Elegant and Underused Names for Boys

Oct 30th 2017


Many expectant parents today find themselves in the same conundrum, looking for a name that is elegant - like Alexander, Sebastian, or Theodore - but uncommon, with the latter criterion being particularly difficult to fill. After all, these handsome names certainly merit their popularity. Are there similar names that exude a sophisticated air but aren't quite so high on the charts?

The answer to that is a resounding yes - these fifteen names have strong histories, beloved namesakes, or intriguing etymologies, while remaining outside the top 1000 for boys. Resolute and poignant, these attractive picks come from all kinds of naming traditions, and each embodies a dashing style that all kinds of namers can appreciate.


Image: Cressida Studio/shutterstock

Ambrose. From the Greek for “immortal,” Ambrose came into more frequent use after adorning a few Catholic saints and Christian leaders of the early church. Its form balances friendliness and nobility, working well for all kinds of personalities. Ambrose fits well as an alternative to Anthony or Abraham, and its Welsh variant Emrys is another intriguing option.

Dashiell. Detective novelist Dashiell Hammett introduced this beautiful surname choice to American audiences beginning in the 1920’s; it was his middle name and an Anglicization of his mother’s maiden name, de Chiel. Today, more than a few celebrity parents have embraced this sweet name - and its link to cool nickname Dash doesn’t hurt, either.

Casimir. Intrepid Casimir has clothed Polish kings and saints, and comes from name elements meaning “destroyer of peace.” With such a powerful background, it’s a wonder that the name hasn’t ranked on the popularity charts since 1942. While Casimir’s long form has a wonderful regal sound, short forms Cas or Caz make the name more playground-friendly.

Lysander. Melodic and memorable, Lysander has roots in Greek history, Shakespearean comedies - and even Harry Potter. It’s aurally similar to Alexander and Andrew, with a more romantic and adventurous feeling. Though this free-spirited choice has made a literary impact, it’s never been given to more than 43 American boys in any year.

Beauregard. An attractive Southern choice, Beauregard is another surname that moved into the first name spot at the end of the nineteenth century. It’s an uncommon route to two common short names - Beau and Bo - with the lovely meaning of “beautiful look.” Beauregard is also especially dear in the pop culture world, with characters in television, film, and literature bearing the name.

Thelonious. Though this stylish choice has long been associated with jazz musician Thelonious Monk (himself a junior, and later giving the name to his own son), other parents in the United States have been using the name since at least 1960. It’s a daring yet awe-inspiring choice, lending itself to nicknames Theo or Lonnie (if Thelonious proves too intense for day-to-day usage). While the original spelling is Thelonius, the variant form has been more commonly worn in America over the past few decades. 

Clement. Charming Clement is another religious choice - chosen by fourteen popes - but has a more soft and serene sound. Namesakes abound throughout history, from writers to politicians to athletes, and the name is particularly popular in francophone countries. Clement is similar in tone to Clayton or Emmett, with feminine variants Clementine and Clemence gaining notice.

Wolfgang. Eyebrows may raise, but hear me out - bold and boisterous Wolfgang was given to 117 boys last year, the most in US historical records. It vibes well with other animal choices like Fox and Bear, but has more gravitas in its connections to Mozart and Goethe. If you want a name that’s sure to make an impression, Wolfgang may be the way to go.

Devereux. Derived from a French surname, Devereux is a rare choice with a sophisticated edge. The 1952 film Lone Star, starring Clark Gable as Devereaux Burke, inspired a few parents of boys born that year, and the name has been used sporadically since. With such a darling devilish sound, Devereux (or a spelling variant) is bound to appeal to fans of the fearless.  

Percival. This noble name was created by French poet Chrétien de Troyes in the twelfth century for his poem about one of King Arthur’s knights, but has fallen out of fashion along with soundalike name Percy. Could this heroic choice make a comeback? Its inclusion in the Harry Potter books, as well as the increasing trend towards unusual names, make Percival’s return a possibility.

