Before we go too far, it’s true that the most popular baby names aren’t what they used to be. Rare is the kindergarten class with three Liams, two Noahs, and an Oliver, Elijah, and Lucas, too. Variety rules the day.
But baby boys still tend to receive slightly more traditional names. Timeless choices like James and William rank in the US Top Ten today … just like they did back in 1953 or 1973.
The most popular boy names do change, but not nearly as dramatically as the most popular baby girl names. Names like Caleb, Evan, and Isaac are declining in use, but they don’t feel nearly as dated as the feminine equivalents might.
And this is the challenge. A name like Cameron or Cooper, Landon or Austin feels a little bit trendy. We know they weren’t well-established first names until sometime in the late twentieth century. Yet they spend decades as go-to names, until they seem like modern traditionals.
Still, some names rotate in and out of the top spots nearly every year. Occasionally, pop culture fuels a name’s rise in use. (Remember Logan from few years back?) Others are variations on current trends.
And boys’ names are more subject to style than ever before. While Aiden (and Aidan and Hayden and Brayden and Jayden) are handsome names, the wave of sound-alikes dates them all to the early twenty-first century.
So yes, we can anticipate more changes in the future Top Ten boy names – and that’s a good thing.
Looking at state data, as well as the names everybody is talking about, these dozen names all seem poised to gain in use in the short term.
Given that they’re well-established, fast-rising favorites, these name shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
After all, the most popular names don’t come out of nowhere! They rise steadily across many years.
And yet, unless you’re a preschool teacher or labor and delivery nurse, it’s easy to miss.
Let’s begin by examining the current Top Ten, then we’ll look at the boys’ names rising in use.
TOP TEN BABY BOY NAMES IN THE US as of MAY 2023
NAMES TO WATCH for 2024
ASHER (#19 as of 2022)
A Hebrew name meaning happy, Asher follows many an Old Testament favorite into wider use. But unlike Daniel or Aaron, Asher borrows the two-syllable, ends-with-R style of so many last names now in favor as firsts. File this name midway between the classics and fresh, new choices.
BROOKS (#76 as of 2022)
A straight-up surname option, Brooks benefits from its subtle tie to the natural world. While this name would have to leap up the charts to get anywhere near the most popular boy names, Brooks has wide appeal. It also follows recent girls’ favorite Brooke, which suggests that it might feel more familiar to parents.
EZEKIEL (#49 as of 2022)
This spot might’ve got to another Old Testament name, like Isaiah or even Malachi. But Ezekiel hits the sweet spot. It’s risen steadily for more than a decade. It owes a little something to popular choices like Ezra and Gabriel. But it’s a distinctive sound, too.
JACK (#15 as of 2022)
In much of the world, Jack is a current – or recent – #1 name. In the US, though, it’s not quite gotten there – yet. That seems poised to change. It’s classic and casual, a name that feels cool even when it’s common. Jack has all of the bravado of Maverick, but in a far more traditional name. It’s easy to imagine parents compromising on Jack.
Worth noting: Jackson, too, might be headed for the US Top Ten. In fact, if multiple spellings were tallied, Jackson might already make the Top Ten by some calculations. That could make Jack feel even more popular … or might dilute the name’s overall use, as parents debate Jack versus Jackson versus the occasional John-called-Jack.
JULIAN (#35 as of 2022)
Another steady climber, Julian epitomizes the boy name trends of our day. It’s longer, softer, and more romantic. But it’s hard to argue that a name associated with Julius Caesar is anything but masculine. And we’ve long favored J names for boys – James, Joseph, and John are among the most traditional choices in American baby naming history.
KAI (#59 as of 2022)
As brief and brisk as Jack, but with a more global energy and style, Kai has become a name to watch for this generation. As recently as the 1990s, Kai was barely a blip on popularity charts, but it’s recently become a go-to favorite.
LUCA (#28 as of 2022)
Lucas ranks in the current Top Ten. Luke isn’t too far behind. Could this romance language version nudge the more conventional Lucas aside? Given our love of vowel-endings for boys’ names, Luca feels like ideal traditional-with-a-twist option.
LEVI (#12 as of 2022)
It’s a Biblical name with blue jean cool, boosted by that middle V sound. There’s a good reason Levi ranks just beyond the current US Top Ten. And there’s even more reason to imagine it will keep gaining in use.
MATEO (#11 as of 2022)
Mateo might be the next big Spanish-English crossover boy name, one that feels approachable to English speakers, thanks to the long popularity of Matthew. It benefits from our love of o-ending boy names, too. Matteo is also seen, but not nearly as popular. And parents love M names, from Michael to Miles to Milo – as initials go, it’s right up there with J.
NOLAN (#65 as of 2022)
An upbeat Irish import, Nolan also brings to mind baseball legend Nolan Ryan. It’s a logical successor to favorites like Liam and Aiden.
