CaelCael is a legendary warrior.  Kale is leafy and green.  Bundle them together, and it makes for an up and coming boys’ name.

Thanks to Kari for suggesting her new son’s name as our Baby Name of the Day.

Short names for boys are all the rage.  There’s the retro Max and Gus, the modern Gage and Cade, the enduring Jack and Luke.  Whatever your style, there’s a good chance some of the boys’ names on your list are just one syllable.

Irish myth gives us Cáel, a young warrior.  He has just married his true love when he goes off to war.  His wife follows, nursing the wounded.  Cael fights valiantly, and his side wins.  On the final day, he’s pursuing the vanquished as they flee into the ocean – and Cael drowns.

His body is recovered and carried back to camp.  When his wife sees her fallen husband, she dies of heartbreak.  Instead of celebrating their victory, the day turns to mourning.

Then there’s another Cael, Cael of the Iron.  He first appears in a collection of stories compiled by James Stephens and published in 1920.  His Cael is the son of the King of Thessaly.  He challenges the Irish warriors to find their best champion to beat him in a race.  The stakes?  Cael will rule Ireland if he wins.

Finn McCool accepts, but chooses an unlikely competitor for his side.  Carl of the Drab Coat looks like no match for the mighty Cael.  A sixty-mile race course is set, and the two vie for the lead.  Carl wins – and reveals that he’s not just some schlub who happens to be fleet of foot.  He’s a fairy lord who sends Cael packing, back to his kingdom.

There’s also Cáelbad, a fourth century High King of Ireland.

All of their names come from caol – slender.

But there’s more to Cael’s tale than a kelly green pedigree.  In recent years, American parents have been wild about the sound:

  • Caleb has been a big hit in recent years, currently on the decline at #32.
  • Kaleb comes in at #116.
  • The leafy green cabbage known as Kale also makes for a rising boys’ name, currently at #589.
  • Cael comes in at a relatively chilly #803, but he’s clearly on the rise.
  • The phonetic Cale ranked #831.

While Kaylin is typically given to girls, the rise of names like Kayden and Cayson for boys has helped boost Cael, too.

It is also sometimes a surname, with many possible origins.

Famous figures include:

  • NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough was born William Caleb.
  • Utah’s Cael Sanderson brought home gold for the US in the 2004 Olympics in wrestling.  He has brothers named Cody, Cole, and Cyler.
  • Shia LeBoeuf played Kale in 2007 thriller Disturbia.
  • Bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon gave the name to a character in her fantasy series.

A quick word about the vegetable – it’s widely used, has a long history, and packs a nutrient punch.  It can also be quite attractive, with ornamental varieties grown.  If girls can be Clementine, why can’t boys be Kale?

So let’s say you’re sold on the sound.  Which spelling do you use?  Cale and Kale are phonetically easier, but let’s face it – you’ll have to spell this one regardless.  So if you’re attracted to his Irish roots, the distinctive Cael might be the best possible choice.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My son’s name is Cáel. Known it as warrior of the people. We pronounce it in a very ancient way with the A accented. Kah-el, does not sound like the greens or the other variation if gets mistaken by which is the common Kyle.

  2. Cael is my son’s name. My husband is Irish and Scottish, and I like unique names. So it was a wonderful decision. It suits him well too!

  3. My son’s name is Kale 🙂 I think the name is great ! We thought about spelling it Kael, but went with our original love (Kale) ! I first heard it on Titan AE when I was 14 and have loved it ever since, and since I love K’s it was perfect. I know someone who has a son named Cale too lol he’s around 8 now though!!

  4. My son (now 3) is named Cael and we end up telling people his name is pronounced “KYLE” I wonder how this is going to end when he’s old enough to decide…

  5. I have a 5yr old GIRLl named Kayle! Of course we see it like Gayle but everyone initially says Kay-lee BUT we love her name!

  6. Cael is our pick for this baby that is should be here any day now. Pairing it with the more modern (and dad’s middle name) Alexander.

  7. I had a coworker who chose Cale for her son a few years back. She said they found it on a list of traditional Scottish names.

  8. I have always liked Cael/Cale. I first heard it in the movie Titan AE that came out in 2000 (which I enjoyed but no one else seemed to!) The hero was Cale Tucker. He had that characteristic late 90’s boy mop and was voiced by Matt Damon. What’s not to love??