The Nameberry 9: Unusual but usable boys’names

For The Nameberry 9 this week, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel finds a nonet of  familiar boys’ names that you might not have considered.

Are you watching The League?  The FX comedy is about a group of friends who form a fantasy football league.  Draft picks matter, in real sports as well as those played only on paper, and so the fourth season opened with a quandary.  Dad-to-be Kevin had traded naming rights for his newborn son in exchange for a better draft pick.  The new baby arrived, and Kevin’s buddy named the bouncing baby boy … wait for it …

Chalupa Batman.

Kevin and wife Jenny already had a daughter called Ellie, so you imagine that the couple might have preferred Logan, Owen, Jack, or William.  We can only hope that The League will eventually settle on another name for young Chalupa.  It’s too wacky of a plot line to leave there.

At the same time, Nameberry released the Top 100 for boys’ names (and girls, too, but we’re all Team Blue this Monday.)  And then a celebrity birth announcement sparked my thinking.  What are the mainstream, but not quite fashionable choices for boys?  Which names aren’t on anyone’s radar, but still seem perfectly reasonable?

It isn’t just the zone between the outlandish Chalupa and the ubiquitous Jacob.  What are the name thats aren’t exactly fashionable, but are still great names?

The list is surprisingly long.

Here are my nine top picks for boys that straddle the line between conventional and unexpected, based on the baby name news from last week.  None of these names for boys rank in the Nameberry Top 100, nor are they among the 200 most used names in the US – and best of all, they’re not likely to join their ranks anytime soon.

Dean – Part-Rebel Without a Cause, part-Harry Potter classmate, with a dash of Dean Martin and a sprinkling of academia, too.  Dean is the name of actress Bree Turner’s new son, a little brother for StellaDean didn’t make the Nameberry Top 100, though he ranked #284 in the US last year.

Bram – The Dutch rankings are out, and while most names are familiar – Lucas, Luke, Finn, Jayden – others are intriguing.  My pick for best import goes to Bram, the #2 name in the Netherlands.  He’s short for the Old Testament Abraham, but still sounds fresh and modern.  Plus if you’re expecting a Halloween baby, he’s a nod to Dracula author Bram Stoker.  He’s not in the US Top 1000, but Abraham came in at #192 and Abram at #444.

DonovanFor Real spotted Donovan in an Alaska birth announcement.  With names like Sebastian and Alexander solidly established as popular choices, why not Donovan?  At #254 in 2011, he’s not too far behind rising favorites like Declan, but still feels slightly less ordinary.

Leif – He’s a brother for Kai, an alternative to River.  Now that Leif Garrett is someone Great Aunt Tammy used to like, can we embrace this Viking name with a nature vibe?  For Real found Leif in use in Alaska, where he seems right at home.  I’d be more surprised to hear him popping up in Michigan or New Hampshire.  Leif didn’t make the US Top 1000.

ForrestBaby Name Pondering has been on a Halloween streak, and she’s suggested some subtle nods to the spooky season.  This one seems perfect for a boy born at any time of year – a preppy surname that feels just right on a rugged outdoorsman.  Dictionary spelling Forest could work just as well.  Like Leif, you won’t find Forrest in the US Top 1000.

Benedict – If Forrest is suited to the wilderness, doesn’t Benedict sound like an academic?  He’s recently spent time on the Nameberry homepage tag cloud, and I’m wondering why.  I’m the last to discover Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor playing the new Sherlock Holmes on the BBC.  Or maybe it is Catholic parents inspired by the current pope.  Regardless, I think he makes a great alternative to Benjamin.  While Bentley and Bennett are gaining, Benedict remains underused.

Payson – Yes, he feels like a trendy spin on Peyton and Mason.  But Eponymia had this one in her Arizona round-up, a place name borrowed from a surname.  If you’re looking for a name like Jayden that still stands out, Payson might work.  Like many of the names in this post, Payson fails to rank.

Gilbert – Also from Eponymia’s Arizona post, Gilbert has a pleasing association for Anne of Green Gables fans.  The gentle surname possibility comes with brisk nickname Gib built right in.  At #869 in theUS last year, Gilbert is the kind of name everyone recognizes, but no one shares.

Rafferty – You know when you hear a celebrity baby name and think instantly “that name will be huge?”  That’s what I’ve always thought about Jude Law’s son, Rafferty.  But Rafferty is now a teenager, and the name remains in very sparing use.  He was recently spotted in a Melbourne birth announcement, and he seemed completely charming, with or without the short form Rafe.  He’s not in the US Top 1000.

