As first initials go, H isn’t a breakout star. It’s no A or J, letters we love for our children’s names year over year. But it’s easy to think of possibilities starting with the letter H, in every category. Classics and trendsetters, rarities and rising favorites all appear on this list. H ranks a solid 16th out of 26 possible first initials.
Henry is the classic at the top of everyone’s list, of course.
But in recent years, Hudson and Hayes have been white hot favorites, too. They’re surname names with plenty of history but a modern vibe.
The headline for boy names beginning with H? With a blend of tradition and twenty-first century style, this list features a name to suit every namer.
H NAMES FOR BOYS RANKED IN THE US TOP 1000
Traditional Henry is king of the H names for boys – but it hasn’t always been so. All names, even the classics, cycle in and out of fashion. Henry has become one of the most stylish of twenty-first century boy names, without sacrificing its enduring status. If anything, parents are now looking for substitutes.
In medieval English, Hugh and Richard became Hud. Because those given names were common, Hudson eventually caught on as a surname. And, in the early 1600s, Henry Hudson set sail for North America. A river and a bay bear his name, so it brings to mind New York – or possibly Canada. But the spark that first put Hudson on parents’ radar? 1991 Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk.
Hunter appeals to families with lots of interests. It can read preppy and outdoorsy, like a pair of Hunter boots. Or it can feel at home in camo, at home in a blind. And some might find it aspirational, too. After all, Hunters are seeking a target. Or colorful, thanks to the shade of green. Regardless of the image, Hunter has ranked in the US Top 100 for boys since 1993, making it a modern staple.
Longer surname names for boys are trending in recent years. Think Sullivan and Remington. Harrison benefits from the musical tie-in to The Beatles, too. It’s also the first of several names on this list related to classic favorite Henry. And while it literally means “son of Harry” and might shorten to Harry or Hank, it’s most often used in full.
All of the rhymes-with-Aiden names are falling. But Hayden serves as a great example of how H names feel slightly trend-resistant. Maybe it’s because Hayden started out as a familiar English and Irish surname, unlike the more recent Jayden or Cayden. Or maybe it’s because actors like Hayden Christensen and Thomas Haden Church make it feel like it’s been around longer.
The hottest of the surname names, Hayes comes from an handful of English and Irish sources. It might relate to Aodh – fiery – which happens to be the source of a former favorite, Aidan. It sounds like haze, but Hayes remains more of a conventional surname name than a novel word-inspired choice.
Like Harrison, we derive the surname Hendrix from Henry and company. And there’s a rock and roll tie-in, too – but this one is even stronger. Legendary guitar innovator Jimi Hendrix remains a household name, five decades after his tragic death. The stylish ‘x’ ending helps, too. It also puts Hendrix on the list while related surnames like Hendrik and Hendricks remain overlooked.
Another H surname name, Holden’s literary status is rock solid. Holden Caulfield narrates The Catcher in the Rye, a literary YA classic from before there was such a thing. But it took a soap opera character to take this name from literary rarity to mainstream favorite for boys. JD Salinger published his novel in serial form from 1945 to 46, but the name debuted in the US Top 1000 in 1985. That’s the same year we met Holden Snyder on As the World Turns.
An ancient hero from Greek myth, Hector was a prince and the greatest warrior of Troy. Traditionally popular among Latino families, Hector routinely ranks in the Spanish Top 100. Think of wrestler Hector “Macho” Camacho or actor Hector Elizondo. But the name boasts a long history of use across Europe. It’s the first name of French composer Berlioz.
Hugo sounds current – and cuddly! The o ending makes it stylish, but Hugo offers a long history of use. It’s the Latin form of Hugh, a choice widely used in medieval England. Besides the sense of traditional and appealing, upbeat sound, Hugo offers a great meaning: mind or intellect.
A destructive hurricane and a headline-dominating scandal briefly halted Harvey’s comeback. But this neglected classic has been worn by plenty of accomplished Harveys, too – and combined with the name’s stylish sound, that could be more than enough to persuade parents to embrace this former favorite.
Originally a nickname for Henry, Hank could stand on its own in our age of Jack and Max.
An Old Testament name with a quirky-cool sound.
An Arabic name, Hamza carries a great meaning: steadfast.
A surname name connected to an accomplished family (including writer Aldous and scientist Thomas), that middle ‘x’ is fueling interest in Huxley.
A place name set to follow Austin and Dallas up the popularity charts, Houston carries all the bravado of any Texas-inspired baby name. Sam Houston served as president of Texas, back when there was such a thing; his Scottish surname most likely means “Hugh’s town.”
