Classic British Names for Boys

Mar 6th 2017

Finding a name with the classic appeal of William or Alexander - but without their popularity - can be difficult to achieve. How do you find a name that’s both recognizable and traditional without picking something “ordinary” or “commonplace”?

One place to look is the sturdy British-style classics that can go overlooked in the rush toward the new and creative. Both handsome and under the radar, these fifteen choices rank outside the top 300, but offer extensive histories and cultural connections that give them personality.

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Frederick. Attractive and approachable, Frederick is a handsome choice that has spent a few decades out of the spotlight, making it ideal for revival. Dozens of Fredericks appear in the annals of history; while the name is recognizable, your Frederick can make the name his own.

Philip. This distinguished choice has musical, royal, and literary ties - from the Biblical apostle to the Duke of Edinburgh, Philips have long been influencing cultural change. While Phil still maintains a mid-century vibe, nicknames Pip and Flip are more fun in the modern age.

Francis. The popularity of progressive Pope Francis has dusted off this traditional name and given it a twenty-first century spin. The connection to the patron saint of animals, Saint Francis of Assisi, is another plus. Whether religious or secular, Francis is a name with both goodwill and gravitas.

Neil. With Noah and Nolan gaining so much attention, perhaps a name with a similar sound but a more sophisticated style could come back into fashion. Neil is smart yet understated, familiar yet fresh, the type of name that wears well with all varieties of age and personality.

Roger. Gallant and debonair, Roger is ready for a comeback. It shares aural similarities with both noble George and trendy Ryder, but has a roguish vibe all its own - thanks to rockin’ Rogers in The Byrds, Queen, Pink Floyd and The Who!

Edmund. Though it’s the least popular of the Ed names, Edmund is by no means a lesser form. Edmund is elegant and underused, with an amicable tone; it’s no wonder that Shakespeare, Austen, and Keats have all championed the name in their works.

Lewis. Ranking in the top five boys’ names in Scotland, Lewis is an English standard that hasn’t quite captured the hearts of Americans. But why not? It’s a charming choice with cultural weight and a variety of connections, from explorer Meriwether Lewis to author Lewis Carroll.

Hugh. Talented and dashing actors Jackman, Laurie, and Grant have influenced Hugh’s personality, converting it from a lordly pick to an appealing, manly option. It comes from Old German for “mind” - a fitting meaning for a refined and polished name.

Walter. While Walter often comes across as an ordinary pick, it seems to adorn some of the most creative men in history: Raleigh, Whitman, Disney, and even fictional Mitty rank among highly influential Walters. Today, the name has begun to rise again, possibly owing to Breaking Bad protagonist Walter White.

Rupert. This variant has never rivaled Robert in use, but it definitely surpasses the original in attitude and charisma. Nickname Ru is a sweet and modern choice, perfect as a complement to this handsome and uncommon name.

Winston. Associated with both powerful Churchill and intellectual Orwell, Winston is a thoroughly British name. As parents looks for alternatives to William and Wesley, Winston holds up as an attractive choice with strength and character.

Barnaby. Though it’s fairly well-used in the UK, Barnaby has never ranked in the US Top 1000. Could its friendly sound, rare usage, and literary connections bring it attention in today’s era? Barnaby is a wonderful English pick that deserves a bit more notice.

Alistair. Pleasant and unexpected, Alistair is a distant variant of Alexander. Unlike the popular version, Alistair has a unique sense of individuality and nobility. Famous Alistairs include all sorts of men, from politicians to athletes to pop culture characters.

Leopold. With Leo quickly becoming the adored nickname du jour, alternatives to Leonard and Leon are gaining new fans. Leopold is an aristocratic choice with a German spin - once Queen Victoria used it for her son, the British claimed it as a favorite. 

Dexter. Most Americans are likely to relate Dexter to the children’s cartoon or the fictional serial killer, but this dapper name merits further study. Dexter fits in with modern trends, but maintains just enough eccentricity and smoothness to keep it enticing.


March 7, 2017 12:42 PM

Philip’s have long been influencing cultural change

Should read Philips. Not possessive.

March 7, 2017 9:21 PM

Dozens of Frederick's whats? What possession of Philip has long been influencing cultural change? What belonging of rockin' Roger are you referring to? And so forth and so on.

The only correct usage of the apostrophe-s on a name in the entire post is on the name Hugh. The rest are all trying to be plurals, for which the apostrophe is wrong.

March 7, 2017 9:38 PM

Odd to remark on the "amicable tone" of Edmund and then cite Shakespeare. In King Lear Edmund is the decidedly unamicable villain. OTOH William Shakespeare's youngest brother was Edmund.

April 4, 2017 4:57 PM

Alistair is the Scottish Gaelic version of Alexander, and that isn't its only spelling.   I prefer Alasdair :-)    

May 2, 2017 1:41 PM

Some of the names listed have alternative spellings - some more traditional than others:

- Phillip (there is also the option to spell it starting with an "F" in place of "Ph," but, personally, I'm not all that keen on the "F" spelling)

- Neal (both versions as well as "Neill" started off as surnames years ago)

- Louis (can be pronouced as "Lewis" or with the French pronounciation, sounding as: Louie)