Judah, Lucas, and all the "OO-OO" Boys' Names

Aug 22nd 2018

"Oooooh." It's a sound of admiration, a signal to take notice. It's also a sound that makes a baby name stand out.

21st-century namers like to build around long, strong vowels. The A sound powers boys' favorites like Jacob and Mason, E is the secret to Liam and Ethan, I to Elijah and Wyatt, O to Noah and Logan. But a long U (pronounced "oo") still has the potential to surprise us. Only three boys' names with long U sounds—Lucas, Luke and Julian—rank among America's top 100, compared to a dozen long A names.


Photo: Getty Images

That rarity, and the smooth resonance of the sound, lend the U names extra interest. Better yet, when you holler a name like "Luuuuke" across a playground, half the neighborhood won't think you're calling for them. The trick is finding these elusive "oo" names.

I've gone hunting and rounded up all of the top prospects. While I cast a wide net, not every name with a long U sound qualified. I gave extra weight to names where the U sound was stressed, and was the first vowel sound in the name. (Cooper yes, Matthew no.) I took points off for names heavy on consonant clusters that are out of fashion, or that tend to trip up English spelling or pronunciation. (Sorry, Shmuel and Dhruv.) I came up with 57 varieties, grouped into 7 style categories below. With style options from Lucian to Crew, you should find something to say ooh about.

Modern Meanings
Blue
Crew
Cruise
Tru

Throwback Guys
Dewey
Duke
Julius
Lewis
Louis
Luther
Rudy
Stuart

Global Inspirations
Cruz
Julio
Knute
Luca
Lucio
Musa
Raul
Rune
Ryu
Sulaiman
Yehuda
Yuri

Last Names First
Boone
Booth
Brewer
Cooper
Ewan
Ewing
Hewitt
Hooper
Hughes
Newton
Truett
Truman

Biblical Revivals
Judah
Jude
Lucas
Luke
Reuben
Reuel

Classics With Surprise Potential
Bruno
Hugh
Hugo
Jules
Julian
Jupiter
Lucan
Lucian
Lucius
Rudolph
Rufus
Rupert
Tullio
Uriel
Uther

Comments

1
August 22, 2018 10:36 AM

Fun list! My dog Reuben made it.  And it really is a fun name to say.  Nicknames for my dog are: Ruby, and Roo Roo.

2
August 22, 2018 5:50 PM

No Drew?

Interestingly, of the two names that actually start with U, I only hear one as containing the oo sound; in Uriel, I hear/say that first vowel more like the vowel in her rather than the vowel in who. Maybe it's a rhotic/non-rhotic issue, or an English vs Hebrew difference?

3
August 23, 2018 2:19 AM

For what it’s worth some of the names in the foreign section definitely have other vowel sounds first... but a fun list! 

I’d like the equivalent girl list: I know a little Beulah!

4
August 23, 2018 10:46 AM

nedibes, I went to high school with a Uriel who in English was called something like YOU-ree-ul (like Muriel without the M... if you say Muriel the same way I do) and in Hebrew was called oo-ree-el (with a throaty R).

Uther feels like a headless Luther. I've never heard that name before. It also feels vaguely medical -- probably because of ureter/ether.

lucubratrix, are the oo sounds not all stressed in the foreign names, even if they aren't first? They are stressed in all the names I'm familiar enough with to be confident in their pronunciations.

5
August 23, 2018 12:26 PM

Karyn, Uther Pendragon is King Arthur's father in the BBC series, Merlin. I have no idea if that's true to legend or invented for the show, but at least your feeling was spot-on.

6
August 23, 2018 7:56 PM

Uther is traditionally the father of Arthur, Emerald Bee. That's my primary association for it.

Karyn, I say the first syllable of Uriel just like the first syllable of urine and ureter, so it sounds a lot more medical to me than Uther (OO-ther, no Y sound), which more feels like a beefy/archaic version of Arthur to me.

7
August 23, 2018 11:05 PM

I think that the Uther-medical association was visual only, now that you mention it. Oooh, I can see that link to the name Arthur. Kinda cool, (in a highly nerdy kind of way) actually.

I don't really know much about Arthurian legend other than the basics, so that explains my ignorance about the name. 

8
August 25, 2018 1:21 PM

The oo sounds are indeed stressed! I learned that when I discovered that video game audio had been teaching me very wrong things about the pronunciation of Ryu!

I always vaccilla between pronunciation of Uther when reading aloud tales of young Arthur (not infrequently). I too am reminded of a truncated Luther... in fact, that previously made me think that next year’s scout camp (an exalibur theme!) should feature my son using Upert Pendragon as his camp name. If it’s not too weird that I’d probably be Guinevere, anyway.