Instant name: just add N

Aug 7th 2008

Here's a rare name I expect to hear more of in the future: Graden.

Certainly, it has a fashionable sound -- another in the vast rhyming family that includes Aidan, Hayden, Caden and Braeden.  But there's more to it than that.  Graden sounds like a formal version of a popular formal name that sounds like a nickname.  Hmm, was that gibberish?  Let me give it another shot.

Classic multisyllabic men's names -- Thomas, Edward -- generally come with two standard nickname options.  There's a one-syllable basic (Tom, Ed) and a two-syllable diminutive (Tommy, Eddie).  That's sensible enough.  After all, the two main functions of nicknames are to shorten and to soften.

Today, though, the standard nicknames are decidedly out of fashion.  So far out of fashion that some parents are getting skittish about names that even resemble the form of a traditional nickname.  So more and more, you see parents tacking extra endings onto short boys' names, creating a new "formal" version for something that was never a nickname to begin with.

It's not a totally new phenomenon; Rexford is one example from past generations.  But the practice is growing.  And forget old add-ons like -ford, -burn and -wood.  Today there's just one way to extend a name: with the all-powerful letter -n.

For a case study, consider Colton.  Colton is a popular contemporary name, currently ranked #117 among American boys' names.  It was a surname before it became a baby name, but that doesn't tell the real story.  As a surname Colton isn't common at all, ranking behind the likes of Stumpf and Fortenberry in frequency.  Nor are there prominent Coltons to raise the name's profile.  The key to understanding the name Colton is that it made its debut as a popular baby name in 1982.  That's the same debut year as Colt -- which is to say, the first full season of "The Fall Guy," a tv series starring Lee Majors as stuntman/bounty hunter Colt Seavers.  At first, Colton was just a quiet shadow of the hardy young cowboy Colt.  But by the '90s, the more "formal" Colton was the clear leader of the pack.

Some more popular -n extensions:


All of them, notably, also have rhyming names in the top 1000.  Which brings us back to Graden.  So you like Grady, but perhaps find it a little boyish?  A mere flick of the -n gives you Graden.  You can still call him Grady if you like, and the full name blends right in with the current name landscape.  It's a nifty long as "blending in" is what you're after.  If you're customizing the name to make in more distinctive, though, keep in mind that uncommon and distinctive aren't always the same thing.  In an age where a third of all boys born get an -n name, Colt and Grady may end up standing out a lot more than Colton and Graden.


By rebecca (not verified)
August 10, 2008 6:39 PM

Names of girls born in the past 5 years on a subdivision street in the oregon town of 55,000 ranked one of the top 5 places in the U.S. to live (also has one of the highest #s of PhDs in the country)


By Sister Melinda (not verified)
August 10, 2008 7:13 PM

About -n boys' names that are losing ground--Martin is one of my faves--it was on my shortlist in 1999.

Hazel's popularity in the US--well, let's look at the numbers: It's solidly in the top 500 now, and took a 100+ leap up the charts (from 465 in 2006 to 361 in 2007). Now, that's still not wildfire territory--but it's not likely to read as completely strange to a lot of American parents at the Kindergarten gate in 2014, either.

By Philippa (not verified)
August 10, 2008 7:35 PM

Ooo - I like Martin, too! I wonder why it isn't more popular? And with namesakes like MLK, Jr., no less. Perhaps the nickname Marty is a turn off?

By rebecca (not verified)
August 10, 2008 8:35 PM

i think hazel is becoming trendy-ish. i know a hazel younger than 2 and one expectant mother who is going to name her daughter hazel anne. i heard more people start to talk about it after julia roberts' daughter was born a few years back.

By rebecca (not verified)
August 10, 2008 9:00 PM

thoughts on the name Kaina? (the female version of Cain, i guess?) i heard it on jerry springer, haha, several years back and think it's super pretty.

By RobynT (not verified)
August 10, 2008 9:05 PM

I like Martin too but I do see it as sort of a dorky name (of course I have a soft spot for dorks). The character on The Simpsons can't help...

By maya (not verified)
August 10, 2008 10:23 PM

J&H's mom - we talked about that ("holden on! holden my ..." etc.)

sure, it's annoying. but plenty of names can be made fun of. what can you do?

