In 1996’s Feeling Minnesota, Keanu Reeves played Jjaks, a character whose name is a typo.
Fast forward to 2015, and the equally unexpected Jax might be the ultimate twenty-first century name for a boy. Brisk and lively, rooted in tradition, but with a completely different vibe. Jack is a man of action; Jax is that same man of action, plus a rocket ship and a ray gun.
And Jax appeals to plenty of parents. In 1995, there were five boys named Jax. By 2014 – not even twenty years later – there were 1,836.
That’s not counting boys named Jaxon or Jaxson who answer to Jax, or the 171 boys named Jaxx last year alone.
If you’re looking for a name that’s short and modern, informal but not incomplete, one of the 25 bold boy names inspired by Jax could be for you.
Ace – Ace has an interesting history, with ties to tennis and playing cards and aviation, too. The name attracted more attention when Jessica Simpson named her son Ace Knute in 2013.
Axel – It’s bold, but unlike some names on this list, there’s a history of use prior to the year 2000. You can find boys by the name way back in the nineteenth century, though the 818 newborn boys named Ace in 2014 is definitely a record, as is the rank of #379.
Axel – Axel feels like a novel name, first heard by many in the US when Eddie Murphy played Detroit cop Axel Foley in the Beverly Hills Cop series. It’s an unforgettable character, and Axel sounds like the axle of a car – what better for a son of Motor City? But Axel is actually a medieval Scandinavian form of the Biblical name Absalom – my father is peace. This is another of the bold boy names with history. Axel has been used consistently in the US, though in small numbers. The 2,777 newborn boys named Axel is 2014 is another record, one that brings the name to #145 in the US.
Bix – Do you prefer your bold boy names a little more obscure? Bix could be your name. Borrowed from 1920s jazz musician Leon Bismark Beiderbecke – Bix for short, it’s a punchy, high energy name for a boy. It’s rarely been given to even five boys in a single year, but the rise of Jax and other bold boy names could change that.
Bridger – If you remember your Inglorious Basterds, Brad Pitt’s character introduces himself as a “direct descent of the mountain man Jim Bridger.” Virginia-born Bridger became a legend in the American West, a trapper, scout, and guide who blazed new pathways through the wilderness. Plenty of places are named in his honor, and the surname is popular as a given name in Utah, Minnesota, Wyoming, and Idaho. That’s just enough use to push Bridger into the current US Top 1000, too. The rugged name’s -r ending could also help increase its use. Bridger charted at #986.
Cash – Cash has a lot of bravado, borrowed from country music legend Johnny Cash. The name has some history over the years, but got a big boost from 2005 Oscar-nominated movie Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the singer. It’s been among the most popular of the bold names for boys ever since. Cash ranked #275 last year.
Cruz – Cruz makes the bold names for boys list on sound, but this Spanish surname has a spiritual meaning – cross. It has a long history of sparing use for boys and girls, doubtless inspired by the meaning as well as the surname. Cruz has gone from rarity to mainstream name in the twenty-first century, given to over 1200 boys in 2014, enough to rank the name #290.
Dash – Part-action verb baby name, part-literary choice, Dash first caught parents’ attention with 2004 Disney-Pixar flick The Incredibles. Older son Dash – Dashiell – Parr, gifted with super-speed, made the name seem appealing for a child. In 2003, there were eight boys named Dash. By 2014, there were 220 – enough for the name to break into the US Top 1000 at #949. Dashiell, which brings to mind detective writer Dashiell Hammett of Nick and Nora and The Maltese Falcon fame, has risen, too – though not as high.
Dax – Actor and comedian Dax Shepard says that his unusual name came from a character in Harold Robbins’ 1960 novel The Adventurers. (It was the character’s nickname, derived from his full name: Diogenes Alejandro Xenos.) That tracks with the name’s early use. In 1967, there were ten boys given the name. By the mid-1970s, following a movie adaptation, there were over 100 boys given the name each year. But as the novel faded, so did the name. The actor gets credit for the resurgence of Dax as one of the bold boy names of the twenty-first century. In 2014, there were 441 newborn Daxes, enough to rank the name #604.
Dex – Dex could be short for Dexter, Declan, or maybe even Alexander. But in an age of bold names for boys, Dex might also stand on its own. There were 32 boys given the name in 2014 – a new high. Some credit might go to 2009 David Nicholls novel One Day, as well as the 2011 film adaptation starting Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Sturgess played Dexter – almost always referred to as Dex.
Diesel – If Axel is a boy’s name, why not the equally auto-centric Diesel? It’s the surname of the inventor of the diesel engine, of course, and a cousin to the equally German Dietrich. But the surname’s popularity is tied to the rise of actor Vin Diesel – born Mark Sinclair. In 2001, the first installment of The Fast and the Furious debuted, making Diesel a star. Nine boys were named Diesel in 2001, and 25 in 2002. By 2014, the name was given to 154 boys – a new high, but not quite enough to break into the US Top 1000.
Fox – Like Diesel, Fox is rising but remains just outside of the US Top 1000. 163 boys were given the name. This borrowing from the animal kingdom first started to catch on in the 1990s, when David Duchovy starred as FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files. Today, Fox fits with bold names for boys, like Jax, but also more traditional x names, like Max and Felix.
