Call out Mason or Jackson, Tyler or Carter on a crowded playground. Chances are that at least one little boy will turn in your direction. Surname names are a stylish category, and many choices that would have seemed odd in the 1970s are now downright mainstream.
And no wonder. In an era when it feels like there’s more pressure to find a distinctive name, but parents fret about whether Hercules is over the top, surname names offer a rich pool of possibilities. They’re unusual but not outlandish; recognizable without needing to share.
The first part of this series included picks like Crosby and Fletcher, many of which received a warm reception. But there are plenty more to consider.
Hale – As a surname, he’s linked to an Old English word referring to a nook, or sheltered place. But Hale makes me think of another Old English word, probably from the Norse, meaning healthy or robust. Both senses appeal, as does the name’s association with American Revolutionary Nathan Hale.
Hendrix – There’s Jagger, Lennon, Presley, Marley … why not Hendrix? Besides the associations with the guitar legend, his stylish ends-in-x sound is just right for a modern kid.
Huxley – A literary tie, that great letter x, and the potential for the nickname Huck all make Huxley quite the stylish appellation.
Keaton – They were the Family Ties family, the kith and kin of Alex P. There’s also the legendary Buster Keaton, and fellow actors Michael and Diane. At #367 in 2010, Keaton might be more of a popular pick than many new parents realize.
Kipling – He’s a literary name with Anglo-Saxon roots, the kind of choice that reads daring, but in a highly thoughtful way.
Langdon – A variant of the ever-so-popular Landon, the addition of the g gives this name some interest.
Langston – Poet Langston Hughes was born James Mercer Langston Hughes. If you’re looking for a name from the Harlem Renaissance, he’s an easy one to love.
Linden – A nature name with presidential ties, you might spell it Lyndon to emphasize the White House angle – and minimize the possibility that it will be mistaken for a girl’s name.
Maguire – From a secret society of Irish immigrants to a smash hit 1996 movie, Maguire has lots of associations. Now that Mac- and Mc- names are almost exclusive to girls, Maguire has a similar sound, but would wear well on a son.
Palmer – He’s as preppy as Carter, and less expected than Archer. Palmer is a synonym for pilgrim. Think of when Romeo and Juliet meet, and she tells him “palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” Twin Peaks told the story of Laura Palmer, and John Travolta played Chili Palmer in the film adaptations of two Elmore Leonard novels. Palmer is gentle, but still has some serious edge.
Parker – Remember The Hardy Boys? Not the books, but the 70s television show, starring Shaun Cassidy and that other guy. The other guy was Parker Stevenson – born Richard Stevenson Parker, Jr. – and now that Shaun is a dad name, maybe Parker is ready for the playground set. Which reminds me, Hardy might be a possibility, too …
Patton – Funnyman Patton Oswalt was named after the imposed General George S. Patton. A surname related to the classic Patrick, this makes for an interesting update to the saintly Irish appellation.
Radley – If kids are called Atticus, Scout, and Harper, could this To Kill a Mockingbird name be far behind? Maybe not. Boo Radley is a complicated character. But Radley could have a bright future, an update for the fading Bradley.
Ranger – He ends in -r and has a long a song. Factor this occupational surname’s rugged outdoorsy vibe, and it is a wonder he’s yet to crack the US Top 1000. Could it be that this generation of parents still automatically adds Rick to Ranger, conjuring up the National Wildlife Federation’s children’s magazine?
Rafferty – Jude Law gave this lively Irish surname to a son in 1996. Despite plenty of similar names rising over the past few decades, Rafferty remains obscure – and yet perfectly on trend.
Ransom – You either love him as a cowboy-cool choice with an intriguing meaning, or can’t help but think of small, unmarked bills. On sound alone, Ransom succeeds, but only you can decide how you feel about possible reactions to the meaning.
Russell – He’s been a given name for so long that he barely squeaks on to the list, but he is one of those interesting possibilities. He’s neither out nor in – he’s just not being considered by most modern parents, though some still use him. When Rush was featured as Baby Name of the Day, C in DC suggested Rush as a nickname for Russell – an option that makes me like Russell much more.
Shepherd – A gentle name with religious overtones in the key of Palmer.
Sullivan – Katybug suggested this Irish surname. He’s musical – just add Gilbert – and whimsical, thanks to Monsters Inc.’s Sulley.
Sutton – Another surname along the lines of Patton, perhaps the biggest hang-up is that Sutton seems to subtly trending female, thanks to a separated-at-birth twin on the ABC Family series The Lying Game and Broadway’s equally female Sutton Foster, set to star in a new ABC Family series this summer.
Tate – Short, simple and modern.
Thatcher – He’s a simple working man’s name, but choosing this one could make others suspect you’re a fan of The Iron Lady. Still, I think his charms outweigh his politics.
Thayer – Not fond of Thatcher, but bored with Tyler and Taylor? Why not Thayer, a cousin to that last one.
Vale – A poetic way to refer to a valley, Vale’s sharp v sound is promising. The Colorado ski town takes the name in another direction, and of course, another spelling – Vail.
Walton – Another one of my personal favorites, a refresh for Walter or a nod to the simpler days on Walton’s Mountain.
Watson – He’s Sherlock Holmes’ capable sidekick, a smart name with a certain kick.
Wilder – Undeniably a surname, and with more style than many. Wylde is a heavy metal stage name, but Wilder conjures up Billy Wilder, Gene Wilder, and Laura Ingalls Wilder – a distinguished trio that keep this name grounded.
Winslow – He’s an American artistic giant, and that -o ending is ever so at home in the 21st century.
Are there surnames that you would consider? Which names are missing from this list?