Lilting names for boys?

I'm back after seeking advice on my daughter's name a few years ago and then lurking around a bit.

I just discovered that I'm due to have a chromosomally male child this spring (eek!) and am 1. terrified (a boy?!) and 2. starting to think about names.

My... not disappointment but definitely discomfort with and need to adjust to the idea of parenting a boy has bled into the naming situation. As is often noted, girls' names are so much more inventive and evocative. I'm finding boy's names either too boring or out there.

Thinking about what kinds of boys names I like, I realize that something like Julian is perfect. To me it sounds bookish, intellectual, not pegged to any particular ethnicity or religion. But I'd prefer to not have a name that ends in -n.

Can anyone help me define the style of Julian? Liquid, lilting but male? Are there others like it, preferably that don't end in an en?

Extra points for names that are either of Hebrew derivation (unlike Julian) or at least not New Testament.

Any ideas? Daniel would be a great one were it not for the way American accents render the last syllable -yul. 


September 28, 2017 11:45 AM

Is Julius at all appealing to you, or does that lose whatever "it" factor Julian has? The answer might help us pinpoint what it is you like about Julian.

September 28, 2017 6:16 PM

Julius is all Orange for me. Actually, not all. It's also too Roman sounding. Somehow Julian seems more removed from its Roman background. I also think the -us ending is too unequivocally male for my tastes. 

Upon reflection, I think what I like about Julian is the following:

--its polysyllabic nature,

--the relative universality of its vowel sound pronunciations. I realize even though its consonants, or at least the J, can be pronounced differently in different parts of the world, this doesn't phase me. But the fact that a name like Adrian, although very similar, has an Ay sound in American English vs. and Aah-sound in countries near the Adriatic bugs me for some reason. 

--its proximity to feminine names, or at least gender.. softness for lack of a better word

--its lack of a strong association with Christianity (although the Roman thing... I don't know). 

--totally personal biographical associations (with a bookish boy in elementary school who was kind, thoughtful, and attractive to impressionable young me.

September 29, 2017 6:21 PM

How about Elisha? I've only known one, and his brother Silas, back before Silas was popular...It's definitely a traditionally male name but the 'SH' sound makes it much softer sounding than the rhyming Elijah.

I'm not great at knowing how things are pronounced other places and it's not a common name here so you might have some US problems with people parsing El-ish-a instead of E-li-sha and have no idea how it'd be done other places.

Mostly it's that 'sh' sound that has me suggesting it. There are probably more popular boys names that have it...Joshua is one...

October 2, 2017 10:26 AM

That's an interesting suggestion. Definitely in the not-too-masculine category thanks to its similarity to Alisha/Alicia.


September 28, 2017 11:50 AM

Julian is very much my style, so I'll just throw out my own favorite boys' names, eliminating anything that ends with n!

Felix, Alistair, Benedict, Tobias, Jasper, Oliver, Theodore, Milo/Miles, Ambrose, August/us/ine, Edmund, Alaric, Aidric, Aloysius, Gilbert, Edgar

I'm with you that it can be harder to find boy's names in this kind of style. I'm looking forward to seeing what other people come up with!

September 28, 2017 6:43 PM

Thanks for this! I like Felix (but it's too popular among people like me, I find), Tobias (despite the vowel pronunciation ambiguity) and maybe Edmund, although I find it more earthy than lilting.

Some of the others I associate to closely with either Britishness or Christianity, neither of which I identify with..


Thanks so much and keep them coming.

September 28, 2017 12:32 PM

I think my grandson's name fits your criteria. Elliott is arguably lilting, it doesn't end in -n, and is of Hebrew derivation (it is the diminutive of Elie, the French form of Eliyahu). 

September 28, 2017 6:48 PM

Yes, I agree! Elliott is pretty perfect. Thanks for the suggestion.

September 28, 2017 7:44 PM

Also, although Elliott is definitely a maculine name over many centuries, it has now been given to a few girls whose parents think giving girls masculine names is a good idea. So it does have a sort of gender adjacency, so to speak. At least it is not uber macho.

Oh, and not to worry. I have a son and a grandson, and they are my heart's delight. Simply being male does not mean that a child is an automatic terror. Be not afraid!

