Looking for boy names with great meanings?

Start with this list.

This list (mostly) avoids the straight-up word names. No epic choices like Valor and Maverick, no modern virtues like Bodhi or Chance

Instead, these are baby boy names appearing on regular ol’ baby name lists. Some are Biblical, others mythological. They’re drawn from languages across the globe.

One more thing they share? The meanings aren’t a stretch. Puzzling out a name’s origins can be tough, especially since many trace back over centuries, even millennia. But if it’s listed her, you’ll find it generally accepted. That makes these boy names with great meanings even better.

Table of Contents

AJAY – unconquered

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

I could fill this list with Sanskrit names. Traditional Sanskrit names nearly always carry a strong, uplifting meaning. But this one might be my favorite, especially because it’s so close to a go-to nickname for so many Andrew Josephs.

ALDEN – old friend

Current US popularity ranking: #627

It sounds like a surname, but it comes from the Old English name Ealdwine – old friend.

ALEXANDER – defender of men

Current US popularity ranking: #17

A long-time favorite with a heroic vibe, thanks to towering ancient world figure Alexander the Great, as well as the name’s meaning.

AMES – friend

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

A surname whispered down the alley from the Latin amicus – friend – Ames is James minus the J, plus a universally appealing meaning.

ARI – eagle or lion

Current US popularity ranking: #329

In Old Norse, Ari means eagle. In Hebrew, it’s lion. Either way, the name feels fierce and powerful.

ASA – healer

Current US popularity ranking: #451

An Old Testament king, as well as a strong meaning and an on-trend sound make Asa a logical brother for Noah and Ezra.

ASHER – happy

Current US popularity ranking: #19

Some boy names with great meanings are subject to debate. Asher takes its meaning straight from the Book of Genesis. Leah declares her happiness at bearing a son, and explains that’s why she’ll call him Asher.

ATLAS – enduring

Current US popularity ranking: #129

Atlas carries the heavens on his mighty shoulders, making this meaning very appropriate. Of course, it’s also the reasons we call a book of maps an atlas, which adds another layer of meaning.

AUGUST – exalted

Current US popularity ranking: #109

Before it was a name, it was a title, for the very first Roman emperor, Octavian. It can sound like a gentle, nature-inspired choice, but it also belongs with boy names with great meanings.

Get new posts sent to your inbox!
Don’t miss out! Subscribe and get all the new posts first.

BEAU – handsome

Current US popularity ranking: #89

The French word beau simply translates to beautiful. It’s the masculine form, while belle is reserved for the feminine. Both appeal to English-speaking parents as children’s names, and have for decades.

BENEDICT – blessed

Current US popularity ranking: #963

Benjamin makes the Top Ten, but it’s Benedict that means good fortune. It comes from the Latin benedictus – blessed.

BODHI – enlightenment

Current US popularity ranking: #301

Modern spiritual names appeal to lots of parents, and Bodhi tops the lists. It refers to the Buddhist concept of enlightenment.

BOONE – good

Current US popularity ranking: #602

Boone evolved from the French word bon, meaning good. It became boon in Middle English, and you might think of the phrase “a boon companion.” It’s also the root of our word bonus.

BRENDAN – prince

Current US popularity ranking: #884

Take a Welsh word meaning prince, import it to Ireland, factor in a sixth century saint said to have traveled across the oceans, and you’ll eventually have the English language Brendan. It was big in the 90s, also the age of Brandon.

CAIUS – rejoice

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Back in the ancient world, Caius was spelled Gaius, likely from the Latin gaudere – to rejoice. Julius Caesar was born Gaius; there are dozens more.

CONALL – strong wolf

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Straight out of Irish legend, Conall feels like a doubly powerful name.

CONRAD – brave counsel

Current US popularity ranking: #574

Conrad comes from Germanic name elements meaning brave and counsel; that’s an appealing combination.

COSMO – order

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Cosmo sounds spacey, but the root is the Greek kosmas, meaning order. It was probably Pythagoras who first used the term to refer to the universe.

CREED – belief

Current US popularity ranking: #651

Ultimately from the Latin credere, to believe, Creed got a boost from the most recent installments in the Rocky franchise. But it’s the origins that put it on this list of boy names with great meanings.

CRUZ – cross

Current US popularity ranking: #317

In Spanish and Portuguese, Cruz translates to cross. It refers specifically to the crucifixion, making this name deeply spiritual.