With Styles, Prince and Potter, Harry feels distinctively British. But it was a nineteenth century favorite in the US, too, and in 1921, a Broadway show gave us “I’m Just Wild About Harry.” We tend to explain it as a nickname for Henry; it’s closer to say that Harry is the way the English pronounced Henry after the Normans brought it to England. (Say “Henri” in French, then soften the ‘n’ … it’s not quite there, but you can imagine how it happened.) Today it’s a separate name, one that feels approachable, friendly, and fresh.
This English surname name peaked in the 1920s, then left the US Top 1000 entirely early in the 1980s. But it’s back lately, and that might be down to the small screen. The Walking Dead featured a doctor named Harlan Carson. George RR Martin also used it as a character name more than once in his Game of Thrones series, but none appeared on the show. Harlan reads a little throwback, and slightly southern, too. The Walking Dead character had a brother called Emmett, and that homespun vibe is very much on trend. Spellings like Harlen and Harland are sometimes seen, too.
An Arabic name with an uplifting meaning: improver. Hasan is also seen, but it has separate roots and another appealing meaning: handsome.
If Hugo is climbing, and Houston, too, why not Hugh? It’s an old school Germanic name worn by a tenth century king of France. Brief, traditional, and yet not nearly as common as William or James, Hugh might be the right combination of classic and different. Nickname Huey is sweet, too.
Strictly speaking, Heath ranks in the current US Top 1000, so it’s far from unique. But it is surprisingly seldom heard. Consider: Heath offers a strong, bright sound and a nature name meaning. It substitutes nicely for River. If it hadn’t been big in the middle of the twentieth century, it would be a smash hit now. Instead, it’s nicely under-the-radar.
Harold is a bow-tie wearing boy name today. But in the Middle Ages, Harold was the name of kings. It comes from elements meaning army and power. Today it feels like a grandpa name ready for revival, the next Arthur or Theodore.
If you’re looking for Henry alternatives that aren’t surnames or nicknames, there’s always Henrik, the Scandi form. (Think of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.)
A surname name that brings to mind motorcycles and the open road. Except that the DC villain we all love, Harley Quinn, has shifted this name towards the girls in recent years.
Brooklyn is an established favorite for girls. Bronx remains a celebrity baby one-off. So how about Harlem? It started out as Haarlem, a Dutch place name, imported to New Amsterdam. The northernmost tip of Manhattan still bears the name. But today it conveys more than just a zip code. It’s the home of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural engine and home to many historic sites.
OVERLOOKED BOY NAMES STARTING WITH H
We love Hadley for girls. It sits just beyond the current US Top 100. So why not Hadden for our sons?
Drop the H, and you’ll arrive at popular boy name Adrian. But Hadrian comes closer to the original, the name of a Roman emperor. We remember Hadrian as the builder of the wall that defined the Roman Empire’s northern-most limits, all the way in Britain.
A German and Dutch surname with many possible meanings and origins, Hagen appears in Germanic legend.
An Arabic name meaning wise, legendary basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon makes this name broadly familiar to sports fans.
A nickname for Harold, as well as Harry and Henry, Hal is casual, old school, and cool.
An archaic word meaning healthy, Hale sounds upbeat and friendly.
American designer Halston defined the look of the 1970s. It’s never been common as a given name, but feels like it has potential.
The mega-hit musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton continues to thrill audiences. Nickname Ham isn’t ideal, but if Sebastian doesn’t need to be Seb and Oliver won’t answer to Ollie, there’s no reason you couldn’t use Hamilton in full.
A Scottish take on James, with a hearty, wholesome appeal.
As with Hamilton, Hammond’s flaw is his potentially pork-centric nickname. But Hammond in full is rather dashing.
There’s Hans, of course, but Han belongs to Han Solo, fictional smuggler turned good guy in the Star Wars series. It reads like a form of John or Jack, reinvented in a galaxy far, far away. Despite this strong sci fi tie-in, Han feels less obviously borrowed from the franchise than Kylo or Anakin.
An Irish surname name that’s quite rare … and less “mmm … bop” than Hanson.
Gretel’s other half, this storybook name is a diminutive form of John.
Like Hale, Hardy is a surname name that implies vigor. It might also serve as an unexpected nickname for Richard.
Another surname name derived from Henry, one that’s surprisingly underused. Spell it Haris at it’s a separate name with Arabic roots.
A chart-topping favorite for girls, Harper has a history of use for boys, too. Back in 1966, Paul Newman played the title role in movie Harper. (And he reprised the role in 1975’s The Drowning Pool.)
