It’s true: boy names starting with L include the most popular name in the US right now. Besides Liam, favorites like Lucas and Luke rank well, too. All of this makes the letter L one of the most popular choices for a son’s first initial in the US – third, in fact, behind only J and A.
Lots of favorites are surname-inspired. Think Logan, Landon, and Lincoln.
But then there are the rarities – Lorcan and Lafcadio and Loxley, too.
And, of course, there’s the one name I think you should not use for a son: Lucifer.
Let’s look at some of the most intriguing boys names brought to us by the letter L.
MOST POPULAR BOY NAMES STARTING WITH L
We love Irish names for boys, from Ryan to Aidan. But they’ve never held the top spot in the US. Not, that is, until Liam came along. Not bad for a name that didn’t crack the Top 1000 at all until the 1960s. It’s short for William, a rock solid traditional with Germanic roots.
A traditional favorite, Lucas is the Latin form of Biblical Luke. Strictly speaking, it means “from Lucania,” in the southern part of Italy, but we tend to associate it with the Latin lux – light. While the name feels plenty traditional, Lucas was relatively uncommon in the US until the 1970s and 80s. In 2018, it debuted in the US Top Ten for the first time ever.
After many years of popularity, Logan rocketed into the US Top Ten a few years back. What explained the sudden spike? A pair of high profile 2017 movies featured the name in the title. First came Hugh Jackman starred in Logan, a story about his X-Men character, Wolverine. Then an all-star cast featured in comedy-heist caper Logan Lucky, just a few months later. Plenty of parents moved Logan up their list of possible baby names, too.
An Old Testament patriarch, Levi counts as a thoroughly Biblical boy name, one that appears in the New Testament, too. But Levi also bringing to mind denim, as in blue jean entrepreneur Levi Strauss.
Like Lucas, Biblical Luke comes with history to spare. But it was fairly uncommon until Paul Newman starred in Cool Hand Luke in 1967. A decade later, the world met Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie. Luke has steadily gained in use ever since. It’s ranked in the Top 100 every year since 1992. Like so many of the Luke names, it’s ridden a wave of popularity to become an early twenty-first century staple.
A mini name that roars, Leo manages to feel both vintage and traditional-ish as well as modern. Because Leo conjures up the image of a lion – it’s literally the Latin word for the king of the jungle – it feels a little bit like modern possibilities Fox and Bear. But it’s far more mainstream. The lively ‘o’ ending is another bonus.
A presidential surname name, Lincoln got a boost from sci fi series The 100, the same show that helped tip Octavia into the US Top 1000. But Lincoln was already on the rise, a hero name and place name. Plus, nickname Link fits in nicely with short, strong boy names like Jack.
The Italian form of Luke, Luca was rare in the US until the twenty-first century. Credit the name’s rise to a variety of factors. We’re all about boy names ending in a, like romance language Luca. And pop culture helped, too, like Suzanne Vega’s mournful 1987 single “Luka” and The Godfather’s Luca Brasi.
Surname name Landon had a long history of sparing use. But it started to inch towards the mainstream in the 1960s. Credit likely goes to actor Michael Landon, who transitioned from Big Valley to Little House on the Prairie to Highway to Heaven, making him a steadily popular television actor on three hit series over three decades – quite a feat! It also cements Landon’s reliable, nice-guy kind of vibe.
Dramatic and romantic, Leonardo makes us think of the towering achievements of da Vinci. Or, maybe, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle who shares the artist’s name. But what really put Leonardo on parents’ radar was actor Leonardo DiCaprio. While the name has a long history of use, it jumped following DiCaprio’s 1997 star turn in Titanic, and continued to gain in use as the actor played more and more high-profile parts.
A bold word name in the key of Maverick, Legend started to trend following the 2007 Will Smith movie I Am Legend. Though Smith played Robert Neville, not a person named Legend. Still, the scary tale about a global pandemic was a box office hit, and Neville’s heroic efforts likely inspired parents to hear Legend as a potential name – even if it’s a lot to live up to.
The Spanish form of Louis.
A romance language take on Lawrence.
Luca with a K, rising along with the C spelling.
The Greek word for lion, a tailored take on Leo. Leon sounds fresher than antique Leonard, but not quite as elaborate as romance language Leonardo.
Yet another Luke name.
Lane sounds a little like an address, but we’re used to thinking of it as a surname, too. While this name has a long history of use in the US, it got a big boost from Luke Perry movie 8 Seconds. The actor played rodeo legend Lane Frost. The 1994 movie briefly pushed the name into the Top 250. It’s fallen slightly since, but appeals to parents after something as straightforward and energetic as Jack, but slightly less common.
Do you pronounce Louis like Lewis … or like Louie? Just Louie is also rising in use in the US, but it’s classic Louis that feels most promising. Maybe that’s because of the youngest prince born to Will and Kate, or maybe it’s just because we’re forever looking for the next forgotten favorite to revive.