DAKARI – rejoice

Current US popularity ranking: #786

In the Shona language of southern Africa, this name means rejoice.

DANTE – enduring

Current US popularity ranking: #311

An Italian classic with literary overtones, worn by dozens of athletes, too.

DAVID – beloved

Current US popularity ranking: #31

When it comes to boy names with great meanings, it’s tough to top David. It means beloved, and David is all over the Old Testament, defeating Goliath and ruling his kingdom, making the name ever more admirable.

DYLAN – great tide

Current US popularity ranking: #41

A rock and roll surname with a meaning borrowed from the natural world.

ETHAN – strong

Current US popularity ranking: #21

A minor Old Testament character, Ethan has become a major boy name for this generation. Credit goes to the Mission: Impossible franchise hero. But long before that, Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen and Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome cemented the name’s Americana status.

EZRA – help

Current US popularity ranking: #25

Nothing sounds quite like Ezra. Despite that razor sharp, modern sound, Ezra comes from an Old Testament name meaning help.

FELIX – lucky

Current US popularity ranking: #192

We tend to think of feline when we hear Felix, but it comes from the Latin word for happiness or good fortune.

FREDERICK – peaceful ruler

Current US popularity ranking: #474

Call this name a neglected classic. Germanic and strong, Frederick comes from frid – peace – and – ric – ruler.

GAGE – pledge

Current US popularity ranking: #649

Gage spiked in use thanks to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, the novel-turned-film. The name can mean measure, likely referring to an occupation. It can also mean pledge, probably referring to something pledged to guarantee a loan. It’s a practical kind of meaning, but an appealing one, too.

GAVIN – hawk

Current US popularity ranking: #206

Gawain sat at King Arthur’s Round Table. The legendary knight was based on Gwalchmei, a Welsh hero. Gwalch means hawk, and so the modern, English version Gavin, retains the meaning.

GREGORY – watchful

Current US popularity ranking: #496

Early Christians embraced this name, and the sixth century Saint Gregory the Great remains widely known and admired. It comes directly from the Greek gregoros – watchful.

GUNNAR – warrior

Current US popularity ranking: #589

Gunnar sounds aggressive. It makes us think of guns and all sorts of weaponry. And yet, the name claims deeper roots. It’s Germanic, a cousin to Gunther – though the meaning, warrior, feels consistent.

HARDY – courageous

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

This name sounds like hearty, and that alone could imbue it with an appealing meaning. But the name and the adjective Hardy come from a different source. In Middle English, it simply means bold or courageous.

HEZEKIAH – God strengthens

Current US popularity ranking: #586

In our age of Isaiah and Elijah, it’s easy to imagine Hezekiah catching on. Another Old Testament name, Hezekiah boasts a straightforward and appealing meaning: God strengthens.

HUGO – heart

Current US popularity ranking: #399

The Germanic hug means heart, mind, or spirit. The tenth century Hugh Capet became King of the Franks in 987. His dad was also named Hugh. Hugo evolved as the Latin form of the name, and I think it’s the more appealing one for twenty-first century parents, thanks to that ‘o’ ending.

IDRIS – ardent

Current US popularity ranking:

Handsome actor Idris Elba put his name on this list. It’s a Welsh naming meaning ardent and a separate Arabic one meaning interpreter.

IGNATIUS – fiery

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

The origins of Ignatius are a little murky. But it appears to be influenced by the Latin ignis – fire – which gives us this meaning.

ISAAC – he will laugh

Current US popularity ranking: #42

Abraham and Sarah waited ages for a child. So long, in fact, that they laughed when God told them they would finally have a son of their own. And that’s how their son, Isaac, got his name.

JASON – healer

Current US popularity ranking: #145

Perhaps most famous as the leader of the Argonauts in Greek mythology, Jason became a chart-topping sensation in the 1980s, a classical hero big in the Reagan era. But like many a masculine name, Jason remains in steady use, as a generation of dads welcome juniors. It comes from the Greek iasthai – to heal.

JASPER – treasurer

Current US popularity ranking: #130

We tend to think of Jasper as a nature name, but it has roots with the Persian gizbar – treasurer. It’s also spelled Casper and Gaspard and lots of other ways. While it’s not mentioned in the Bible, it’s traditionally one of the names of the three Wise Men.

JESSE – gift

Current US popularity ranking: #194

The father of King David in the Old Testament, Jesse comes from a Hebrew word meaning gift.

