The Fastest-Rising Boys' Names of 2012: One Name to Rule Them All?

May 9th 2013

The hottest boys' names of the year are no shriking violets. The rise of names like King, Major and Messiah takes our era of bold meaning names to a new level. And that's just one of the big stories in this year's rising boys' names.

The fastest-rising names for boys, as determined by the Hotness formula:

#1 Gael. No matter the year, you just can't go wrong with a devilishly handsome fellow with a Spanish accent. Actor Gael García Bernal starred in the Oscar-nominated film No, and a character named Gael made his mark in the popular telenovela Abismo de Pasión.

#2 Brantley. What would a hottest-boys list be without a "preppy cowboy"? Country-music name Brantley was the hottest riser last year, and country-music name Bentley was #1 the year before.

#3 Jase. Duck Dynasty star Jason "Jase" Robertson may seem an unlikely trendmaker. But the popularity of names like Chase makes this longtime nickname sound more like a fashionable update of old favorite Jason. A 2004 Jase boom was also triggered by a reality tv personality (from Big Brother) whose given name was Jason.

#4 Major, #6 King. Way back in 2005, I contrasted the trend toward humble tradesman names like Cooper and Carter with high-status title names of the 1800s like King and Major. Are more names of that era, like Judge and General, around the corner?

#5 Iker. Spanish soccer goal Iker Casillas; see note on handsome hombres above.

#7 Messiah. One of the most controversial of all hit baby names keeps soaring. Messiah is not a traditional given name, but it has the fashionable biblical form of names like Josiah and Isaiah. Note that Emmanuel, the prophesied name of the Messiah, is also a contemporary hit.

#8 Liam. The double-whammy of The Hunger Games and boy-band One Direction helped keep this name moving up. It's part of a trend toward smooth, trim little names for both boys and girls.


May 9, 2013 4:33 PM

I have to say that I would seriously assume that the name Gael probably got a push from The Hunger Games, too. I know that technically that is spelled Gale in the book/movie, however since that looks more feminine, I'd bet people prefer the more masculine spelling of Gael. Maybe I'm wrong. I know that it "should" be pronounced differently, but when I see it, I always think "Gayl" first and the 2-syllable version second.
I gotta tell you, I'm obviously loosing my name edge, because I really don't like most of these fast-rising names. There's only 2 on that list that I'd even consider. Maybe I'm stuck in the past? :)

May 9, 2013 4:39 PM

I recently met a baby Gael born in 2012. I think his mom would be distressed to see this news! I did ask her about his name (which I happen to like quite a bit) and she explained that it was the only name she and her husband could agree on, and they first heard it because of Gael García Bernal. She did express frustration that some people pronounced it Gail.

May 9, 2013 5:44 PM

I agree that The Hunger Games probably had a lot to do with Gael's rise.

I would bet that Jase's rise was influenced by Teen Mom's Jace, Janelle's son.

May 9, 2013 11:15 PM

I knew when I named my son Liam in the mid-nineties that it was going to become popular.  (It was way down in the 200s or 300s at the time, but I had a feeling!)  He has been the first and only Liam in every class, every school, all his life, so oh well, at least we were sort of on the "vanguard."  Regardless of celebrities, it's a lovely name, one I highly recommend, and I'd use it all over again today, even if I were expecting now that it's at number 6.  It will be interesting to see if it makes it to number one, and also, how long it remains so popular. 


The only semi-regret I have is the middle name we chose.  My husband and I allowed input from our older boy, and ended up going with his suggestion, "Kyle".  Now I see that there is some celebrity, an actor perhaps, with this same name combination.  On the upside, he received a valentine at school from two girls who love One Direction, ostensibly because they like that my son shares his name with their lead singer.


I also notice that the name seems way more popular up north here than it did when we lived in the deep south. 

May 10, 2013 8:19 AM

Messiah seems like a very strange choice for a baby name to me. That's certainly placing some extemely high expectations on your child! 

May 11, 2013 10:11 AM

How do you pronounce Gael? I'm completely out of the populat media loop, so my first assumption was that it was pronounced like Gale (as in a storm), but then I realized that it would be pronounced differently in Spanish. Is it 2 syllables (Gah-ell) or one? If the vowels blend in the Spanish pronunciation, it'd sound like the word "guile," which would totally fit in with the description Laura gave.

May 14, 2013 8:51 PM

@Redgyl, I just found a YouTube video pronouncing the mentioned Spanish actor's name, and it sounds like guile. Two syllables, but not strongly distinct syllables. I, too, would have pronounced it Gale and then Gah-ell, but I like the Guile sound much better, although it's beguilingly difficult to pronounce ;)

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