Noah, Luca, and Cuba: Boys Names Ending with a

Elijah Thompson - unknown artist

Conventional wisdom dictates that girls’ names end with the letter ‘a’, while boys’ names end with something else.  Probably an ‘n’.  Right?  I heard this position defended passionately on a message board a few weeks ago, and it has been on my mind ever since.

An ‘a’ ending is far more common with a girls’ name, true, but it isn’t a fixed and unchanging rule.

There are plenty of great, classic girls’ names that end in ‘n’: Katherine, Ellen, Caroline, Marian.  For every Mary, there’s a Henry, for every Harriet, there’s an Everett.

No combination of letters screams “exclusively feminine” or “just for the boys.”  The only thing that determines gender is usage – and that’s subject to change over time, too.  So Kate is a girl, but Tate is probably a boy.  Jane is a girl, Shane is a boy, and Lane is anybody’s guess.

Because we’re definitely at a moment when things are changing.  An ‘a’ ending for a boy’s name has never been more socially acceptable, especially if you add in ‘ah’.  By that measure, ‘a’ endings are downright fashionable, with Noah in the Top Ten, and plenty of his style cousins just a few places behind.

We’re not completely open to gender-bending, though.  I’ll admit that I’m still surprised that Peaches Geldof named son #2 Phaedra.  And if I met a boy named Linda?  I don’t know what I’d think.  Other names would probably work – can’t you just picture a boy called McKenna? Except they’re solidly established as feminine, so that makes it harder to consider.

Some of the names on this list are Biblical, where ‘ah’ is a very common ending.  Others are imports, and a few are place names that skew masculine, or seem like they’d be right at home on a boy.

Read on for some great, undeniably masculine, possibilities that end with ‘a’.

Biblical Boys Names Ending with a

Asa – An Old Testament king, and a name meaning doctor.  In our mini name era, Asa could wear well.

Aquila – One of the few New Testament names on this list, Aquila comes from the Latin word for eagle.

Elijah – An ancient prophet, and, at #13 in 2012, a very popular name for modern boys.

Elisha – Elisa follows Elijah in the Old Testament.  It could be a hit – except that Alicia sounds exactly the same, and was already a mega-popular girls’ name in the 1980s.  Elisha feels more like a variant spelling of a fading girl’s name than a fresh possibility for a boy.

Ezra – One of my favorites, Biblical and literary, thanks to Ezra Pound and Ezra Jack Keats.

Hezekiah – Another Old Testament king.  Hezekiah is a little bit clunky, but shortens to Zeke or Kai – both very wearable short forms.

Hosea – I never thought of this one as wearable until a Top Chef contestant made me reconsider.  Unlike many of the names on this list, Hosea remains obscure.

Ira – I want to love Ira, with his great meaning – watchful.  Except somehow this one still feels stuck in old man territory, the witty Ira Glass notwithstanding.

Isaiah – Another prophet and a very popular choice, currently in the US Top 50.

Jebediah – Okay, he doesn’t actually belong on this list.  There’s no Jebediah in the Old Testament.  But he sounds like he belongs there and is probably a confusion of Jedidiah and Jeb, a Southern-friend nickname borrowed from Confederate general Jeb Stuart – born James Ewell Brown Stuart.  Also spelled Jebadiah.

Jedidiah – A Biblical J name worn by a Duggar son, Jedidiah recently re-entered the US Top 1000 in 2010.

Jeremiah – Another Duggar kiddo, Jedidiah’s twin.  He’s also a bullfrog in Three Dog Night’s hit single “Joy to the World.”  He’s among the most consistently popular of the Biblical -ah names, and ranked #52 in 2012.  Jeremy has also had a good run.

Jonah – The name means dove, but he was swallowed by a fish.  Jonah’s whale tale is widely familiar, and his sound is quite current.  Jonah ranked #131 in 2012, his most popular ever.

