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Classic Boy Names

Classic Boy Names
Classic boy names, those that have been well used in the English-speaking world over time, are an elite group. Classic boy names may come from the Bible, be traditional saints' names or royal names, or be names with roots in ancient languages, such as Jacob and Alexander.

Along with Jacob and Alexander, other classic boy names in the US Top 20 include William, James, Benjamin, Michael, Daniel, Matthew, Henry, and Joseph. Some classic names for boys that are not used as often as they used to be include Philip, Francis, Harry, and Hugh.

Most classic boy names have ranked highly for more than a century and have been widely used for hundreds of years. Even so, classic names for boys go through fashion cycles of their own, with new classics such as Felix, Jasper, and Oliver taking over for Old School classic boy names such as Robert and Richard.

The Top 50 classic boy names below are ordered by their current popularity on Nameberry. More unusual classic names are ordered alphabetically at the bottom of the list.
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TheodoreHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    Theodore is a derivative of the Latin Theodorus, a variation of the Greek name Theodōros. The components are from the Greek words theos, meaning "God," and dōron, meaning "gift," giving Theodore the meaning "God-given" or "gift of God." Names with similar origins include Theodora, Dorothy, and Dorothea.

FelixHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "happy, fortunate"
  • Description:

    Felix was originally a Roman surname but was adopted as a nickname by the ancient Roman Sulla, who believed that he was especially blessed with luck by the gods. It is the name of four popes and sixty-seven saints; in the Bible, Felix is a Roman procurator of Judea.

OscarHeart

  • Origin:

    English or Irish
  • Meaning:

    "God spear, or deer-lover or champion warrior"
  • Description:

    Oscar has Irish and Norse roots—Norse Oscar comes from the Old English Osgar, a variation of the Old Norse name Ásgeirr. The Irish form was derived from the Gaelic elements os, meaning “deer,” and car, “loving.” In Irish legend, Oscar was one of the mightiest warriors of his generation, the son of Ossian and the grandson of Finn Mac Cumhaill (MacCool).

JasperHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian
  • Meaning:

    "bringer of treasure"
  • Description:

    Jasper originated as a variation of the Latin Gaspar, which ultimately derived from the Persian word ganzabara, meaning "bringer of treasure." As a given name, Jasper’s etymology is unrelated to that of the gemstone, which comes from a Semitic word meaning "speckled stone." Jasper is the usual English form for one of the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the infant Christ according to medieval tradition and appears in the Bible as a reference to the stone itself in Revelations 4:3.

OliverHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "olive tree"
  • Description:

    Oliver derives from Olivier, the Norman French variation of the Ancient Germanic name Alfher or the Old Norse Aleifr, which comes from Olaf. Olivier emerged as the dominant spelling for its associations with the Latin word oliva, meaning "olive tree." Oliver was used as a given name in medieval England after the spread of the French epic poem ‘La Chanson de Roland,’ which features a character named Olivier.
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MilesHeart

  • Origin:

    English form of Milo
  • Meaning:

    "soldier or merciful"
  • Description:

    Miles, which took on a permanent veneer of cool thanks to jazz great Miles Davis, is a confident and polished boy name starting with M that has been appreciated in particular by celebrity baby namers, including Elisabeth Shue, Mayim Bialik, Larenz Tate, Joan Cusack and Lionel Ritchie.

JamesHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Jacob, Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "supplanter"
  • Description:

    James is an English derivation of the Hebrew name Jacob. James is biblical (the name of two apostles in the New Testament), royal (kings of both England and Scotland), presidential (with more U.S. Chief Executives named James (six) than any other name), and it is shared by countless great writers and entertainers.

HenryHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Henry was derived from the French Henri, which ultimately comes from the Germanic name Heimrich, made up of the components heim, meaning "home" or "estate," and rich, meaning "ruler." The most famous wearer is Henry VIII of England, best known for having six wives—two of whom he beheaded for not bearing him sons. It’s been used in the British royal family many times since.

LeoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "lion"
  • Description:

    Leo was derived from the Latin leo, meaning “lion.” Thirteen popes have carried the name, including St. Leo the Great. In Germanic languages, Leo has historically been used as a nickname for names including Leon and Leopold. In Latinate languages, Leonardo is considered a full form for Leo.

NathanielHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    Nathaniel was derived from the Hebrew name Netan’el, meaning “gift of God,” composed of the elements natan, meaning “to give,” and ’el, in reference to God. The name is featured several times in the Old and New Testaments, typically spelled Nathanael. In the New Testament, Nathanael is also known by his other name, Bartholomew.
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MaxHeart

  • Origin:

    English and German diminutive of Maximilian or Maxwell
  • Meaning:

    "greatest"
  • Description:

    Max was derived from Maximilian, a Latin name that originated from the Roman family name Maximus. The character name Max in the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are had an impact on baby namers. Max is a widely used name internationally.

ZacharyHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "the Lord has remembered"
  • Description:

    Zachary is the English variation of Zacharias, which itself is derived from the Hebrew name Zechariah. The name Zachary is attached to eight different people in the Bible, the most prominent being the father of John the Baptist, and it's also presidential, via 12th president Zachary Taylor. Zackery is an alternate spelling, and nicknames include Zack, Zach, Zac, and Zak.

ArthurHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    " bear"
  • Description:

    Arthur, once the shining head of the Knights of the Round Table, is, after decades of neglect, now being polished up and restored by some stylish parents, emerging as a top contender among names for the new royal prince.

EliasHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek variation of Elijah, Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "Yahweh is God"
  • Description:

    Elias, strong and charismatic, is following in the path of family members Elijah and Eli, and is also moving on up in popularity.

ThomasHeart

  • Origin:

    Aramaic
  • Meaning:

    "twin"
  • Description:

    Thomas is the Greek variation of the Aramaic name Ta’oma’. It came about because there were too many apostles named Judas; Jesus renamed one Thomas—meaning "twin"—to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and the Judas also known as Thaddeus. At first, it was used only for priests.
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JulianHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Latin, variation of Julius
  • Meaning:

    "youthful, downy-bearded, or sky father"
  • Description:

    Julian was derived from Iulianus, which in turn came from Julius, a Roman family name. Its origin is shrouded in history, but possible roots include Latin iuvenis, meaning "youthfu"; Greek ioulos, meaning “downy-bearded”; or Jovis, a form of Jupiter, which means "sky father".
    ,br/>Julian was a 4th century Roman emperor, and St. Julian the Hospitaller is the patron saint of travelers. In Medieval England, Julian was considered a unisex name, eventually giving rise to the feminine given name Gillian.

LouisHeart

  • Origin:

    German and French
  • Meaning:

    "renowned warrior"
  • Description:

    Kate and William shocked the world when they announced that they'd named their third child Louis -- Prince Louis Arthur Charles, to be more precise. But we've been predicting a comeback for this classic name for a long time.

SimonHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "the listener"
  • Description:

    Simon is pure and simple (not in the nursery rhyme sense), and an appealingly genuine Old and New Testament name that's not overused -- making Simon a stylish choice. In the Bible, Simon was the second son of Jacob and Leah and the original name of Saint Peter, as well as the name of several New Testament figures. Historically, Simon Bolivar is known as The Liberator of Latin America.

AlexanderHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "defending men"
  • Description:

    Alexander is derived from the Greek name Aléxandros, composed of the elements aléxein, meaning “to defend,” and aner, meaning “man.” According to Greek legend, the first Alexander was Paris, who was given the nickname Alexander by the shepherds whose flocks he defended against robbers. He was followed by Alexander the Great, aka Alexander III, who conquered much of Asia.

IsaacHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "laughter"
  • Description:

    Isaac evolved from the name Yitzchaq, derived from the Hebrew word tzachaq, meaning “to laugh.” In the Old Testament, Isaac was the long-awaited son of the elderly Sarah and 100-year-old Abraham, so old that their news provoked laughter, giving the name its meaning. Isaac is used as a given name among Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.
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JackHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of John
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Jack is a derivative of John that originated in medieval England. The name went from John to Johnkin to Jankin to Jackin to Jack. The name was so common in the Middle Ages that Jack became a generic term for a man.

PeterHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "rock"
  • Description:

    Peter is derived from the Greek Petros, meaning “rock” or “stone.” One of the most important figures in the Christian hagiography is Saint Peter, keeper of the Gates of Heaven. Born Simon bar Jonah, he was given the nickname Peter by Jesus, to signify that he would be the rock on which Christ would build Christianity. Centuries later, there was Peter the Great, the czar who developed Russia as a major European power.

LukeHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "man from Lucania"
  • Description:

    Luke originated as a short form of Lucas, a Latin derivation of the Greek name Loukas. The most famous bearer of the name is the first-century Greek physician—an evangelist and friend of Saint Paul, as well as the author of the third Gospel of the New Testament—who was also supposed to have been a portrait painter. He thus became the patron saint of doctors and artists.

BenjaminHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "son of the right hand"
  • Description:

    Benjamin is derived from the Hebrew name Binyamin, from the elements ben, meaning “son” and yamin, “right hand.” In the Old Testament, Benjamin was the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob and Rachel in the Book of Genesis, and he was one of the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Nicknames for Benjamin include Ben, Benny, Benji, and Benno.

JacobHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "supplanter"
  • Description:

    Jacob comes from the Latin name Iacobus, which was ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Ya’aqov. In the Old Testament, Jacob was one of the most important patriarchs of the tribes of Israel. He was the youngest son of Isaac and Rebecca and the twin brother of Esau, as well as the husband of both Leah and Rachel. The 12 tribes of Israel evolved from his 12 sons.
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GeorgeHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "farmer"
  • Description:

    Iconoclasts though we may be, we like Fred, we like Frank, and we like George, which was among the Top 10 from 1830 to 1950, when the number of little Georges started to decline. Solid, strong, royal and saintly, yet friendly and unpretentious, we think that George is in prime position for a comeback, especially since it was chosen by Britain's royal couple.

SamuelHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "told by God"
  • Description:

    Samuel was derived from the Hebrew name Shemu’el, meaning “told by God.” In the Old Testament, Samuel was one of the great judges and prophets of the Israelites, destined for a holy life from birth. He established the Hebrew monarchy, anointing both Saul and David as kings.

VincentHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "conquering"
  • Description:

    Vincent is a name with a complex image. After being quietly used for centuries, it is suddenly seeming stylish, along wih other V names. Even the nickname Vince has been given a reprieve via actor Vince Vaughn and country singer Vince Gill. Vin Diesel was born with the more prosaic name Mark Vincent.

NicholasHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "people of victory"
  • Description:

    Nicholas is derived from the Greek Nikolaos, a name that evolved from the components nikē, meaning “victory”, and laos, “people.” It shares origins with Nike, the name of the Greek goddess of victory. Nicholas is also a New Testament name that is well-used in literature, such as in Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby.

NathanHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "given"
  • Description:

    Nathan was derived from the name Natan, which came from Hebrew verb natan, meaning “gave.” In the Old Testament, Nathan was the name of a prophet and also that of one of King David's sons. Nathaniel and Jonathan are related names.
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AndrewHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "strong and manly"
  • Description:

    Andrew is a variant of the Greek name Andreas, ultimately derived from the element aner, meaning “man.” In the New Testament, Andrew was one of the twelve apostles and the first disciple to be called by Jesus. Although the origins of the name are Greek, Andrew is the patron saint of both Scotland and Russia, as well as Greece. It has associations with two of America's most famous artists, Wyeth and Warhol.

MatthewHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    Matthew is the English derivative of Matthaios, the Greek form of the Hebrew Mattiyahu, composed of mattan, meaning "gift" and yah, in reference to God. The biblical Matthew was the apostle who wrote the first Gospel in the New Testament. Mateo, Matthias, Teo, Matek, and Mattia are among the many named derived from Matthew.

WilliamHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "resolute protection"
  • Description:

    William is derived from the Germanic name Wilhelm, composed of the elements wil, "will," and helm, referring to a helmet or protection. The name was introduced to England by William the Conqueror, with William being the Norman variation of the name. In Central and Southern France, it was translated as Guillaume.

GabrielHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "God is my strength"
  • Description:

    Gabriel was derived from the Hebrew name Gavri’el, taken from the elements gever, meaning "strong," and ’el, in reference to God. In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel is the archangel who heralded the news of Jesus' birth, and appears in Christian, Jewish and Muslim texts. He presides over Paradise, serving as the angel of mercy, life, joy, judgment, truth and dreams.

FrederickHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "peaceful ruler"
  • Description:

    Frederick, and friendlier nickname Fred, seemed almost to have disappeared, leaving just the memory of Freds past such as Astaire, Mr. Rogers and Flintstone. But today's parents are beginning to recognize it as a strong classic and one of the top royal baby boy names.
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FrancisHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "Frenchman or free man"
  • Description:

    Since this was the name chosen by the current Roman Catholic pope, Francis has come into the spotlight.

DanielHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "God is my judge"
  • Description:

    Daniel was derived from the Hebrew name Daniyyel, from the elements din, meaning "judge," and ’el, "God." The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament describes the Jewish prophet’s life of captivity in Babylon and visions of the last days of Earth. Dan and Danny are common short forms of Daniel.

AnthonyHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "priceless one"
  • Description:

    Anthony is derived from the Roman family name Antonii, and was initially used as Antony, without the “h.” The name evolved into Anthony in the 17th century, when it was speculated that it derived from the Greek word anthos, meaning “flower.” In England, whether it's spelled Anthony or Antony, the name is often pronounced as the latter, while Americans typically utter the “h” if present.

MichaelHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "who is like God?"
  • Description:

    Michael was derived from the name Mikha’el, which comes from the rhetorical question mī kā’ēl, meaning "who is like God?" in Hebrew. In the Bible, Michael is the archangel who led the other angels to victory in a war against Satan, one of only two archangels (the other is Gabriel) recognized by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The widespread popularity of Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan were major contributors to its long-running success.

LawrenceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from Laurentium"
  • Description:

    Lawrence has survived from Roman times, when Laurentium was a city noted for its laurel trees (the laurel is a symbol of wisdom and achievement). It was in the Top 50 from the 1890s through the 1950s and the Top 100 for decades longer, always among the most popular boys' names starting with L, but Lawrence is now used less for babies than Landon or Lorenzo. Nickname Lauro perks it up while Larry feels terminally dated. The Laurence spelling was popularized by Sir Laurence Olivier and is also attached to fellow actor Laurence Fishburne.
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HarryHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Henry
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Harry is the medieval English form of Henry, which derived from the Germanic name Heimrich, meaning “estate ruler.” Harry was the nickname of all eight King Henrys; it is also a diminutive of Harold and Harrison.

PatrickHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "noble, patrician"
  • Description:

    Patrick, long tied to a hyper-Irish image, is enjoying something of a renaissance as a stylish classic, as it has long been considered in England. Along with such choices as Charles and George, Patrick has escaped overuse in recent decades.

VictorHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "conqueror"
  • Description:

    Victor is one of the earliest Christian names, borne (as Vittorio) by several saints and popes, symbolizing Christ's victory over death. It has been quietly in the Top 200 since 1880, but just recently has taken on a cool edge by fashionable parents in London and seems ripe for a similar reevaluation here too.

HughHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "mind, intellect"
  • Description:

    Patrician to the core, Hugh was firmly in the Top 100 until 1903. Now it's used very quietly, though the name is still in the Top 1000.

MarcusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "warlike"
  • Description:

    Though ancient, Marcus now sounds more current than Mark, in tune with today's trend towards us-ending Latinate names.
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AdamHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "son of the red earth"
  • Description:

    Adam -- a primal Old Testament name -- was revived as a 1960s cowboy name. Adam is not as popular as it once was and feels ready for a respite, replaced by newer A names like Aidan/Aiden, Avery and Axel. Its most prominent current bearers include Adams Sandler, Levine, Brody and Driver -- who plays a character named Adam on Girls.

WalterHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "army ruler"
  • Description:

    Walter was seen as a noble name in the Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Walter Scott era, but it then spent decades in baby name limbo. Now quite a few independent-minded parents are looking at it as a renewable, slightly quirky, classic, stronger and more distinctive than James or John, second only to William among the handsome classic boy baby names starting with W. The recent popularity of Breaking Bad has brought us Walter White, conferring on the name Walter a new kind of cool and prompting a fresh wave of popularity.

CharlesHeart

  • Origin:

    French from German
  • Meaning:

    "man, free man"
  • Description:

    Charles derives from the Germanic name Karl, meaning "man" or "freeman", and is a royal name in multiple European countries. A famous early bearer is Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Lombards and then Roman Emperor in the 8th-9th centuries. The word for “king” in several languages came from Charles, including Slavic, Russian, and Polish.

EdwardHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "wealthy guardian"
  • Description:

    Unlike perennials William, John and James, Edward is a classic that moves in and out of fashion. This royal Anglo-Saxon standard has benefited in recent years from the popularity of the hot hero of the vampire sensation Twilight -- Edward Cullen -- who has given his name a new infusion of cool.

PhilipHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "lover of horses"
  • Description:

    Philip, the name of one of the 12 apostles, is still favored by parents in search of a solid boys' classic that is less neutral than Robert or John and more distinctive than Daniel or Matthew and has many historic, royal ties.
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