From Ezra to Zion, names highlighting the alphabet's last and arguably coolest letter are on the rise. In 1915, the United States recorded only 113 boys’ names that included the letter “Z.” A century later, that number has jumped to over 900. The energy and adventure found in this character are unparalleled, from its sleek form to its bright sound.
If you're drawn to Z names but want shy away from their growing popularity, here are fifteen zippy alternatives for boys that don’t currently rank on the US Top 1000.
Zayd. This Arabic name meaning “to increase” is already well-known in Muslim communities, but it’s gaining fans around the world for its edgy sound and unique spelling (Zaid is another option). Balancing history with modern style, Zayd is bound to soar.
Denzel. While celebrity Washington is the most notable namesake, this dashing name has been used as far back as the 16th century (with the spelling Denzil). Denzel is a Cornish name with strength and personality, well-matched with the trends of today.
Paz. A softer sibling to ruddy Pax, Paz is a serene choice with Latin flair. The name has been used in the past to honor the Virgin Mary - “Our Lady of Peace” - but its peaceful vibe could appeal to people of all races and religions.
Lazarus. With Old Testament names currently in the spotlight, Lazarus could be an unexpected option for fans of the daring. The story of Lazarus’ resurrection has inspired centuries of art, music, and writing, making the name both accessible and inspiring.
Zen. Actress (and Z-name bearer) Zoe Saldana chose the understated Zen in 2016 for one of her twin boys, bringing this spiritual name to center stage. With names like Bodhi, Messiah, and Faith on the playground, why not include simple and straightforward Zen?
Kenzo. Common in Japan, Kenzo is a dynamic and friendly choice with cross-cultural potential. Kenzo is easily pronounceable, has a multitude of meanings and namesakes (based on the kanji used to write the name), and feels like a great addition to the Western name canon.
Ozzie. Though it’s originally a nickname for Oscar, Oswald, or Osmond, Ozzie is the type of quirky retro name that could surpass its originators in popularity. The name has ranked on US popularity charts only once - in 1903 - but it’s been slowly rising over the past few years, for both boys and girls.
Chaz. The recent focus on darling Charlie has obscured many other wonderful nicknames for Charles, gregarious Chaz among them. Chaz is a handsome choice with a jaunty sound, the kind of name that will inspire creativity and confidence.
Nazareth. A place name with religious overtones, Nazareth is a pleasant choice that makes a great alternative to Zion or Israel. The name is memorable and warm, and with dozens of Nazareth cities around the globe, your Nazareth is sure to feel welcome wherever he goes.
Zephyr. The Greek god of the west wind, gentle Zephyr is known for heralding the spring - an excellent namesake for a late winter or early spring baby! The name Zephyr has been chosen in recent years by a few celebrity parents, and more are sure to be drawn to its charming vibe.
Ezio. Already popular across Europe, Americans may be familiar with suave Ezio via the hero in the Assassin’s Creed video game series. Whether your little one wants a life of adventure or one close to home, this name will work for all kinds of personalities.
Zohar. From the Hebrew word for “radiance,” elegant Zohar is well-used for both boys and girls in Israel - it’s also especially important to members of the Jewish Kabbalah sect as the title of a holy book. Zohar is both sophisticated and accessible, uncommon yet unforgettable.
Boaz. Now that Bo names are trending - Beau, Bodhi, and Bowen among them - Boaz could be a unique route to this sweet nickname. Like Noah or Moses in their ancient style, Boaz feels like a wonderful mix between the old and the new.
Izidro. This Spanish variant of Isidore spices up the clunky original, making it more attractive with a cool Iz-beginning and a masculine O-ending. While it’s more common as a last name, Izidro works well in the first name spot, with the adorable nickname Izzy.
Zorion. Adding one crucial letter to celestial Orion gives you Zorion, a Basque name meaning “happiness.” Though its form blends well with contemporary trends, Zorion feels one-of-a-kind in its energetic, boyish appeal.
If you're looking for more zesty ideas, check out Are There Any More Z Names?
Biblical baby name style is riding high. Names like Elijah and Isaiah are major hits, with Ezekiel, Delilah, Emmanuel, Malachi, Nehemiah and more close on their heels. The more distinctly biblical a name sounds, the more parents are drawn to it — and they're reaching ever deeper to find unusual names that fill the bill.
To show off the reach of this new biblical style, I've assembled a list of 55 names from the Bible that are currently at all-time historic peaks for U.S. usage. (As in the Bible itself, male names predominate.) Some of the names will likely strike you as handsome antiques; others as genuine surprises based on sound and style, or in a few cases because of the biblical figures they represent.
