The baby name Wolf blends a fierce sensibility with a surprisingly wearable, traditional vibe.

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


Wolf comes directly from the Old English word wulf. In Latin, the animal is lupus.

Wolves have long been feared by villagers and chased off by farmers. They’re the villains of fairy tales and folk stories, from The Three Little Pigs to Peter and the Wolf to The Boy Who Cried … well, you get the idea.

They figure prominently in legend and myth. Romulus and Remus, the future founders of Rome, were raised by a she-wolf. The Norse god Odin kept two as pets, and Loki’s son Fenrir was a monstrous one. In some cultures, they’re destruction on four legs. In others, their fearlessness is admired.

Christianity sometimes equates wolves with the devil, but Saint Francis tamed one in an Italian village.

And then there are the werewolves, a concept dating to the 1400s and continuing right through Twilight and True Blood.

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Fierce creatures often influence personal names, because we appreciate their strength and courage.

Just like there are plenty of Leo names inspired by lions, we can find names like Wolfgang, Cynewulf, Ranulf, and Beowulf over the centuries.

Surnames like Lowell and Lovett also refer to the animal, too.

The Hebrew name Ze’ev or Zev is yet another wolf name, and has seen some use in modern Israel.

It appears that Wolf started out as a nickname at least some of the time. This twelfth-century family tree includes men answering to Lupellus – little wolf – and Lupus as well as the surname de Lovel.


Wolfgang is probably the most familiar form of the name, thanks to notables like legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and influential writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The first element refers to the animal; gang means path or way.

Long before Mozart and Goethe lived, Wolfgang of Regensburg was a tenth century saint. He served as a bishop; evangelized the Hungarians; and eventually ended his life as a hermit. His influence spread throughout the region, with many places named in his honor, and the name remaining in use across the generations.

No surprise, then, that Wolfgang is used in small numbers in the US as far back as 1929. Doubtless German immigrants sometimes brought the name with them.

The baby name Wolf, though, was seldom used in the US. It debuts in the popularity data in 1912, with five births. But it’s not seen again until the year 1950, with another five births.


What changed during the 1900s?

A few high-profile uses of the name might’ve helped.

First came author Jack London. It was his nickname, but more importantly, in his 1904 novel The Sea-Wolf, it’s the first name of Captain Larsen. (Though Larsen is no hero.)

London also bought land in California’s Sonoma Valley, and spent years building his dream home, Wolf House, only to see it burn to the ground before his family could move in. The ruins are part of Jack London State Historic Park.

CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer was born in Germany to Jewish Holocaust survivors. It’s a family name, shared with his grandfather. He’s been prominent since the 1990s, making the name feel more and more familiar.

The late guitarist Eddie Van Halen and his actress Valerie Bertinelli named their son after Amadeus. Wolfgang played bass for the band his dad co-founded for a dozen years.

The design-savvy Novogratz family of 9 used the name for their eldest and put it squarely on the style map, along with Tallulah, Bellamy, Breaker, Five, Holleder, and Major. Wolfgang Novogratz is now an up-and-coming actor.

Model turned designer and entrepreneur Kimora Lee named her youngest Wolfe in 2015.


Wolf – along with variations like Wolfe, Woulfe, and Volk – are common surnames.

In many cases, they’re related to Wolfgang or other Wolf- names.

Sometimes they’re borrowed from the map, possibly from some of the places named in honor of Saint Wolfgang.

In any case, nearly any accessible surname sometimes inspires a given name, doubtless explain some of those babies named Wolf.


Animal names are having a moment, just like so many other nature names. Leo and Bear, Colt and Wren.

Wolf, too, is increasing in use. As of 2022:

  • 97 new boys were named Wolf.
  • Another 129 were named Wolfgang.
  • The Wolfe spelling was given to 53 boys, an all-time high.
  • Wulfric and Beowulf were also in use, with 11 Wulfrics and 7 Beowulfs born in 2022.


The baby name Wolf is a study in contrasts.

It’s fierce and aggressive. But famous figures, from the saint to the composer to the writer, all make it feel traditional, serious, intellectual, even.

Combined with our love of nature names and other animal-related choices, the baby name Wolf reads more like an undiscovered gem than a wild whim.

What do you think of the baby name Wolf?


classic meets wild

Wolf sounds like a modern word name in the key of River and Bear, but this fierce nature name has traditional German roots.


unranked in current US Top 1000


increasing in use


Short for traditional German names including the word wolf, referring to the animal

Originally published on November 11, 2010, this post was substantially revised and re-posted on May 11, 2015 and again on January 21, 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.

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What do you think?


