David comes to mind immediately. Daniel, too. More parents prefer boy names starting with J – or A, M, C, L, or E – but D names routinely appear in the US Top 100. It feels like a strong, solid sound for a boy.
In fact, it’s the eighth most popular first initial for a boy’s name as of 2022.
It’s not just classics, though. Plenty of current favorites begin with this letter. There have always been some trending choices brought to us by D. Another generation’s Dwayne, Dwight, and Daryl/Darrell are echoed in this decade’s Daxton, Devon, and Dior.
A handful of boy names starting with D qualify as neglected classics. Douglas sounds rather dashing, and there’s something fun about Dale. Dennis rhymes with menace, of course, but Den seems fresh. And Denny sounds delightfully retro, as in Will Arnett’s youngest son – Alexander Denison, called Denny for short.
There’s no shortage of possibilities when it comes to baby boy names beginning with the letter D.
MOST POPULAR BABY BOY NAMES STARTING WITH D
There’s Daniel of the lion’s den, the Biblical hero. And then there’s Daniel Tiger, the beloved character from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. The two figures show this name’s tremendous range. It’s darling on a child, but sounds capable and serious for an adult. Irish ballad “Danny Boy” means your kiddo has a built-in lullaby, and if that’s not your style, there’s always Elton John’s “Daniel.”
An evergreen classic, David ranked in the Top Ten from the 1930s into the 90s. That’s quite a run! Famous figures abound, from Bowie to Beckham; Chappelle to Copperfield – the real magician and the fictional Dickens character.
With ties to literary giant Thomas, musical genius Bob, and so many more famous figures, Dylan has attained modern classic status. A meaning tied to the ocean adds even more appeal. While this generation of parents might still think of Dylan as 90210’s bad boy, it has transitioned into a traditional, solid choice for a son.
Once reserved for boys born on Sunday, Dominic comes from a Latin phrase meaning “of the Lord.” Domingo means Sunday in Spanish; in Italian, it’s domenica. While it’s ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since 1894, it’s more popular than ever in the twenty-first century. Nickname Dom is the obvious choice, but Nick and Nico work, too.
Despite belonging to a third century saint, Damian failed to chart in the US until the 1950s. One possible inspiration? Character actor Damian O’Flynn, who worked steadily from the 1930s onward. The 1976 horror film sensation The Omen boosted the name – even though it was spelled Damien in the movie. It’s even more popular in the twenty-first century, a longer boy’s name in the key of Julian and Sebastian.
Thanks to a fifth century Irish saint, this name fits in with fellow imports Ryan and Brendan. It’s the real name of singer Elvis Costello, and until recently was far more familiar in the UK than the US. But lately American parents have embraced Declan, replacing former favorites like Dustin and Devin with this appealing name.
The Spanish form of James, Diego brings to mind everything from artists like Rivera to Dora the Explorer’s cousin to the southern California city named for the saint. The connection between James and Diego seems confusing, but here’s a sketch. The Hebrew Yaakov became the Greek Iakob, which eventually became Iacobus and Iacomus in Latin. Iacomus eventually gave us James. Meanwhile, Iago developed in Spanish; Santo Iago meant Saint James. That led to Santiago. Split Santiago differently, and you’ll arrive at Tiago, Thiago … or Diego. Actor Diego Luna is one of many notable men by the name.
Dean Martin and James Dean make this name feel effortlessly cool. Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls, and Supernatural brought the name to a new generation of parents. It’s brief and bright, a name that feels somewhere between a twentieth century trend and a modern traditional.
Surname name Dawson comes from David. It might’ve caught on thanks to the rise in choices like Jackson and Mason. But 1990s television series Dawson’s Creek turbocharged it. The WB teen drama followed a group of friends, including James van der Beek as Dawson Leery. Parents took note, and the name shot into the Top 200 during the series’ run. It’s back on the rise again, thanks to our love of so many -son ending surnames.
A place name that sounds big and bold, for a daughter or a son.
Derek evolved from Germanic names like Theodoric. It peaked in the 1980s, but all these years later, it remains more popular than many other boy names starting with D.
Another spelling of Damian.
Literary powerhouse Dante Aligheri defined medieval Italian literature, influencing both the language and future writers for generations. Appropriately, Dante means enduring.
A novel name, inspired by Paxton and Braxton, plus Max, Jax, and Dax.
North and South Dakota both took their name from the Dakota people. It means dear friend or ally in the Dakota language.
An Irish surname turned given name, Desmond has been used across centuries. The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu helps define the name as strong and principled.
Surname name Devin followed Irish Kevin into greater use.
A name borrowed from a Greek legend about friendship – one of the few ancient tales with a truly happy ending.
Darius meets Gabriel.
Dax Shepard’s unusual given name came from a novel – Harold Robbins’ The Adventurers. The name owes some of its popularity to Shepard, and some to our affection for names like Max and Jax.