Joshua A former #1 name, Joshua paved the way for boys’ names ending with a.  Though many a Joshua answered to the more conventionally masculine Josh.

Josiah – Another former king of Judah, and a current Top 100 choice in the US.

Judah – A son of Jacob who lent his name to a tribe and eventually a kingdom. Possible short form Jude appears in the Old Testament, and in Hollywood thanks to Jude Law.

Micah – Sometimes seen as an update for the classic Michael, Micah comes from a longer Old Testament prophet’s name – Micaiah.  Micaiah was worn by men and women in the Old Testament, making a case that Micah is gender neutral today – though it is rare for either gender.

Nehemiah – Another lengthy name, he’s far more popular than you might guess.  Nehemiah ranked #342 in 2012.  I know one who answers to the adorable nickname Nemo.

Noah – The ark-building Old Testament patriarch whose name has been in the US Top Ten since 2009.  Spelled Noa, it is a feminine name with Biblical roots, rare in the US but popular elsewhere.

Obadiah – Another minor prophet, this name is quite rare, but no more cumbersome than Hezekiah or Nehemiah.

Uriah – An Old Testament warrior, he lent his name to Charles Dicken’s Uriah Heep.  Dickens’ character, in turn, inspired a 70s hard rock band’s name.

Zachariah – The ‘e’ spelling is more common in the Old Testament, but the ‘a’ spelling is preferred today – doubtless due to our affection for Zachary.

Zechariah – The spelling to choose if you prefer the nickname Zeke over Zach.

Zedekiah – Another Old Testament king, with a name that’s both cool and old school at once.

Geographic Boys Names Ending with a

Africa – If the continent is listed as a name, Africa is almost always down on Team Pink.  That’s thanks to Aifric, an Irish feminine name sometimes Anglicized as Africa.  But doesn’t this have possibility as a boys’ name, too?

Arizona – Like plenty of states, Arizona has some history as a given name for girls.  But I’ll take a gamble and put him on this list as a maybe, if only because Ari is an incredibly cool short form.

Cuba – Cuba Gooding, Jr. charmed us all when he won an Oscar for his role in Jerry Maguire back in 1996.  He also put another place name possibility on the map, though Cuba remains rare.

Dakota – Popular for both boys and girls in the 1990s, Dakota was borrowed from a Sioux people.  The Native American tribe lent their name to two states and countless other places.  It may be slightly controversial, as it can be seen as insulting to use the name of a people as a given name.

Indiana – With the adventurous Dr. Indiana Jones answering to this name, it is easy to see how Indiana could be worn by a boy.  Hat not required.

Kenya – Names ending with -ya like Anya and Katya are feminine, but Kenya’s first syllable makes him wearable for a boy.  The African nation shares its name with a mountain, Mount Kenya.  The mountain is thought to be named from the phrase Kerenyaga – white mountain.  The British shortened it.  The only trouble?  Kenya ranked #531 for girls last year.

Nevada – Nevada has some history as a girls’ given name, and names like Neva and Nevaeh reinforce that idea.  Still, I think Nevada has a lot of style appeal for a boy, too.

Imported Boys Names Ending with a

AkiraAs in Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa, he of such screen classics as Seven Samurai.  Sounds fierce, despite similarity to the feminine Kira.

Koa – Yes, I know it is awkward to call Koa an import when he’s from one of the fifty states.  But Hawaiian names feel imported in the mainland US, don’t they?

Luca –  The Italian form of Luke, a number of high profile parents have settled on Luca for a son, including Colin Firth and Hilary Duff.

Musa It’s the Arabic form of Moses.

Nicola – It screams girl to me in the US, but if Luca works, maybe the Italian form of Nicholas would, too?

Sasha – I’ll give Mischa – the Russian short form of Mikhail – to boys in the US, but I’m tempted to reclaim Sasha.  A diminutive for Alexander, and thoroughly masculine in Moscow, Sasha seems feminine.  And yet Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts use the nickname for their son.  So maybe …

Other Boys Names Ending with a

Dana – Originally a surname for someone of Danish ancestry, Dana started out on Team Blue.  But like many a surname, this one migrated.  Now that Kelly and Ashley and yes, Dana, are fading for girls, can we have them back for our sons?