  1. I read from site that mentioned a little girl named SeaFlower after being born while her father was away on ship. The flower part of her name was after her still born sister that came many years prior. I thought is was sweet. It made me think of that after mentioned Sea-Wolf.

  2. I love Wolf/Wolfe and have been a big fan of all the wolf names. My favorites are Adolf, Cynewulf, Agilulf, Ralf or Rolph or Rolf, Rudolph, Wolfstan or Wolston, and Ulrike or Ulricke. Many are family names. I think there is something viril and strong about these older names. I respect the idea of having a name that is all masculine with representations of chivalry, honor, and strength. I feel that many boys’ names lose this element when given to girls.

  3. We are expecting our first boy in early May and while I wasn’t a fan of the name Wolfe before being pregnant….now I adore it! I think our little boy is trying to tell me something lol. We have a Wolford in the family so my side of the family is very comfortable with Wolfe. I like Wolfe Grayson for his first and middle. We are big fans of individualistic names. Wolfe Grayson’s sister’s name is Xiola Mae. We’re so excited!

    1. What a wonderful tribute to family. We have many wolf elements in our family from Adolf, Ulrick, to Wolfstan/Wolston. I am personally in favor of the wolf name Agilulf, many because it is a bit more medieval and lesser heard. Best wishes to you!

  4. We are expecting boy #3 in March and Wolf has been my choice, and since it’s a boy I got to pick! His full name will be Wolf William. Siblings are John Ronan (goes by Ronan), Isla Audrey and Stellan Michael. I always thought Wolfie would be the sweetest name for a little one and Wolf sounds strong to me.

  5. I named my son Wolf just over a year ago. I love the name and always thought of is as a strong name. I want to raise a strong man so I felt the name was fitting. That aside, everyone that meets Wolfie thinks he is super cool. He is very popular eventhough he’s only 14 months old! At first, family and friends did not embrace the name. Now, everyone thinks he is the coolest kid.

    1. Hi there! Thanks so much for your input. Just found out we are having a baby boy in September and the name Wolf is at the top of our list. Wolfie could not be more of a sweet nickname 🙂 However we are having trouble deciding on a middle name… nothing seems to fit quite right. Did you have any difficulty? Just for reference, our first son’s first and middle name is Lennon Night. Thank you for your help!

  6. Thanks for reviewing Wolf! I gave always loved older German names and Wolf was one of my favorites so once I found out it was my great-uncle’s name, I knew we had to use it. We can’t wait to adopt our son someday and give him this name 🙂

  7. re: Gunnar – this is a traditional name meaning warrior, not related to “Gunner”. It’s closer to the German Gunther.

    1. Ah, this is one of those moments. Kaitlyn is more popular, but Caitlin is much closer to the original. Turns out that Gunnar, while more faithful to the original name, is less popular than Gunner in the US. (#540 for the “a” spelling in 2009; #471 for the nouveau “e”.) I never know what to do in these cases. It’s legitimate to respell a name to make it more easily pronounced in a different language. Happens all the time. I agree that Gunner looks misspelled and rather unsophisticated, but he’s catching on.

  8. Wolf Blitzer comes to mind first. I like it though. I would not have the confidence to use it for a kid of mine (up front that is), but I do sometimes wonder if we should’ve used the similar Fox in the middle for Oliver… it has some crazy weird connection to how I ended up meeting my husband (it has meaning for me/my side of how it happened, but not really for him, which is why, when I suggested it, it fell flat for him)… so we did the right thing, but I sometimes think Fox would have made a somewhat more interesting mn. Back to Wolf. I can definitely see using it in the middle. Up front, it’s for the brave and ballsy namers. And, you’ve mentioned naming for one’s alma mater previously… with the NC State “Wolfpack” right around the corner from me, maybe some of them would love to call their kid Wolf? I can’t see this one becoming a top 100 name, though – this one seems firmly on the rare end of the scale.

    1. I think you’re right about Wolf remaining rare, JNE. I finally sat down to Google Wolf Blitzer’s bio, and apparently he’s named after a grandfather. Given his roots – Jewish refugees from Poland – that makes sense. I kept finding Volf on lists of Yiddish names, but I’m not sure if they’re accurate, like this one:

      And there’s also Jack London’s character, Wolf Larsen, from The Sea-Wolf. Totally overlooked him. Apparently there’s a Canadian actor named Wolf Larson, too – he was born Wolfgang.

  9. Mark would be over the moon if I agreed to Wolfgang as the boy’s name for this next baby. However, I have already conceded my favourite girl’s name in favour of a name of his selection, and since I find Wolfie just a little too much for my taste, I’ve resisted giving in so far.