Another Irish choice, upbeat Donovan has never quite caught on in the US, but would fit right in with names like Sullivan and Dylan.
Another place name, this time evoking the best of Colorado.
A job title with a serious vibe and an energetic sound.
A low-key stylish surname name, Dalton reached the Top 100 briefly in the 1990s.
Originally short for Andrew, Drew now stands alone. Just ask Drew Brees, Drew Carey, and Drew Scott.
Another Dominic spelling option, possibly with the added K to emphasize the possible short form Nick.
Oscar Wilde’s character in The Picture of Dorian Gray put this appealing, three-syllable option on the list.
If Charlie works without Charles, maybe every Danny doesn’t need to be Daniel, either?
It means dragon … or male duck, depending on the language. But what Drake really brings to mind is the Grammy Award-winning rapper and singer.
A surname meaning son of David, Davis benefits from our love of s-ending boy names.
A surname name that first caught on in the 1960s, as Justin was on the rise.
Quiet and unassuming Dennis comes from an unexpected source – Dionysos, the Greek god of wine and revelry.
Romance language take on Darius, with that popular O ending, Dario has raced up the popularity charts.
A former favorite, this Scottish import is currently stuck in style limbo.
An ancient name in the key of Atticus, Darius also offers a great meaning: possessing goodness.
Duke brings to mind European aristocrats – and American royalty, thanks to John Wayne. Or, maybe, it’s all basketball, thanks to athletic and academic powerhouse Duke University.
Sharp and polished, Dexter has been associated with some quirky characters, from Cary Grant’s leading man in The Philadelphia Story to everyone’s favorite vigilante serial killer.
Another take on Derek.
Another spelling of chart-topping Dylan.
A Shona name meaning “rejoice,” Dakari’s sound is on-trend in the 2020s.
Possibly a taken on Dylan, or maybe a name with roots in a separate language. Turkish is one possibility. It’s also heard in South Asia.
Zippy, energetic Dash has graduated from The Incredibles to a boy’s name in the key of Nash and Cash.
Doug feels a little dated, but Douglas is a dashing classic.
A stylish surname launched into general use thanks to streaming television hit Yellowstone.
Another spelling of Devin, this time borrowed from the English place name.
A golden, glittering name, Dior sounds like so many r-ending surname names, but with the benefit of a high fashion pedigree.
A white hot name from the 1960s, still in use today.
Dane brings to mind Denmark, but it’s also an English surname related to Dean.
A late-twentieth century invention, Damari succeeds on sound.
A recent newcomer to the US Top 1000, Damir has multiple possible origins and a winning sound.
A cousin to Dennis, Dion is also a form of the Greek god Dionysos. It’s long been used in small numbers.
A delightfully Scottish, literary name, Duncan is much less common than you might guess.
Sometimes spelled D’Angelo or DeAngelo, this Italian surname also feels like De-plus-Angelo, in the key of Deandre.
Another creative take on David, with influence from Julian and Adrian.
Darius meets Davian.
The name of ancient kings and saints, elaborate Demetrius fits in with favorites like Atticus today.
A name that nods to world-changing scientist and author Charles Darwin.
OVERLOOKED SURNAME NAMES STARTING WITH D
Originally derived from French place name Aubigné, and given to anyone from Aubigné – d’Aubigné, or eventually Dabney in English. Actor Dabney Coleman from the 1960s to the present day, including a brief turn in Yellowstone as John Dutton III’s dad.
It looks a bit like Dallas-with-an-n, but Dallin is a surname possibility.
A surname related to oak trees, Darrow carries all of that strength. It brings to mind early twentieth century attorney and reformer Clarence Darrow. The sound fits right in with so many o-enders parents have embraced in recent years.
Twentieth century author Dashiell Hammett puts this name on the list. It was his mother’s maiden name, though the meaning is lost to time. While high energy nickname Dash makes the Top 1000, this longer form remains just outside the rankings.
A German surname, it was boosted as a first by Fast and the Furious franchise character Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham in too many movies to count.
It sounds like a tough-guy name, but Decker started out as a surname for a roofer or builder.
Yet another Irish import with a vibrant sound.
A good-natured Irish surname name, Dempsey fits right in with Riley. But it leans masculine, possibly thanks to legendary boxer Jack Dempsey, who reigned as world heavyweight champ from 1919 to 1926. His popularity helped pioneer the idea of putting sports on television.
A polished, English surname that sounds a bit like Denim.
A son-of-Dennis surname with potential.
An elaborate, French surname name with multiple spellings, including Devereux and Deveraux.
Originally an Irish surname with a cool, current sound.
A quirky cool surname possibility.
A middle X surname name that could follow favorites like Jaxon into wider use.
We hear Dodge and think Ford and Chrysler. But Dodge started out as the surname of brothers Horace and John, entrepreneurs who started building automobiles way back in 1914. The surname started out as a nickname for Roger, or sometimes George. It’s short, active, and rich with potential.
