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The Brave New World of Boys’ Names: Zion, Dashiell, and Ocean

January 18, 2015 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

The way we name boys is changing, and that’s a good thing.

For years, parents played it safe when naming their sons.  We were more likely to pass down family names, and less likely to choose something really different or novel.

Why? Maybe we worried that boys were more likely to be teased for a different name.  Or maybe we applied the Supreme Court Justice test more strictly to our boys than our girls.

Or could it be habit?  We’ve long experimented with girls’ names, inventing new ones based on fashionable sounds and using multiple forms of a favorite.  Diane, Diana, and Deanna all had a good run in the 1960s.  More recently, parents chose between Kayla, Kaylee, and Kaylyn. Girls’ names were revived and reinvented, while boys’ names remained unaltered.

Now that creative spirit and sense of possibility is present when naming sons as well as daughters.  The rule insisting that a name given to girls can never be considered for boys is changing.  With choices like Jayden in the US Top Ten, even names once unknown can become wildly popular for boys – something that’s long been true for girls.

This week’s baby names in the news prove that there’s never been a better time to name a boy.

Zion – Snoop Dogg – born Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. – is a proud new grandpa! Snoop and high school sweetheart Shante have three children: sons Corde and Cordell, and daughter Cori.  Now Corde and girlfriend Jessica Kyzer have welcomed son Zion Kalvin.  Spiritual Zion is a popular choice these days, a winning combination of meaning and style.

Kenric – Passing down family names often means recycling William or James.  But not always.  The Walking Dead’s Sonequa MartinGreen and her husband recently welcomed Kenric Justin Green II.  Kenric looks like a streamlined form of Kendrick – which may have evolved from the Old English name Cenric, meaning bold power.  It’s an unusual choice with history to spare.

Frank Do you watch House of Cards? Kevin Spacey plays the ruthless Frank Underwood, a role for which he just nabbed a Golden Globe.  In an interview, Today’s Matt Lauer asked Spacey about the jump in boys named Frank since House of Cards debuted.  Except … there hasn’t been a jump.  House of Cards first aired on Netflix in February 2013.  That year, Frank fell to #327 – a new low for the enduring name.  Franklin and Frankie were up, though – more hints that parents are willing to skip the old reliables in favor of the new.

RansomFor years, parents brought back Barbara, rediscovered Stella, and named girls after great-grandma Grace – while many boys’ names held steady.  Now we’re looking backwards for boy name inspiration, too. Amelia’s blog on 2015 trends classes him with bad boy names like Maverick, and that’s probably how he’s perceived by many. But there’s a potential spiritual side to Ransom, too, one that might appeal to parents considering names like Pax and Praise. Plus, Megan Fox welcomed Bodhi Ransom in 2014.

Ocean Clark – There’s another leaf on the Gable family tree.  Kayley Gable is granddaugther to the late Hollywood icon Clark Gable.  She’s just welcomed son Ocean Clark Gable. Sure, the middle name is a nod to Ocean’s handsome ancestor. But Ocean is a bold nature name, a unisex choice catching on for boys and girls – and one that would have been just about unthinkable back in great-grandpa’s heyday.

Elliot Charlie – Some celebrities make us wait before revealing their children’s names. Others are happy to share. File Jeff Goldblum in the happy-to-share camp. Jeff and new wife Emilie Livingston are expecting their first child this summer, and it’s a boy!  And even though he’s not here, the happy couple has apparently settled on a name: Elliot Charlie. Elliot isn’t so unusual, but using a diminutive like Charlie in the middle spot is pure 21st century baby naming.

Eddard Alastor – More proof that daring names for boys are on the rise?  Game of Thrones names are not just for girls.  Sure, Aria is wildly popular and Khaleesi makes headlines.  But Names for Real recently spotted an Eddard, as in Stark, better known as Ned.  Ned is a thoroughly admirable patriarch in the series, so it isn’t such a crazy source of inspiration. And Eddard feels like an interesting refresh of the classic Edward.

DashiellLet’s end with a name that’s both daring and dashing: the literary Dashiell.  Never in the US Top 1000, Dashiell still feels reasonably familiar, thanks to author Dashiell Hammett.  It’s also a Disney name, thanks to Pixar’s The Incredibles, where super-fast fourth grader DashiellDashParr saves the day with his family.  And now it is the name director Bryan Singer and actress Michelle Clunie have given to their son.

Julius Dashiell’s full name is Dashiell Julius William Clunie-Singer.  Middle name Julius is another interesting choice. A nineteenth and early twentieth century favorite, Julius has made a modest comeback in the past decade or so, though Julian is the most popular form of the name. But with Atticus and Maximus climbing the charts, there’s definitely space for ancient appellation Julius to feel fresh and interesting once more.

What are the bravest names on your boys’ list?  Do you agree that there’s more freedom to choose bold names for boys today than in the past?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

View all of Abby's articles

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