By Amy3 (not verified)
August 10, 2008 10:23 PM

Friends of mine have two sons -- Martin (nn Marty, 8 yrs old) and Silas (5 yrs old). I think Martin is a great name; Silas is a little too ... something ... I'm not sure exactly what ... for me.

By maya (not verified)
August 10, 2008 10:27 PM

@ RB -

ARE today's angsty teenage boys reading Catcher in the Rye? I'm not so sure anyone's reading it today. I didn't read it in school - I read it after I graduated high school. It was not in our library at school. Ha ha.

By maya (not verified)
August 10, 2008 10:30 PM

@ Beth

Love your comment! Even if we do have a boy next and name him Holden, I can assure you that I didn't stop reading after Catcher in the Rye. :) But I do have a sentimental attachment to the name Atticus too. ha. But it's not on my list of baby names.

Love your list of siblings for Graden, too.

By Elaine (not verified)
August 11, 2008 1:26 AM

I have a friend who named her daughter Hazel a few months ago. I also love the name and think it's a hot right now (for better or for worse).

By sushi (not verified)
August 11, 2008 1:28 AM

Wouldn't Graden (that spelling) be constantly misread/mistyped as "Garden"? (And as a corollary: well, why not Garden?)

By Grady's Mum (not verified)
August 11, 2008 8:50 AM

@ET, Thank you for the wonderful suggestions.

This child may very well be born nameless - so challenging to find a complementary name for Grady.

By yet another Jenny (not verified)
August 11, 2008 9:14 AM

Is "s" the new (or maybe up and coming) "n" in boy names? Lucas is certainly skyrocketing right now and I'm thinking may be for forbearer of many more ending in s names for boys.

Thinking about names even more than usual because we had the first play-date for my son's new pre-school class yesterday. Lots of "a" endings here"

Ezra (2)
Jonas (unusual to my ear, started me thinking about "s" endings

Girls (all ending in "a"):
Lula (6 week old baby brother named Julius)

I think of "s" endings as pretty rare but when I met a young Jonas and Julius yesterday it got me thinking. Also know a baby just named Elias and a 3 year old Phinneaus (always Finn). Atticus seems to have a lot of fans here and Silas was recently mentioned as well.

By Rjoy (not verified)
August 11, 2008 11:32 AM

Yet another Jenny- Is your area predominately Jewish? My son is Ezra and it is not that common, so I am surprised to see two in one school.

By RB (not verified)
August 11, 2008 12:17 PM

maya: I don't know about teenage boys now, but when I was in high school (not THAT long ago; I'm 25), it was what all the "subversive" kids were reading. I would assume that someone's still reading it, but I really couldn't say!

I really like Martin too--it's one of my favorites.

New(ish) baby in my apartment building: Rutger. That's one I don't see taking off any time soon...

By christinepearl (not verified)
August 11, 2008 12:20 PM

re: Owen - I always think of the delightful children's book by Kevin Henkes. The only Owen I know is a priest who is the great-uncle of a friend. The call him "Ownie"

re : Aidans & their ilk, I know several Aidans, a Reagan, a Jaden, a Kaden, and a Quinten off the top of my head.

I have a daughter Corinne whose name would have been Corin if she was a boy because we were so used to calling the baby Corinne. Her name seems not to fit with the trend since it is a golden oldie, a girl's name, and it ends with an n sound but the accent is on the 2nd syllable rather than the first (kor-INN). It also has that trendy k sound without being a K name.

Names of kids I know born this year: Noelle Elizabeth, Yvette Marie, Gabriel, Kaelin, Abigail Grace, Jack Murphy, Stephen, Blake, Aaron, Shannon Elaine, Chloe, sean Jose and our very own 3 month old Theodore Frederick. I don't know all of the middle names

By Delia (not verified)
August 11, 2008 12:23 PM

Just a couple of comments --

Re: Jamison - I went to high school with a girl named this (class of '97).

Also, I tried looking up the name Hazen, and came across Hazan, which means "autumn" in Turkish, however, it's a girl's name.

By Cathy (not verified)
August 11, 2008 12:48 PM

I care for a set of twins, whose mother runs a playgroup for twins, and in her group there's a boy named Rutger, whose twin sister is Willa. I'm astonished to hear of 2 boys named Rutger in such a short span of time!