OWEN (#18 as of 2022)
Owen has always been in the US Top 1000, and often in the Top 200. But despite a long history of use, Owen feels more like a modern boy name than a traditional pick. Maybe it’s the energetic O, or the sort, nickname-proof style. It’s currently more popular than ever before, and continues to climb. You can imagine parents naming their sons Charles, William, and Owen … or Mason, Knox, and Owen. The names crosses style categories effortlessly.
SANTIAGO (#48 as of 2022)
Santiago is something of a longshot, and yet it’s definitely a contender for future Top Ten boy names. Longer choices like Jonathan and Nathaniel have fared well in recent years. And Santiago is both a traditional Spanish choice and a familiar place name. If Isabella can make the girls’ Top Ten, Santiago has a shot for our boys.
PAST PREDICTIONS: HITS & MISSES
*Indicates that the name ranked in the US Top Ten after appearing on the list of predictions
Call Carter a modern traditional. It’s bounced around the Top 50 for over a decade, but never quite made it much higher.
Grayson feels more like an overlooked traditional than an trendy surname pick. Just like Carter, it’s hovered in the Top 50 for years, but never quite risen to the very top of the charts. In Grayson’s case, multiple spelling variants – Greyson and Graysen especially – might have diluted the popularity of the most common spelling.
No question that Henry is a classic boy name. And yet, classic names trend, too. Peter and Paul are out of favor today, while Theodore and Henry? They feel rock-solid and stylish at the same time. For years, Henry was something just a little different. Not quirky, exactly, but also not as predictable as Michael or Christopher. Today, if you wanted to name your son the equivalent of Henry, you’ll have to call him Arthur instead.
It’s hard to know what to think of Jackson. It hasn’t really declined in use, even as parents have embraced Jaxon and Jaxson. But it feels like the moment when Jackson might’ve joined Mason in the US Top Ten might be past.
It’s been a good era for presidential surnames. Carter and Kennedy have fared well, too. It’s less about the men themselves – though doubtless some admiration is built in. Instead, it’s mostly a mix of Americana style and the sound of the name itself. Cool nickname Link might’ve boosted Lincoln, along with a handful of pop culture figures.
It turned out that Lucas was the name to watch, one that currently ranks in the US Top Ten. Meanwhile, Luke hovers in the Top 50. Of course, many of those boys named Lucas might still be Luke – which makes the slightly longer version the more versatile option.
Oliver followed Henry’s path – only even faster! It went from traditional-but-offbeat to traditional-and-cool in the space of a dozen years. Credit a few factors: our love of vowel names; Olivia’s rise to the Top Ten in 2001; and the great middle ‘v’ sound.
Samuel ranked in the US Top 20 back in the 1880s, but it’s never quite returned to those heights of popularity. Still, it remains traditional, handsome – and outside of the Top Ten, so that might be a bonus.
In 1989, Sebastian was the celebrated court composer to King Triton in The Little Mermaid, an animated crab. The name felt dramatic and suited to a singing fantasy. But somehow, that little crab with the big voice pushed the name into the mainstream. It’s a favorite English-Spanish crossover name, but has yet to rise much higher than the Top 20.
For ages, the only Wyatt was Earp. While his biography was checkered, pop culture immortalized him as a white-hatted lawman. A 1950s television series cemented his image. In 1994, Kevin Costner played a grittier version of the legendary figure, but the movie bombed at the box office. Still, the name slowly gained favor, a sort of rugged-cool choice with history, but modern style. That’s a winning combination, but not enough to take this name higher.
FARTHER (and VERY FAR) INTO THE FUTURE
What boy names will be popular in 2030?
If it’s difficult to predict the next year’s Top Ten, then looking even farther into the future is truly a challenge. But fast-rising favorites like August, Crew, River, and Walker all seem like good bets. Others, including Wesley, Oscar, Bennett, Hayes, Bowen, Arlo, Beckett, Beau, and Everett could also make the Top Ten … though none of them seem especially likely right now. And while Jude is a very long shot, the name’s dual appeal – literary, saintly, serious while also very much at-home on the range – make it feel like a possible future Top Ten choice.
What boy names will be popular in 2050?
To guess which boy names will be popular in 2050, the best approach might be to look back at 1950.
A return of classic names like George, Robert, Anthony, and Thomas seems like a safe bet. Parents will, inevitably, tire of Henry and Theodore and cycle through a few more timeless traditionals between now and then.
Names on the very edge of the current Top 1000 might also be possibilities for the most popular baby boy names of 2050. Ephraim, maybe? Evander, Moses, or Winston? They’re wild guesses, but that’s almost inevitable. It’s almost inevitable that our grandchildren’s names will surprise us.
Do you agree with these future Top Ten boy names? Agree/disagree with any of them?
This post was first published on April 20, 2020. It was revised and re-posted on April 20, 2023 and again on July 2, 2023.