Gio – Geo was a line of small automobiles manufactured by GM, and it’s the traditional abbreviation for George. The latter fact makes me suspect that at least some of the nineteenth and early twentieth century Geos were actually called George, and simply mis-recorded. But Gio is used as a nickname for Giovanni, and I think Gio could stand on its own – a fresher alternative to Leo. Both spellings are on the rise. Nickelodeon’s animated series Team Umizoomi also includes a Geo. There were 24 boys named Geo in 2014, and another 47 named Gio.
Jagger – Rock star surnames are a popular category in recent years. They range from gentle Lennon to swaggering Jagger. Jagger feels rough and jagged, a brother for Jax or Ace or other bold names for boys. The name ranked #705 in 2014, given to 342 boys.
Jax – The name that inspired this list! While Jack has a rich and varied history, Jax was first given to five boys in a single year in 1995. As of 2014, the name ranks #209 in the US – more popular than Finn, Beckett, or Louis. The name seems to owe its early success to a character first introduced in 1993’s Mortal Kombat II. Jackson Briggs was a former US Special Forces officer, better known as Jax. In 1995, five boys were given the name. The character has been popular ever since, but the name’s popularity has long since outstripped the video game character. By 2014, more than 1800 boys were named Jax, making it #209 in the US.
Jett – Jett can be a surname with French or German roots, and jet is a black gemstone popular with the Victorians. The term “jet age” has been around since the 1940s, but a handful of boys were named Jett way back in the nineteenth century. Still, Jett mostly brings to mind the wild blue yonder in 2015, and even though air travel has become routine, it still feels like one of the bold names for boys.
Kai – Kai has a bright, upbeat sound, and a nicely international pedigree. But the meaning that is usually associated with Kai is from the Hawaiian – sea. It conjures up calm waters, but also the athletic feats of surfers. Kai ranked #177 in 2014, and was given to over 2, 300 boys – a new high.
Keir – Keir has a long history of sparing use. It was popular back in 1970, when actor Keir Dullea was at his most famous. It could be a Scottish surname or an alternate spelling of the Irish Ciar. Along with Bix, it’s one of the least-used of the bold names for boys. Just 16 boys were named Keir in 2014.
Bold Names for Boys: M through Z
Neo – Neo sounds like traditional name Leo, and comes from a Latin word meaning new, as in neophyte and neonatology. But Neo feels very space age, thanks to The Matrix’s Thomas Anderson – better known as Neo, also called The One, and famously played by Keanu Reeves in a trilogy of movies between 1999 and 2003. In 1999, 24 boys were named Neo. In 2014, there were 92. The name peaked a few years ago, but hasn’t completely faded, even as The Matrix fades into movie history.
Pax – Oh, those trend-setting Jolie-Pitt kids! Pax is the second eldest son, and his name comes from the Latin word for peace. Pax was the Roman goddess of peace, making this one of the rare cases of a feminine name transferred to almost exclusively masculine use. Other Jolie-Pitt kid names, like Maddox, Knox, and Vivienne, have inspired thousands of namesakes. Pax has had more modest success. The name was given to 50 boys in 2014.
Ranger – A ranger was originally a gamekeeper, but now it’s more likely to be associated with the wilderness – as in park rangers – or possibly the Wild West’s Lone Ranger. 53 boys were given the name in 2014 – yet another new high, and another sign that bold names for boys are catching on.
Rocket – Rocket has been a headline-making celebrity baby name. Director Robert Rodriguez has children named Rocket, Racer, Rebel, Rogue, and lone daughter, Rhiannon. Pharrell’s son is Rocket. And actors Sam Worthington and Laura Bingle have a Rocket, too. I always thought the name was bananas, until I heard Pharrell’s explanation: a rocket is “meant to ascend,” and mentioned songs by Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Herbie Hancock, too. As Oprah said, it’s a name for a kid who is “born to soar.” Pharrell made me rethink Rocket as a modern virtue name, as well as another of the bold names for boys.
Rogue – While I was searching for bold names for boys to add to this list, I stumbled on an entry in the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources. Yes, Rogue has been used as a personal name as far back as 1392. It comes from a word meaning crow, making Rogue yet another animal-related name, something that’s quite common through the ages. The word as we know it traces to the sixteenth century. So while most parents who choose Rogue are probably thinking of the word’s mischievous and independent aspects, there’s more history to this one that you’d ever guess.
Xan – It could be short for Alexander. I’ve even seen it listed as a form of John. But I have two very different associations with the name. First, there’s The Wonder Twins, a 1970s creation for animated superhero series Super Friends. They spelled the character’s name Zan. There’s also Xan Richard Anders Windsor, Lord Culloden, currently 26th in line to the British throne. His dad is Alexander – and also the Earl of Ulster – so perhaps Xan is a nod to him.
Wilder – Wilder also appears on my list of preppy hellraiser names, and I think it fits in both places. It’s as outdoorsy as Parker, but not as buttoned-down as William. And Wilder could go, well, wild. The surname name has caught on quickly in recent years. 128 boys were named Wilder in 2014.
Zeke – I almost left Zeke off this list. After all, Zeke is short for Zechariah and Ezekiel, names with deep roots. And Zeke has a long history of sparing use. But Zeke as an independent name is currently at its most popular, given to 321 boys in 2014, and ranking #735.
What are your favorite bold names for boys? Would you consider any of these name for a son?