There have always been children with last names as first names.
Some parents handed down gems from their family tree, especially the mother’s maiden name. It was a means to connect to their roots and to reinforce relationships.
While that hasn’t changed, there are a growing number of children with surname names that aren’t directly borrowed from an ancestor. Maybe the parents are reinventing another family name. Maybe they admire a famous bearer of the surname.
Often, it’s simply because the style has considerable appeal. With names like Mason, Logan, Carter, and Blake so popular, what’s next?
Here are 25 of the fastest-rising surname names for boys.
Ford – Ford is originally a gentle nature name, referring to the part of a river shallow enough to cross. But thanks to early industrialist Henry Ford, it’s all Detroit Motor City today. It’s also a celebrity baby name pick, chosen by Owen Wilson for his son. Ford returned to the US Top 1000 in 2014 after a long absence, ranking #883.
Baylor – Boys are named Princeton, and I’ve heard of James Madison University alumni who named their daughters Madison after their alma mater. But how about Baylor? The Texas university was named for Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, known as R.E.B. Baylor might also appeal to parents who like the sound of Bailey, a surname name now far more popular for girls. Baylor debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2014 at #958.
Judson – Jordan might sound very 1980s, but it was first bestowed in the Middle Ages. After the Crusaders returned from the Holy Land, Jordan – as in the river that features in the New Testament – came into use as a given name. Jud was a short form of Jordan, and so Judson is the son of Jordan. But today’s parents grew up with actor Judd Nelson and country music’s The Judds. Judson feels like a successor to many a popular J name. It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2014 at #960.
Gannon – It’s another name with ties to higher learning. Pennsylvania’s Gannon University takes its name from the Bishop of Erie who was integral to the school’s founding, John Mark Gannon. As a surname it’s related to the name Finn, making it an Irish heritage choice. Gannon climbed over 400 places in 2014, to reach #413 – a new high.
Langston – The poet Langston Hughes is the most famous bearer of the name, making this a literary and meaningful choice. It’s originally an English place name meaning tall – or long – stone. Langston debuted in 2013, and climbed more than 200 places to chart at #748 in 2014.
Hendrix – Derived from the given name Henry, Hendrix is forever associated with guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. It’s a musical surname name with an edge. The name has risen quickly over the last few years, reaching #546 after climbing nearly 200 places from the prior year.
Kingsley – Kingsley succeeds for two reasons. First, we do love our regal baby names, from Royal to Reign. But secondly, Kingsley is the name of a Harry Potter hero, as well as the surname of actor Ben Kingsley, and the given name of novelist Kingsley Amis. In other words, it’s a familiar possibility that feels fresh, but not invented. Kingsley charted at #760 in 2014, up more than 150 places from 2013.
Thatcher – Ever since Taylor and Tyler zoomed up the popularity charts, I’ve been waiting for Thatcher (and Thayer) to join them. But the ‘th’ sound was out of favor. Now that Theodore has rebounded, and the current generation of parents doesn’t see the name as a political homage to former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, this name is starting to shine. The name rose to #862 in 2014, up over 100 places from 2013.
Forrest – Forrest Gump was a wildly successful movie in 1994, and the name briefly jumped in popularity. But then Forrest faded. Today, it’s making a comeback, thanks to its surname style, and its ties to the natural world. Forrest rose to #719 in 2014, a gain of over 100 places.
Stetson – Some of our favorite baby names would be right at home on the range, from Wyatt to Jack. John B. Stetson was born in New Jersey, the son of a hatter. He headed west, like so many young men did, and designed a hat suited for life on the frontier. Stetson made his fortune on the iconic cowboy headgear, though he actually set up his first shop in Philadelphia and shipped his wares back west. The company operated through 1970, but the name debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2013. Stetson rose over 100 places to #843 in 2014.
Lennox – Lennox brings to mind fine china, thanks Lenox china, and boxing, thanks to former world heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis. It’s that ‘x’ ending that makes Lennox an on-trend choice. Lennox debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2010, and has gained steadily. Between 2013 and 2014, Lennox leapt almost 100 places to rank #585.
Fisher – As outdoorsy as Forrest, with a stylish -r ending, maybe it’s no surprise that Fisher it catching on in 2015. I suspect the New Testament phrase might explain some of Fisher’s appeal, too. Jesus tells his first disciples – who were actually fishermen by trade – that he will make them “fishers of men.” Fisher rose almost 100 places to #768 in 2014.