Bartholomew. The name of one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ and a few subsequent saints, Bartholomew has a long history of use in Christian families. Short form Bart is well-known for its Simpsons connections, but the nicknames Barry and Tolly are other alternatives. Dignified and meaningful, Bartholomew is one Biblical choice beyond compare.

Sylvester. From Latin for “of the forest,” Sylvester is the most historically popular choice on this list. However, links to one cartoon character and another film star have pigeonholed this gorgeous name a bit. Today, Sylvester could be spruced up by the nickname Silver - but the long form still holds enough style and substance to be used on its own.

Ferdinand. A traditional name in a few European royal families, Ferdinand has a mix of eccentricity and elegance in its personality. The most famous Ferdinands to modern ears would be Magellan, the first European explorer to circle the globe, and the fictional bull, who prefers flowers to fights. Whether your little one is an adventurer or a dreamer (or both), Ferdinand could fit him well.

Valentine. This debonair name comes from Latin for “strong and healthy,” an especially auspicious meaning. In the United States, it’s bound to be connected to the romantic holiday, but that link hasn’t hurt the popularity of variations Valentin or Valentina. The retro nickname Val adds some flair, but vibrant Valentine already shines brightly.

Absalom. While Scandinavian variant Axel has been getting quite a bit of attention, the original Hebrew form Absalom is still underused. Found in the Old Testament as one of the sons of King David, engaging Absalom has also been used for characters in Chaucer, Faulkner, and Paton’s writings. Similar in style to Abel or Solomon, Absalom may appeal to parents who want a subtle religious choice.

Comments

1
October 31, 2017 6:26 AM

I feel that it may be important to clarify that Valentine is used for girls in France, not boys. It's very much a feminine name, pronounced Val-ent-een, and the masculine variant is Valentin (val-ent-an). Feel free to use Valentine for a boy in English-speaking areas, but don't imagine you're using a French boys' name.

2
October 31, 2017 10:35 AM

Absalom killed his brother (not without reason), tricked his father into letting him back into the country, and was defeated in his rebellion and died before becoming king... it's *sort of* a religious choice,  but not a great namesake, maybe better for people who don't care about the religious aspect of it. 

3
October 31, 2017 1:38 PM

Maybe it's just me, because two of my kids' names are on this list, but it seems sort of counter-productive to have a "short list of rare names". If you're looking for a rare name, it's maybe not the best idea to pick one off a list of names that are the "next big thing".

4
October 31, 2017 3:07 PM

Frederick and Theomore will be names I would love to add this list. 

5
October 31, 2017 10:00 PM

These names do not meet the stated criteria. Frederick is not outside the top 1000; it ranks somewhere around 500. Theomore has no strong history or beloved namesakes. The most that can be said of it is that it is the madeup name of a minor character in Martin's Song of Fire and Ice.

6
November 7, 2017 7:09 PM

"Dashiell" is a name I just don't get at all.  I have never seen it anywhere besides this website.  I don't even know how it would be pronounced.  "Dash-ell"?  Dash-ee-ull"?  I often see it on lists of "Classic" or "Elegant" names, but it doesn't register that way to me at all...it strikes me as modern and made-up.  Like someone wanted to use the word "Dash" and welded it to "Daniel."  I don't have anything against it, but the frequency with which I see it suggested on this website and forums surprises me, and I wonder where people get their assosications with it when I have gone my whole life without hearing it or forming any associations.

I might be in the same position here that others were when my school had a student named "Blaise."  To me, it seemed perfectly normal and classic.  But everyone else perceived it as a kre8iv spelling for "Blaze."

7
November 8, 2017 4:55 PM

Optatus: Dashiell goes back to Dashiell Hammett. Period, end of story. It did not exist before him.

(The author's name is generally /DASH-ell/, but at least one person on Forvo adds a short /-ee-/ syllable in the middle.)

I can sort of understand the "elegant" classification, but it does not qualify as "classic" by any definition that I know of, unless you're really, really stretching things and calling any surname-name "classic".