A brother for Dempsey, Doyle sounds upbeat. But it also brings to mind author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Given the enduring popularity of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, perhaps some fans would consider the surname as a tribute.
Originally a last name given to someone who worked with cloth, Draper is now famous as the surname of fictional Mad Men character Don Draper, as well as the fashion line launched by Hollywood A-lister Reese Witherspoon. In that case, it comes from Reese’s family tree. Her grandmother was born Dorothea Draper.
An occupational name in the key of Carter, Drummer started out as the surname of a musician. We tend to prefer our working surnames a little more obscure these days – yes to Bailey, Archer, and Chandler; no to Driver and Sailor. But that’s changing constantly, and there’s certainly space for Drummer to join Hunter and Baker in the rankings.
COOL & UNUSUAL D BOY NAMES
It looks like day, but it comes from a Celtic word meaning “to shine.” It also has roots in Japanese, Vietnamese, and Swahili. Such a short name crosses language barriers effortlessly. One challenge in the US – our familiarity with Kai suggests this name sounds like dye – which might cause some confusion.
Dathan was an Old Testament villain, but this Hebrew name has an appealing meaning: fountain.
Damar might be an Indonesian name … but it’s best known thanks to football player Damar Hamlin. He’s best known for suffering a serious health incident while playing in a game for the Buffalo Bills, and even more widely known for his miraculous recovery, as well as his courage and grace overcoming his challenges.
A literary choice, Dartagnan – or D’Artagnan – is a young man aspiring to join the elite military guard known as the King’s Musketeers in seventeenth century France. Alexandre Dumas’ swashbuckling adventure was written in 1844, and it’s remained a favorite over the centuries. Strictly speaking, he’s Charles de Batz de Castelmore D’Artagnan, making this a surname – but it’s filtered into popular culture as a (very rare) first.
A modern take on David.
A place name from Ohio, Dayton has a long history of use and a current sound.
A well-established take on Andrew and Andre, with the popular De prefix.
A classic Indian choice, Deepak means lamp in Sanskrit.
Borrowed from the tallest peak in North America, found in Alaska’s Denali National Park.
A modern word name borrowed from the rugged fabric.
A Cornish name made famous by the incomparable Denzel Washington, winner of two Academy Awards and counting.
A rarity that evokes the American West, thanks to fictional lawman Tom Destry of a series of Hollywood films.
It might come from Devin/Devon, two 1990s favorites both still in the US Top 1000. But Dev also refers to god in Sanskrit, making it a culture-spanning option.
Retro cool Dexter ranks in the Top 1000, but just Dex fails to chart. It’s big in the Netherlands, where mini names like Sem, Bram, and Daan are chart-toppers. In the US, it feels more traditional than Jax, but not quite as traditional as Max.
A Russian take on Demetrius, also spelled Dmitiri.
A Dutch name and a Scottish word meaning dagger, Dirk charted in the US Top 1000 in the middle of the twentieth century, but has been caught in style limbo ever since.
Possibly the best-known Romani name, Django means “I rise” or “awake.” Legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt made it famous. Westerns embraced it, beginning with 1966’s Django and continuing to Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 Django Unchained.
The German and Slavic spelling of Dominic.
The Irish form of Donal, also spelled Domnhall.
An old school Italian name from a Latin word meaning gift of God. Ninja Turtle fans might know that the artistic Donatello comes from this name, too.
It sounds like a Douglas-Raymond smoosh, but Dougray is a Scottish name boosted by actor Dougray Scott.
It looks like a bird, but Dov is Hebrew for bear.
Harry Potter’s chief tormentor – well, if you overlook Voldemort – was mean boy Draco Malfoy. It comes from the Greek name for a dragon. Like many Wizarding World names, it’s borrowed from a constellation. The name’s history stretches back millennia, though. In the seventh century BC, Athenian legislator Draco established the first written code of law. While it was an improvement over feuds, it was spectacularly harsh – hence, our word draconian. All of it lends Draco an intensity, but with names like Leo and Milo gone mainstream, it might still be wearable.
A 1960s favorite, Dwayne is the phonetic spelling of the Gaelic Duane. It’s out of favor right now, but chances are it will be back again – eventually.
Like many a name, Dudley started out as a polished, aristocratic family name in England. It was long used as a first in the US. It’s stuck in style limbo now, but cuddly Dudley could be almost ready for revival.
Depending on your perspective, this name is either the beginning of Frank Herbert’s best-selling sci fi series, or a beachy nature name. Either way, it’s edgier than Luke or Jack, but still very wearable.
The name of a medieval saint, Dunstan is rare today – but could fit in with names like Tristan.
A presidential pick in the US, thanks to Dwight Eisenhower – better known as Ike. A younger generation probably thinks first of long-running comedy series The Office.
What are your favorite boy names starting with D?
First published on August 17, 2020, this post was revised substantially and re-published on January 24, 2022; March 6, 2023; and July 17, 2023.