Two of America's most fashionable boys' names have a lot in common. They're trim, light, and Irish.
Liam, an Irish short form of William, has risen from rarity to mega-hit in the in the space of a single generation. It's now America's #1 boy's name. What's more, Liam's popularity as a nickname has helped keep William near the top of the charts even as other boys' classics have plummeted.
Finn, a Irish name meaning "fair" or "white," didn't even crack America's top-1,000 name list in the 20th Century. Today it's not only a hit on its own, but the engine behind the rise of names like Finley and Finnegan.
The quiet secret behind both names' appeal is balance. They're fresh, but rooted. They have a smooth, light sound, but are reliably masculine. They're petite, but not cutesy or diminutive. They're Celtic imports, but easy to spell and pronounce. Put that all together and you have a great recipe for success—one that has powered a steady stream of light Celtic favorites like Sean, Evan, Owen, Ian and Ryan.
If you're looking for more names with that same feeling, we've rounded up all of your top options. None of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh names on our list rank among America's top 100, and each has a spark of the light, contemporary-yet-timeless spirit that makes Liam and Finn shine.
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Light Celtic Boys' Names
This is not your usual royal baby naming dilemma.
When British royals William and Kate were preparing to name their first heir, tradition was the byword. The baby would be directly in the line of succession, so their name choice was, as I wrote at the time, "a statement of public identity for the royal family; a branding opportunity for the British throne." That made for a tightly limited set of name options. They had to select from the purest pool of British regal heritage and national pride.
For the younger Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan Markle, name options are wide open—by royal standards, at least. First off, with three young cousins ahead in line, no one expects this child to take the throne. What's more, Harry has already shown with his choice of bride that he's willing to step outside of tradition and follow his heart. But there's yet another huge wild card in this decision: Meghan is American.
When she became Duchess of Sussex, Meghan took on the trappings of British Royal life. Her daily life, wardrobe, and professional activities now dutifully follow British protocol. But taste in names is hard to shake. As any couple with different backgrounds can tell you, hitting two cultural targets with a single name is a challenge.
For the royals, or for any English/American couple, here's a quick guide to the style hot spots like to spark clashes in taste, as well as the points of overlap that may offer solutions.
Names American parents love that English parents reject:
• Country/Western names. Americans, don't expect to talk your English partner into names like Waylon, Brantley, Remington, Barrett, Gracelynn or RaeLynn.
• Inspiring word names. Legend, Journey, Lyric, King and Justice are American hits, but not often heard across the pond.
• TOO English names. You have to be subtle. Only Americans name their babies London or Beckham, and believe it or not, a young Nigel is more likely to be American than English.
Names English parents love that American parents reject:
• Cuddly-cute little nicknames. American parents are wary of them as nicknames, let alone full names. Tough sells include Teddie, Ralphie, Albie and Bertie for boys, and Kitty, Dolcie, Dolly and Pixie for girls
• Two-part girls' names. English parents have flocked to names like Amelia-Rose, Ava-Grace, Bella-Rose and Lily-Mae. American parents, not so much.
For baby names both countries can get on board with, look to traditional, old-fashioned full names with a sense of fun.
• For girls, sweet but not diminutive old-fashioned names. Consider Penelope, Violet, Evelyn, Iris, Olive, Esther, Iris, Eliza, Rosalie and Clara.
• For boys, little but full names names with an offbeat cool factor. Consider Milo, Ezra, Leo, Finn, Luca, Jude, Levi, Miles, and Enzo.
• And for both, a handful of more strictly formal classics. Try Theodore, Alexander, Victoria, Eleanor or Arabella.
Mermaids and pirates have been captivating the imaginations of both children and adults for ages. These timeless legends of seafaring have given us songs, stories, movies, national holidays, theme parks, and more.
We simply love the sea and the stories that have been told about it. If you’re looking for some keen pirate names, or some sea-worthy mermaid names, we have you covered on both fronts.
Photo: Getty Images
Beyond tales of peg-legged charmers in search of gold, these are names of the most infamous real-life pirates of all time. The era when piracy was in its peak is from the 1500s to the 1800s, and many the names reflect that. There are traditional names and a few surprises among these names borne by sinister scalawags.
This traditional name strikes us as flowing and reliable, with just the right amount of quirkiness. Bartholomew was the name of an infamous Welsh pirate also known as Black Bart, or the Great Pirate Roberts.
You don’t find too many Howells here in the United States, but it’s a lot more common to see as a surname or given name in Wales. This was the first name of the clever Welsh pirate Howell Davis.
Nothing says pirate quite like the name Jack. We get that idea from the creator of the Jolly Roger flag, a pirate named Calico Jack. Our favorite pirate with this name, however, comes from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
The famous pirate Black Sam, born Samuel Bellamy, was so successful he was named the #1 top-earning pirate by Forbes. (Who knew?) We’re charmed by his on-trend French surname, meaning “beautiful friend.”
A really unusual English name, we think Stede is surprising choice for a pirate or a gentleman. Known as The Gentleman’s Pirate, Stede Bonnet had inherited his family’s estate and fortune, but turned to piracy nonetheless.
Mermaids have played an important part in sea tales and fantasy novels for centuries. But oddly enough, literary mermaids are often not named. The most famous mermaid tale, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is never referred to by any name. Nameless mermaids are featured in Peter Pan, Moby-Dick, the Harry Potter series, and sirens can be found in Homer's Odyssey. So we curated mermaid names from a variety of sources, some a bit surprising.
Once a mysterious mythological name, so many of us are fond of this lyrical choice. Before Gilmore Girls came around, this was the name of a mermaid or water spirit popular in folklore.
It’s difficult not to associate this name with a mermaid. Disney's name for Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid put this lovely name on the modern map.
Perhaps derived from Cleopatra, this twist on an Egyptian name was created for a mermaid princess by L. Frank Baum in his novel The Sea Fairies.
Where would we be without the movie Splash? From that 1984 hit, many were inspired to use the name chosen by the main character when she came across Madison Ave.
The heroine from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda is a wonderful name for a mermaid! It was used for a beautiful mermaid in a 1948 film of the same name.
Iara or Yara
Iara is a Brazilian mythological mermaid featuring green hair and olive skin. Her name means "mother of waters" and remains an undiscovered gem in the US.