JUDE – praise

Current US popularity ranking: #161

Jude is another Old Testament name, and one of Jacob’s twelve sons. It comes from the Hebrew yadah – praise.

KAI – ocean

Current US popularity ranking: #59

Hawaiian names never made the American mainstream. Not, that is, until Kai. While it might claim other origins, it clearly comes from the Hawaiian word for sea.

KHALIL – friend

Current US popularity ranking: #308

Khalil means friend in Arabic. Thanks to long-standing bestseller The Prophet, authored by Khalil Gibran, it’s broadly familiar in the Western world, too.

LEONARDO – brave lion

Current US popularity ranking: #75

Leo means lion; add the extra syllables and it becomes a romance language name with extra bravery. Leonard FIX

LORCAN – fierce

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

In Gaelic, lorcc means fierce. We add -an to make it a diminutive, hence Aidan, Ronan, and company. Lorcan fits right in.

LOWELL – little wolf

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Lowell started out as a surname, a mix of the Anglo-Norman French word lou, meaning wolf, and the suffix -el. It sounds buttoned-up, but Lowell is quite fierce.

LUCIAN – light

Current US popularity ranking: #545

We like so many boys’ names associated with the Latin word lux – light – but many of them are more properly associated with Lucania, an ancient region in Italy. Lucian – and Lucius, too – come directly from lux.

MAGNUS – great

Current US popularity ranking: #780

Magnus sounds Scandi, and it is. Four kings of Norway have answered to Magnus; the current heir to the thrown was born Haakon Magnus. In Sweden, another four monarchs used the name.

MAXIMILIAN – greatest

Current US popularity ranking: #566

We know that max means big; and so Maximilian has to have a grand meaning. It comes from the Latin maximus, sometimes used as a given name on its own, and means the greatest.

MILES – gracious

Current US popularity ranking: #55

There’s more than one backstory for Miles. It’s often associated with the Latin word miles, meaning soldier. But it can also come from the Slavic element milu, meaning gracious or perhaps generous.

NATHANIEL – God has given

Current US popularity ranking: #139

Appearing in both the Old and New Testaments, Nathaniel offers a lovely meaning: God has given.

NEIL – champion

Current US popularity ranking: #765

Niel is the English form of the Gaelic Niall, and there’s more than one possible meaning. Cloud is one, but champion is another, and with famous bearers like pioneering astronaut Neil Armstrong and legendary musician Neil Young, it feels right.

NICHOLAS – victory of the people

Current US popularity ranking: #98

Long before the sneaker company, Nike was the Greek personification of victory. Nearly all Nick- names trace back to that word. The second element refers to people, making this name feel strong and protective at once.

NOLAN – noble

Current US popularity ranking: #65

Like many an Irish favorite, Nolan started out as a surname. But it traces its roots to a given name, taken from the Irish nuall – noble.

OMAR – flourishing

Current US popularity ranking: #241

An Arabic name with deep and meaningful roots in both Islam, the name brings to mind mathematician, astronomer, and poet Omar Khayyam. It comes from a word meaning life, hence the association with the idea of flourishing.

ORION – the hunter

Current US popularity ranking: #331

We’re not completely certain where the name Orion gets its start, but the most famous figure is Greek myth’s Orion the Hunter. Prominent in the night sky, it lends the meaning to the name.

PATRICK – nobleman

Current US popularity ranking: #218

We tend to think of Patrick as saintly and Irish, but the word patrician means aristocrat … and has since the days of ancient Rome.

PAX – peace

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

It sounds like Max and Jax, but Pax is the Latin word for peace. And while the original Pax was considered a goddess, sound – as well as a Jolie-PItt kid – make this name feel masculine.

PETER – stone

Current US popularity ranking: #214

We all know that Peter is the rock upon which Jesus built his church. Petros refers to stone, and implies a rock solid character, regardless of your faith.

PHOENIX – rises from the ashes

Current US popularity ranking: #261

Strictly speaking, Phoenix means red. But the phoenix is a mythological creature, know for rising from the ashes to be reborn. During the 1960s and 70s, Phoenix made lists of unique names, but now it’s a mainstream, gender-neutral name for a daughter or  a son.

QUINN – wisdom

Current US popularity ranking: #443

Popular for girls and boys alike, Quinn comes from an Irish name meaning wisdom, reason, or possibly chief.

RAHIM – compassionate

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Islamic tradition makes this one of Allah’s 99 names. It translates to kind or compassionate.

