Firearms Baby Names Continue to Climb

Jul 11th 2018

Think of a catchy word or brand name associated with guns, and you've probably thought of a hot baby name. From Cannon to Pistol, Remington to Colt, firearms are making their mark on American names.

Firearm names are hardly alone as as a creative baby name trend. Just last week, I was tallying up the wave of new X names from Xxavier to Roux. But gun names stand out because they break the one restriction today's parents usually observe in naming. They edge close to politics, a once-common naming theme that has been all but off-limits for the past generation.

I first reported on the firearms trend several years ago, looking at 2012 baby name statistics. The 2017 stats show a continued surge. Over that five-year period, the number of American babies receiving gun-related names rose by 58%. The total of firearms-named babies is now over 8,000 per year, and counting.

To accurately assess this name phenomenon, I started not with the names, but with the guns. I combed through multiple glossaries of firearms terms and lists of manufacturers, collecting any that sounded like remotely plausible baby name choices. (Caliber yes, Decocker no.) The resulting list included 60 potential names, 20 of which turned out to appear in last year's baby name statistics. That means they were given to at least five newborn American boys or girls last year:

Barrett Colt Pistol Tracer
Benelli Gauge Remington         Trigger
Beretta           Gunner Ruger Walther
Caliber Kimber Savage Wesson
Cannon Magnum          Shooter Winchester


The majority of the 20 names were unknown a generation earlier, including terms like Trigger and Shooter and brands like Benelli and Ruger. Not a single gun name from previous generations had disappeared. That expansion of names in use reflects a broader movement toward creativity and individuality in baby naming. The direction of the creativity, though, is telling. Other categories of goods and possessions haven't shown the same rapid growth.

There is no more honest indicator of values and culture than the names we give our children. Siblings named Magnum and Beretta make a statement about a family's interests and identity, just as siblings named Gandalf and Éowyn or Coltrane and Ellington would. But unlike other interests, firearms have become a cultural and political dividing line in America. That makes a name like Ruger not just unconventional, but potentially controversial and divisive.

Despite the political discord that increasingly defines our times, parents today steer away from political names. In past generations, every new presidential candidate or military leader would be greeted by a spike of namesakes. Since Watergate, homages to living leaders have essentially disappeared. The spouses and children of politicians may spark trends, since they're treated more like regular celebrities, but partisanship in baby naming is right out. 

Why then, are we seeing such of wave of firearms names at a moment when they are a fraught partisan marker? While some parents may be deliberately staking out ideological ground, I suspect that the vast majority who choose gun names just consider them fun and energetic. In many families and communities, the image of firearms is overwhelmingly positive. A name like Trigger or Gauge could be chosen to connote sport and power, similar to a name like Rider or Ace, or to conjure the Wild West, like Maverick or Zane.

Parents choosing the names in this upbeat spirit might be dismayed by the very suggestion that their child's name could be divisive. If you're in that position, please take this not as a judgment, but simply as a heads-up. For many non-gun-owners, the first associations that come to mind aren't fun and sport, but acts of mass violence. While some firearms names like Colt and Barrett are flexible enough to be welcomed everywhere, the more aggressively styled names may be seen as inflammatory.

Firearms names aren't the only polarizing choices on today's baby name charts. A creative baby name era is inevitably a divisive baby name era. The word for "broadly liked," after all, is "popular." As parents turn away from anything perceived as too popular, they turn toward names people disagree on. The more distinctive and eye-catching the choice, the stronger the disagreement will be. And when the eye-catching choice falls along a political fault line, the response to a name can be inflamed by existing societal polarization—as the response to this column doubtless will be.


How Far Would You Go for an X?

Jul 4th 2018

Ready to go the xxtra mile? The letter x is our millennium's baby name turbocharger, the favorite way to add a burst of energy that sets a name apart from the pack. Names featuring an x are ten times as popular today as in the mid-20th Century. Names starting with x are 70 times as popular. Top choices include classics like Xavier, and fresh respellings like Jaxon. But once you look beyond the top names to the rest of the baby name stats, you start to see how far today's parents are willing to go for the power of the x.