Which names would you add to this list?  Are there others that strike you as unusual, but still very wearable?  And why aren’t we calling our sons Dean?

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33 Responses to “The Nameberry 9: Unusual but usable boys’names”

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STLmama225 Says:

October 14th, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Love Dean and Gilbert!

onmyway Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 12:21 am

I love Benedict. Really hope it stays obscure.

Darci Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 12:30 am

Rafferty has been one of my top boy picks for years. Another name that I think goes along with this list is Keith. My brother and his wife just named their son that (after our grandfather). It’s one of those names everyone’s heard, but you meet very few babies and small children with it anymore.

Poppy528 Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 12:35 am

I have a lovable, rowdy, cowboy-hat-wearing, 4-yr-old cousin named Payson. It fits him perfectly. I love the name Bram – it’s a wonderful way to lighten up a fusty biblical classic.

Mummylovesunusualnames Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 1:43 am

I have a 3.5 year old Rafferty and live in Melbourne, Australia. The manager of his kinder-sport program recently told me he has six other Raffertys – all aged under two – enrolled for term 4. It must be on the rise here!

Mara_lyn86 Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 1:49 am

I like these types of names. The ones that have been heard, but not used as much anymore.

I like Leif, but I think people in my area would mispronounce that name all the time. I also like Donovan to get the nn Don, and I am warming up to Rafferty. I used to view the name Rafferty as a name that is trying too hard to be awesome, but now it is becoming cooler to me.

I knew a kid in elementary school with the name Forrest, so it doesn’t give me the best associations and my generation would just joke to no end with that name. I know the older generations still would, but luckily the younger one’s don’t know or care.

Also, having family living in Arizona, I hesitate to use the names Payson or Gilbert, since my family would look at those choices weirdly. Gilbert is super cute though, with the nn Gil.

dolliedagger Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 3:13 am

I went to a Catholic school in England so knew a few Benedicts, even 12 years ago. I’m afraid they all got called Bendy-dick by their classmates…

samjaymc Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 5:21 am

Quite like Rafferty 🙂

shinysarah11 Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 7:13 am

I live in Michigan and a customer of mine at work has a son named Leif. He’s kind of a nature-y kinda guy, so Leif also gives off a Scandanavian theme and a natural theme that makes it really useable. I love it! At this time especially, there’s lots of Leifs in MI! (and pretty changing leafs!)

LexieM Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 7:34 am

Benedict has been on my list for a while but more as a nod to Sir Kenneth Branagh performance in “Much Ado About Nothing” than anything else (or course it helps that Shakespeare wrote the character it).

Danni Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 7:42 am

@Mara_lyn86: I completely agree! These are my favorite type of names, too. They’re recognizable but not common or popular. My favorite from this list has to be Bram. Brom (after the character in the Eragon book series) is the name of a teddy bear I kept with me through my college years to ease home sickness. To me, Brom/Bram symbolizes strength, wisdom, and perseverance. What better message to bestow on your son than that? I can’t think of one 🙂

Haili73 Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 7:51 am

Benedict has been on my list since I was in 6th grade, no joke. And I like Leif a lot, and Donovan.

littlemissmariss Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 8:50 am

I dont see why Leif would be surprising here in New Hampshire. We are ALL nature here, heck me and my family members all live out in some neck of the woods. And this is a good state for hiking, camping, etc. Very scenic area with tree’s next to streams and ponds – I’m so excited for the fall leaf colors to come into play! I’d be more surprised to see baby Leif pop up in Mass, or New York or city area’s that arent all woods.

Anyway! I love Leif and Forrest a lot, I tend to like nature names 🙂 Bram is really handsome as well! Even if I prefer Abram a little more <3

Great list!

ScarlettsMom Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 8:59 am

I really love Rafferty. It’s been on my radar for a while!

I like the sound of Payson but not the spelling. All I can see are the two words. “Pay, son.” I’m trying to come up with an alternative…

Dean and Bram are super cute. I like Benedict but I still don’t think it’s quite wearable enough for a non-British boy, if that makes sense.

GrecianErn Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 10:04 am

Donovan has been on my list for a while… It’s similar to my maiden name, but still not right on the nose. 🙂
And it works well with our current boy fave Sebastian.

