Meet 23 boys' names you've never encountered before. They never once appeared in America's baby name statistics until this past year.
What does it mean to be brand new? Consider that over 100,000 different names from Aaban to Zzyzx had already qualified in past years. (The minimum requirement is 5 boys or girls receiving the name in a single year.) To break new ground a name has to represent a shift in style, an openness to new languages, spellings, or sources of inspiration, or simply the boldness to go where no name has gone before.
I've selected some noteworthy names from the nearly 600 boys' debuts in this year's baby name stats. And if names like Klutch, Grizzly and Lucchese surprise you, just look at the girls' names!
Grizzly, Negan. Image credits: National Park Service, AMC Networks
TOTALLY BRAND NEW BOYS' NAMES
Drizzt. Drizzt Do'Urden is a dark elf in the Dungeons and Dragons "Forgotton Realms" world. The name's pronunciation is hotly debated by fans, though most at least agree that Drizzt is one syllable.
Axon. An axon is the long part of a nerve cell that conducts impulses away from the cell body toward other neurons. As a name, it sounds more like a superhero (or villain). Scientist by day, crimefighter by night?
JohnOliver. Maybe the emergence of this double name just reflects the rising popularity of the name Oliver. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with the breakthrough year enjoyed by comedian/talk-show host John Oliver. Maybe.
Hux. General Hux was a ruthless commander of dark forces in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, played by Bill Weasley Domhnall Gleeson. Parents seem particularly drawn to Hux as a nickname. Huxon, Hucksley and Huckson also made debuts this year, and Huxton and Huckston returned from hiatus.
Grizzly. Roar! America's great brown bear is a symbol of the rugged frontier. Grizzly has long been a popular choice for Western place names and for brand names of products with a brawny image.
Negan. The character Negan of the zombie series The Walking Dead is a violent sociopath. That fact has surely turned some parents off of the name, but not all. As we saw with the year's fastest-rising name Kylo, an appealing name can outweigh a villanous source.
Ocelotl. The Nahuatl word for Jaguar, Ocelotl also referred to the Aztec "Jaguar Warriors," a fearsome fighting force of the Aztec Empire. That's some old-school swagger.
Maccabee. The Maccabees were ancient Jewish rebel warriors whose triumph is remembered every year in the holiday of Hanukkah. As a baby name, Maccabee does seem a natural for this era of Bible names, action hero names, and surnames starting with Mac.
Calcifer. Calcifer is a fire demon in the fantasy film/anime film Howl's Moving Castle. That probably sounds awe-inspiring, but Calicifer is confined to the household hearth. Think of him as a fireplace with a ton of personality.
Klutch. The crunchiest of macho names, Klutch is a brand name of products like power tools and custom auto wheels. This is an interesting case where the creative spelling of the word has crossed over to baby names, while the common word spelling "Clutch" does not appear in this year's name stats.
Brodhi. It used to be that American parents altered the spelling of Bodhi (a Buddhist term for spiritual awakening) to make it easier to pronounce. Now we're altering the spelling of familiar English names to look like Bodhi. You can think of this as either an extra-spiritual Brody or an extra-preppy Bodhi.
Eadric. Eadric the Wild was a leader of the English resistance to the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century. William the Conqueror's name became an eternal English classic while the name Eadric faded to obscurity. But Eadric the Pure is a popular card in the Hearthstone online trading card game.
Brixx. Trend alert! Other names on the debut list include Brixen, Brixten, and Brixtin. X-power just keeps growing.
Griezmann. We've seen first names of European soccer stars take off here before, like Iker after goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Germanic surnamics, though, are usually non-starters as baby names. The surname of French star Antoine Griezmann is beating the odds.
Fionnlagh, Ruaridh. The debuts of these Gaelic names suggest that American parents may be opening up a bit to Gaelic spellings. Not feeling up to the pronunciation challenge? You may know these two better as Finlay and Rory.
