The top boy names 2020 at Appellation Mountain look nothing like the chart-toppers elsewhere.
These are the Name of the Day posts most-viewed at Appellation Mountain for the year 2020. Some of these were written in the last year or so, but most? Well, they’ve been around.
A common thread? Often these names are little-covered in a conventional baby names database. After all, many of these sit beyond the US Top 1000 – and have always been outside of the official rankings.
But not all. Among the out-there choices are plenty of rising favorites, too. In fact, this list will inspire our March Madness Baby Names contest in early 2021.
Those names definitely tend towards the more mainstream: Nathaniel, Arthur, Archer, Everett, Finn, Theodore, Leo, Rowan, and Arlo have all claimed the title of most popular boy name at Appellation Mountain over the past decade.
So what pushes this particular set of top boy names 2020 up the list?
Some catch readers’ attention because they belong to a famous fictional character. (That’s true for #8, #10, and #20.) Others are starting to generate buzz among name fans … but haven’t quite hit the US Top Ten … yet. And some just plain succeed on their own merits.
TOP BOY NAMES 2020 at APPELLATION MOUNTAIN
#30 BOONE (#657)
A strong and distinctive sound, Boone comes with the perfect meaning: good. Think of the French word bon, or the archaic English term boon, as in boon companion.
#29 FOX (#899)
Two-parts animal kingdom name, with a healthy dose of Max and Jax’s x-ending style, Fox feels like an obvious choice for any parent who grew up with The X-Files.
#28 ATHEN (unranked)
It’s like Athena hold the final A. Or maybe Athens, but missing an S. If the meaning and origin are unclear, the sound is appealing.
#27 ASHER (#43)
An Old Testament name with an on-trend sound and an irresistible meaning: happy or blessed.
#26 CALLAHAN (#892)
A swaggering Irish surname name, Callahan is a rising reader favorite at Appellation Mountain.
#25 AUGUST (#167)
It feels like a gentle nature name, evoking the height of lazy, hazy summer. But August ultimately comes from a title given to the Roman emperor himself, and carries an appropriately grand meaning: venerable.
#24 TRUETT (unranked)
A surname name that succeeds thanks to the virtuous True embedded in the sound. Our love of names like Beckett and Emmett helps, too.
#23 ATLAS (#226)
Once an out-there choice, Atlas has gone mainstream with so many mythological names. But it also succeeds because Atlas conjures up a book of maps – perfect for parents intent on raising adventurers.
#22 ARLO (#271)
A fast-rising o-ender of a boy name, Arlo won March Madness Baby Names in 2019. It’s casual, cool, but feels equally right on a child or an adult. I’d call it homepsun.
#21 CREW (#339)
Is this a wrecking crew, or a rower? Crew balances both the high-energy of the former and the polish of the latter. When designers Chip and Joanna Gaines chose it for baby five, Crew got a serious boost.
#20 CREDENCE (unranked)
Credence sounds at home on Plymouth Rock, but it’s likely the Fantastic Beasts character that put this virtue name on modern parents’ radar. Ezra Miller plays Credence Barebone in the first two installments – and his identity turns out to be a central question.
#19 GRAY (unranked)
We love Grayson – and Greyson and Graysen. But somehow just Gray, the soft and steely color name, has been overlooked.
#18 WELLS (#624)
A hopeful nature name, Wells conveys so many positive qualities in a tailored, stylish sound.
#17 REID (#291)
A strong surname name, Reid feels sophisticated on a man, charming on a child.
#16 PALMER (unranked for boys)
More popular for girls, Palmer still fits right in with Parker, Carter, and a slate of R-ending favorites for our sons.
#15 RAPHAEL (#521; Rafael is #261)
A classic name beloved in many European language, Raphael remains relatively uncommon in English. Cool, edgy nickname Rafe ought to add to the appeal.
#14 OTTO (#427)
Otto is a palindrome – how cool is that? This vintage name feels like it’s slowly following o-enders like Leo and Milo into greater use.
#13 CASPIAN (#791)
The name of a large body of water, as well as CS Lewis’ fictional prince, Caspian feels like a less expected alternative to favorites like Adrian and Julian.
#12 KOA (#740)
First came Kai. Now Koa is climbing the charts, another short Hawaiian name with a meaning borrowed from the natural world. In this case, Koa is a type of tree. As a bonus, the name translates to warrior.
#11 ST. JOHN (unranked)
This is such a curious name! We’re used to Sinclair and Santiago, but St. John is a rarity. Stranger still, instead of Saint John, the British tend to pronounce this name Sinjin.
#10 DECKARD (unranked)
A name borrowed from the long-running Fast & Furious movies. Deckard Shaw is a bad guy who becomes a good guy. English actor Jason Statham plays the part.
#9 HAYES (#296)
Aiden led to Hayden; now Hayden gives us Hayes. With s-ending boy names rising, Hayes makes sense. It also sounds cool – a little bit hazy, a little bit formal.
#8 ENDEAVOUR (unranked)
Is Endeavour Morse the longest running television character of all time? Created by British author Colin Dexter, the inspector featured in a television series beginning in 1987 and running through 2000. A prequel series – titled Endeavour – debuted in 2012 and is ongoing.
#7 EMRYS (unranked)
A Welsh name with ties to the stories of Merlin, Emrys has long been a popular post at Appellation Mountain – even if it translates to very few children with the name.
#6 COVE (unranked)
A nature name that’s always attracted a lot of attention at Appellation Mountain, could Cove’s current wave of popularity be due to the sound? If you’re looking for a middle – or even a first – to mark the year, this might make sense to some parents.
#5 WILDER (#486)
There’s something rugged and outdoorsy about Wilder, and yet it’s not nearly as borrowed-from-nature as Canyon or Ridge.
#4 ARROW (unranked)
Some might argue Arrow is a virtue name – after all, arrows fly straight and true to find their mark. But it’s also sporting, superhero (think Oliver Queen), and romantic (Cupid, anyone?), making it a word name to watch.
#3 TORIN (unranked)
An Irish import with an appealing meaning – chief – Torin fits right in with so many popular picks, but sits just a little outside the Top 1000.
#2 HUXLEY (#588)
An edgy surname name, Huxley combines the all-American appeal of Huck with the cool of that middle X. And it also continues our love of y-ending surnames, like Riley and Brady, for our sons.
#1 PHOENIX (#257)
So many factors contribute to Phoenix’s spot at the top of the top boy names 2020 list. The cool X ending, an appealing place name, the fame of the Phoenix acting family. But maybe it’s the mythological bird, and it’s ability to regenerate from the ashes, that makes this such an appealing name. Also noteworthy: Phoenix is unisex, only slightly more popular for our sons than for our daughters.
Wells and Otto both stand out to me from this list. Super cute. Asher is a longtime favorite of mine. Something of note – from the top 10, all but 2 have letters from the tail end of the alphabet.
Our new baby boy is Asher Emrys
I like Phoenix but that last sentence put me off. No thanks, wouldn’t risk giving my son a name that could eventually just be another common girls name like Ashley or Lindsay.
I get that. But I do think that more names have stayed truly unisex than ever before. And my kids, at 16 and 12, have known plenty of boys + girls who have shared the same name over the years. So I think that the next generation of parents won’t have that same hesitation. (And to be clear, I see this across a spectrum of ideologies and worldviews, so I think it’s a change in naming practices, not necessarily an expression of a deeper change. But not removed from how our world has changed, either.)