baby name AtlasThe baby name Atlas spent years in obscurity. Now it stands tall.

Thanks to Sinead for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


He’s got the world on his shoulders.

Atlas was one of the Titans, the earlier generation of immortals replaced by Zeus and company in Greek mythology.

He’s usually pictured holding a globe, but it isn’t the Earth. Instead, Atlas separates the heavens from the mortal realm, turning the skies and making the stars revolve.

Some versions describe Atlas’ task as a punishment. Other accounts make it a calling, even an honor. But it must have gotten old. Atlas once tricked Hercules into taking the burden briefly.

If you’ve been to Rockefeller Center in New York City, you’ve seen the iconic Art Deco sculpture of the Titan Atlas, an icon recognized across the world.

That sculpture defines the image of Atlas, a symbol of capable strength. It’s almost a modern virtue, akin to Journey or Haven.

After all, Atlas comes from a Greek word tlenai, meaning “to bear” or “to endure.”

His name, in turn, gives us:

  • The Atlantic Ocean
  • Africa’s Atlas Mountains
  • Mount Atlas in Antarctica

And, of course, the map collections.


For some, Atlas isn’t a Titan from ancient myth at all. Instead, it’s a book.

By the sixteenth century, images of the Titan Atlas appeared on collections of maps. Flemish-born innovator Gerardus Mercator was probably the first to call a book of maps an atlas, way back in 1585.

The name stuck, and now the term can refer to the Dell’Arcano del Mare, a seventeenth-century maritime atlas featuring all the world’s oceans – the first of its kind in print. It was the careful creation of English explorer and cartographer Sir Robert Dudley.

But it might also bring to mind far more humble paperbacks, used by countless Americans for road trips across the US long before smartphones changed everything.


Italian immigrant Angelo Siciliano reinvented himself as bodybuilder Charles Atlas in the twentieth century. Apparently, a friend told him he resembled a Coney Island statue of the god.

The bodybuilder sold a strength-training program to transform “97 pound weaklings” into muscular men.

While the last name was chosen for specific reasons in this case, it does occur as a surname. In that case, the meaning of the name Atlas is probably satin or smooth. It’s ultimately borrowed from an Arabic word, and would’ve been adopted by cloth merchants.

But this, too, might ultimately trace back to Greek myth. Because it turns out that Etles silk is produced by the Atlas moth, Attacus atlas. They’re massive – the female is bigger than an adult human’s hand – so the name makes sense. And yes, their name comes from the Titan – just like Charles Atlas.


Then there’s Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. There’s no character by the name. Instead, Atlas refers to the captains of business and industry who rebel against government control.

Van Halen put the god on the cover of their smash hit alum 5150. All manner of vehicles have been given the name. It’s found on the map, from Michigan to the moon. It’s the name of a star and one of Saturn’s satellites, too.

Sprinkle in some comic book characters, including a Marvel Comics villain. The video game series BioShock featured a bad guy by the name.


The baby name Atlas was seldom heard as a given name, though. It was absent from the US Top 1000 through the twentieth century.

But it was used in tiny numbers as early as 1910, mostly as a boy’s name. But occasionally the baby name Atlas was used for the opposite gender, too – five girls were born in 1910 with the name Atlas.

By the early 2000s, the name was rising. Credit baby boy names like Atticus, with the -s ending, as well as mythological picks like Orion.

One factor that boosted the baby name Atlas?

In 2009 actress Anne Heche welcomed her second son. She and actor James Tupper named their son Atlas.

Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Heche’s older son from a prior relationship was named Homer, which isn’t exactly a Top 100 pick. But it made waves.

By 2012, the popularity of the name Atlas had doubled in the US.

In 2013, the name had entered the US Top 1000 at #780. That same year, actor Edward Norton gave the name to his son.

One year later, in 2014, Atlas charted at #639.

In 2019, actress Shay Mitchell and boyfriend Matte Babbel named their daughter Atlas Noa. It’s been used in small numbers for girls since the 1910s – the same moment it started to gain in use for boys. (Shay and Matte also have a younger daughter named Rome.)


Celebrities clearly helped boost the baby name Atlas, but there’s more to this story.

Atlas projects strength. That puts it in the same category as mythological names like Aries.

But it’s also a name that suggests travel and adventure. After all, Atlas fits with similar names like Journey or place names, from London to Savannah.

Atlas is brief and complete, and yet it can also share nickname Attie with Atticus, making it just a little more versatile.

No surprise then, that mighty and meaningful Atlas has reached #129 in the US … and could easily rise higher still.

What do you think of the baby name Atlas?

Originally published on September 1, 2011, this post was revised and re-posted on June 8, 2015 and again on May 30, 2023.

baby name Atlas baby name Atlas

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. I have a son named Atlas, born in 2008. We actually named him for the Catholic connotation: the Seven Martyred Monks of Atlas from Our Lady of Atlas Monastery in Algeria. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie based on their life, Of Gods and Men. Of all our kids, we get the most positive comments on his name. People tend to really like it. He’s well over 6 feet and still growing, so I think it’s a good fit for him. My husband likes weightlifting, so he liked that aspect as well. And hubby proposed to me in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, right across from the big Atlas statue there. People acted like we were crazy when we used this name, but we love it more than ever.

  2. I just saw my first little Atlas – and oh dear he’s absolutely TINY and rather pretty-looking … Let’s hope he beefs up a bit.

  3. Atlas is an interesting name, since most people will have heard of it because many still use atlases as opposed to SatNavs, but that may be his downfall. Many may not know of the mythology connections, so think it’s not dissimilar from naming your child book, or map, and it’d been ironic if he had a terrible sense of direction (don’t cha’ think? 😉 ) Personally, he’d suit me more as a quirky middle choice, rather than up there out front such is my practical nature kicking in.

    1. Now that you mention it, I have a dreadful sense of direction! I suppose that does rule out using the name …

  4. I don’t think of the Titan when I first hear this name-I think of the book of maps I keep under my car seat. That is the main reason that I wouldn’t use it for my child, but I wouldn’t mind hearing about or meeting a little Atlas. I would rather meet a little Atlas than another Aidan!

  5. On sound alone I kind of like Atlas. I agree with Julie, that he’s right in step with picks like Atticus and Archer.

    However, I don’t really like Atlas because I keep wanting to follow it with “Shrugged”. We’re bleeding hearts in our house and DH did not like Ayn Rand’s book so it doesn’t work for us. Honestly, if I met a kid named Atlas I’d wonder if his parents were fans of the book.

    1. Well, that does give me pause – but I can’t imagine someone who was into Ayn Rand naming their kid Atlas. Or can I? Somehow it doesn’t seem likely.

      1. Actually, we know a couple that are huge Objectivists (Ayn Rand followers) and their sons are named August and Atlas. I always felt it was almost cliche? Like naming a child John Galt.

        A senator from our state changed his first name to “Rand” because he was such a proponent of her philosophies.

        1. Wow – right. That’s what I was thinking. A few years back I read a book about a family with a son called Rascal. Dad was a Dostoevsky scholar, and Rascal was short for Raskolnikov. It just feels like too much of yourself to put on your child … but then, this was fiction.