By EVie
September 28, 2017 12:32 PM

Congratulations! I was also apprehensive about parenting a boy (I had no brothers, so I had no sense of what it would be like, and I had very little interest in stereotypically "boy" things), but I got used to it, and so will you :) It helps that for the first few years, there is really no difference anyway, so you can get comfortable with your baby as themselves and then move forward from there. I think it was about age 2 that the vehicle obsession started, and at that point I just sort of followed his lead and learned along the way. Now, thanks to him, I finally know the difference between a backhoe and an excavator. Truthfully, I still have very little interest in that stuff, but I try to make up for it by being more engaged in the interest we do share--we do puzzles and build things with blocks together, he loves anything to do with letters and numbers, and he's starting to show an interest in music, which is really exciting for me. (I actually actively tried to steer him toward more stereotypically feminine toys like dolls, just so I could be at peace that I hadn't male-socialized him too egregiously, but he had zero interest, aside from about 30 seconds of poking at the doll's blinking eyes).

The name question is an interesting one, given the preponderance of boys' names ending in n. I love Julian as well, and it's very high on my list if our hypothetical second turns out to be a boy. Other non-n names on my list are Gabriel, Nico (short for Nicholas or maybe another Nico- name like Nicomedes if I can psych myself up to it), Arthur, Oliver, Theodore, Raphael, Lucas, Alistair. Not sure if any of these are as liquid as you are looking for.

The names that strike me as best matching Julian in terms of the liquid feel are Lionel and Silas. I'll also throw out Samuel, Elliott, Emmett, Cyril, Cecil, Lawrence/Laurence, Clement, Malcolm, Miles, Jonah, Jonas, Leo, Leander, Giles.

September 28, 2017 6:53 PM

Thanks EVie. Yes, it sounds like you understand me on the trepidation about having a boy. I hope that I can parent him as well as you've done, and above all that he never picks up on my complexes around boy-rearing!

Gabriel is a great example. Raphael is also extremely lilting to my ear, Old Testament and pleasant. 

I also like Liontine names. 

The others accord to many of my categories but don't do it for me for various idiosyncratic reasons.


September 28, 2017 12:37 PM

Julian is a name I like very much, so like Eowyn, I'll throw out some other male names I like very much (I'm not sure how many of them are "lilting" though.

Laurence, Giles, Theodore, Harold, Oliver, Isidore, Sebastian, Rupert, Rafael, Cyrus, Clement, Cedric, Rufus, Leonard, Adrian. Hugh.

I also know someone with sons named Balthasar and Lysander, which are pretty lilty but might be a bit over-the-top.

October 2, 2017 10:30 AM

Laurence is nice. I particularly like the nickname Ren for it, which can be ambiguous in terms of gender and ethnicity (not that my child is likely to look anything like he could be Japanese...)

Giles strikes me as British, which I'm averse to. 

Rafael, like Gabriel, is pretty spot-on. 

Leonard I'm loving. Is it too.. that tv show? What's it called? The Young Leonard? Also are Leos too pervasive?

Balthasar and Lysander are both guilty pleasures of mine, but I just don't think I could do it. You're on the right track, for sure.



October 2, 2017 12:09 PM

The tv show is Young Sheldon. It's a spin-off of The Big Bang Theory which also features a charcter called Leonard. Together the names reference Sheldon Leonard, a comedian of years past.

September 28, 2017 2:35 PM

The first name that came to mind for me was Nathaniel, but I don't know if you would feel that has the same issue as Daniel (although it does have the possibility of Nate as a nickname). I think Benjamin also has the feel you describe but obviously it ends with -n.

Other names that have the bookish/intellectual/lilting feel to me (and haven't already been suggested); Elijah, Joshua, Tiberius, 

October 2, 2017 10:32 AM

Nathaniel's a great suggestion! My problem with Daniel is that the -yul pronunciation keeps it from being lilting to me because it collapses the name into two syllables instead of three. Nathaniel has a -yul, but even then three syllables. 

Elija is just too passover for me. Tiberius too Roman, Joshua too all the boys I grew up with in the 80s or the character on Transparent (Joshi! said in Judith Light's voice). 

Thanks for the suggestions!

