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Athletic Baby Names

Athletic Baby Names
If you're a sports fan, you may find baby name inspiration while watching a football game or a tennis match. While the legendary stars of sports history usually had regular guy names like Joe and Jimmy and Michael and Mickey (not to mention Billie Jean), some of the newer luminaries, as well as the surnames of classic athletes, offer options for baby names that go beyond the perimeters of that limited playing field. Names such as Beckham and Iker in particular have really taken off.

Along with Beckham and Iker, other athletic baby names in the US Top 500 include Brady, Colt, Gabriella, Jesse, Kyrie, Mia, Palmer, and Serena. Rare names with strong ties to illustrious athletes include Gehrig, Magic, Usain, and Wilt.

An athletic baby name may not imbue your child with sports skills, but it can give him or her a hero to look up to. If you love sports, consider using an athletic baby name as a first or middle name for your child. Browse our favorite options below.
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SebastianHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin from Greek
  • Meaning:

    "person from ancient city of Sebastia"
  • Description:

    Sebastian is derived from the Greek Sebastianos, meaning “from Sebastia.” Sebastia was a city in Asia Minor—modern day Sivas, Turkey. Sebastian is a name with a substantial history, first as the third-century martyr whose sufferings were a favorite subject of medieval artists, then as the name of memorable characters in such varied works as Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and The Tempest and Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

MiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian word name or Scandinavian short form of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "mine or bitter"
  • Description:

    Mia originated as a short form of Maria, which ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Miryam. In modern times, Mia has been used as a nickname for names including Amelia, Emilia, and Miriam. Mia is also an Italian and Spanish word meaning 'mine.'

RoryHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "red king"
  • Description:

    This spirited Gaelic classic, which became popular in Ireland via the illustrious twelfth century king Rory O'Connor, makes a highly energetic choice, now used for either sex. Rory's gender split is still trending boyward; it's one of the coolest boys' names starting with R.

HunterHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "one who hunts"
  • Description:

    Hunter has been dropping a bit for the past few years but is still one of the leaders of a distinctive band of boys' names that combines macho imagery (Hunter, Austin, Harley) with a softened masculinity. Hunter was for years attached to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson; Josh Holloway used it for his son.

AustinHeart

  • Origin:

    English, shortened form of Augustine
  • Meaning:

    "great, magnificent"
  • Description:

    Austin is one of the most attractive city names for babies, with an attractive southwestern feel, place-name panache and the solid base of having long been an Anglo-Saxon surname and a first name since medieval times. Austin reached the Top 10 in the 1990s, but has been gradually slipping down the list.
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EvanderHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish; Greek
  • Meaning:

    "bow warrior; strong man"
  • Description:

    Evander is a name that could build on the popularity of shorter form Evan, and could work and play well with schoolmates like Zander and Xander.

NolanHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "champion"
  • Description:

    Nolan is one of the rising Irish surname names, in the spirit of Conan and Ronan, partially inspired by pitcher Nolan Ryan-- who was named Lynn at birth, after his father. Nolan is a cheerful, friendly traditional Irish surname with the appropriate meaning of "champion," and one of the new attractive boy names starting with N.

LennoxHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish
  • Meaning:

    "elm grove"
  • Description:

    Lennox is an aristocratic and powerful Scottish surname name made truly special by that final x. The worldwide fame of British boxer--World and Olympic champion--Lennox Claudius Lewis brought the name into the spotlight as a first name, while as a last it's tied to Eurythmics singer Annie L.

RuthHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "compassionate friend"
  • Description:

    Ruth, with its air of calm and compassion, was the third most popular name in the 1890s, remaining in the Top 10 through the 1920s. It's still in use today as some parents tiring of Rachel and Rebecca are giving Ruth a second thought. Some see such Old Testament girls’ names as Ruth and Esther rising on the heels of boy equivalents Abel and Moses.

AltheaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "with healing power"
  • Description:

    Althea is a poetic, almost ethereal name found in Greek myth and pastoral poetry, associated in modern times with the great tennis player Althea Gibson, the first African-American to win at Wimbleton.
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GabriellaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian feminine variation of Gabriel
  • Meaning:

    "God is my strength"
  • Description:

    Gabriella is the feminine form of Gabriel, a name derived from the Hebrew Gavri’el. Gavri’el is composed of the elements gever, meaning “strong,” and ’el, referring to God. Gabriella is used among a variety of cultures in the US, including Italian Americans, Latinos, and in the Jewish community. Gabriela is the Spanish spelling.

SerenaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "tranquil, serene"
  • Description:

    Serena, a name used since Roman times, was given fresh life by tennis star Williams, and then again with the leading character on Gossip Girl, Serena van der Woodsen. There have also been Serenas on soap operas and other shows from Bewitched to Law & Order.

JesseHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "gift"
  • Description:

    King David's father turned 1980s cowboy, Jesse is now down in popularity. The name is associated with a wide variety of bearers, from outlaw Jesse James to Olympic athlete Jesse Owens to activist Jesse Jackson to current actors Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jesse Eisenberg. The spelling Jesse is more usual as a boys' name while Jessie is more traditional for girls.

CooperHeart

  • Origin:

    English occupational name
  • Meaning:

    "barrel maker"
  • Description:

    The genial yet upscale and preppy Cooper was one of the first occupational last names to catch on -- and Cooper remains a pleasing option.

DexterHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "dyer, right-handed"
  • Description:

    The jazzy, ultra-cool Dexter, like most names with an "x," has a lot of energy and dynamism. Over the years, it's been attached to a number of diverse real and fictional personalities—C. K. Dexter Haven, the witty Cary Grant character in The Philadelphia Story; Dexter Green, the protagonist of the F. Scott Fitzgerald story "Winter Dreams"; great jazz tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon; the boy-genius protagonist of cartoon Dexter's Laboratory; and the most recent TV series Dexter based on the books by Jeff Lindsay, whose lead happens to be a genial but sociopathic serial killer.
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JacksonHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "son of Jack"
  • Description:

    Cool name Jackson is one of the celebrisphere's top favorite boy names, having been chosen by, among others, Spike Lee, Poppy Montgomery, Carson Daly, Maria Bello, Natalie Maines, Scott Wolf, Maya Rudolph, and Katey Sagal. After a spectacular rise, this stylish presidential name has been in the Top 25 since 2010, overtaking John as one of the most popular boy names starting with J.

FletcherHeart

  • Origin:

    English occupational name
  • Meaning:

    "arrow-maker"
  • Description:

    Fletcher is a common surname with a touch of quirkiness; it definitely fits into the So Far Out It's In category--and moving further in all the time along with other occupational names from Parker to Forester.

BrooksHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "of the brook"
  • Description:

    Surname name, nature name, and word name, with a more masculine slant than Brook or Brooklyn. Brooks Robinson was one of the greatest third basemen ever, playing for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 until 1977. Brooks might be considered one of the new wave of stylish English names for boys.

VenusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, Roman mythology name
  • Description:

    The name of a heavenly planet and the Roman goddess of beauty and love was an intimidating no-no until tennis champ Venus Williams put an athletic, modern spin on it.

JordanHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "flowing down"
  • Description:

    Jordan became one of the top unisex baby names in the heyday of basketball's Michael Jordan, and is still among the most popular unisex names starting with J. The name was originally given to those baptized in holy water brought back by Crusaders from the River Jordan, the only river in Palestine, and the one in which Christ was baptized by John the Baptist.
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OrlandoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Roland
  • Meaning:

    "famous throughout the land"
  • Description:

    Orlando, the ornate Italianate twist on the dated Roland, with a literary heritage stretching back to Shakespeare and before, has appealing book-ended o's, and is open to combination with almost any last name, a la British actor, Orlando Bloom.

BjornHeart

  • Origin:

    Swedish
  • Meaning:

    "bear"
  • Description:

    Bjorn is one of the most recognizable Scandinavian names, thanks in large part to tennis great Björn Borg, winner of five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles and six French opens and something of a rock star figure.

