The Age of Bold Middle Names

Good-bye to Anne and James - unless James is for a girl!

By Abby Sandel

Filler middle names are a thing of the past.

It’s a 21st century baby naming reality. Not only do we obsess over finding the perfect first name, we have to find middles that hit the right note, too.

That wasn’t always the case. If you were born in the 1980s, there’s a good chance that your parents named you Melissa Ann. Or maybe you’re Heather Marie. In the last decade or two, names like Rose and Grace became favorite middles for girls.

For boys, the classics – James, William, and Joseph – have always been big.

The new go-to middle names of 2015 are different. Parents are giving them nearly as much thought as first names, and we’re no longer content to settle on a short name just for flow.

Instead, bold middle names are:

  • Truly gender neutral. You’re as likely to meet Ava Blue as Mason Blue.
  • Sure, there are plenty of long, daring middle names out there, too. But some of the boldest choices are brief.
  • Familiar, though not necessarily as names. Word names, whether they’re virtues or nature names, are huge.

Some parents pair a bold middle name with a traditional first, while others pair daring middles with equally surprising first name choices.

Let’s talk about some of the most interesting middle names making headlines now:

Snow Ashlee Simpson’s firstborn with ex Pete Wentz is named Bronx Mowgli, so we know she’s a daring namer. Ashlee’s new husband, Evan Ross, has been promising something different for their baby-on-the-way. Sure enough, Ashlee and Evan recently welcomed a daughter named Jagger Snow. With Winter on the rise, Snow seems like a natural choice. And if big brother’s middle, Mowgli, comes from Disney’s adaptation The Jungle Book in 1967, was Ashlee inspired by the studio’s 1938 production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves?

Bird – Here’s a bold middle name set to soar: Bird. The equally avian Wren has been a rising favorite. Bird brings to mind Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady. (She was born Claudia Alta, but known almost exclusively by her childhood nickname.) There’s a Beatrix nicknamed Bird on MTV series Finding Carterand basketball legend Larry Bird also comes to mind. It’s short, unexpected, and has a gentle strength that works for boys or girls.

Swift – Speaking of birds, swifts are among the fastest of flyers. The birds take their name from the adjective, and the surname may have originally been a nickname for a fast runner. It’s not exactly a virtue name, but I’ve heard it in the middle spot. From literary associations (Jonathan Swift) to pop music (Taylor Swift), it’s easy to imagine why parents might find Swift appealing.

Fionn Sons of Anarchy alum Timothy V. Murphy was born in Ireland. Caitlin Manley is Irish-American. No surprise that they went with a heritage choice for their new son, Sean Fionn. Fionn is the Irish form of Finn, as in legendary hero Finn MacCool. It’s also a cool middle name choice, more modern than former favorite Lynn.

Dare – Courageous Dare could be an alternative to punch line middles like Danger. Or it might bring to mind Dare Wright, author of children’s classic, The Lonely Doll. It works for boys or girls, though might lean the tiniest bit feminine thanks to the ill-fated Virginia Dare, the first of the Colonial settlers born in the New World. A combination like Lydia Dare strikes the right note between traditional and bold.

Lane – Like Dare, Lane feels equal opportunity for boys and girls alike – at least in the middle spot. Names for Real spotted a Macon Lane. It’s less expected than Jane for a girl, James for a boy, or any of the traditional go-to middles.

Sage – Let’s look at another in the key of Dare and Lane. Sage is part-edible nature name, as in the shrub and the herb. But a sage is also a philosopher, making this a virtue name, too. It works beautifully for both genders – see birth announcements for Isaiah Sage, as well as Oakleigh Sage.

Beau British Baby Names recently profiled sibling names for Felix, but it was a recent Felix combination that caught my eye: Felix Beau. Plenty of parents prefer Belle for a girl, but Beau – along with Bo and even Bow – have entered the equal opportunity category.

James Brandon and Leah Jenner are the latest high profile parents to choose the name James for a girl, welcoming daughter Eva James in July. And Names for Real recently spotted a birth announcement for Cora James. James has long been a go-to middle for boys, but now it’s the hottest of the unexpected middle name possibilities for girls, too.

What’s your middle name style? Would you use any of these, or any similar names?