Garcia – So many surnames we bestow as given names are English, Irish, or Scottish in origin.  How about Spanish surnames?  Lately I’m fascinated by Diaz, Delgado, Navarro, and Garcia – the Smith of Spain.

McKenna – Sure, it has been very popular for girls in recent years.  But could it work for a boy?  How ’bout in the middle spot?  With the Mack and Ken sounds, it seems reasonable to imagine a boy answering to McKenna.

Sequoia – Tree names, like Oak and Cedar, could be great, unexpected choices for a son in 2013.  Ditto Sequoia, which is so much more than just a nature name, thanks to the member of the Cherokee nation who created the first writing system for his native tongue.

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18 Comments

My style is all backwards. I love a bunch of girls names that end in -o (Sparrow, Echo, Indigo) and a loooot of boys names that end in -a (Iska, Alaska, Arancaya, Dhaka, Jakarta, Ithaca, Hezekiah, Zedekiah, Shasta, Zephaniah, Zephariah…there are probably even more that I”m forgetting) XD

Also Hamza, and Isa (Jesus in Arabic) and Abdullah. Many Russian names have a diminutive ending in A: Dima, Deniska, Kostya, Borya…

I adore Ziah or pronounced Zyah. Asta then Israeli names Teva(nature), Geva(hill), Gilboa, Aviah and how did you exclude Shia or Shaya. Shia LeBOuf

A good point, Liz – Shia should definitely have made the list! And your others are great suggestions, too.

I adore Ziah or pronounced Zyah. Asta then Israeli names Teva(nature), Geva(hill), Gilboa, Aviah and how did you exclude Shia or Shaya. Shia LeBOuf

Funnily enough, the only person with a state name that I’ve ever met was a male Nevada who lived in Nevada. It was weird, but maybe it was just him. I suppose you’d have pronunciation issues anywhere outside the west coast, though.
I also went to high school with a Jeremiah, who went by Miah most of the time. He was a cool dude.
I love Asa and Nikola (but only with the k).

We went with Asa for our little boy, born this summer, and I have to admit I hadn’t braced myself for the number of people who’d mistake it for a girl’s name. (Or who’d mispronounce it. Who’da thunk?) So be it! I love it, and for the most part the reactions we’ve heard have all been really positive.

I love a lot of them. More -a/-ah ending names are my favourites for boys than girls actually.

My favourites I’d actually consider are all pretty Jew-y: Judah, Ezra, Micah, Akiva, Asa, Nechemya (<–a form of Nehemiah, which isn't as much my favourite), Azaria.

And my brother is a faaairly popular A name that's top 20 in the US, but growing up I called him Russian diminutive Alyosha. I still like Alyosha.

Also due solely to the boys I knew growing up in the ancient days of yore (the '90s), Ilya is a cute name for cute boys and Noah/Jonah are douches.

I believe that Elisha is actually usually pronounced similarly to Elijah, with a long I sound in the middle. There’s an actress named Elisha Cuthbert who pronounces it like Alicia, though, and I think she’s affected how a lot of people perceive and pronounce the name.

It’s got the “lee” sound in Hebrew. I’ve only heard Elisha on a boy with the Hebrew sounds in it, but I don’t know what’s more popular in English.

Adina, now used almost exclusively for girls, was a male name in the Bible, a warrior no less (Chronicles, 11:42).
Azariah is another masculine Biblical name.
I like Ezra and Josiah.
Ira is also feminine, the pet form of the Russian Irina.

I love Ira so much…I guess I was never introduced to the concept of it being an “old man name” when I first heard it so I can totally picture it on a baby. Ezra and Ira are right in league stylistically in my head, but Ira has the lovely perk of being underused still.