By yet another Jenny (not verified)
August 11, 2008 12:51 PM


This list is from a Jewish pre-school so that skews things a bit. Sorry, should have said that in my original post. Still, Ezra is uncommon enough everywhere that I think the parents were surprised to see two in the same class. There are several Jonahs in the congregation as well, my son is one of them, which was a surprise to my husband and me.

Curious about the Jewish connection to Ezra. Maybe he is in a bible story I don't remember him in a bible story?

On I side note, I think it is interesting when Jewish and African American name choices overlap. The other Ezra (outside of this pre-school) I know is a 4 year old with an African American father and white mother. Issaih and Elijah are also examples. Maybe Solomon/Saul too?

By sdh (not verified)
August 11, 2008 1:01 PM

My mom is an elementary school teacher, and between teachers at her school and younger sibs of her students, she knows 5 Hazels born in the past year or so! (this is in the Boston area). i think it is definitely an up and coming name, probably thanks to Julia Roberts.

By girlieQ (not verified)
August 11, 2008 1:19 PM

I have an observation to make. It may not be a very popular one here, but here goes.

I understand the desire not to use uber-popular and trendy names. Seems everyone is sick of the Madisons, Emilys, Tylers, Aidens, etc. There seems to be a strong desire to stay 'ahead of the curve'. You don't see people eschewing "Brayden" for "Benji", they're choosing "Lucien", "Otto", or "Milo" instead. How many of these people are irked a few years later when Lucien, Otto, and Milo are the new Jayden, Hunter, and Jacob? How many people have to explain that while, yes, they have a daughter named Madison, she's 32 and the name was nowhere near trendy at the time? Do they now regret that choice? Is 32 year old Madison as worthy of an eyeroll as a 2 year old Madison?

I'm not attempting to argue anything here, really. I just had these thoughts in considering a name for a possible child. My DP (poor, clueless to the world of naming, DP) is fond of names like Cheyenne, Kayley, Trey, Brady, Hunter, Isabella. Of course I'm a faithful BNW reader, and am aware of how passe these names are. But if I *weren't* an avid reader, how would I know? If I didn't know any very young children (my kids are 9 and 11), how would I know that Isabella has taken the 2 and under world by storm? How would I know that traditional-sounding "Aidan" is to be avoided like the plague?

And what about the folks who are unfortunate enough to have named a daughter Olivia in the late 90s? Now that its exploded in popularity, they have to follow every introduction of their child with "well it wasn't as popular back in 1999..."

I totally understand that no one wants to be 1 of 87,648 Madisons/Addisons or Braydens/Caydens in a class (just like all the Jennifers, Crystals, Shannons, and Heathers of my generation), but beyond not picking THE most common name/trend, is there really a benefit to trying to usurp EVERY trend? The "-n" trend, for example. Now that its been brought up as a dreaded "trend", those "in the know" will avoid most "-n" names at all costs. But do we look back at the Rickys, Bobbys, Martys, Stanleys, etc from the 50s and 60s and roll our eyes? I don't think so. It was something unique to their generation, but I don't believe there is any eye rolling involved in carrying a "-y" name from the 60s these days.

Unless you're willing to name your child "SugarFreeFruitPunch" or something *totally* off the wall, there's a big chance that the 'edgy' or 'classic yet modern' name you pick today will be the 'not again!' name of 5 years from now.

So while, no, I won't be naming anyone Madison or Brayden/Cayden/Jayden/Aiden/Hayden, if I really, really like Olivia, Lila, Charlotte, or Jackson, Caleb, or Alexander, I won't let the fact that it has a spot somewhere in this year's top 100, or on someone's radar keep me from using them.


By Amy3 (not verified)
August 11, 2008 1:32 PM

New baby born to a co-worker: Marcos H3ggel. Baby's mn (dad's fn) is pronounced huh-GEL (with a hard /g/).

By Sister Melinda (not verified)
August 11, 2008 1:38 PM

Ezra is a book in the Old Testament--can't get much more Biblical than that!

