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.
Leopold – Leo 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.
Linus – Charles 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.
Lucian – Luke 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.
Stanley – Three’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?
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.
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. 🙂
I love these! Especially Walter, Stanley, Linus, and Leopold.
We liked Neville for a boy, but never had one! Some of our friends were anti due to Neville Chamberlain, some pro due to the Neville Bros.
Not sure I would use any of these, (although I kind of like some of them). Would enjoy seeing other people use them, though. My 17-year-old son likes Theodore – says it is “badass.” He says the same thing about Xavier, Clayton and Atticus.
I guess Neville names are pretty much my style. My son’s name is Edward Thaddeus and if baby on the way is a boy he will be Oliver, despite the names popularity. Walter and Simon are also favorites of mine.
This list is so good and has two of my absolute favs. Theodore and Walter. This list is going to be a reference should I ever have a little boy to name. I also really like the names Duncan and Graham.
Hmm… isn’t Simon the bespectacled one and Theodore the huskier, flakier one? Either way, I adore this whole list. If we ever get a chance to name a boy, he will almost certainly be a Neville. Swoon…
I’m rather obsessed with Thaddeus at the moment. It’s just so bookish and cuddly! Thaddeus and Clark would be an awesome sibset. Or Thaddeus and Blair.
Rufus, Rupert, and Theodore have also all been on my list at one time or another.
Leopold never appealed to me, but today it’s starting to!
Oh, I adore the idea of Thaddeus and Clark!
Lady Gwyn says
I love Simon, Theodore and Thaddeus. My 18-year-old cousin’s name is Walter (he’s named after my uncles favorite football player-Walter Payton), and he seems to wear it well. Leopold just makes me think of Leopold and Loeb, who were rich, educated murders in turn-of-the-century Chicago.
Charlotte Vera says
Love, love, love Rupert and Thaddeus. I’ve considered suggesting both Stanley and Rupert for a hypothetical future male child born in NZ as a tribute to our homeland.
Do you live in NZ?
Rupert always brings to mind Rupert Giles from Buffy… I’ve always thought Joss Whedon must be a name nerd as well.
Theodore is definitely in my top 10 favorite boys names….Percy I’m actually leaning toward using for a girl…thoughts?
Lucian, Linus, Rufus & Walter are wonderful names too. Walter makes me think of the kid in the movie Secondhand Lions…definitely a Neville-ish character!
I think Percy/Persie would be a really cute on a girl, especially if a nickname for Persephone.
Charlotte Vera says
Persephone is one of my favorites!
C in DC says
I love the Neville names. Surprised Alvin didn’t make the first list, with Simon and Theodore on the second. I think Simon will be too popular for this list quickly. (There’s also Simon Cowell.)
Linus – the creator of Linux is a Linus, too, giving him even more geekness. Lucian – a creepy werewolf in Underworld.
Stanley still is creepy old man to me; maybe Stanislaus would be better (but not a Neville name).
Linus, Percy and Thaddeus have been on my list for ages! If only I could convince my husband… I loved the first part too, so it seems you’ve helped me pinpoint my style for boys!
I love Percival and Theodore, and Simon has been growing on me lately. I have several names that I like to call nerd chic: Poindexter, which shares much with Dexter and has roots as a surname, Felix, which carries a vibe similar to Linus, Claiborne, Otis, Rudyard, Darwin, and Erasmus.
Love Theodore and Walter! Thaddeus and Rupert are great, too. Hope I get to see more little Neville-type-named children; it seems like these names *should* gain in popularity!
I know a little Linus and a little Walter (called Walt), both under 3. They are both darling boys and have totally revived their respective names in my eyes.
I love Percy!!! He has to be one of my favorite all time boys names. I also just really love Neville too
*swoon* I adore Neville names!
Leopold, Percy, Percival, Roger, Rupert, Stanley and Walter are all names on my list.
I seem to be one of the only ones who seriously considers Percy usable. I get weird looks when I mention it. Lol.
I don’t read Stanley as a Neville name. To me Stanley is a wife beater and rapist (A Streetcar Named Desire). This image is just too strong. Stanley is a brute and and ape, rather than a bookish Neville. This is what I get for reading.
“Stanley is a brute and and ape”
Such very harsh words! I hope no one named Stanley comes across your comment one day.
I do wonder how Stanleys feel about Kowalski. Is it an uncomfortable reference, or sort of flattering to be compared to a young Marlon Brando …
To me Stanley is Stanley Yelnats from Holes… the opposite of an ape.
I did think about Stanley Kowalski when I wrote this. But I think if Stella can be the absolute height of fashion instead of a passive victim, then Stanley can overcome the reference, too.
I think associations differ for people. Many times,it’s not the negative historical or literary association that tarnishes a name for me, but the people I know with the name or the type of people who like those names e.g. some wonderful names have been ruined for me because of woman on a forum who could never portray herself in a very likable manner.
2 of my 3 sons have “fetching neville” names and several others were on our list. Love these names! Wish I could have more just to name them! 😉
I love Simon, Theodore and Walter. So classic. How about Wesley and Gordon?
I really like Wesley, it has a lot more presence than Weston.
Moon Mummy says
If we ever have a boy (DD no.3 is due in a week’s time), I imagine he would absolutely have a Neville-name!! Love so many of these, in particular: Percy, Rupert, Theodore and Walter! I’ve also always like Sebastian too, but alas, it is definitely too well-used here in the UK for me to consider a viable possibility anymore… However, my OH has also expressed a liking for Percy!