The New Everyboy Names: Emmett, River, and Axel

By Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

What’s the 2014 equivalent of the old phrase “Every Tom, Dick, and Harry?”

Every Aiden, Mason, and Jake?

Every Max, Zac, and Jackson?

The most popular names for boys used to hold steady for years.  In 1932, the ten most popular names for boys born in the US were Robert, James, John, William, Richard, Charles, Donald, George, Joseph, and Thomas.  Twenty years later, eight of those ten names were still dominant.  Fast-forward to the 1980s, and 30% of the 1932 boys’ Top Ten still ranked.

As for the girls?  That’s a different picture.  Between 1932 and 1952, seven of the girls’ Top Ten fell.  Shirley and Doris made way for Linda and Susan, and the change has continued at a rapid pace.  None of the 1930s or 1950s girls’ favorites still held a top spot by 2012.

And yet there are more wearable names for boys than ever before.  Plenty of parents are still passing down grandpa Joseph’s name, but the pressure to do so seems to be on the decline.  We live in a more accepting age, where diversity in names feels quite normal.

This week’s baby name news was filled with boys with great names – appealing, but not astonishingly different.  They wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if you heard them called out on a playground in your neighborhood, or announced on a friend-of-a-friend’s Facebook page.

Here are nine names that might be worthy of consideration if you’re expecting a son, and plenty of proof that the definition of a wearable boy name is broader than ever before.

River IsaacNCIS: Los Angeles star Daniela Ruah and fiancé David Olsen are new parents.  The couple paired a modern nature name with a Biblical favorite.  It’s a pleasing combination for a son, a nice balance between the daring and the safe. River was startlingly original when young actor River Phoenix made his big screen debut in the 1980s.  At #407 in 2012, he’s currently at his most popular.

XavierDwyane Wade’s new son with ex-girlfriend Aja Metoyer arrived at the end of 2013.  The Miami Heat star confirmed that his third son is named Xavier ZechariahDwyane must love that X-Z sound.  His older sons from a previous marriage are Zaire and Zion.  All three names would have once seemed rather exotic, but today they’re pretty mainstream – Xavier ranked #81 in 2012, and Zion and Zaire have both charted in the US Top 1000 for more than a decade.

Durham – Speaking of basketball, how ‘bout this North Carolina place name, which happens to be home to basketball (and academic) powerhouse Duke University.  It’s borrowed from England, and it’s the rarest first name on this week’s list, given to just nine boys in 2012.  Baby Name Addict overheard it in a bookstore.  If we’re calling our children Austin and Boston, doesn’t Durham seem like a possibility?

EmmetThe Lego Movie hits theaters in a few weeks, with animated minifigures as the stars of the show.  Emmet is the main character, voiced by Chris Pratt, an ordinary Lego guy tapped to save the universe in all its interlocking plastic glory.  While the single –t spelling is rare, Emmett ranked #186 in 2012, boosted by a Twilight vampire and all of those Em– names for girls.

Matteo – He’s a popular Italian pick – in Germany!  German name site Beliebte Vornamen reported that Matteo, Luca, Liam, and Mats were all fast-rising choices last year.  Imported versions of classic names are stylish in the US, too, where Matteo ranked #412 in 2012, and the single-t Mateo charted at #138.

Axel – Let’s head to Australia next, where Anna has been busy predicting the future Top 100Axel made her list of boys’ possibles, along with other up-and-comers, like Jude, Cruz, and Camden – names, I’ve been watching in the US, too.  Can’t get enough of names from an Aussie perspective?  Anna has her first ebook out this month!

Carter – He’s numero uno in Canada, according to Canadian Living MagazineKathy Buckworth wrote in The Huffington Post that the list wasn’t surprising – “Canadians are fairly traditionalist.”  I understand her point, but Carter as a Top Ten name?  He’s #36 in the US, his most popular ever.  Some families have always promoted surnames to the first spot, but when Carter keeps company with David and James?  I’m not sure it is unconventional, but is definitely interesting.

Jasper – Outgoing New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed his first grandchild, thanks to daughter Georgina and her partner Ramiro QuintanaJasper Michael Brown Quintana owes his first middle to grandpa and his second middle to Susan Brown, Michael’s ex-wife and Georgina’s mother.  Jasper – yet another name worn by a good vampire in Twilight – ranked #264 in 2012, and feels very wearable in 2014.

John AetherDevious Maids star Dania Ramirez and her director husband John Beverly Amos Land have welcomed their twins!  We’ll talk about sister Gaia’s name next week, but for now, let’s take a look at their new son.  John shares his first with dad, but they couple plans to call him Aether – as in the pure air breathed by the gods in Greek mythology.  It’s also the fifth element, the substance believed to fill much of the universe for centuries of scientific hypothesizing.  It’s a daring name for a boy, but if River and Xavier and Carter and Jasper are heard everywhere, is Aether so out there?

Do you agree that there are more options for boy names than ten years ago?  What are your favorite boys’ names? 

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16 Responses to “The New Everyboy Names: Emmett, River, and Axel”

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Saracita00 Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 12:22 am

I’ve been saying that -ER names for boys will be the next BIG thing in coming years (like Aidan big) and judging by this list, the -ER names are just getting started.

I do think that parents are more open to ancient, as well as newly-coined, names for boys. Even fictional character names are now on the table for consideration. It’s an exciting time to name a boy!

