The 14 Boys’ Names Everyone Wonders About

Jan 14th 2015

You’ve wondered yourself. You’ve read about a Sherlock or Django or Caillou and thought, "what IS that name, anyway?" This list is designed to satisfy your curiosity.

Image via Riccardo Cesari / Splash News

To identify the names people wonder about the most, I've turned to visitor statistics for our own Namipedia. Most of the top-visited name pages are hot baby name choices, like Amelia and Liam. But mixed in among those are names you'll seldom encounter in real life.

When the ratio of web searches to actual babies is sky high, that's a point of mass public curiosity. Where does the name come from? What does it mean? Is it a "real" name, or did the author invent it? And does anybody actually dare choose it for their baby? Read on.

The most wondered-about names for boys:

Atreyu. Writer Michael Ende invented the name Atreyu for a young hero in The Neverending Story. In the book, the name is translated as "son of all" in Atreyu's fictional native language, meaning that the boy was raised by his whole village.

Atz. Atz Kilcher is the patriarch of the Kilcher clan chronicled on the reality series "Alaska: The Last Frontier." Kilcher's full given name is Attila Kuno Kilcher, but he's settled so fully into the nickname Atz that he passed that name on to his son.

Baelfire. Even if you don't recognize the name Baelfire as a character from the enchanted world of "Once Upon A Time," you doubtless pegged this as a fantasy name. The "ae" combo is the favorite vowel of fantasy authors, and the spelling Baelfyr is the name of a Celtic Folk Metal band. (A "balefire" was a bonfire or funeral pyre.)

Caillou. The Canadian cartoon character Caillou (kiy-OO) is named after the French word for "pebble." Caillou is not traditionally used as a baby name.

Castiel. This name struck a chord from the moment the Angel Castiel first appeared on the tv series Supernatural. It was an artful choice: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael are angels, and Castiel seems to fit right in. But there is no Castiel in Judeo-Christian traditions. If you stretch the point you can track down a Kafziel/Cassiel among the dozens of names identified as angels in mystical texts over the centuries.

Django. Gypsy guitarist Jean-Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt is a jazz legend. His nickname comes from the Romani word for "awake." In the 1960s Django became a popular character name in spaghetti Westerns; apparently the Gypsy name sounded like a cowboy to Italian screenwriters. Director Quentin Tarantino paid homage to those films by choosing Django as the unlikely name for his avenging African-American slave in the film Django Unchained.

Finnick. An etymology hunter may find the name Finnick as an occasional variant of the place name/surname Fenwick. As a given name, though, it's the invention of Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins. Her full character name Finnick Odair manages to be unfamiliar while giving off Irish vibes. Some parents are drawn to the name as an extension of Finn, despite the "finicky" sound.

Jebediah. Nope, there's no Jebediah in the Bible. The Simpsons dreamed up this pseudo-pioneer name for their city founder Jebediah Springfield. If you like the nickname Jeb, it can be a contraction of Jacob or an acronym from the initials J.E.B. Alternately, if you like the biblical pioneer style there's always Jedediah.

Kenai. The 2003 animated film Brother Bear featured native Alaskan names which continue to spark curiosity. At the top of the list is Kenai (KEE-niy), a Tenaina word for field which is also the name of an Alaskan city. Kenai's cinematic brother Sitka also bears a city name, based on the name of a native Alaskan tribe.

Niklaus. Niklaus is a Swiss form of Nicholas, but that's not what sends hordes of visitors to Namipedia. We're talking vampires, people! Niklaus Mikaelson is a powerful supernatural hybrid character from the tv shows The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.

Roxas. Roxas is a literally heartless character in the Kingdom Hearts video game series. The character came into being when protagonist Sora briefly lost his heart – note that Roxas is an anagram of Sora + X. (Sora is a Japanese name from a word for "sky.") Both names have seen occasional use in the U.S. since Kingdom Hearts became popular.

Sherlock. Sherlock is an uncommon surname from roots meaning "bright hair" or "shorn hair." Nobody knows why Arthur Conan Doyle chose the name for his great detective Sherlock Holmes, but its spiky idiosyncrasy suits the character. (Consider that Holmes' more ordinary companion Watson was christened John.) Sherlock's big brother Mycroft also bears a rare surname. Mycroft has the form of a place name, meaning roughly "the field by the stream mouth," but there's no Mycroft to be found on the map.

Tarek. An alternate form of the Arabic name Tariq, which refers to a night visitor or guiding star. Tarek El Moussa, the host of the real estate reality series "Flip or Flop," was born in Egypt.

