Name HelpBaby Name Help is a new series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!

Jenny and her husband are expecting a son in early 2015, and they’re struggling to find the right name.

She writes:

My husband is English and I’m American.

We’re looking for names that are both somewhat common in both countries but not top 20 material. And we’re completely and totally stuck.

Our last name starts with an R, is two syllables and ends in an -ey so we don’t want anything that starts with R or ends in an -ee sound.

Other than that, we’re open!

Jenny also added that they have one name that they both don’t hate … but both of them think the name is pretty much meh – so let’s start fresh!

Read on for my ideas – and please add your suggestions in the comments.

This is an interesting challenge, Jenny.  During my trip to London earlier this year, I realized that names like Simon, Barney, and Nigel were really quite normal for men my age.  But in the US, of course, those same men are usually Mike and Ryan and Jim.

It’s a good reminder that everyone has a different definition of a normal name.

And yet, the good news is that we’re working with just one language, and the amount of overlap is considerable.

It sounds like your ideal name will:

  • Be fairly common, but not too popular in either the US or the UK
  • Won’t clash with your surname – which rules out anything that ends in -y, as well as most names that start with/end with -r
  • Works well in both countries

Before we get to specific names, I wonder if we should take a minute and think about categories of names:

  • Unassailable classics – William, Thomas, James.  The only trouble is that all three of those names are very popular in one or both countries.
  • Modern favorites – Ethan, Noah, Dylan.  There’s the popularity problem again, but this is a deeper and wider category than the classics, so if this is your style, odds are we can find a great choice.
  • Emerging possibilities – Some names aren’t quite mainstream based on the numbers, but they feel familiar, especially once you spend some time around children.  Everett, Asher, and Camden all fit in this category.

Portrait of Theo van Gogh.

Now, on to the names that might suit a British-American boy.  Let’s start with classics:

  • Robert – Robert was once the #1 name in the US, but today this classic has left the Top 50.  In England, Robert is barely in the current Top 100 – though diminutive Bobby is an up-and-comer.  It could give you the best of both worlds.  On-trend nickname Bobby in the UK, with a formal name to fall back on.  And Rob seems perfectly wearable for a child in the US.  Or just Robert – I know a little Robert, and the name is remarkable only because we hear it so rarely.
  • Edward – More popular in the UK than the US, but certainly a recognizable classic in the US.  Nickname Ned sounds rather stylish – at least to my American ear.  And it isn’t super common in either country.  A possible bonus: while Queen Elizabeth II has a son named Edward, this one doesn’t scream “British royal family” the way George or William might.
  • Theodore – It’s possible that a boy named Theodore in 2015 will meet lots of younger Theodores over the years.  It’s a name that’s going places.  But it isn’t there yet, and that might make it the perfect choice – a name with a classic feel, easy nicknames Theo and Teddy, and one that isn’t overused.
  • Vincent – Like Theodore, this name feels fresh once more, but isn’t wildly popular in the US or the UK.  Credit actor Vince Vaughn and the enduring appeal of artist Vincent van Gogh.  Incidentally, the portrait above was long thought to be a self-portrait of van Gogh, but a few years ago art historians realized it was actually Vincent’s brother, Theo.

Now, to the modern favorites, where there are plenty of options – though the percentage of overlap between the UK and US is less:

  • Cameron – Cameron has already peaked in the US, and probably in the UK, too.  This makes it familiar, but not super-common, and we can safely say that this name won’t go to the girls and/or force your son to answer to Cameron R.  Except.  Is the fact that Cameron is the surname of the current British prime minister a problem?  Americans use presidential surnames with minimal regard to politics, but I’m not certain how this would read in England.
  • Owen – Falling slightly in the UK, holding steady in the US.  Owen is definitely a popular choice in both countries, but it is far from epidemic.  I’ve met a few little Owens and it wears well – plenty of history, but with a very current sound.
  • Xavier – When the Cabbage Patch Kids were introduced in the 1980s, the creator’s name – Xavier Roberts – seemed weird, weird, weird.  A comic book name.  Since then, Xavier has become well-established in both countries as a boy’s name.  Despite religious roots, I think this name feels perfectly mainstream.  Xavier is just a great, cool name – and one of the few ends-in-r choices that doesn’t immediately clash with surnames like Riley and Rowley.