The stylish x ending helps put Lennox in the company of favorites from vintage Felix to modern Jax.
Lionel refers to a lion, and it’s an antique name at home in a well-tailored suit. But Leonel is the Spanish version of the name, a little less expected. It also leads more obviously to short form Leo. Odds are that Leonel’s rise is due to Spanish-speaking Americans, but it works beautifully in English, too.
A fresh spin on traditional Lawrence, and a successor to current favorites like Landon.
Take Luke, mix in Leonardo, and you’ll arrive at Luciano. It’s a romance language twist on Lucius and Lucian, an elaborate name that fills quite wearable in our age of Sebastian and Santiago.
A Leo name worn by an ancient warrior, Leonidas is familiar to this generation of parents thanks to the 2007 epic movie 300, as well as the 2014 sequel. While the film isn’t intended to be historically accurate, the story of Leonidas does reflect much of the real King of Sparta’s life.
Yet another Luke name.
There’s something gentlemanly, even old school about Leland. And unlike Legend or even Louis, it’s not clear that the name is truly catching on. But it feels like an excellent compromise between modern surname picks like Logan and Landon and more traditional boy names.
Another spelling of Louis. Lewis comes with plenty of literary cachet, thanks to both Lewis Carroll and CS Lewis.
UNCOMMON BOY NAMES STARTING WITH L
An impeccable, under-used classic.
A slightly different spelling of Top 100 favorite Landon.
A place name and surname name that feels quite current.
One more take on Landon (and Landen).
Inspired by the late actor Heath Ledger, this surname name fits with so many ends-in-r names we love for our children. While we think of it as a surname, it probably traces its roots to a Germanic given name, something like Liutger or Leudagar. In French, it became Leger – the name of a seventh century French saint.
A buttoned-up traditional, it’s easy to overlook Leonard’s bold meaning: brave lion.
Smooth and sophisticated, Lucian is yet another name that comes from Lucius, ultimately from lux, the Latin word for light.
The romance language form of Leander, Leandro sounds more like a spin on Leonardo than anything else. It’s heard across Europe.
French in origin, Lionel started out as a nickname for Leon. But it now feels like a separate name, distinguished and vintage.
Another take on Lane.
A rock and roll inspired choice, Lennon brings to mind the music legend.
A poetic surname name, thanks to Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes.
This Scottish name originally referred to someone from Norway – the land of the lochs, or lakes. Loch makes a strong nickname, and Lochie/Lachie is a traditional affectionate form.
Lachlan and Lochlan are similar in terms of popularity, though Lachlan is slightly ahead right now.
Phonetic spelling Layton is even more popular.
A Germanic name associated with a spear, Lance has a long history of use.
A modern purpose name, Legacy implies that the child has inherited something worthwhile, and will leave even more behind him.
Brief and complete.
A phonetic take on Louis, or perhaps a brother for Charlie.
It looks like Liam, and in fact, the name has similar origins – it comes from the end of names like Julian and Killian. Other origins and meanings are possible, including Chinese. But odds are Lian owes much of its success to the chart-topping qualities of similar-sounding Liam.
Lawrence nickname Larry soared into the Top 20 during the 1940s. Today it’s more grandpa than baby name, but that will almost certainly change in another generation or two.
A place name and unisex possibility.
An Old Norse name meaning heir, you probably know it thanks to Viking explorer Leif Eriksson. Strictly speaking, it rhymes with Rafe – think layf, not leaf. Late 1970s teen idol Leif Garrett taught the world how to say his unusual name. But with twenty-first century parents choosing nature-inspired names like River and Kai, it’s possible that Leif-pronounced-like-leaf could wear better now.
A former favorite, Leroy ranked in the US Top 100 from the late nineteenth century into the 1940s. It comes from the French le roi – the king. While the name has fallen steadily out of favor since the 40s, it’s recently reversed – just a little – and might be one of those so-far-out-it’s-in kind of names these days.
French Landry combines medieval roots with a modern sound.
A musical name possibility.
RARE + UNEXPECTED L NAMES FOR BOYS
Once given in honor of Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, today it’s rare. But for a generation of future parents growing up with Hamilton, perhaps it will find favor again.
Writer Patrick Lafcadio Hearn’s unusual given name came from the Greek island of Lefkada, where he was born. He grew up in Dublin, lived in New Orleans and covered the city in detail, and eventually made a career living and writing in Japan. He initially dropped his first name and published as Lafcadio Hearn. Later in life, he became known as Koizumi Yakumo. His fascinating life story keeps his unusual name in very occasional use.
Originally a Scottish surname derived from a rank, Laird literally means landowner. But the most famous bearer of the name is surfer Laird Hamilton, better known for his feats in the water.
Originally a nickname for Eduardo, Lalo feels like a completely unexpected – and very appealing – possibility.
A former favorite, Lamar’s roots are French, originally from a place name in Normandy.
Landon meets Hunter, Carter, and Alexander.
