From surnames and place names to forgotten firsts, plenty of unusual choices sit side-by-side with Top 100 favorites.
While some boy names starting with N can be heard on any playground, others are instantly familiar – but still fairly uncommon. After all, even Nasir and Nehemiah rank in the ten most popular N names. They’re not exactly Ethan and James.
That’s because N isn’t exactly a blockbuster initial.
In terms of popularity, N was the thirteenth most popular letter for boy names in 2019. That puts it well behind J, A, L, and even M … but comfortably ahead of less common initials, like P and Z.
But there are still countless handsome and wearable boy names starting with N. Read on for some of the nicest!
BOY NAMES STARTING WITH N in the US TOP 500
He built the ark in the Old Testament. Millennia later, this Biblical boy name sailed to the top of the charts in the US.
Another Old Testament name, Nathan feels less Biblical and more like a modern traditional choice for a son. In the age of Aiden, it’s a stands-out/fits-in kind of choice.
A friendly Irish surname name, it means famous. Which is fitting, since baseball legend Nolan Ryan put in on parents’ radar.
With a great meaning – victory of the people – and cool nicknames Nico and Nick, Nicholas has been a Top 100 staple in the US since 1972.
Yet another Biblical boy name, Nathaniel feels more like a classic. Maybe that’s thanks to literary giant Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s a brother for Theodore, an alternative to Alexander.
The French form of Nicholas, nearly as popular as Nicholas.
A surname name referring to ash trees, 90s detective series Nash Bridges originally put it on parents’ lists. It’s popularity has continue to increase long after the series has faded.
A cool Nicholas nickname, with a certain amount of European flair.
Nico-with-a-k. It’s the preferred spelling in several languages, and a logical possibility in our age of Luka and Karter.
A handsome Arabic name with an appealing meaning: helper.
Another Old Testament name with a strong meaning – God comforts. Nehemiah has followed new favorites like Isaiah and Elijah into the mainstream over the last two decades.
From the French word for Christmas, Noel was first given to children born around the holiday. Playwright Noël Coward preferred to spell his name with the dieresis, but not every Noel does. Some pronounce it with two syllables, like the holiday. Others rhyme it with Cole, and some balance somewhere in between.
An ancient name, Nicanor is largely unused in English. But you might know that Ernest Hemingway’s son was named John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, called Jack. Hadley honored his mom, Hadley Richardson. And Nicanor? That came from famous Spanish matador Nicanor Villalta y Serrés.
An Italian form of Nicholas, and the given name of the philosopher Machiavelli.
A surname name that summons all the cool of legendary actor Jack, as well as our love of boy names ending with -son.
A literary option, thanks to Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.
A New Testament name, Nicodemus means “victory of the people.” If you know the children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, it’s also the name of a wise old rat in the story.
Another Greek Nick name, it belonged to a first century saint. In Italian, it’s just Nicomede, hold the s. But with names like Atticus in vogue, Nicomedes might feel more appealing.
A Sanskrit name meaning “whole,” Nikhil is a great cultural crossover choice.
In India, Nikita is feminine – and perhaps it sounds that way in English, too. But Slavic languages turn ancient Niketas – victor – into Nikita.
Strictly speaking, this is a German version of Nicholas by way of Switzerland. But it’s almost certainly on the charts thanks to a character from The Vampire Diaries and spin-offs.
The Russian version of Nicholas, Nikolai is Slavic and regal, too.
A Greek take on classic Nicholas – or possibly a formal name for parents looking to lengthen Niko.
Another surname name, derived from Nicholas and company. Former president Richard Nixon muddies the name’s associations, but Nixon fits with favorites like Jaxon.
OVERLOOKED N NAMES FOR BOYS
The capital of Kenya, Nairobi comes from a Maasai expression meaning “cool waters.” Now that Cairo ranks in the US Top 1000, it’s the kind of name that could follow.
The -ael ending is closer to the Biblical original – just ask Michael. But English-speakers have long since preferred Nathaniel.
A surname forever linked to the heroic Nelson Mandela.
An Edward nickname seldom heard today, but could fit right in with Max and Gus.
An Ethiopian name with an irresistible meaning: “he will wear a crown.”
Neil comes from Niall, a Gaelic name meaning champion. Also spelled Neal, it was a midcentury staple, but has faded in recent decades.
A name straight out of Homer’s Iliad, this ancient name has a modern vibe.
A Harry Potter name with plenty of polish.
It sounds like Neil-with-an-s, but it’s actually short for Cornelius. The Dutch nickname name does fit with rising favorites like Hayes and Wells.
If Miles ranks in the Top 100, why not this similar surname name?
A brother for Asher and Felix, this Hebrew name means pleasant.
A virtue name and an aspirational one, too.
Another form of Noe. Add a diacritical mark, and it could be French, Irish, Italian, Spanish, or Dutch – to name just a few.
From the Latin word for new, a bold word name that feels very twenty-first century. It’s even more popular for girls.
What are your favorite boy names starting with N?
First published December 14, 2020, this post was updated and re-posted on December 27, 2021.