Four boys riding goats, ca. 1918
Four boys riding goats, ca. 1918 (Photo credit: State Library of Queensland, Australia)

Ah, the Nevilles – those geek chic names that describe a certain kind of boy.  He’s a born gentleman, book smart but still noble, even courageous.  They’re the tiniest bit clunky, the kind of names that earn a raised eyebrow and warnings of playground teasing when you suggest them.  But if you meet a man with a Neville-name, it comes across as accomplished, distinguished.

Neville names are names that boys grow into, not out of.

The first installment included names like Alasdair and Clark, Dexter and Graham.  They range from retro to British to midcentury modern to just plain underused.  That last part disqualifies a few names – Oliver and Sebastian are Neville-names, save that they’re a little bit too common to surprise.

LeopoldLeo is mainstream, a little lion cub.  Leopold is different – actually derived from an unrelated Germanic name, Leudbald.  Leudbald is a non-starter today, but Leopold has an interesting vibe.  You expect to see him in an old black-and-white photo, a young mustachioed man clad in an extravagant, old-fashioned military uniform complete with eye-popping headgear or maybe a little boy in a pristine sailor suit.

LinusCharles Schultz made Linus a household name, thanks to his comic strip character, Lucy Van Pelt’s kid brother.  His Linus was a thoughtful, blanket-toting type.  Hollywood has also given us Matt Damon’s con man in the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, and Humphrey Bogart’s unlikely suitor for Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.  The name feels sweet and smart at once.

LucianLuke was an apostle and a space cowboy, but Lucian is softer, and less often heard.  You can still use Luke as a nickname if your kid ends up more quarterback than bookworm, but Lucian feels like the right name for a classics scholar or an installation artist.

Martin – Martin stands up for his beliefs, from the Reformation to the Civil Rights movement.  Dean Martin dusts this name with a certain cocktail shaker cool.

Percy – Worn by one the Weasley brothers in the Harry Potter franchise, Percy is undeniably a name on the edge.  He could be short for heroic appellations like the Arthurian knight Percival, or mythological monster-slayer Perseus.  But Percy remains a poet, a Nobel prize-winner, and a 12 year-old Y.A. literary demigod – not a bad mix for a boy’s name.

Roger Mad Men revived some interest in Roger and Rodger, a medieval favorite also big in the 1940s.  It’s tempting to put him in another category – knightly names, or midcentury modern, or even once-great-names-ruined-by-slang.  But for his long history of use, uncommonness among modern children, and the many accomplished bearers, let’s call him a Neville.

Rufus – He feels a smidge more active than the average Neville, with his associations with the color red and the English king.  But Rufus also brings to mind a minister, an academic, a kid thoroughly at home in the library – or an indie rocker.

Rupert – He’s the old school version of Robert, closer to the name’s Germanic roots.  He’s also a storied British teddy bear and the young actor who plays Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise.  It makes Rupert feel possible for a modern child.

Simeon – He’s the more exotic version of Simon, hobbled in English by his resemblance to simian – ape-like.  But he’s an Old Testament appellation worn by several saints.  He’s also a place name, thanks to California’s San Simeon, the breathtaking home of Hearts Castle.

Simon – The slimmed-down version of Simeon, Simon is a thinker, a small boy in glasses.  But he’s also got a sort of Brit rock edge, thanks to musicians like Simon LeBon and Simon Gallup.  Actor Simon Pegg lends the name some indie cool, too.

StanleyThree’s Company’s Mr. Roper didn’t do this name any favors, but could you really call Spider-man’s creator anything other than cool?  Besides Stan Lee, there’s also Stanley Kubrick and the Stanley Cup.  He wouldn’t be considered stylish today, but given his long history of use, doubtless he’ll be back.

Thaddeus – Sometimes listed as one of the Twelve Apostles, Thaddeus is an ancient name with a long history of use and many international variants.  Despite this, he’s relatively unknown in the US.  There’s something dusty about Thaddeus, but if Atticus can be considered hipster chic, why can’t the gentle Thaddeus be considered for a son?

Theodore – One of the most mainstream of the Nevilles, Theodore is the brainy, be-spectacled singing chipmunk.  But ages before that he was an accomplished name, worn by many figures, including a US president.  Theo has the energy and verve of Leo, but Theodore is a Leopold – just slightly out of the mainstream.

Walter – He sounds like one of the Mad Men, in a well-tailored suit, complete with hat.  Or maybe an early nineteenth-century novelist, a famous architect, or the enduring poet Walt Whitman.  It is too early to call Walter a revival – he’s firmly out of favor – but that’s why he’s still a Neville.

Are there other names that should be on this list?  Many of you have said you’re drawn to Neville names for boys – are any of these likely to catch on in the next decade or two?

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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  1. Is Elwood a Neville name? It’s my husbands pick of the week for our son due in June…( Blues Brothers?!). We need something that compliments Oakley who is 18 months and our eldest is Georgia. The other runners have been Otto, Leo or Ash. We love Oakley’s name but were unprepared for the confused reactions to his name that created feelings of uncertainty and doubt about our choice.

  2. We named our baby boy Walter (nn Walt) and have had almost nothing but compliments. One woman who knows my mother was appalled, but almost everyone we meet is charmed. It fits him perfectly! I love this list, I’m hoping Linus will be our next boy. 🙂