On the question, how are parents supposed to know what's super-popular... well, there's certainly no shortage of information about new baby names out there! The SSA website is very user-friendly, the Baby Name Voyager has had a lot of buzz, and a lot of hospitals now post "new arrivals"--a great way to get a sense of your LOCAL trends. It doesn't hurt to talk to some preschool parents, or ask around in your birth class, or look at the cubbies in the nursery room at church, or watch the newspaper (or alumni magazines--they're great for alerting you to names that are popular with people similar to you--if you see five new Charlottes among alumni from 1995-2000, all born last year, I'd say that's a trend to think about!).

As I said, *if* popularity is something that matters to you in your decision, then it doesn't really take much research to get useful information on that subject. And that includes trends on the horizon--it's pretty rare for a name to come completely out of the blue, if you're watching closely. It's like any fashion trend--if you care about looking stylish, you'll read up on clothing trends; if you care about driving a "cool" car, you'll pay attention to that literature; and if you're worried about a name's status, you'll study up.

And if you don't worry about popularity, then you just... don't worry about it, eh?

By girlieQ (not verified)
August 11, 2008 2:04 PM

Sister Melinda - I guess I wasn't really asking "how's a parent to know?" I obviously found out, here and other places. My main issue is with trying to predict what names that aren't atrocious will stay on the down low for the forseeable future, and which 'sleepers' will skyrocket in 18 months because of some celebrity or something.

Obviously trends can be spotted slightly ahead of time...if you know "Eden" jumped 100 spots in the top 1000 two years ago, and has been rising, its obviously due to be a huge hit very soon, for example. But what about 5 years from now? 10? 20? I know that back in the late nineties when I had to name my first child, Lila, Isla, and Addison were nowhere on my radar of what was popular, or soon to be popular.

Maybe I'm just having a grumpy or disilusioned day, but it just seems a bit...pointless. Find a name you love, by all means. Find a name that's special to you, your family, or that just sounds neat. But refusing to name your son after your dearly departed father, Nathan, just because "ew, its part of the -n trend!", or ruling out a name you adore for the same reason...just doesn't seem like the right thing to encourage people to do.

By Kate (not verified)
August 11, 2008 2:08 PM

Thanks for everyone's comments on Owen -- good food for thought and much appreciated. I am going to keep Owen on our short list, for now anyway. Thoughts on which we should pick?? -- our list is down to Owen, James and Edward (Ted/Teddy). Middle name will be Gregory.

By Tirzah (not verified)
August 11, 2008 2:28 PM


I think it is different to have a 32 year old Madison because she didn't grow up with any other Madisons in her class, unlike the 14 year old Madisons of today. At her workplace, she probably doesn't have any other Madisons either.

So if you're way ahead of the curve, say by 10 years or so, then you've achieved the goal of picking a non-trendy name. (If that is your goal.)

If you're right at the beginning of the curve, then you're more of a trendsetter. You see where the trends are heading, and you pick that. I think a lot of people try to be in this category. The benefits of picking a trendsetting name is that it's not too popular yet, but people like it. Unfortunately, unless you do your homework, often people think they are picking a trendsetting name when they are really picking a trendy name.

If you pick a name that has been significantly rising in popularity for a few years, then you are a trend follower, which is what most people are. These are names that your friends will like (though maybe not your parents). Your child will likely have a classmate or two with the same name and other classmates with similar sounding names. People who don't follow baby naming trends and don't know any babies almost always fall into this category.

There's nothing wrong with any of these categories.

By Melanie (not verified)
August 11, 2008 2:29 PM

I know an Hayden and a Hyden and a Braden all different ages. I think the trend has been around long enough that at least noone can name their kids an Aiden name in ignorance of the popularity. I do think that even names like Calvin and Owen are part of the -n trend, but that they are separate from the -Aiden subset. I know I've met a few Owen and while I really like the name it is starting to feel a little too popular for me to use. Of course, my boys are James and Thomas with popular -n middle names so I'm not exactly going for unique names either. My husband grew up as James D. for most of his life and just doesn't see the problem with it. I think the big difference is that Owen and Evan and such are names that are well enough established to be less date stamped then the Aiden names will be. That is if the trend ever ends. My good friend just told be that she wants to name her son Caden, so I guess it is still going strong. I think it is the rhyming thing that makes them seem so overused as it is hard to distinguish between Caden and Braden and Hayden after hearing them so often.

