Of course, there’s a whole group of names that might be single syllable names, depending on your accent and preferred pronunciation. Charles, Miles, Kyle – in some places, the sounds are smooshed into just one syllable.
Many of these could be short for something longer, like Max and Ben. But they don’t have to be, and there are good arguments for using just Jake or Tom, if that’s the name you truly prefer.
ONE SYLLABLE BOY NAMES
Short for Abraham – or maybe another name with the right sounds – Abe is a fusty antique of a name, but one that might be ready for revival.
A little bit playing card, a little bit fighter pilot, a little bit rock star. Ace is all of those things and more.
Borrowed from the ash tree, and made familiar thanks to Pokemon’s Ash Ketchum, as well as longer names, like Ashton, Asher, and, of course, English surname and former girls’ favorite Ashley.
Alternately cuddly and fierce borrowing from the animal kingdom.
Spell it Beau and it’s the French word for handsome. Bo is even briefer visually, but either way it’s just a single syllable. It’s a little bit Southern gentleman, a little bit rustic chic.
A surname meaning stream, made famous by the musician.
Short for many a longer name, from Benjamin to Bennett to Benicio, it’s also possible to be just Ben.
A Scottish surname with plenty of pop culture currency, Blaine is a brief name that straddles the preppy and polished, cool and edgy line.
Spell it Blaise and it’s a saintly name. Opt for Blaze and it’s a little more fiery.
An English surname with polish and dash.
Brad Pitt and Brad Paisley and Bradley Cooper would make this a household name. Except Brad – and Bradley – had a good run from the 1950s into the 1990s. They’re just the Brads everyone recognizes.
Short for Abraham, and made famous by Dracula author Bram Stoker.
This name means raven in Irish and Welsh, but it’s better known in recent years as Game of Thrones character Bran Stark.
A pair of unrelated surname names that had a good run about fifty(ish) years ago. That makes them solid dad names, bordering on grandpa names, by 2020s standards.
A brook is a small stream; this started out as a last name for someone who lived near such a place.
Scottish hero name and Boomer favorite.
Borrowed from a fifth century Frankish bishop, Saint Bricius, Brice, or Bryce. The Y spelling is, far and away, the most popular now.
A bright, energetic sounding choice, Cade has history as a last name, but works particularly well as a first in our age of Jake and Kai. The extended Star Wars universe includes a character named Cade Skywalker.
A baby name that sounds a little bit prosperous, a whole lot rock and roll.
In French, chasser means “to hunt.” So Chase started out as a nickname for a hunter. It’s an active name, one suggesting pursuit, but it’s also a polished, buttoned-up kind of name.
As in Gable and Kent, a name worn by many a pop culture fixture. Clark is studious – it means “clerk,” after all. But it’s also a traditional favorite, with a long history of use as a last and a first.
Powerfully popular in recent years, Cole can be short for Nicholas. It’s also musical, thanks to composer/songwriter Cole Porter and legendary crooner Nat King Cole.
As in a young horse. Back in the 1980s, Lee Major played a stuntman/bounty hunter called Colt Seavers in ABC’s hit The Fall Guy, launching the name in a big way.
Coy sounds like a 2020s discovery, but it was actually a Top 1000 staple from the 1880s into the 1990s.
Part-bad boy, part-Ivy League, Crew is one of those 2020s staples that feels equally at home in a board room or on the back of a Harley.
Croix rhymes with boy. Like the Spanish Cruz, it means cross.
A spiritual name with an undeniably cool sound.
Traditional European name, with more than one possible origin and meaning.
Subtle nature name, since Dale is another term for valley.
Possibly a cousin to Dean, though it probably brings to mind Denmark more than anything.
A 1966 Harold Robbins novel turned 1970 movie, Dax owes its rise to two factors: actor and comedian Dax Shepard, and, especially, the rise of Max and Jax.
When it comes to one-syllable names, Dean is both old school – think James Dean – and fresh and current, thanks to a series of television characters and the name’s strong sound.
Cary Grant’s suave character in The Philadelphia Story, a cartoon boy genius, and a serial killer at the heart of a long-running series. They’re all Dexters, actually, but all lend a little something to Dex’s potential.
It means dragon, ultimately from the Greek word, but a separate backstory makes Drake a word meaning “male duck.” None of this matters, though, because in the 2020s, Drake mostly means wildly successful rapper and musician.
