Harbor: Baby Name of the DayHarbor is a nautical nature name with a subtle virtue vibe. Could it catch on?

Thanks to Caitlin for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

Harbor: Lodging for Ships

The word originally referred to temporary quarters for people – an army’s camp, for example. But by the thirteenth century, a harbor also referred to a naturally occurring shelter for ships along the coast.

This makes it something of a nature name, though it’s been possible to artificially construct shelters for centuries – and often a port, for loading and unloading cargo from ships, is constructed within an existing harbor, adding additional safeguards.

It’s been a verb since at least the 1300s. And at some point, it became possible to harbor thoughts instead of physical things, like men and boats.

Harbour is the British English spelling. Both spellings sometimes appear as surnames, sometimes occupational names for someone who operated a boarding house or inn, from the word’s older sense.

Harbor: Virtue Vibe

A ship at harbor is safe, protected from storms, sheltered in the calm waters. That’s why this name takes on a virtue vibe.

Virtue names aren’t new. Some, like Grace, have long histories of use. Others feel a little more obvious, tied to the Puritans, though Prudence and Mercy have both attracted interest in recent years.

But there’s a whole class of modern virtue names, and Harbor belongs in their company. Chance, Haven, and Journey have been popular in recent years, with names like Valor and True attracting attention, too. Most of these are at least potentially gender neutral, though use tends to divvy them up – Chance is almost certainly a boy, Haven is likely to be a girl.

Harbor: Place Name

Harbor: Baby Name of the DayIf the names’s virtuous vibe doesn’t appeal to you, maybe its status as a place name will.

Many of the world’s greatest cities have been built around a naturally occurring harbor: New York, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Havana, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Jakarta, Genoa, Gdansk, Sydney, Saint Petersburg, Tokyo, Mumbai, Nassau, Norway’s Trondheim, Jamaica’s Kingston.

I’m leaving off dozens and dozens more, but what it all means is this: it’s very possible to take inspiration from one of the countless places around the globe.

Harbor: By the Numbers

But is anyone actually using this as a name?

Yes – but it’s quite rare.

Harbor was first given to more than five children in 2006. By 2014, there were 39 girls and 26 boys by the name.

Perhaps it trends slightly feminine because of the popularity of H surnames for girls, like the very similar Harper. (And I think the potential for confusion with Harper is a concern.) I’m inclined to give this one to the boys, though Bay and Ocean feel perfectly unisex to me.

With ties to the natural world, a tremendous number of noteworthy places, and a virtue vibe, it’s easy to imagine bold baby namers embracing this word as a child’s name. And we could be just one fictional character/child star away from this one catching on.

What do you think of Harbor? Do you think it works as a given name?

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. We named our little girl Harbor, born September 2016, and we love it! It’s unique but not super weird and the definition is beautiful. I love the ocean and live on the coast so it works on that level too. People ask me why I picked that name much more often than they get her name wrong. 🙂

  2. My granddaughter’s name is Harbor because her mother’s name is Ocean. 🙂 Harbor was born in Nov 2016 and she’s the only Harbor I know.

  3. I LOVE THE NAME !! I have always considered it for a boy, however where we live there is a street called Harbor Blvd which is known for having “women of the night on it.” It is also the same street Disneyland is on. You can imagine people’s reaction to the name sighhh

  4. I love the name Harbor and used it for my precious little girl born in June, 2015! Not only does it fit her perfectly, the uniqueness of the name is fantastic and her last name also has a nautical related definition. I wouldn’t change it for anything and cant think of a better name for my unique, outgoing and ‘safe’ little princess.

    1. Now that some time has past, what has been your experience with the name? We love it but are nervous being a little different!

  5. I am so excited you have covered this name finally – I think you suggested it in another post which I read when pregnant. I liked it as a “safe place” name, akin to Haven, and if she was a he I like with the potential nickname Harry. I subsequently had a girl and Harbour (as a middle name) was born. It’s raised a few eyebrows but I don’t care and I think she will love our reasoning someday ad it sits beautifully beside her other two names.

  6. Thanks Abby! How problematic do you think the Harper confusion would be? This actually occurred to me two days ago. Now a days everyone has to spell out their name right? :/

    1. Well … I think it would be a thing. I say this as the mother of a Clio. At her nursery school, the assistant director called her, “Chloe – no, I mean Clio!” for three years. And we have the same problem with lots of other people. I have an aunt (who I truly adore) who makes the same mistake. But over time, it really does fade and most people get it. You’ll need to decide – will that kind of thing make you batty? (I didn’t anticipate it, and I’m surprised that it doesn’t bother me more. But it doesn’t. But I’m not easily irritated.) If you think you can be zen about it, then no worries. Because Harbor is a great name, and after some repetition, I suspect many people will say, “Oh, that’s SUCH a great name.”

      1. I hear you Abby! Our little boy is called Iden and we didn’t think at all about how (to some people) it would sound like Aiden. It doesn’t happen all the time but enough that I have had to correct people on occasion (or just keep referring to him as Iden until they realise). It doesn’t really bother me, but I hope it doesn’t end up being a burden for him. Once they get it, almost everyone is fine, but I do have a colleague that still refers to him as Aiden (almost 3 years later!). We still love the name but I guess it’s a risk when similar sounding names are so popular!