But before presenting the 55 hot names, I should mention a biblical name currently at its all-time historic low: Mary. And here's a historical graph of the popularity of Mary vs. all seven of the new biblical hits listed in the opening paragraph:
55 Biblical Names Reaching New Heights
(* indicates a current top-1,000 ranking)
You choose a name you love for your first child. For your second you choose a closely matching name, sticking with the sound you like best to create a “set,” and hopefully a special bond between your kids. Then comes baby #3, and you reach a point of reckoning. Is the theme still working for you? If not, can you escape it?
Fixer Upper reality tv stars Joanna and Chip Gaines are facing this point, times two. They have two boys and two girls: Drake and Duke, Ella Rose and Emmie Kay. That’s two matching pairs with very strong sound and spelling themes, and notably different male vs. female styles. To make the stakes even higher, in their housewares business they’ve named collections after their kids, so each name is a brand as well as a baby name.
The Gaines family is now expecting baby (and presumably brand) #5, making an ideal case study in the pleasures and perils of matching names. Let's walk through the decision process, starting from where they stand now.
Joanna and Chip Gaines. Image via joannagaines/Instagram
With a matching theme as tight as Drake and Duke, you have three possible paths for the next name:
1. Go all-in. You’ve defined the recipe for your sons’ names. Commit to it by sticking with a single syllable, initial D, final K sound, and macho style.
Top Options: Dirk, Dax, Dex, Dock.
Pros: Like matching uniforms, fully matching names achieve full consistency, equality, and team identity.
Cons: Starting with a super-small set of options that fit the theme, you’re now down to your third choice – and the core rule of theme naming is that each name you choose should be one you love for itself. Also, three names this similar are begging to be mixed up, and inviting others to assume that your kids are equally similar. What’s more, none of the options include a subtler fourth element of Drake and Duke: a long vowel sound.
2. Blow it up. You chose Drake and Duke because they were your favorite names. Look for another name you’re just as excited about, and to heck with matching.
Top Options: Wide open, in theory
Pros: You get a name you love, and a signal that your child is an individual with the right to forge his own identity.
Cons: One of these things is not like the others. The further removed the new name is from the old in sound and style, the more you’re setting that child apart and suggesting different expectations of him. You don’t have to match, but you don’t want to clash.
3. Pick your theme’s “core values.” Identify the elements that make up your theme and declare some of them essential, others optional. For instance, you might require a swashbuckling one-syllable name because that’s your style, but drop one or both of the letter requirements. Or if you’re committed to matching initials, open your options to two-syllable names.
Top Options: Dash, Dade, Dane; Deacon, Dixon, Decker; Gage, Steele, Burke, Locke, Colt, Ace, Reeve
Pros: Balance options and individuality with cohesion. The names still share a common sensibility that reflects the qualities you prize in a name.
Cons: Drake, Duke and Reeve may be a fine group of names, but there’s no way around the fact that you’ve broken up your perfectly matching set.
We can apply the same principles to Ella Rose and Emmie Kay, though this pair of names is a little more flexible given the lack of a shared ending sound. The new elements are the initial E, smooth sounds, two-part names, two + one syllables, and a cuddly vintage style. (While we’re on the subject of sibling matching and the signals it sends, choosing sleek and swashbuckling boys’ names and cuddly vintage girls’ names certainly signals disparate expectations.) In considering the options, I’m going to look only at the first name. The choice of middle name will depend on the sounds of the first.
1. Go all-in: The challenge is to find a name that isn’t too close to either Ella or Emmie. One trick is to choose a name that starts with a long E (pronounced like the letter), to keep the matching initials but open up new sounds.
Top Options: Eva, Evie, Edie, Effie
2. Blow it up: As the options above show, you’re fishing in a mighty small pool at this point. Maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons.
Top Options: Theoretically open, but realistically, a trio of sisters named Ella Rose, Emmie Kay and Hendrix will raise some eyebrows.
3. Core values: The key decision point is whether to stick to the sweet old-fashioned style. If you change up on style, the sound elements become virtually non-negotiable.
Top Options: Eden, Ember, Esme; Eliza, Esther, Eloise, Evelyn; Sadie, Ada, Lena, Ida, Billie, Nellie, Nora, Molly, Millie, Cora, Winnie
If I had to bet: It’s hard to give up the swift stroke of a single syllable boy’s name, but Deacon preserves the D and K sounds and the swagger of Drake and Duke. Better yet, it offers the secret weapon of a third long vowel sound that both follows the pattern and makes the names less likely to be confused with each other. For girls, the field is more wide open. But the long E of Evie or Edie lets the parents hew close to their theme without repeating themselves.