When it comes to baby name style, it's not just about where you start — it's where you finish. Name endings shape style and are a big part of the sound of their times. The 1960s were the age of Teri, Sheri, Keri and Geri. The 2000s gave us Aiden, Brayden and Kaden, along with Landen, Holden and Camden.
Where do names end up today? I looked at 40,000 names to calculate which three-letter name endings have risen the fastest in popularity over the past three years. Putting aside endings dominated by one fast-rising name (like -zra, which is all about Ezra) I zeroed in on five fresh sounds of the generation to come.
Hot names: Cooper (M), Harper (F), Juniper (F), Jasper (M), Piper (F)
The 1990s were the heyday of -ler "tradesman" names like Tyler, Chandler and Taylor. The crisper -per names have now overtaken them. Many are still trade-based surnames, but the botanical name Juniper points to way to broader possibilities. (Read more about the new generation of -er names.)
Hot names: Tobias (M), Elias (M), Matias (M), Matthias (M)
In the case of -ias, what's new is old—very old. The antique Grecian ending offers a sophisticated take on familiar name roots. This is a trend that spans multiple pronunciations, as heard in the English Matthias (mə-THYE-əs) and the Spanish Matías (mah-TEE-ahs)
Hot names: Aurora (F), Nora (F), Cora (F), Amora (F), Eliora (F), Eleanora (F)
This ending has a dual personality. In the form of Cora and Nora it's old-fashioned and sweet, but no-nonsense. In Aurora and Amora, it's romantic and even magical. Eleanora splits the difference.
Hot names: Rhett (M), Everett (M), Scarlett (F), Beckett (M), Emmett (M), Elliott (M, F)
The double-t trend has been rising for a decade now, and it's far from over. It's not just the look of the doubled letter that appeals, but the sound of a T after a vowel, closing the name with a snap. Similar-sounding names like Charlotte and Violet have risen too. (Read more about double-t names.)
Hot names: Maia (F), Kaia (F), Amaia (F), Gaia (F)
Names ending in -aya are on the rise as part of the "liquid" and "raindrop" names trends, but the -aia spelling is rising even faster. In some cases it reflects a name's roots, as in the case of the Greek Earth goddess Gaia. Most often, though, parents choose it for its trim and eye-catching style.
Occupation-based names are popular today, from "doer" monikers like Cooper and Hunter to titles like Deacon and King. If you like the style but want a truly uncommon name, here are some professional choices from outside the top-1000 names list. Though the jobs they represent may have changed (or disappeared) over the years, the names will grow and move right along with your little one.
Sailor. Once just a quirky celebrity baby name, Sailor today sounds like a friendly, mellow option that could become a new classic. It’s general enough to work as a name, and not only as a title; it’s nautical, boyish, and a little adventurous. While Saylor has been rising on the girls’ charts as an alternative to Taylor, the original spelling is a bit less trendy and a bit more enduring (especially for boys).
Image via Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock
Ranger. The name Ranger is reminiscent of old westerns and wide open spaces, thanks to its pop culture credibility - the Lone Ranger and Walker, Texas Ranger, to begin with. But its cowboy image is mitigated by a similarity to popular boys’ names Ryan, Ryder, and Roger. Ranger is strong and fearless, and works well for aspiring heroes of all ages.
Hopper. Though Robin Wright and Sean Penn chose this name for their son to honor close friend Dennis Hopper, the name no longer belongs strictly to the actor: American artist Edward Hopper, famous for Nighthawks, has been gaining more notoriety posthumously for his paintings of mid-century realism. Whether you’re looking for a subtle artistic name, a Disney-inspired name (Hopper was a powerful insect in A Bug’s Life), or just a name with rhythm and positivity, Hopper is a fabulous choice.
Sutter. Rich with history yet still relatively modern - it was first recorded in the US in 1995 - Sutter combines the best of both worlds. For Californians and fans of American history, the Gold Rush of 1849 began with the discovery of the metal at Sutter’s Mill. Although Sutter comes from the old English title for a shoemaker, the sound is far more accessible than Cobbler and maintains a subtle grace and integrity.
Pilot. Even fans of the most unusual names raised their eyebrows when actor Jason Lee named his son Pilot Inspektor in 2003. But in today’s name landscape, the first name Pilot isn’t quite as mind-boggling (Inspektor may still need a few years). Fifteen boys were named Pilot last year - their parents probably love the association with aerospace and flight!
Weaver. The name Weaver doesn’t only apply to those who work with thread - this attractive, serene name could honor a weaver of stories or a weaver of words. The name was used when the first name records debuted in the US - seven Weavers were born in 1880. But the name hasn’t been used for more than five babies since 1962 - why not bring back this handsome, occupational choice?
Abbott. With Abigail, Abel, and Abraham gaining fans, the word name Abbott could fit in nicely. It comes from the same root - the Hebrew “abba”, meaning “father” and often referring to God - and carries even more religious significance: an abbot is the head of an abbey or monastery. Abbott has a vintage English vibe and a morally upright attitude - it’s a stylish, virtuous name for boys.
Smith. The most popular surname in the English-speaking world - first in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia - hasn’t ranked on the top 1000 since 1939. But this Old English name meaning “metal-worker” would make a nice twist as a prénom. Smith is bright and bold, upbeat and upstanding. If you don’t have Smith as your last name, try it as a first!
Baxter. An adorable choice with a jazzy x-factor, Baxter already has a bunch of kid cred through PBS’ Arthur and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Like Smith and Weaver, it was used more often in the early twentieth century, but it’s been gaining traction recently - it was used for around sixty to seventy boys for each of the last five years. It’s youthful and timeless, retro and edgy, all in one.
Foster. Though the name comes from “forester”, the verb “foster” today is less woodsy and more caring and kind. To foster means to support growth and flourishing - not a bad connotation for any little one. It’s another popular surname, but its recognizability adds to its validity as a first choice. The arguably most famous Foster? Comedian and beloved actor, Foster Brooks.
Poet. Romantic and thoughtful, Poet is a gorgeous choice for boys and girls alike. This choice could honor a parent who loves literature, or an aspiring writer and artist. The occupational title comes from an original root word meaning “to create”; if you’re looking for a name that inspires and invigorates without overwhelming, Poet is a lovely option.
Sayer. No, this isn’t a misspelling of Sawyer - Sayer has long been used as a variant, or as a title for an orator. It’s less Southern and familiar, sure, but Sayer has a lighter, more refined sound. It’s been recorded since 1984, and has been gaining followers looking for names like Thayer and Grayer. Like the first name on this list, Sailor, Sayer is serene and amicable - a remarkable choice for a remarkable child.
Imagine a scene of medieval Europe. Picture the gallant knights, the fair ladies, the pious monks, the peasants, peasants, and more peasants. Now, what were their names?
A group of scholars is trying to answer that question. Their ambitious online project, the "Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources," is meticulously documenting every given name recorded in Europe between the years 500 and 1600. The collection already numbers over 1,000 different names.
Many of the names in the dictionary were rare even in their times. For every baby Hyssop and Sehild born in England, there were swarms named William, Alice and John. But browsing the total collection brings the multiple cultures of medieval Europe to life.
As baby names, a lot of the entries are best left to the middle ages. (I'm looking at you, Baldowald, Puglith, Ratbert and Humbelina.) Others are so familiar in the modern world that it's hard to imagine them in medieval times at all: "There stood the village blacksmith Scott, his wife Amy, and their children Brendan, Natalie and Amanda."
Between these two extremes, though, lie names that carry their age-old style into the modern world. I've selected 75 examples that could link your 21st-century baby to the age of chivalry.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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