Short for Andrew, but now one of those one-syllable boy names that easily stands on its own.
An aristocratic title with all the swagger of Hollywood legend John Wayne, also known as the Duke.
Another upper crust title, but with more of a country vibe.
The success of Easton opens the door to just East.
An Irish charmer, Finn brings to mind a legendary hero and many an appealing fictional character by the name.
Almost always a nickname for a longer name beginning with Fitz. One notable example: Michael Fitzpatrick, frontman of indie pop band Fitz and the Tantrums.
All the style of Finn, plus the dash of swashbuckling movie star Errol Flynn from an earlier era.
As in the car, but also the act of crossing a stream.
An animal name every bit as engaging as Bear, but with some potential baggage thanks to the cable network.
Enduring classic derived from Francis, and favored by the iconic singer Frank Sinatra, among others.
A German nickname for Frederick.
A pared-down alternative to Gabriel.
Stephen King’s Pet Sematary boosted this name’s popularity, beginning in 1983.
A gruff Old Norse named tied to country music’s Garth Brooks.
Nature name with history, and plenty of notable bearers. For your grandparents’ generation, there’s band leader Glenn Miller and astronaut John Glenn. Today it’s all about Top Gun: Maverick actor Glen Powell.
While it’s possible to extend Graham to almost two syllables, it most often rhymes with bam and jam. It’s a gentlemanly name with enough history of use to feel storied and traditional.
It’s a color name, more popular as the first syllable of Grayson, but equally appealing on its own. The ‘e’ spelling is typically British, while Gray is preferred in American English.
Friendly short form of August and many other names.
Dashing name imported to English from French. In Great Britain, it’s immortalized by Catholci rebel Guy Fawkes, whose failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 inspired the nation’s annual Bonfire Night, still celebrated today.
Old school word name meaning hearty and robust.
Traditional Henry nickname.
Surname with multiple origins, recently promoted to given name status.
A nature name boosted by a television Western in the 1960s, still nicely current now.
As in Huck Finn.
Traditional Germanic name with centuries of use.
We like Ike. It could be short for Isaac, or just another Max/Gus nickname name that also stands on its own.
An update to 1970s and 80s favorite Jason.
Jacob was a long-time #1 choice in the US. Jake is even friendlier.
As classic as it gets on this list.
When it comes to one syllable baby boy names, Jay feels like the ultimate choice. It’s not just one syllable, it’s also just a single letter: J. There’s also Jai, a name with Sanskrit roots meaning victory and possible culture-crossing choice.
Jebediah isn’t a name. Or it wasn’t. Jeb came first, possibly a nickname from another J first name, or from initials. But now it feels like a down home possibility.
Jedidiah, on the other hand, is a given name, one with Old Testament roots and this friendly, accessible short form.
A modern innovation, one that brings to mind the color black, as well as airplanes.
Just Joe is such a widely recognized name that we use it generically: the Average Joe. But it’s been worn by plenty of notable and accomplished men, too. Most Joes are Joseph, but it doesn’t have to be that way. And while the spelling Jo is typically reserved for girls, it might be a gender-neutral option.
Joe feels casual and perhaps incomplete, but Joel is a full name. Sometimes rhyming with Cole, and other times pronounced with two syllables, Joel peaked in the 1970s and 80s, but has always been in steady use in the US.
The most classic of the boy names, John long topped the popularity charts in the US. Spell it Jon and it’s less common, but still as traditional.
A gender-neutral option, Joss could be short for Joseph, Joshua, or Josiah – or it might stand on it own.
Originally short for Jordan, Judd now feels like an independent name. 1980s Brat Packer Judd Nelson starred in movies like The Breakfast Club and Saint Elmo’s Fire. More recently, director Judd Apatow keeps the name in lights.
A New Testament name made immortal by the Beatles’ 1968 smash hit.
A Japansese name meaning ocean, and a fast-rising favorite. Other meanings and origins are possible, as are different spellings, like Cai and Kye.
Cain was Abel’s feuding brother in the Old Testament. Kane is an Irish surname that shares the same appealing sound, but with less of the sibling rivalry.
Another Gaelic surname, and cousin to Kane, with potential.
After the runaway success of the Barbie movie in summer 2023, it’s (even) hard(er) to say Ken without thinking of the doll. But it’s worth noting that Ken also appears as a masculine name in Japanese, making this a potential culture-spanning choice.