And I am loving Rafferty. There is no way my husband would go for it, but I do love it.

dresdendoll Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 10:16 am

I had a college professor years ago whose first name was Payson…always wondered why I didn’t hear more of that name. Seems like a fresher choice now than the various Paytons. And there are many alternative spellings for those who take issue with the one mentioned here.

dovah Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 10:19 am

Some of these have connotations too strong for me to ever consider using them. It’s fine if the associations are positive, but the names I’ve listed here seem like they would lead to teasing:
Benedict– Benedict Arnold? It is historically a traitor’s name.
Forrest– The Forrest Gump film will be forever popular. I know children who shouldn’t know the film who quote it. It only takes one person to say “Run, Forrest, Run” before it catches on and your son is teased.
Gilbert — The name on its own sounds like teasing fodder to me, but pair with it the celebrity association, and I have my immature brother yelling “AFLAC” at my newborn. Not to mention I made the mistake of watching a funny video of Gilbert Gottfried reading 50 Shades of Grey… you can’t unhear that.

On the other hand, I love Dean.

niteowl13 Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 10:38 am

My middle name was going to be Dean if I was a boy. First name would have been Corey. I was born in the 70s. I love the name Dean and Bram is on my list! I don’t want it to become popular!

Jenna5128 Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 11:05 am

Now the Bram reference has me wondering —is the children’s group “Sharon, Lois & Bram” only a Canadian thing? It’s such a strong reference it would be to me like naming your child Michael J. Fox and hoping people of our generation don’t notice the link. Rafferty is unlikely to pop in Canada also, high profile murder trial with a killer of that name just wrapped up. Unfortunate.

I love Dean…and Payson. (and if you’re a Dawson’s Creek fans, it could always have “Pacey” as a nn)

OliviaSarah Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 11:53 am

Although here in the UK Dean would strike most people as a bit chavy, I think. Although James doesn't have such a strong connection sadly.

Bran, Gilbert and Donovan and Rafferty are favourites of mine.

vanessaaball Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 1:07 pm

@dovah- you are cracking me up! Every one of those thoughts ran through my mind also. As much as I love Gilbert, you’re right, there are some things you can’t unhear. Priceless!

In all seriousness, I love Dean and Donovan is my son’s middle name. Really enjoyed this post.

NoahsARK Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I have been seeing Benedict appear quite often in the recent Irish Times Birth announcements.
Considering Ireland is still very Catholic, I’m not surprised.
I love it as a Full name for Ben, a breath of fresh air in comparasion to benjamin and the trendy Bennett, Bentley etc

Gensen Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Dean Harold is my baby boy! Don’t let Dean become popular!

I loved this post and love these kinds of names. Their not exactly classics, yet not attached to a certain time period. Always hovering around in the top 1000 but not the 100.

I’d add Alec and Malcolm. I LOVE RAFFERTY! Bram’s sweet as well. I have to say I don’t like the sound or look of Payson.

skizzo Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I know a Payson, I think I prefer Peyton to be honest.

For me, it’s all about Oakley. Perfect name for a boy

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Love Bram! He would be a fantastic choice for Halloween, and such a cool little name.

ClaireElise Says:

October 16th, 2012 at 11:44 am

I mentioned Dean here on NB awhile ago, and it didn’t get much love! I don’t think I’d ever actually use it…because my partner’s surname is 1-syllable too. I think Glen belongs on this list as well.

UniqueNameLover Says:

October 16th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Nice to see Donovan, Benedict and Forrest.

Whit32 Says:

October 17th, 2012 at 12:00 am

I like Dean best from this list. Others I would add: Scott, Neal, Todd, and Keith. There are a lot of benefits to dated names for me. They are easily recognized, definitely male (cause most girl moms don’t want to use a dated boy name for their daughter), easy to spell, not very popular, and, since they are now father and grandfather names, most people have positive associations with them.

peach Says:

October 18th, 2012 at 1:51 am

Donovan and Gilbert are on my favorites list for boys but I won’t use either of them for personal reasons. I am glad to see them championed.

Taz Says:

October 18th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Dean & Donovan are pretty wonderful!

Samantha-Bianca Says:

October 23rd, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I love Bram. It’s association with Dracula makes it a little bit gothic, which the self-indulgent side of me really likes.

I love Benedict Cumberbatch the actor, but Benedict is a lot of name to wear. Maybe if you wanted to call your son Ben, wanted hi to have a longer name but feel Benjamin is a little tired…it’s a good name. But it makes me think of eggs…delicious eggs, but eggs nonetheless.

And I, too, am incredibly surprised at the lack of succes of Forrest, Rafferty and Donovan.

Donovan’s a good muso-cred name. That was the name of the band that did Season of the Witch.

The Nameberry 9: Newer oldies and bolder boys – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

December 12th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

[…] her The Nameberry 9 this week, Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain sees more adventurous names for boys, some recent […]

LunaCross Says:

May 23rd, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Benedict makes me think of that stinking traitor Benedict Arnold. I know someone who used to work at my school whose related to that traitor. I would rather Dean than Benedict.

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