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 2:26 am

Aether and Gaia are a very daring sibset! But I do love it.

It’s definitely a great time to name a boy – I’m constantly blown away by the interesting choices people are making for their sons.

R_J Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 7:40 am

Interesting that John Aether got a “safe” first name (even if they plan to use the middle exclusively,) unlike sister Gaia.

namefan Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 11:40 am

I’ve noticed similar trends just in the past few years about boy’s names becoming more daring. For example, when looking at the 2012 list to that of around 2006-7 there has been more turnover with the boy’s Top 10 than the girls, more girls than boys now get the #1 name (although that tapers off and reverses to the “traditional” pattern after the first few names), and there are now more “non-traditional” names in the boy’s Top 10 than on the girl’s side (as most of us know historically, at least in the time that SSA has records, it’s been the other way around with each of these cases).

Oleander Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 11:40 am

I LOVE the name River, but actually prefer Rivers. My step grandfather’s name is Rivers and he will be 96 this year, so I guess his parents were really ahead of their time. I love the name Jude, and Sullivan is one of my long time personal favorite that I am HOPING does not get too popular. I have loved it ever since I was a little girl and obsessed with Sully on Doctor Quinn. It is in the top 5 boy names for me.

I m not a fan of fletcher, that is a city nearby and I just can’t think of it as a first name (it is also a common last name here.) Not a fan of Jasper (don’t like the sound of it), Emmett (too much like the popular Emma), or Axel (makes me think of long haired rockers and car parts.)

Carter is way to common a last name around here for me. Since I live in the Carolinas, Durham would never work (and is a city to me, not a first name at all.)

I don’t like Matteo at all. Clement and Harper are last names I could never use as a first name. Baxter is just not my style.

Aether is interesting, at first glance I don’t like it, but I think it could grow on me.

krysta221 Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 11:50 am

I’m kinda loving Durham. My husband would never go for it (he hates Duke) but I think it is a great name.

lynneinlove Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Any pronunciation guide on Aether? My mind wants to say “Ay-thur”…

Also, some of my favorites are listed (or mentioned) here! Jasper, Jude, Axel, Carter…

It’s definitely a very exciting time to name a boy, so much more freedom than ever before! Character names, musical references, ancient appellations… (Although I do believe that there is still more freedom in naming girls…)

namefan Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I made a mistake on my post – it should say “when comparing the 2012 list to that of around 2006-7”; I forgot to revise that after making a change before I posted.

iwillpraise Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

A good friend of mine just named her baby boy Arrow Locke….

Jasper and Durham are my favorites from this list.
I really like Tobiah Jasper …too bad my husband won’t get on board with it

I’ve met a Lukeriver before. Fellow high school students apparently know him simply by “Luke” because his teachers refuse to accept River as part of his name, especially part of his first… how strange is that? I mean, even if you don’t like a name, you have to respect the person enough to call them by their given name. I’m sure those teachers are ready to retire… wonder what Lukeriver will name his children when he has them in a few years?

OliviaSarah Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Durham is just funny to me because I live so close to the English town (Kendall, London, Bingley, Ireland grate me to the bone – why not Wales or Grimsby, how cute!)

I desperately don’t want Emmett to catch on in the UK like Hudson seems to be – they’re two of my absolute favourites! Although Emmett is seen as unusually Americanised here so maybe it will do a bit of good.

I love Axel too 🙂

LuMary Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I agree that there are more options for boys than 10 years ago. It seems almost every genre of name can be justified. What with vintage comebacks, nature, surname, nickname and word names, the list is infinite. I prefer classics, though, especially for boys.

Emmett is too soft a name for a boy in my opinion, as is Elliot.

Isn’t Axel a German name?

I don’t care for Matteo, Cruz, or Luca unless the boy’s ethnicity matches. They’re too ethnic to me, at the moment.

mickie86 Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Yes, some of these names are beginning to get popular in my area. I actually have nephews named River, Xavier, Frankie, Max and Carter! Friends of mine have sons named Hudson and Briggs. I love their names and they fit so well! I also love Arlo, Sullivan, Baxter, Matteo and Jude from these Everyboy names!
However, some of the above mentioned names I’m not fond of…… Aether reminds me of a gas, Emmet reminds me of an old farmer, and Axel reminds me of someone in rehab. I guess I have a case of name association with those :0.

strawberrytree Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 8:29 pm

I don’t think that list you linked is the top baby names in Canada- I believe those are the names that Canadian Living readers like. This is, as far as I know, the closest to an SSA list Canada has (you can find individual lists by province, but not for the whole country that state the # of children who were given the name): http://www.todaysparent.com/top-100-baby-names-in-canada-2013/. Today’s Parent says they made their list in accordance to Statistics Canada. Besides, the comments on that article show that it was published months ago, before 2013 data would be available. Liam is #1. Carter makes the list at #30.

Maura Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 11:33 pm

I LOVE River! Taylor and Natalie Hanson named their third child River, and they named him after a song Hanson wrote in 1994 called River. Also love Jasper a lot-it’s Dutch. Names that end in o, Matteo, Leo, Milo, Hugo, Carlo….those are really hot right now. Xavier I love but the X has a Z sound, not “exzavier”

marisarose Says:

January 15th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Aether (as I understand it) is pronounced EE-th-er (like Ethan…)

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