From the English place name, or possibly a Ken-meets-Brent mash-up.
Born the impoverished son of immigrants, Kirk Douglas adopted this Scottish surname as his first before joining the US Navy during World War II. As he rose to fame, his name went from occasional use to 1960s style star.
A Christopher nickname, Kit is gaining for boys in England. Games of Thrones actor Kit Harington makes it familiar across the English-speaking world. Kit is sometimes used as a short form of feminine names like Katherine, too, making Kit more like Charlie or Alex.
From a Scottish surname meaning hill, Knox raced up the rankings after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt gave the name to their youngest son.
Dozens of popular names end with this sound. In many cases, it means “clearing,” from the Old English leah. But it’s also a common surname in Chinese, though sometimes spelled Li, and across many places and languages. A long-time unisex favorite, Lee is far more common for boys today.
A striking Viking appellation, Leif looks like the thing that grows on trees, but it’s technically pronounced layf, rhymes with Rafe.
A mini name meaning heart in Hebrew and lion in Russian. Actor Liev Schreiber pronounces it with two syllables.
Short for presidential surname Lincoln, or a Legend of Zelda fan name.
New Testament favorite, made even more strong and stylish by Star Wars, as well as many a pop culture figure.
A little bit like Buddy, Mac is generic nickname. But it’s also short for dozens of Irish and Scottish surnames beginning with the sound. And, given our love for Jack, it’s the kind of casual cool choice that fits with one syllable boy names now.
Long-time traditional name related to the Roman god of war, Mars.
As in the Roman god, the red planet, and the famous singer, Bruno Mars.
Traditional and complete in just a single syllable, Max can also be short for longer names. Really long names, in fact, like Maximilian and Maximiliano.
If names like Mac and Ned make a comeback, that might just open the door to early twentieth century gems like Milt, traditionally short for Milton.
A surname, Nash made the leap to given name status thanks to a pair of television characters. It fits in nicely with Cash and Dash.
Typically short for Nathan and Nathaniel, these names can stand on their own, too.
Short for the evergreen Edward, Ned is a mid-century gem with deep roots. Like Nell and Nan, Ned comes from the phrase “mine Edward.” Smoosh it together, divide it in a different place and you’ll arrive at Ned. It’s also the name of Nancy Drew’s helpful boyfriend, a snappy retro pick with plenty of appeal.
We’re naming our children Oakley and Oaklynn, so why not just Oak? Or, for something slightly longer and more surname-style, Oakes?
Enduring traditional choice.
The Latin word for peace, and the only one of the Jolie-Pitt boys’ names that has not risen in the US popularity charts.
Actor Penn Badgeley graduated from Gossip Girl to You, keeping his unusual given name in the spotlight. Depending on your perspective, Penn is either tennis equipment or Pennsylvania. The latter was named for founder William Penn.
Both come from evergreen Peter. Piers is a medieval form; Pierce, the surname that developed from it. Actor Pierce Brosnan lends a certain amount of dash to the latter.
As in Edgar Allan Poe, and Star Wars hero Poe Dameron.
A bold word name that implies adventure and daring.
A friendly surname name, Quinn is more popular for girls, but remains unisex.
Short for Raphael and Rafael, and maybe a complete name on its own, too.
A gentle nature name or a dynasty-building one, depending on spelling. There’s also Rainn, as in actor Rainn Wilson.
There’s Ray Charles and Ray Davies, making this a musical legend name. But rays of sunshine take it in another direction, outdoorsy and beaming.
A surname meaning “red,” once given to someone with the right hair color – or a tendency to blush. Plenty of other origins exist. The tall grass we call reeds makes this a potential nature name, and also a musical one – since many woodwinds are played with a reed over the mouthpiece.
Old school surname name with a modern sound and a strong meaning: sheriff.
Possibly an import from Japan, at least when spelled Ren. A nature name borrowed from a bird. Or maybe a short form of longer choices, from Lawrence to Reynolds. And, of course, Kevin Bacon’s character in Footloose.
The Latin word for king, brief and bold, with just enough antique flair.
A favorite since the middle of the twentieth century, Rhett has a certain leading man energy. (Credit Rhett Butler, as played by Clark Gable.) But it’s also a name that sounds rugged and Western, too. Country music’s Thomas Rhett is the eldest son of singer-songwriter Rhett Akins. (Both men are named Thomas Rhett Akins, senior and junior.)