Dune. Dune is a two-for-one hit one two hot styles: one-syllable nature names and science fiction names. It's a majestic hill of sand, and a Frank Herbert epic with giant sandworms. For full effect, let people assume you intended whichever origin they find cooler.
Aceston, Lanceton. One syllable names continue to sprout suffixes, as parents feel that they don't quite sound complete on their own. In these two examples, you can see parents grappling with the challenge of making sound, spelling and nickname all work together. Try it yourself: create a name that's pronounced "ace-tun" with the nickname Ace and a straightforward spelling.
Wilco. The rock band Wilco joines the growing roster of rock & roll baby names. It's one of the few still-active bands to be so honored. Most of today's rock names are plucked from the playlist of classic rock stations.
Fenrir. Fenrir was a monstrous wolf in Norse mythology, and most modern references have followed that original model. (An evil werewolf in the Harry Potter series is a prominent example.) Unlike most villainous names, this one feels like a throwback to ages past.
Lucchese. If you live near New York, you might associate the name Lucchese with one of the "Five Families" of organized crime. To much of the country, though, this name is pure cowboy. It's a classic brand of cowboy boots.
Astro. Astro is a celestial prefix, a major league baseball team, the Jetsons' animated space dog, and a K-pop boy band. As surprising as the baby name may be, the biggest surprise is that it didn't happen sooner.
During the 1880’s, names like Emma, Lillian, and Charlie ruled the roost - sound familiar? For today’s namers, everything old is new again - whether it’s the result of the “fourth-generation” rule or a newfound interest in classics of old, modern parents love the sound of names from this era. Mark Twain called it "The Gilded Age," referring to the aesthetic innovations of the time that tried to mask the turbulent political and social changes that boomed through the late 1800's.
The lovely popular names of this era are far from gilded - they're strong and stylish, inside and out. if you’re looking for a truly retro gem, check out these fifteen vintage names from the 19th century. All ranked in the top 100 during their heyday, but none rank on the top 1000 today! Balancing old-fashioned sounds and unique personalities, these Gilded Age names are sure to inspire.
Michaelmas Daisy, 1901, via Wikimedia Commons
Ida. Sweet and energetic Ida owes its turn-of-the-century popularity to Tennyson’s poem about a Princess Ida, later made into a play by Gilbert and Sullivan. Today, this name is less princessy than persistent, perfect for an adventurous little girl. With it’s multitude of strong namesakes - like Wells and Tarbell - and similarity to adorable Ada and Isla, Ida ought to rise again.
Archie. While Archie came about as a nickname for Archibald, the short form has many more positive traits - it carries a friendly vibe, a vintage tone, and a dynamic energy. It’s another name that’s gained British fans, as well as a few American celebrities (including Amy Poehler and Will Arnett). Now that Archer is rising, Archie may not be far behind.
Florence. Already a revitalized star in the UK, Florence has an ethereal beauty about it - partially thanks to musician Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine. Still, this lovely name maintains its retro style, exuding a flowery aura while feeling substantial and sophisticated. Might Florence cross the pond and bloom once more on American shores?
Grover. President Grover Cleveland served his first term between 1885 and 1889 - it’s no wonder his name made it onto so many birth certificates of that era! Many parents may associate the name with the Muppet, but Grover works well as a modern boy’s choice: the form has a Gr-beginning (like Grant or Grayson) and an -er ending, and the sound is recognizable but unique.
Etta. Feminine but not frilly, Etta is a marvelous option for parents looking for Emma and Ella alternatives. Though it was originally a diminutive for Henrietta, it has since become a nickname for all kinds of -ette and -etta names, making it ideal as an honorific as well. With incredible singer Etta James as the most notable namesake, Etta hits all the right notes.
Milton. Though handsome Milton once primarily referenced the English poet, it soon gave way to a more prominent American namesake - Milton Berle. However, today’s parents may not mind its mid-century slip and could entertain this name for its surname history, literary credibility, and dapper masculine sound.