A common surname name across Europe, Hart might refer to a male deer (it’s interchangable with stag), it could mean strong and brave, or exactly what it sounds like – heart. And that’s just a short list. All that meaning and versatility make it a great candidate as a middle, and possibly as a first, too.
A surname possibility that makes Hart a little more familiar.
We’re naming our daughters Raven and Wren, and Bear makes the boys’ US Top 1000. That’s opened the door for bird of prey Hawk to soar onto the list of possibilities for a son.
The town at the center of creepy Netflix hit Stranger Things, there’s something quite cool about Hawkins. Hawk makes a fierce short form.
Spell it Hawthorn, and this becomes a nature name. Add the ‘e’ and it feels more literary, as in Nathaniel. But either way, it’s a rare, but recognizable, entry on the list surname boy names starting with H.
Take Hayes, add that possible ‘n’ ending, and you’ll arrive at Hazen. It looks invented, but it does occur in the historical record as a surname.
More popular for girls, this surname/place name works for boys, too.
Made famous by legendary puppeteer Jim Henson, this surname likely comes from Henry.
This German name appeared in the US Top 100 steadily into the 1930s. Today, it’s a faded pop culture reference, a mix of Herman Munster, Herman’s Hermits, and Herman Melville.
A word name, but also one very common as a surname. Actor Hill Harper made the name familiar to many.
One of many Old Testament names popular post-Reformation, Hiram has a great meaning: exalted brother.
A Japanese name, Hiro’s meaning hinges on the kanji (characters) used to write it. Possibilities include generous, prosperous, and widespread. One of the heroes on early 2000s series Heroes answered to Hiro; he could time travel. There’s also Hiro from Disney’s Big Hero 6.
Philosophical Hobbes almost certainly derives from Robert, along with Hobbs and Hobson.
Rhymes with Toby, Hoby debuted in the US data back in 1958, thanks to a television Western. It has plenty of history as a surname. It also works as a nickname for more traditional favorites, like Howard. Or, even possibly, Robert. Medieval English used Hob as short for Robert; it’s not a big leap to Hoby.
A place name, Holland is more popular for girls, but just like London or Egypt, feels unisex.
A surname name that fits right in with Ellis and so many other -s ending names for boys.
A surname with a strong, distinctive sound, Holt might read like a more polished take on Colt.
Yes, there’s Homer Simpson. But long before the fictional Springfield resident ever sipped a Duff, Homer authored the Iliad and the Odyssey, epic poems of adventure that have endured across millennia. The poet explains why the name ranked in the US Top 100 into the 1910s.
The ancient Roman poet Horace kept his name alive across generations. We tend to associate it with the Latin hora – time – but the name might pre-date Latin. A Top 100 choice through the nineteenth century, Horace is out of favor now, but could make a comeback.
A bright and energetic o-ending name, Horatio brings to mind the triumphant Admiral Nelson, known for his defeat of Napoleon, as well as the fictional Horatio Hornblower, and, of course, a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
An Old Testament prophet, Hosea’s name offers a great meaning: salvation. We’re wild about boy names ending with ‘a’ lately, and the scissory ‘z’ sound of the middle ‘s’ makes this surprisingly cool.
A charmingly vintage boy name, Howard brings to mind all sorts of mixed-up pop culture references. There’s the dad from Happy Days, the duck from Marvel Comic, the actor-comedian of St. Elsewhere, Deal or No Deal, and America’s Got Talent, and the British pop singer from the 80s, to list just a few. Friendly Howie sounds like a great name for a boy in our age of Charlie, too.
Huck Finn stepped out of Mark Twain’s stories into Americana legend and lore. In the stories, it was short for Huckleberry, but the name increasingly stands on its own, or as a nickname for Huxley, or another Hux name.
Wildly rare, Humphrey seems to be reserved for pets these days. And yet, leading man Humphrey Bogart proves how well it can wear. (Yes, that was his real name, and his mother’s maiden name.) With choices like Montgomery gaining in use, Humphrey might stand a chance at revival.
Take Hunter, mix in all those -ley ending names, and Huntley emerges as an option.
A gentlemanly surname name, Hutton started out as a Scottish and English place name, now found on the map across the English-speaking world.
Speaking of Hux names, Huxton leads the pack of Hux–n choices at the moment. There’s Huckson, Huckston, and Huxson to name just a few. One more factor possibly pushing Hux names up the list? General Hux, from the latest Star Wars trilogy.
Worn by Welsh kings, Hywel rhymes with fuel. It’s an intriguing heritage pick, less expected than Rhys.
What are your favorite boy names beginning with H?
Originally published on July 5, 2021, this post was revised substantially and re-published on October 17, 2022 and September 11, 2023.