September 28, 2017 4:38 PM

Congratulations! I was nervous about having a boy too (being from a predominantly femal family) but it's awesome! My little man is so much fun - so wild but so hilarious, creative, and entertaining. And very snuggly with his mama :)

My son is Leo and I love it - totally suits him, easy to spell/pronounce, not too popular but everyone recognizes it, etc. If you like Julian, Leo might fit with your style. Leo was by far and away my first choice but other names we considered were Henry, Elijah/Eli, Milo, Theodore/Theo, Owen, Tobias, and Hugo. I also like Jasper, Simon, Jonah, Malcolm, August, Asher, and Noah. Good luck! 


October 2, 2017 10:33 AM

Simon's an interesting one. I like it, despite the -n ending. The o seems to keep it out of the -en -an fad. 

September 28, 2017 7:02 PM

Caleb   Tobias  Micah  Judah

Felix  Levi   Jeremy  Ezra 

Adam  Isaac Isaiah  Asher

Jared  Emmett  Josiah  Joash

Jesse  Matthew  Noah  Jonah

Raphael  Miles  Oliver  Max

Seth  Peter  Jonas  Timothy

Anthony  Stewart Silas Jude

Patrick  Dominic  Philip  Rupert

Robert  Joel  Eli  Levi   Nicholas

Malachi  Zion  Lucas  Luke

Joseph  Wyatt Theodore

Alastair  Zachary  Micaiah

Alexander  Tobiah


September 28, 2017 7:16 PM

You might want to take a look at this blog post Laura did on 'Raindrop' names:

Some of the names listed have already been suggested by other posters here, and it seems to fit what you're looking for. There's also a blog post on liquid names, incidentally, but I think that's all girls' names.

September 29, 2017 6:52 PM

Lots of good suggestions above, including those found in the link from the 2013 blog post. I'll just throw in Arlo and Laurent. Laurent was keyed off in my brain after seeing Lawrence above. In France, Lawrence is more feminine (like how we use Florence), and Laurent the masculine form of the name. Either way, a little Laurie running around delights this Louisa May Alcott fan. ;-)

October 2, 2017 8:56 PM

Arlo, Arthur, Anders, Adrian, Bennett, Beckett, Brooks, Cyrus, Cameron, Dylan, Dominic, Elias, Elliot, Emmett, Emerson, George, Graham, Gray, Gideon, Hugo, Isaac, Jonas, Knox, Levi, Louis, Leo, Malcolm, Miles, Milo, Micah, Noel, Otis, Pierce, Quincy, Rhys, River, Silas, Spencer, Theo, Toby, Tanner, Viggo, Wyatt, William, Wesley, Winston, Wren, Xavier, Xander, Zane

October 2, 2017 10:57 PM

Micah was my first thought, and Matthias my second (though that's probably too New Testament?).

November 29, 2017 3:45 AM

I realize now that my previous reply to this post was eaten by a browser crash, and i never re-responded! 

I don't think you're alone in the trepidation about boy parenting -- it's not often talked about, but I have known other people to articulate the same discomfort. I think the good news is that as parents we grow and change in unexpected ways to accommodate the children we have, who are often very different from the children we think we will have. If having kids were about clonal reproduction, parenting wouldn't be as much of a fun adventure. I (a very enthusiastic "boy mom" out of the starting gate) have experienced this in other areas, but it's also true for gender. So, I wish you joy and perhaps-unexpected fun in the journey of parenting your particular boy. 

Now, for naming your particular boy. I think Julian strikes me as a smooth, internationally portable name. I gave my firstborn a Julian-variant so clearly I enjoy this style, only with more gratuitous y and 1000% increase in being misread as Jolene. (He loves his name, for what it's worth... no one regrets anything.)

Other names like Julian... Sebastian stikes me as having some of the internationally portable nature, but it's another -n ending. Alexander, too, though it's a good bit more common. Tristan, which could be variant-expanded away from the ubiquitous -n ending by going to Tristram, though you loose some of the smoothness. Soft lilty Hebrew choices like Isaiah or Elijah or Josiah have some of the smoothness... but really, the other suggestions are so comprehensive that I don't feel I have much to add. 

I feel like you've gotten all the name suggestions I could come up with... but you might want to click through to my profile to see what I put as favorite names, because I suspect there might be some overlap, though I think my tastes overall run towards the more obscure and clunky.