Lula. Soft and euphonic, Lula feels like a natural follower to trendy picks like Lily, Layla, and Lucy. But this pretty name is much less popular, and far more pleasant. It evolved as a nickname for all kinds of Lu-names, and could honor a familial Louis or Louise. Literary connections for Lula span from Capote to McCullers to Rowling, adding an extra kind of flair.
Floyd. This perpetually nebbish name could cross over into the “so clunky it’s cool” category, especially for fans of the band Pink Floyd, or DC Comics aficionados (Floyd is the true first name of Deadshot). It’s originally a variant of Welsh Lloyd, and even ranked briefly on the top 1000 for girls in the late 19th century.
Maude. A cute variation on gorgeous Matilda, Maude has been associated with the 1970’s television series and the cult film Harold and Maude for awhile. Still, many parents looking for names like Maeve or Maddie might find Maude appealing - it strikes a delicate balance between compelling and companionable, with a plethora of powerful wearers.
Chester. Though it ranked on the top 1000 continuously until 1995, Chester is a dashing standard that’s now been neglected for over two decades. It’s currently on the rise in the UK, attracting parents who like its kind and amicable sound combined with its extensive historical background. With the cheeky nickname Chet, Chester is sure to find favor in the US soon.
Nellie. Sunny and smiling, Nellie is an old-fashioned pick that would fit perfectly on the playground with Ellie and Bella. It’s originally a diminutive of names like Helen, Eleanor, etc., giving it the added function of being an uncommon honorific. It’s begun to increase in use over the past few years, so Nellie may not be rare for long!
Bernard. This distinguished choice has been linked to the eponymous dog breed for a long time, but let’s take another look at this smart name. Bernard has religious links - as the patron saint of mountain climbers - and literary credibility - via George Bernard Shaw. These days, Bernard is also associated with politician Bernie Sanders, which may account for its recent bump in popularity.
Agnes. Popular in Scandinavia, Agnes has been slowly increasing in use in the US since the premiere of the film Despicable Me (featuring a young and adorable Agnes). This animated name has a delightful energy to it, as well as a long history of courageous namesakes. Might Agnes join with Astrid and Freya to crack the top 1000?
Luther. The stylistic history of this name is fascinating - from its 16th century attachment to theologian Martin Luther, to its 1960’s and 70’s image honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., to the recent BBC hit show Luther, starring Idris Elba. Understated yet memorable, Luther is a tenacious choice for any modern boy.
Mattie. Though this darling name has a boyish edge, Mattie has been favored for girls for decades. It’s affectionate like Hattie or Sadie, and bypasses the trendiness of sound-alike Maddie (and it’s many long forms). It ranked as recently as 2014, but hasn’t ever returned to the height of its popularity at the turn of the century.
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They say that one man's last name is another man's first. Or at least they should say that, as the line between surnames and given names gets blurrier every day.
Surnames lure us with a rich vein of new baby name ideas that are grounded in the familiar. It's an irresistible combo for many parents: the name's style is fresh and new, yet everyone can spell and pronounce it and nobody calls it "made up." Surname-styled names like Mason, Madison and Riley already rank near the top of the popularity charts, and more like Everly and Weston are climbing fast.
That means that more and more of us will find our last names popping up in the first name column. To illustrate, I've taken pairs of famous individuals and joined them at their shared names (for one it's a surname, the other a given name). Then I've used the remaining parts to form a new, mild-mannered secret identity for the two. For instance, Elizabeth Taylor and Taylor Swift join to become "Elizabeth Swift."
Can you find the missing name link that turns each of the ordinary-looking names below into two full famous names?
MISSING LINKS NAMES
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George (Harrison) Ford
Samuel (Jackson) Pollack
Pamela (Anderson) Cooper
Anna (Kendrick) Lamar
Edmund (Hillary) Clinton
Eli (Whitney) Houston
Willie (Nelson) Mandela
Dorothy (Parker) Posey
Meg (Ryan) Gosling
Harry (Truman) Capote