’s name, Aurelia, wasn’t first but Aurelia Elena doesn’t have the same ring to it.) But, my great grandma Elena died when my grandpa was about 15, and though I’d met my great grandma Aurelia, I felt the connection wasn’t there for me that I would want to name my child after her. Though, I have to admit, I LOVE the name, possibly only because I’ve had it in my head since I was in the fifth grade, which was about 13 years ago.

The people I would be willing to name a child after? My mother, my grandpa and my grandma (both maternal since I’ve never met anyone on my paternal side). Well, my grandma has a child named after her, my cousin Petra (Pety for short). So, that leaves my mom and my grandpa.

After my grandfather’s death about three months ago, I decided that IF I ever have a kid (I’m not sure I want kids and only come on these types of sites because I’m an avid writer), boy or girl, it would have some association with my mother’s and grandfather’s names. My mother’s name, Georgina, but with J’s in place of the G’s, has a variety of names to decide on for girl’s names, Georgia, Georgianne, Georgianna, Gina, and so on and only one, as far as I can tell, for a boy, George or Jorge, its Spanish version, neither of which I like.

My grandfather’s name has proven to be more difficult. His name, Jose, has very few names that can turn it into a girl’s name… Josephine, and the like. But I have an aunt named Josefina, the Spanish variant of Josephine. So I moved onto my grandpa’s middle name, Reyes. More people actually knew him by Rey anyway. That became my association.

I have since landed on a variety of names for a girl, Georgianne Mireya, Georgianna Mireille (which is pronounced like meer-AY), or Mireya Georgianne, though the first one is the likeliest contender, with the nickname being Gigi for names starting with Georgianna/e or Rey.

The boy’s name has proven to be much more difficult for me to fall in love with as I can’t get on board with George or Jorge. But George Reyes, Jorge Reyes (which may end up what I’d go with as it sounds similar to my grandpa’s name, Jose Reyes), or Reyes George. If George ends up the first name, I think I’d go with Geo as the nickname. Otherwise, it’d be Rey, just like my grandpa. (Though, I may decide on doing that whether Reyes is a middle name or first, just because I can’t fall in love with George/Jorge. I do like Geo, but I prefer names that can grow with a person, Geo feels too nickname-y.)

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