By Jessica (not verified)
August 11, 2008 2:47 PM

girlieQ: It all comes down to what you said, Pick a name and love it. It depends on what is important to you as to whether you care about popularity and curves and uber-anything. Some do. Some dont. My short list looks like I do, like I want to be ahead or else dreadfully decades behind. In reality, It is just me being me. I love the names. If they shoot up the charts in the next 5 years, yeah so what. If not, they are still my favorite names.

Hope you enjoy the journey of naming your babe. Wait, are you expecting? No offence if not, I just assumed so and then relaized I am not sure that is right.... ok going away befreo I muddle anything more

By Nicole Amanda (not verified)
August 11, 2008 2:51 PM

So what's the deal with Isla? People keep mentioning it as a trendy up-and-coming name, but I've never actually met anyone with this name, and it hasn't been in the top 1000 since the early 1900s. Is Isla really going to be the next big thing, or are we just being paranoid?

By Jessica (not verified)
August 11, 2008 3:02 PM

I know 2 Isla's under 2. My group of kids is fairly small.

By Sister Melinda (not verified)
August 11, 2008 3:20 PM

If you combine the possible spellings--Isla, Ayla, Eila, Ila--it's probably more trendy than you'd think. But I also suspect Isla's got a lot of popularity "pockets"--check your local hospitals' or newspapers' new baby rolls to see if you're living in one of them, if you're curious. You might not be, and it might not ever be a name that catches on where you are. Some names are like that.

By Sister Melinda (not verified)
August 11, 2008 3:31 PM

"But refusing to name your son after your dearly departed father, Nathan, just because "ew, its part of the -n trend!", or ruling out a name you adore for the same reason...just doesn't seem like the right thing to encourage people to do."

I haven't seen anyone encouraging that decision. If anything, this board tends to the opposite advice--it's great to know the trends, but there are a range of more important factors to consider (family, sound, history, meaning, whatever matters to you).

I get the sense that the concern is for parents feeling like they did something terribly wrong by picking a name that got popular later? Do people really feel like that? Please, just laugh, it's NOTHING to be embarrassed about. So you didn't realize your personal tastes were so in line with the zeitgeist--well, that's true for most of us, eh? There are very, very few fountains of sparkling ingenuity among us--we all live in the world and reflect our time and place and history. So it really shouldn't be shocking, and it certainly shouldn't prompt regret or defensiveness.

My aunt (who named her daughter Kelsey in the early 1960s) always just thought it was funny and surprising how her offbeat choice became a mega-name a generation later.

By Rjoy (not verified)
August 11, 2008 3:37 PM

Sorry, this is off topic. But I know we have discussed pet names before.

We just adopted a orange tabby kitten and I can't think of a name! I have NE block right now.

Any suggestions? is male.


By Medbh (not verified)
August 11, 2008 3:45 PM

Re: Martin.

Love this name, too, and my best friend was considering this for her baby (turned out to be a Stella) but wasn't at all keen on the possibility of Marty. I'd never thought of that, but I guess it would be an unfortunate likelihood.

By Amy3 (not verified)
August 11, 2008 3:54 PM

Rjoy -- The name that just popped into my head for your new kitty is Arthur. Sounds like a nice orange tabby name to me.

Kate -- I have a huge soft spot for Ed- names so I'll vote for Edward Gregory (nn Ted/Teddy -- although I'd personally choose Ned as the nn).

By Jenny (not verified)
August 11, 2008 4:06 PM


I really like the sound of Owen Gregory, I think it just rolls off the tongue nicely!


By artemis (not verified)
August 11, 2008 4:12 PM

Rjoy--Quick suggestion: Archimedes!

By C & C's Mom - and now B! (not verified)
August 11, 2008 4:29 PM

Rjoy - we have an orange tabby named Won Ton - we also had an orange foster kitten named Noodle. i guess orange cats remind me of food!

By Karyn (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:10 PM

I personally noticed the "n trend" when I was trying to think of a hypothetical middle name for my hypothetical son, Griffin, and saw that virtually every name on the list of names I liked ended with "n", and I don't like how it sounds when both first and middle names end with "n". (A bunch of the others started with the "k" sound, which causes illeration with the last name, and I don't like that either.)