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14 Responses to “The Age of Bold Middle Names”

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lesliemarion Says:

August 2nd, 2015 at 11:24 pm

My middle name tendencies are more for males: Tangier, Taliesin, Charleston, Ransom, Prairie, Grove, Bedford, Ives, Keats, Yeats, etc. and for females: Tangerine, Morven, Fjord, Bronte, Geranium, Begonia, Ermengard.

Nature and flower names. Names without nicknames or with nicknames I dislike. Wild and exotic place names.

The good stuff!

eveyalecia Says:

August 3rd, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I definitely use middles as a chance to be a bit more daring. Or, if I can’t let go of an out-there first name, I pick a traditional middle to balance it out.

Thank you for having Bird on this list! I hadn’t considered it before, but I love it paired with one of my favorite first names that I couldn’t find a satisfying middle for: Daphne Bird!

LoveBugsMama Says:

August 3rd, 2015 at 1:17 pm

I love a good unexpected middle name. I’m adding these to my list: Lane, Bird and Beau.

One I’ve seen pop up a few times for girls is Grey/Gray. I’ve seen Amelia Grey and Eloise Gray.

A mom blog I read just had a new baby girl, Winnie James!

spayefike Says:

August 3rd, 2015 at 2:41 pm

I know I’m out of step here, but I dislike this trend. I think middle names are anchor a child in their family and world, so my daughter’s middle names are old family names that I love just as much as her first but were more common.

JH Says:

August 3rd, 2015 at 4:21 pm

If I were to take a risk with a name, it’d definitely be a middle name. My youngest is Frederick Von and Von was a risk for me, haha. I like to use family names for first names.

I do have to say, Ashlee Simpson’s daughter’s name is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum from what I’d choose. Snow isn’t awful, but Jagger….for a girl….I am not a fan. Congrats to them though!

lemon Says:

August 3rd, 2015 at 5:06 pm

I like a quirky middle … with meaning. Which is why I’m so in love with Eliza Wren for a future daughter – especially since it pays tribute to my nickname (Bird) and my sister’s profession of architecture (via Sir Christopher Wren). I also like not-so-bold Pearl. And, I might just be coming around to James for a girl’s middle – Phoebe James, Daphne James? Hm.

I really struggle with this for boys, though. I just can’t come up with anything bold yet meaningful to me.

LuMary Says:

August 3rd, 2015 at 9:02 pm

I don’t think James will ever be used equally for boys and girls as a middle. It’s a biblical classic like Michael, and it seems highly unlikely. I hope I’m right.

lesliemarion Says:

August 3rd, 2015 at 9:13 pm

It’s fine to anchor a child with a family middle, but my tendency would be to use that name as a first since I love so many old names anyway.

My family names include Sandra, Robert, Gordon, Leslie, Martha, Marjorie, Marion, Baron, Lowell, Newel, Roland, Roger, Ada, and Helen and more. I might use any of those as a first and then it would be the first name as anchor and the middle name as…

Sandra Avalon
Robert Spruce
Gordon Tangier
Marjorie Ermengard
Martha Tangerine!

megank4 Says:

August 4th, 2015 at 2:53 am

I wouldn’t do it, but I like the idea.
Either an honor name or something way out there.
I wish my middle name had more meaning instead of something my parents tacked on so I wouldn’t always be writing “No middle name”.
Anyway, I would probably go with a month or day name, a city, a birthstone, an animal, something like that.

Chloe14 Says:

August 4th, 2015 at 9:28 am

I’ve always tended to use classic names in the middle spot and sometimes in the first spot, too!

ashbee Says:

August 4th, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Supermodel Coco Rocha has Ioni James. I love Ioni, and the middle has grown on me despite not liking James for girls.

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August 6th, 2015 at 3:04 pm

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amf0224 Says:

August 8th, 2015 at 9:18 pm

I love Snow, Bird, Sage, and Beau. Some of my own more unique middle favorites are Marigold, Seraphine, Clover, Dove, Ciel, Fox, Lynx, Blair, Doe, Echo, Emerald, Amethyst, Crane, Noel, Scout, Poet, Penn, Storm, Rain, Oakley, River, Zephyr, Sky, Shea, Blue, Coral, Lake, Lilac, Honey, Sparrow, Peridot, Persephone, Lux, Noor, Indigo, Ginger, Darling, Bluebell, Lavender, Moon, Meadow, Primrose, Opal, Plum, Monet, Phoenix, Winter, Willow, Wren, and Wildflower.

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