For classics, Xavier is just the starting point. How about Xerxes, Xanthe and Ajax? For respellings, try Xane, Lanxton or Broox. You can double up your x power with names like Knoxx, Nixxon and Xxavier, or pair it with z power to get Xzander or Xzavion. Then there are word names like Lynx, Helix, Galaxy and Matrix. Even silent x's are getting into the act. Rising girls' names include Beaux (pronounced "BOH," meaning male lovers) and Roux ("ROO," a mixture of butter and flour used as a base for sauces.)

The most sought-after x roots are inspiring boundless creativity, especialily for boys. Parents appear to be particularly focused on "axxion" for boys, with an explosion of double-x's and respellings. 31 different boys' names starting with Jax registered on last year's name stats, including Jaxiel, Jaxden and Jaxzon.

For a fuller sense of the modern name x-plosion, look over the list of creative choices below. Every name listed was given to at least 5 American boys or girls last year.

Credit: Getty Images

Beaux Luxley Xayla
Bellatrix             Lyrix Xaylie
Bronx Moxie Xenovia
Galaxy Nixon Xienna
Huxley Nyx Xoe
Jaxie Pax Xola
Kendrix Pixie Xuri
Knoxlee Roux Xya
Lexanie Saxon Yamilex
Loxli Siouxsie             Yexalen
Luxe Xanthe  


Abraxas Hux Onyx
Ajax Huxen Oxford
Alexiel Huxlee Paxon
Axe Huxtyn Phoenixx
Axiel Jaxiel Praxton
Axl Jaxsin Rexton
Axtyn Jaxston Roux
Banx Jaxzon Roxas
Beaux Jex Ruxin
Bexley Joxiel Seanix
Brax Kalix Thaxton
Braxley Kix Traxton
Braxon Knixon Trexton
Brex Knoxton           Truxton
Brexton Knoxx Xadiel
Brix Lanxton Xadrian
Brixen Lexton Xamir
Brixton Linux Xane
Brodix Loxley Xavian
Bronxton           Loxton Xavius
Broox Lux Xayden
Broxton Lynx Xayne
Crixus Lyrix Xen
Daxter Maddax Xeno
Daxxon Madrox Xenon
Drax Mallex Xerxes
Draxler Mannix Xion
Dreux Matix Xxavier
Drex Matrix Xyan
Drexel Mavrix Xylas
Eryx Maxon Xyler
Essex Maxton Xylon
Exavier Maxus Xylus
Exodus Moxley Xzander
Exzavier Moxon Xzavier
Fenix Nix Xzavion
Foxx Nixxon Xzayvion
Galaxy Nox Zaxton
Helix Nyxon  
Hendrixx Onix  



Imported Nicknames Put a Fresh Face on Familiar Boys' Names

Jun 28th 2018

Almost every adult Timothy goes by Tim. That name is a core member of the "All-American nice guy nicknames," the everyday name set that was the bedrock of 20th-century guy style. For 21st-century babies, though, those familiar nicknames are endangered species. You may meet a Michael, but not a Mike; a Jonathan, but not a Jon. That doesn't mean, though, that nicknames have to disappear altogether. Picture a Timothy called Timo (TEE-moh) instead. Doesn't it take years off the name's age?

Timo is an imported nickname, a relative of Timothy used in German, Dutch, Finnish and Estonian. In English it's simple and fresh, with a playful energy reminiscent of rising names like Milo and Theo. As a nickname, it might help people see Timothy through new eyes.

We've identified 16 European nicknames that could put a fresh spin on some of the most familiar American boys' names. A few, like Pier for Peter, are translations of the full formal name in their native lands, but all can serve as nicknames in English. If you love the style of a familiar classic boys' name on a birth certificate, or want to honor a beloved relative with an extra-common name, these imports could open up your options. 

Alexander     Lex LEHKS



Anthony Tonio/Toño TOH-nyoh



Benjamin Benas BEH-nas



Charles Carlo CAHR-loh



Christopher     Risto REES-toh

Finnish, Estonian, Macedonian


Jonathan Jonty JAHN-tee

British, South African


Joseph Zepp ZEHP



Lawrence Renzo REHN-tsoh



Louis Lucho LOO-choh



Matthew Mats MAHTS

Swedish, Norwegian


Michael Mikko MEE-koh



Nicholas Niko/Nico NEE-koh

German, Finnish, Croation/Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch


Peter Pier PEER



Terrence Tel TEHL



Timothy Timo TEE-moh

German, Dutch, Finnish, Estonian


William Wim VIM, WIM

Dutch, German