RHYS, REECE, REESE
More popular as the Anglicized Reese, Rhys comes from Welsh and means ardent.
As in the eternal city.
Polished surname name now strongly associated with the Friends character.
Another name associated with red hair, as well as Rob Roy, a Scottish outlaw-turned-folk hero from the late 1600s and early 1700s. A Top 100 staple into the US through the 1960s, Roy is now out of favor. But figures like Ted Lasso’s Roy Kent suggest that the name might be early stages of a comeback.
Short for former favorites like Russell.
A mix of nature and virtue name Sage is unexpected and handsome – a softer version of Gage.
Spiritual name favored by celebrities.
Another entry in the Gabe-not-Gabriel, Nate-not-Nathaniel club.
Biblical go-to, and now part of the Breaking Bad universe, thanks to corrupt attorney Saul Goodman.
Once a surname indicating the bearer was Scottish, Scott has changed a lot over the years. Once it had the privileged, preppy stamp of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Then it became a cute boy name, nearing the top of the charts in the 1960s, a brother for Todd and Chad. Now it’s solidly in dad name territory, but with potential for a comeback.
SEAN, SHAUN, SHAWN
Irish form of John, popular in the US beginning in the mid-twentieth century, in all spellings.
This Hebrew name feels overlooked. And yet, in the Old Testament, Seth is the third son of Adam and Eve, the ancestor of Noah – and thus, of all humankind.
Another member of the extended Sean/John family.
Casual nickname name that’s a little bit midcentury, a little bit punk rock.
Unisex nature name option.
Another borrowing from the natural world, made more familiar by former news anchor Stone Phillips.
Polished, preppy, and with a great possible meaning: happy.
Borrowed from an Old Irish name meaning poet, or possibly beautiful, Teague appears in mythology and the history books spelled Tadgh.
Former style star, Todd comes from a Middle English word meaning fox.
Just Tom has the same appeal as Max rather than Maxwell; Ben instead of Benjamin; Nate, not Nathaniel. Of course, traditional Thomas isn’t all that long to begin with.
Borrowed from England’s River Trent.
Originally a nickname for a third, though now sometimes heard as a stand-alone name.
Almost always a nickname, Tripp was given to the sons of juniors – First Middle Last III. In this case, Tripp almost certainly refers to “triple.” It’s now given independently, just like Junior might be.
A place name from the ancient world, actor Troy Donahue made this a household name in the 1960s. It’s fading now, but remains a Top 1000 staple in the US.
A Scandi name meaning wolf.
In Dutch names, it means “from,” just like De or Di in Italian and French. But it’s also heard in Vietnamese as a surname. And Van can be short for many a longer name, from Ivan to Giovanni, linking it to the enduring John. Or possibly Vance or something more obscure.
Actor Vince Vaughn makes this familiar Welsh name famous. It happens to mean little; as it happens, the leading man is toweringly tall.
Speaking of Vince Vaughn, this Vincent nickname is a little more polished that boyish Vinnie.
As in Disney. And Whitman. Nearly every Walt is a Walter, of course, but just Walt has darted into the US popularity charts a handful of times.
An old school nickname for Walter, and the source of surnames Watson and Watkins. Way back in the fourteenth century, Wat Tyler lead a peasants’ revolt, so this nickname name has been around.
A stylish surname with so many positives: it’s a little bit nature name, and also suggests well-being. The -s ending is so on trend. And it makes for a twist on Will.
As in Wes Anderson and so many more creative, talented men. While many of them are Wesley, if Gus works as a given name, so does Wes.
Another directional choice inspired by Weston.
A William short form that might stand on its own.
An animal name with a long history of use in German.
Possibly a nickname for Alexander originally, Xan feels like a modern mini. Zan is the more phoentic alternative.
It’s so very French – think of Yves St. Laurent or Yves Montand – but has potential in the US, too.
ZAC, ZACH, ZACK
Short for Zachary, a name that defined the 1990s.
ZANE, ZAIN, ZAYN
With several origins and meanings, Zane is a culture-crossing name that feels nicely evergreen.
Spritely Ezekiel nickname.
Spiritual mini name connoting peace and well-being.
What are your favorite one syllable boy names?
First published July 19, 2013, this post was revised and re-published on October 17, 2023.