Zidane. In the world of humans, Zidane is an Algerian surname associated with soccer legend Zinedine Zidane. In the world of video game Final Fantasy IX he's a charming thief with a prehensile tail. One or both of these heroes boosted Zidane to become an occasional American baby name choice since the year 2000.


January 14, 2015 2:28 PM

"Bael is an alternate spelling of Baal, referring to an infernal demon. Fire is the perfect closing touch."

Oh, please.  Baelfyr is a common Old English (Anglo=Saxon) word meaning funeral pyre. Bael means fire, flame, as in baelwudu, firewood.  Nothing to do with Baal or demons....

January 14, 2015 5:18 PM

Thank you, Miriam. I'll make adjustments.

January 14, 2015 6:22 PM

Interesting that a Celtic Folk Metal (whatever that is) band chose an Anglo-Saxon (Sassenach) name, rather than, say, Beltane, the Celtic festival celebrated with ritual bonfires.

January 15, 2015 1:11 AM

The word "gypsy" is, afaik, considered to be a racial slur by many Romani people. 

January 15, 2015 3:23 AM

In regards to the names Sherlock and Mycroft, there ARE actual records of both given as first names prior to the publishing of the book by Sir Arther Conan Doyle. In fact, there WERE a set of brothers named Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Doyle didn't create the names but instead brought attention to them. Mycroft remained relatively rare and became obsolete while Sherlock continued to see use, but neither were common names to begin with and still aren't. If you would like to see actual birth records, I would check England's birth records or check out the site Eleanor Nickerson has a complete compilation of unusual names used from the earliest possible records kept, and among her compilations, are records showing use of both names even prior to the publishing of Doyle's works.

January 16, 2015 10:55 AM

There are Jebediah's before the Simpson era:

In the 1972 western The Cowboys, a Jebediah Nightfield occurs:

Starting with 1973, the name Jebediah is found in the long tail of the SSA stats on American baby names.

There is also an American Football player born in 1979 with this name (Jeb Putzier, full name Jebediah Lee Putzier)

But Jeb Bush does not qualify here (it's an initalism in his case).


January 16, 2015 12:22 PM

I always felt Jebediah was a natural extension of Jedidiah meeting Obadiah. 

January 16, 2015 12:24 PM

Jeb is also an initialism in the case of Confederate general, Jeb Stuart.  In his case, the Jeb stands for James Ewell Brown.

January 17, 2015 3:02 AM

I had heard years ago that Caillou was the French (French-Canadian?) dim. of Peter, "rock".

January 17, 2015 9:25 PM

Oxford lists "sassenach" as a Gaelic word, or the Gaelic variant of a Latin word for "saxon." Not an Anglo-Saxon word. So a Celtic Folk Metal band that was made up of Anglo Saxons and/or "outsiders," meaning non-Gaels, would be appropriately named Sassenach. Also, they could be big fans of "Outlander." ;-)

January 18, 2015 11:19 AM

I just thought it was a bit odd that a band purporting to play something called Celtic Folk Metal would choose an Anglo-Saxon (Old English) word for their name.  I never said that sassenach is an English word.  It is in fact a Gaelic pejorative, derived from the German tribal name "Saxon."  The word Saxon itself is derived from a root meaning 'knife' and refers to the particular type of weapon used by that tribe.  Jamie Fraser notwithstanding, the word sassenach reflects the historically negative feelings of the Scots and the Irish toward the "interloping" English.  Sassenach would not have been my first choice as a term of endearment, but Gabaldon's first book was not all that well researched, and she was stuck with some "off" choices in her subsequent installments.  But they are still trashy fun.

January 20, 2015 5:24 PM

When I was a kid, around 6 decades ago, a friend of my grandfather was Jebediah (or Jebidiah). They were about the same age which would put him born in the mid 1870's.

I don't understand any relevance to the bible to determine if it is indeed a name.

January 20, 2015 5:52 PM

To me Django means "when you take damage (other than from dynamite), take one card from attacker's hand" and Jebediah is a bad ass-astronaut :D

January 20, 2015 6:52 PM

Just named our new son Roxas. Born on 1/17/15.

January 21, 2015 12:45 AM

I'm wondering how you pronounce the name Roxas.  I'd be afraid kids would turn it into Rocks Ass.  Am I the only one who thinks this?  Or am I saying the name wrong. Please enlighten me.  It's a name I've never heard before.  I wouldn't know if it was a boy or girl name.