Skyline of Boston. Picture was taken from a wh...
Boston Skyline; Image via Wikipedia

Montana, Brooklyn, London. Is it a kindergarten roster or an atlas? Oh wait, Atlas is in the class, too …

Thanks to Chantal for suggesting her son’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Boston.

Boston is a big city, and its place in American history is tough to overestimate.

But it wasn’t always so. Once Boston was a dot, originally called Shawmut by the Algonquins. The Puritans arrived there after two unsuccessful attempts to establish settlements elsewhere in the New World. William Blackstone beat them there by about seven years, so the area wasn’t completely uncharted on their arrival.

Boston flourished, and it has remained the center of New England ever since. Benjamin Franklin was born there; the Declaration of Independence was first read from the steps of Boston’s Old State House. It’s the home of Harvard and the Kennedy clan. And then there’s the time they dumped the tea in the harbor …

But our Beantown isn’t the only Boston. It’s not even the first. That honor belongs to a town on England’s east coast. Visit Boston in Lincolnshire and you’ll inevitably see St. Botolph’s Church. The church’s tower makes it the tallest parish church in all of England.

There’s good reason for the towering tower. Botolph – or Botwulf or Botulf – likely lived in the seventh century. Travel was perilous under the best of circumstances. Botolph is the patron saint of travelers; it is believed that the tower would’ve been lit by night, and was certainly a useful landmark by day. Four London churches, all near gates in the City walls, were dedicated to St. Botolph. Some of them are still standing, though they’re now all well within the City limits.

The name Botolph attached to the town where he founded a monastery, and over the years Botolph’s town contracted to Boston. The saint’s name remains present in Boston, Massachusetts, home to the elite St. Botolph’s Club, as well as a street and a hotel.

Botwulf likely comes from the Germanic element wolf paired with another element, but that’s subject to debate. It’s also possible that more than one Bo- name attached to ton/town or ston/stone evolved to Boston over the years.

As a given name, Boston fits right in with choices like Mason and Landon. There is one famous Boston – the man who shot John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassin. Only Boston Corbett was born Thomas – and while his actions could make Boston something of hero name, Corbett was, by most accounts, none too stable himself.

Place names can be great alternatives for parents seeking the unusual-but-familiar. Overall, Boston sounds current and on trend, but isn’t shared by too many boys – yet. He’s been in the US Top 1000 since 2004, and ranked #545 last year.

Name your son Boston today and all of that is history. People might think of the Red Sox, or the Celtics, and possibly the classic rock band known for their string of 1970s and 80s hits. As long as your name isn’t Amanda, that’s not a big deal.

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. My family has 3 Bostons that I’ve found in our family tree so far. Johannes Boston, his son Sebastian Boston and Johannes’ great-great-grandson Bostioun Fredrick (name prn. Boston). As far as we can tell from all the notes, he went by Bostioun his entire life, and the only change for the spelling was to make his name appear more formal in the era they were living in.

  2. I’m personally not one for place names, but Boston as a name has a nice, snappy sound. I think it’s a nice alternative to Austin, Landon, etc.

  3. I would be pretty uncomfortable naming a child Boston because it was such a popular name among slaves in colonial New England. Many slaveowners bestowed place names on slaves (Boston, Newport, Bristol, etc.) or classical names (Cato, Pompey, Caesar) rather than giving them Christian names that might imply equality with whites. Maybe that isn’t a big deal to many people, but in my professional field and among my friends, people would definitely know this history. I probably won’t meet many Bostons because I like in Massachusetts, but I would definitely do a double-take if I did.