Now let’s look at emerging possibilities.  These are names that might strike you as a little bit out there.  But they’re actually catching on quickly, and would fit right in with on the playground and beyond.

  • Felix – Friendly, happy Felix has shed his feline associations and is now catching on as a child’s name once more.  Would it work for a British-American boy?  I’ll admit he’s top of my list because James Bond’s long-time CIA associate is Felix Leiter.  So I’ve heard Felix spoken in various types of British accents over the years, and I find it charming.  Outside of the top 100 in both countries, but climbing in both.
  • Ellis – On the downside: Ellis might sound close to Alice, and Ellison has gone girl.  But Ellis seems to have been left to the boys, and the upside?  Ellis is climbing in both countries.  Ellis works well with an R-y surname.
  • Luca – Any chance you’re Italian?  Or have been to Italy?  Maybe seen The Godfather?  Okay, that last one is a stretch.  But Luca is up-and-coming in both countries, and bridges the expected Luke/Lucas and the more dramatic, romantic choices like Leonardo and Lorenzo.  I don’t think a boy would have to be of Italian heritage to pull this one off, but it might help the name feel more natural.
  • Barnaby – Okay, this one is really climbing in the UK, and might be perceived as off-the-wall in the US.  But I mention it because of this: one of the privileges of naming a British-American boy is that you can choose names like Barnaby or Imogen, and the only explanation required is, “Oh their dad is English.”  Just a thought.

A few random ideas that don’t fit in any category – but feel like they might be a name for you:

  • Isaac – Biblical and cool, Isaac is hovering around the 30 mark in both countries.  Yes, the name is popular, but it is an enduring choice, too.  Ike and Zac are both great short forms.  And while your Isaac will probably meet another same-aged Isaac or two at some point, you probably don’t know a lot of Isaacs your age.
  • Jude – The Beatles song and the Biblical and literary ties have made Jude an up-and-coming possibility in the UK and the US.  It wears well, and the name’s short, sweet, complete style appeals to many.
  • Nolan – Currently ranked in the US Top 100, but less popular in the UK.  I feel like everyone likes friendly Nolan.
  • Everett – Like Nolan, Everett isn’t super-popular in the UK, though he’s definitely not unknown.  And he is the kind of up-and-coming name that lots of people seem to appreciate.

Okay, that’s an awful lot of possible directions – from Vincent to Isaac to Cameron.  I’ll admit that Owen is my personal favorite, followed closely by Theodore – but I’d love to hear what others think!

Congratulations to Jenny and her family.  What would you suggest for a British-American boy?  Please share your ideas below!

British-American Boy

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.

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What do you think?


  1. Ok, just going to throw this out there–how about Inigo? I love this name from The Princess Bride (which, although the movie & book were c. 1980s, it’s still super popular in America) and the name has a bit of British history to it via British architect Inigo Jones: Also, how adorable is the nickname Iggy?! (Not that you have to do a nickname with Inigo though). I would love to use it but my husband says no 🙁

    Other suggestions (sorry for the repeats):

    Rafael / Raphael (how cute is the nickname Rafa!?)

  2. Ned/Edward is my favorite idea so far, and I’d suggest turning it into an entire category of names that British parents would use as a nickname name but American parents would put the long form on the birth certificate, since that seems to give you a lot of adaptability.

    Ollie/Oliver (Oliver Cromwell isn’t one of those name killing associations in England, is it?)

  3. How about Alfred/Alfie? I adore this name but always thought it to British for my African American/Italian kids.
    I also thought of Hugh or Hugo for you.