Luckily, this is still a hugely hypothetical problem. My luck, by the time I get around to having kids, the first name will be too common and I'll have to start over. (I don't need to be completely different, but I do dislike trendy things in most areas of life.) Or maybe I'll have girls and have a whole other set of trends to contend with.

By Valerie (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:12 PM

Rjoy- Orange tabbies tend to be very characterful, funny, larger than life, in my experience. So you might want to pick a name that reflects those qualities. However, yours may not be anything like that! I find hanging out with a kitten for a few days and seeing what it's like really helps when choosing a name.

We adopted a rescue kitten a few years ago, a sleek, slim, part Siamese-looking girl, and tried out names on her for a few days. In the end, my dh suggested Cassandra, and whilst I turned it down on the basis of the famous namesake, it reminded me of the name Miranda, which turned out to fit her perfectly. Not only that, but it means "worthy to be admired" which is perfect, in her case! She just loves to be admired... ;)

Some suggestions:
Rufus (means red-haired)
and I second Arthur...

Do let us know what you decide!

By Rjoy (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:31 PM

OK....I like your suggestions, but keep them coming.

I already suggested Oliver but my husband is not convinced. He wants to name him Flash, like the super hero.
His personality is not showing yet. He is still hiding under the toy box. :(

I also like Arthur...

By another amy (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:36 PM

ironically, our son was born last week and is Edison Owen. I came home and read this post and smacked my forehead.

The name was finally decided by my daughter (Edward or Edison? for the middle name, Owen or Jasper?) b/c DH and I just wanted to be able to call him Ned. DH has been enamored of Edison for several months now (he's an engineer). We came across it looking for a 'Ed' name we could use to get Ned but we weren't thrilled with Edward (although it has grown on me).

Owen had been on our list b/c I read a book with an Owen back in the 80s and it stuck in my its the Welsh for Eugene and we have *lots* of Eugenes in the family. But I'm not doing Eugene.

He also has both of our last names (mine as an extra middle).

and would you believe I'm not a fan of the last-name-first phenom? all goes to show that when the hormones are running, prior plans can go out the window!

By Amy3 (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:40 PM

I was thinking about Laura's comment that a third of all boys are given names that end in /n/. Here are the boys born just in 2008 to my co-workers:

Benjamin (nn Ben)

These parents, who are located from NY to Florida to California, have completely hit the trend with three-quarters of the boys in an admittedly small sample having an -n name.

And then there's Marcos, and the possibly up-and-coming -s ending someone mentioned upthread.

By Amy3 (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:41 PM

another amy -- Congrats on Edison Owen! I'm so glad you found a way to use Ned. That's one of my all-time fave nns.

By Medbh (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:42 PM

Knew two orange tabbies, father and son, named Cheddar and Cheddar II.


By Elizabeth in Canada (not verified)
August 11, 2008 5:57 PM

Rjoy -

As someone said, orange tabbies often have stand-out personalities. Ours is extremely laid-back ("Children patting too hard? Yawn... I'll just roll over") and very very loving (you just have to make eye contact and he'll start purring), and I have heard similar things about others with that colouring. You may want to give it a few days as suggested though, to really see what he's like.

I second the suggestions of Rufus, Arthur and Oliver. I'd also add:

Oswald (our cat's name - called Oz)

By Keren (not verified)
August 11, 2008 6:00 PM

Congratulations another Amy, Edison Owen is great, unusual and interesting.

Rjoy - was scrolling through messages backwads and read the one where you say you suggested Oliver but your husband wanted Flash BEFORE I realised it was a cat you were talking about - I thought you were naming a baby and thought HOW can these two people even be married...I was sooo relieved when I realised it was a cat! Has anyone suggested Orlando?

By another amy (not verified)
August 11, 2008 6:04 PM

babies in the nursery:

Saul (pronounced Saw-ool)
Griffin (apparently there have been several recently)
Jason (?!)

Other recent babies:
Emerson Grace
FinnLee (g)
Merritt (b)
Madison (b)

By Trish (not verified)
August 11, 2008 6:24 PM

Another Amy- Congratulations!

Rjoy- we had 2 orange tabbies, father/son, named Pete and Repeat/RePete. And an Orange Tip Himalayan named Rum Tug Tugger. I like e.e. cummings' cat names (we also had a JennyAnyDots and almost a Macavity), but somehow Arthur is also resonating with me.