Fletcher – Chevy Chase played an investigative reporter called Irwin Fletcher – Fletch – in a pair of movies in the 1980s. But Fletcher – originally an occupational name for someone who made arrows – didn’t get much lift at the time. Instead, Fletcher is catching on now, reaching #706 in 2014. That’s the name’s highest rank since the 1930s, and a gain of over 80 places since last year.
Ellis – There’s something gentlemanly about Ellis, a surname usually related to Elijah via Elias. Ellis Island makes the name patriotic. Novelist Bret Easton Ellis lends the name some edge. On the heels of ‘s’ ending names like Miles, Ellis has caught on quickly for boys. The name gained more than 80 spots to arrive at #443 in 2014.
Briggs – Speaking of ‘s’ ending names, there’s something rugged and capable about Briggs. It reminds me of Bridger, a name that’s been quite popular in the mountain west, but almost unheard of in other parts of the US. Briggs actually does mean bridge, via an Old Norse word that was imported to English.) The name climbed over 80 places to rank #831 in 2014. It might just be my favorite name on this list.
Clark – Clark was once a quiet, scholarly type. The surname literally means “clerk.” It was the perfect name for Clark Kent, the mild-mannered alter ego of the Man of Steel. Though there was always something dashing about Clark, thanks to Hollywood’s Clark Gable and the trailblazing Lewis & Clark expedition. Today, Clark is back on the rise, climbing 75 places to #382.
Lennon – It’s possible that some kids might have been named Lennon if not for the legendary singer-songwriter John. But it’s not likely. The last name has a few possible origins. It could mean little cloak or blackbird or beloved. But it really means “incredibly talented musician the world lost too soon.” The name has been climbing in the last few years, and was up another 70-plus places to reach #691 in 2014.
Sterling – Peggy and Joan didn’t catch on. But could Sterling be one name boosted by Mad Men? Roger Sterling’s surname can mean excellent – as in sterling silver – though there are other possible origins. While the name has a long history of use in the US, Sterling currently ranks #508 – up more than 70 spots from the year before. Overall, Sterling has gained more than 300 places in the years that Mad Men has been on AMC.
Kane – Cain is Abel’s ill-fated brother, and feels like a heavy name to wear. But Kane is an Irish surname, related to Cathan – battle. It’s short, bright, and strong. No wonder Kane has found favor in recent years, reaching #477 in 2014.
Grey – Grayson and Greyson are very popular choices, indeed, so it’s not a surprise to see Grey bounding up the charts. Or is it? While I think Grey is a very much on-trend surname name, with the success of Fifty Shades, I thought some parents might shy away from this name. Not so. In 2014, Grey ranked #911, up over 65 places.
Miller – Miller is widely associated with beer, which might make some parents pause. But it’s also an occupational surname name, just like Carter or Taylor. Miller has been grinding grains into flour forever; it’s an old profession. And while surname names tend to feel prep school perfect – think of Carter or Grayson – Miller seems more approachable, a brother for Levi. The name rose more than sixty places to #876 in 2014.
Hayes – Hayes is on my list of Preppy Hellraiser names. With multiple possible origins, it’s tough to pin this name down. But with that bright ‘a’ sound and the ‘s’ ending, it’s definitely on trend in 2015. Hayes was up 60 places to #545 in 2014.
Knox – Knox was originally a surname for someone who lived on or near a hilltop – cnocc is an Old English word for a type of hill. For many of us, it’s all Fort Knox – officially, the United States Bullion Depository, where the US government stores reserves in the form of gold. And, since 2008, it’s also been the name of a Jolie-Pitt kid, youngest son Knox Leon. The surname is a family name on dad Brad’s side. No surprise, then, that Knox was up over 50 spots to #286 in 2014. The name had barely been a blip before Angelina and Brad chose it for their baby.
Brooks – Another Preppy Hellraiser name, one that splits the difference between button-downs and cowboy boots. Brooks has a long history of sparing use. In recent years, the name has become quite stylish, climbing over 50 places to reach #245 in 2014 – by far, the name’s most popular rank, ever.
Marley – Another musical hero name, Marley brings to mind Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and the legendary musician Bob Marley. The book and movie Marley & Me, about a lovable – but badly behaved – yellow Lab named Marley also seems to have boosted the name’s use. It’s significantly more popular for girls, but continues to rise for boys, too. Marley climbed over 50 spots to #821 in 2014.
Are any of these names on your shortlist? Would you ever use a surname name that wasn’t on your family tree?