    Bjorn has been in use since the days of the Vikings, but got a boost in popularity when Borg ruled the courts. There have also been other notable Bjorns in various fields in Sweden, Norway and Germany, ranging from the first king of Norway to a member of the pop group ABBA.

    And if you do pick this name for your son, your baby Bjorn can be carried around in a Baby Bjorn.

ReeseHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "ardor"
  • Description:

    The sassy, steel magnolia appeal of Oscar-winning Reese (born Laura Jeanne—Reese is her mother's maiden name) Witherspoon has single-handedly propelled this formerly boys’ name into girls' popularity.

BoHeart

  • Origin:

    Norse nickname
  • Meaning:

    "to live"
  • Description:

    A popular name in Denmark, in this country Bo has some cowboy swagger and a lot of substance in its minimal two letters. In Mandarin Chinese, Bo means "wave".

ColtHeart

  • Origin:

    Word name
  • Meaning:

    "young horse"
  • Description:

    Colt is the kind of unconventionally macho name that is so trendy right now, because of or in spite of its association with horses and guns.
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TroyHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "descendant of foot soldier"
  • Description:

    Troy shot to popularity as a first name in tandem with that of 1960s heartthrob Troy (born Merle) Donahue; its image has now, thanks in part to the Brad Pitt-starring epic, Troy, receded back to conjuring up the ancient site of the Trojan wars.

BeckhamHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "homestead by the stream"
  • Description:

    Who knew there were so many soccer fans in the U.S.? Beckham -- as in British sensation David -- has exploded onto the baby name scene in the past decade.

BradyHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "broad meadow or large-chested"
  • Description:

    The Irish name given to Miranda Hobbes's son on the dearly departed Sex and the City is a friendly and energetic choice. You well might want to make your son part of the Brady bunch.

IvanHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian variation of John
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Though some might find it a bit heavy-booted, Ivan is one of the few Russian boys' names to become fully accepted into the American naming pool.

IchiroHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "firstborn son"
  • Description:

    Ichiro is a good classic choice for the first boy in a Japanese family.
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LutherHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "army people"
  • Description:

    Once restricted to evangelical Protestants honoring the ecclesiastical reformer and theologian Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant revolution. In more recent times it has been favored by parents wishing to honor civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. Luther was a Top 100 name at the turn of the last century, but fell off the list in the early 1990s.
    Luther Burbank was an eminent botanist and Luther Vandross was a popular R&B artist. It's the name of a main character on the Disney series Zeke and Luther. The name was given a shot of contemporary energy via Idris Elba's dynamic performance in the eponymous BBC crime drama.

MossHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "descendant of Moses"
  • Description:

    This evocative green nature name, heard much more frequently as a surname, is associated with playwright Moss Hart (born Robert), who co-wrote (with George S. Kaufman) such enduring Broadway comedies as The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can't Take it With You.

CalHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Calvin
  • Description:

    A homey sitting-by-the fire-type nickname name.

HankHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Henry, German
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Hank is a midcentury guy nickname (which actually dates back to the seventeenth century) of the Al/Hal/Dick school, which has been on recess from the playground for decades. Now it's just beginning to be given on its own again, appreciated for its earthy, sportsguy cool. Hanks Aaron and Greenberg (born Henry) and Hank Williams (born Hiram) Sr and Jr. are worthy namesakes.

KobeHeart

  • Origin:

    Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "tortoise"
  • Description:

    Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, whose name was inspired by a Japanese steak house, brought this energetic and appealing name into -- and out of -- the mix. Bryant's tragic death in a helicopter crash in 2020 may only increase the popularity of his name, as fans and admirers name their children Kobe in honor of the star.
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RioHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish
  • Meaning:

    "river"
  • Description:

    Rio is a reductive ranchero place-name with an attractive Tex-Mex lilt. No Doubt's Tom Dumont has a son named Rio Atticus.

FloydHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "gray-haired"
  • Description:

    Floyd was a Top 100 name from the 1880s to the 1940s that somehow developed an almost comical hayseed persona along with a touch of retro jazz cool; it's beginning to appeal to parents with a strong taste for the quirky.

VidaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish
  • Meaning:

    "life"
  • Description:

    Like Vita and Viva, one of several similar life-affirming names, this one was chosen by Matthew McConaughey and his Portuguese-born wife Camila. Vida may also be a diminutive of Davida. Australian suffragette and human rights campainer Vida Goldstein is an notable bearer of this name.

CarmeloHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish from Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "cultivated terrain"
  • Description:

    Carmelo is a well used Hispanic name associated with Mt. Carmel, home of the prophet Elijah and the location of the convent for the order of Carmelites. Carmelo is also a saint's name and—in modern times—tied to basketball player Carmelo Anthony.

LandryHeart

  • Origin:

    French and English
  • Meaning:

    "ruler"
  • Description:

    St. Landry was a seventh century bishop of Paris, founder of the city's first hospital. The name is more familiar in recent years thanks to legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, an association that makes this a sports hero name, as well as a thoroughly masculine one. Landry is also in use for girls in the US. Landry is one of the oldest surnames in France, dating back to the medieval period, and is particularly popular among Cajun-Americans. It has been on the Social Security list since 2010.
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LebronHeart

  • Origin:

    French
  • Meaning:

    "brown-haired one"
  • Description:

    The best-known bearer of this name by far is basketball superstar LeBron James.

MarisHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "of the sea"
  • Description:

    Maris is an unusual and appealing name that has never appeared in the U.S. Top 1000, overshadowed by its twentieth century elaboration, Marisa/Marissa. It derives from the phrase "Stella Maris," star of the sea, one of the many epithets of the Virgin Mary, and became familiar via the unseen (but unliked) character of sitcom Frasier's ex-sister-in-law.

DmitriHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian from Greek Demetrius
  • Description:

    Exotic, artistic and attractive Slavic version of the name of the Greek god of fertility and farming.

BronsonHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "son of brown-haired one"
  • Description:

    This surname has a modern yet old New England feel, perhaps because of the association with the transcendental teacher and reformer Bronson (born Amos Bronson) Alcott, father of Louisa May. (One-time sitcom star Bronson Pinchot's full name is Bronson Alcott Pinchot.) A more muscular image comes via tough guy Charles Bronson.

TysonHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "firebrand"
  • Description:

    As parents were finding too many Tylers at the neighborhood playground, they began looking to Tyson as an alternative, no longer concerned with possible connections to Mike Tyson or Tyson chicken.
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TigerHeart

  • Origin:

    Animal name
  • Description:

    If it's a choice between golf champ Woods's real name Eldrick or nickname Tiger, we'd have to go with the latter. But while animal names are becoming more familiar and stylish, we'd recommend Wolf or Fox over Tiger.

IkerHeart

  • Origin:

    Basque
  • Meaning:

    "visitation"
  • Description:

    Long an extremely popular name in Spain, Iker (usually pronounced EE-kuhr in the English speaking world) is the rare Basque name that's starting to make it big in the States also, thanks to soccer player Iker Casillas. Indeed, it's been one of the fastest growing boys' names of the decade.

PeytonHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "fighting-man's estate"
  • Description:

    Peyton is the most-used spelling of this popular name, thanks to football star Peyton Manning, but it's playing increasingly for the girls' team. The Manning family excels in all-star names, with brothers Eli and Cooper and dad Archie.

ThierryHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Theodoric
  • Meaning:

    "ruler of the people"
  • Description:

    Thierry, which is very popular in France, would make an interesting import; it's somewhat familiar through designer Thierry Mugler and international soccer star Thierry Henry. It almost sounds like Terry, but not quite.

AsheHeart

  • Origin:

    English surname; diminutive of Ashley, Ashton, etc
  • Description:

    Although usually spelled without the final 'e', this version commemorates tennis immortal Arthur Ashe. Seth Meyers' son Ashe was given his wife's maiden name.
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