Inspired by Star Wars.
Another surname name option.
The name of a Wyoming city, Laramie feels rugged and Western. Named for French-Canadian trapper Jacques LaRamie, it’s transitioned from frontier town to stagecoach to railroad stop to the home of the University of Wyoming.
Once a nickname for Lawrence, Larkin now sounds so many favorite surnames.
A German and Scandi short form of Laurence, Lars feels a little bit heavy metal, a little bit European. With so many boy names ending with s finding favor, Lars might wear even better.
The Hungarian form of Vladislav, Laszlo somehow seems more accessible and yet every bit as daring. It’s a favorite choice for fictional characters, from the main – and mostly unnamed – character in The English Patient to one of the vampire roommates in What We Do in the Shadows. It’s sometimes a surname and occasionally simplified as Lazlo.
A place name-turned-surname with plenty of potential as a first.
In the New Testament, Jesus miraculously restored Lazarus to life. It’s a dramatic story, and an appropriately interesting sound, too. If we embrace Biblical names like Malachi and Nehemiah, though, Lazarus doesn’t seem like such a stretch.
Leandro charts in the US Top 1000, but Leander? The name’s last appearance was way back in 1969. The name belongs to an early Romeo-like figure. Every night, he’d swim across a strait to see her. Until one night, a storm tossed the waters and he was drowned. Distraught, his beloved took her own life, too. The Greek legend remains familiar so many centuries later, but the tragic tale inspires few parents – even though the name sounds like it would wear well.
A Scottish name, and a river flowing through Edinburgh.
An Old Testament name with significance in Mormon scripture, too.
Leo names dot this entire list. Few are as unconventional as Leopold. First, it’s got nothing to do with lions. It comes from the Germanic people and bold – not a bad meaning. Worn mostly by European rulers and a handful of fictional characters, it’s not the kind of name we expect to hear. And yet, accessible nickname Leo makes it an great stands-out/fits-in kind of choice.
The Russian equivalent of Leo, Lev means lion, which makes it fierce – just like so many other names on this list. But Lev leans a little different, because it’s just so short and sharp. Actor Liev Schreiber’s name is the Yiddish equivalent, and makes it just a little more familiar to English-speaking parents.
A traditional form of Leon, Levon is famous thanks to rock and roll. There’s the late Levon Helm, drummer for The Band. But it’s more enduring thanks to the Elton John song.
Lex Luthor is really Alexander, but in our age of Jax, maybe just Lex is an option, too?
A longer Lex name that’s not Alexander. Common on the map; less so on birth certificates.
Like Rowan, Linden is a tree name. While it’s rare in the US, it fits in perfectly with so many popular choices.
A name from Greek legend with a long and enduring history of use, including the second pope. And The Peanuts.
A unisex Hebrew name with an appealing meaning: either “song for me” or possibly “joy for me.”
There’s the Scottish explorer, Dr. David Livingstone, who didn’t quite disappear in Africa. Actor Matthew McConaughey named his youngest Livingston in 2012.
A Welsh name related to Leo and company, as llew means lion.
If you’re looking for Irish boy names less popular than Liam, Lorcan might appeal. It has a great meaning: little fierce one. And while it’s not common in the US, it offers plenty of history. Saint Lorcan was Archbishop of Dublin in the twelfth century. And, if you know your Harry Potter, it’s one of the names Luna Lovegood Scamander gives to her sons. We often Anglicize it as Laurence, but Lorcan seems far less expected.
A Scottish place name turned sometimes given name. It’s now most common in Canada, thanks to nineteenth century Governor General of Canada, John Campbell, the Marquess of Lorne.
A surname and common place name, Lowell is also heard as a first occasionally. The meaning may appeal: little wolf, from Norman French. A prominent Boston family born the surname, and that may have helped it filter into use as a first.
Also spelled Locksley, it’s a place name wrapped up with the legend of Robin Hood.
We love a good word name circa 2020, but that’s not as novel as it seems. Loyal regularly appeared on the fringes of the US Top 1000 in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While it’s rare today, reality star Christmas Abbott gave the name to her son in late 2018. If you’re after an unambiguous virtue name, Loyal works.
We all know Louis, but how ’bout Ludovic? It’s a French spin on Ludwig, a cool and unexpected sound.
A nineteenth century favorite, Germanic Luther is now associated with the Reformation (Martin Luther) and the Civil Rights movement (Martin Luther King, Jr.) Or, of course, there’s Idris Elba’s character, DCI John Luther.
Lyle sounds a little bit down home, probably thanks to quirky country crooner Lyle Lovett. But it started out as a Norman French name meaning the island, from l’isle. If the hundred-year rule applies, this 1920s favorite is right on schedule for a comeback.
Straight out of the ancient world, Lysander was a Spartan admiral. The name has a powerful meaning: liberator.
What are your favorite boy names starting with L?
Originally published on August 31, 2020, this post was revised and re-published on February 7, 2022.