RAPHAEL – God heals

Current US popularity ranking: #483

The name of a Renaissance artist and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Raphael comes from Hebrew roots meaning God heals. The spelling Rafael is even more popular.

ROCCO – rest

Current US popularity ranking: #513

Rocco sounds like it ought to share Peter’s meaning. But it’s the Italian form of a Germanic name, derived from hrok – rest.

RORY – red king

Current US popularity ranking: #280

Legend gives this name to the last High King of Ireland, derived from the elements meaning red and king.

RHYS – enthusiasm

Current US popularity ranking: #426

You might think of the spellings Reece and Reese, but the Welsh original remains quite popular, too. A name used over many centuries, it translates literally to enthusiasm.

RYAN – little king

Current US popularity ranking: #74

Ryan fits right in with traditional boy names today, and yet it was rare in the US before the 1950s. The ‘ry’ here is the same as the ‘ry’ in Rory, making this thoroughly regal and among the boy names with great meanings.

SALVADOR – savior

Current US popularity ranking: #708

A Spanish name that translates to savior, it’s been just common enough that we think first of famous figures – especially the artist Dali – that it feels familiar. The Italian version is Salvatore.

SEBASTIAN – venerable

Current US popularity ranking: #13

Sebastian literally means from Sebaste. But Sebaste comes from the Greek sebastos – the equivalent of augustus. And thus, it shares a similar meaning.

SEELEY – blessed

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Seeley likely comes from the Middle English word seely meaning happy; at some point, the word evolved into silly. There’s also Selig or Zelig, a Yiddish name with the same meaning, and likely shared origins, too.

SHEA – admirable

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

It’s a storied stadium, and the Anglicized version of the Irish Séaghdha, meaning admirable. It’s modern, but fits right in with boy names with great meanings.

SHILOH – tranquil

Current US popularity ranking: #488

Best known as a Biblical place name, Shiloh translates to tranquil.

SILAS – forest

Current US popularity ranking: #87

In the New Testament, Silas spends time with Saint Paul. Most accounts suggest it comes from Silvanus, ultimately from silva – the Latin word for forest.

STEPHEN – crown

Current US popularity ranking: #359

Worn by popes and kings, Stephen appropriately means crown. It comes from a Greek word meaning to encircle.

TARON – thunder

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Thor feels a little obvious. But Welsh name Taron – or Taran – carries the same meaning. It appears in the Middle Ages, in an early collection of myth and legend, but there’s a King Taran of the Picts way back in the late 600s, too.

TEAGUE – poet

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

An Irish name meaning poet, Teague – or Tadhg – was also worn by a medieval king of Connacht.

THADDEUS – heart

Current US popularity ranking: #807

Sometimes listed as the name of one of the twelve apostles, Thaddeus likely comes from an Aramaic word meaning heart.

THEODORE – gift of God

Current US popularity ranking: #10

A Greek name with centuries upon centuries of use, Theodore comes from the word for God, combined with doron – gift.

TIERNEY – lord

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

Yet another Irish name with an appealing meaning, in this case, lord.

TORIN – chief

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

In Gaelic, Torin literally translates to chief.

TRUMAN – trustworthy

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

A presidential surname name, Truman literally means trustworthy man.

VALERIAN – strong, healthy

Current US popularity ranking: unranked

In Latin, valere means to be strong. It’s the root of Valerian, as well as other similar names, like Valerie.

VICTOR – victory

Current US popularity ranking: #213

A Roman name that means exactly what it seems to mean, Victor is triumphant.

VINCENT – conqueror

Current US popularity ranking: #123

The Romans loved names with meanings like Vincent. And yet, the name’s popularity among early Christians suggests that Vincent refers to Christ conquering death, not one army subduing another.

WILLIAM – protector

Current US popularity ranking: #6

The original William gave rise to current #1 favorite Liam. While William remains a Top Ten choice, it feels capable and strong, and that great meaning is one reason William stands out.

ZAKAI – pure

Current US popularity ranking: #710

A minor Old Testament character answers to Zaccai, which literally means pure in Hebrew.

ZEV – wolf

Current US popularity ranking: #956

The Hebrew word for wolf is ze’ev. It’s a common given name, too, and one that American parents are increasingly willing to consider.

What are your favorite boy names with great meanings? Would you consider any of these for a son?

Originally published on September 9, 2019, this post was updated on February 9, 2021; November 5, 2021; July 29, 2022; May 18, 2023; and April 5, 2024.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?