Sure, we’re calling our sons Jax and Luke and Kai. Brief, complete names have their fans.
But we’re also choosing boy names with more syllables. Jonathan and Jeremiah, Adrian and Alexander are all Top 100 picks. We shorten some of them. But modern parents often prefer – and insist upon – the name being used in full.
In some cases, this reflects parents’ preferences for Spanish and other romance language versions of traditional names: Santiago rather than James, Lorenzo over Laurence or Lawrence, Giovanni instead of Lucian. But other choices are just heavy on sounds and syllables.
If you’re looking for something on the longer side, this list is for you.
ALEXANDER AND AUGUSTUS
Alexander remains a favorite, boosted by the cool letter X and its ties to the ancient world’s Alexander the Great. Speaking of great, everyone from inventor Graham Bell to hockey star Ovechkin have reinforced that image across the ages.
Adrian also claims ancient roots, and a sound that feels a little more unexpected – even though it’s appeared in the US Top 100 since the 1990s.
We all speculated that Atticus might tumble after the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel painted a less sympathetic image. Instead, the name continues to rise, boosted by characters on series like Downton Abbey, as well as Vampire Diaries.
Traditional Anthony feels surprisingly rare for boys today. Today, a little Anthony is more like to use the name in full, rather than be called Tony.
And then there’s Augustus, yet another ancient world choice. Slimmed down August is far more popular, but this long form – or the saintly Augustine – also work.
Speaking of actors, Benedict Cumberbatch has helped introduce his old school appellation to a new generation. The Sherlock and Avengers star put a different spin on a name long associated with the traitorous Benedict Arnold. (Cumberbatch, of course, is English.) Another bonus is Benedict’s meaning: blessed. A similar option is the Spanish form of the name, Benicio.
There’s something exotic and powerful about Balthazar.
And then there’s Bartholomew, a name that feels at home in a Dr. Seuss story, but could easily work for a child, too.
CHRISTOPHER & COMPANY
For years, Christopher reigned as the four-syllable king of the long boy names. But lately, Chris and friends are feeling more like dad names. Though, of course, the meaning – Christ-bearer – and the name’s classic status means we’re still hearing it in respectable numbers.
Cameron is among the modern long boy names. Like Benjamin, it’s often shortened. But plenty of boys are Cameron-not-Cam. And despite a handful of girls by the name, possibly inspired by Cameron Diaz, this name remains Team Blue, with other notables – like NFL star Cam Newton – proving it’s very much a boy’s name.
Romantic Caspian is an up-and-comer from recent years, and unlike Christopher and Cameron, seems very unlikely to be shortened.
And then there’s Castiel, an angel name popularized by television series Supernatural, and quite wearable in the age of Gabriel.
DOMINIC AND DARIUS
Dominic was traditionally given to boys born on Sunday; it means “of the Lord.” But today it feels like a mainstream choice, not especially religious. And the length, plus a distinctive sound, makes it perfect for parents after something three syllables.
There’s also Damian, another choice originally associated with saints, but now quite mainstream.
I think Donovan claims the title of coolest D name on this list. Maybe it’s that middle V again.
With ancient names continuing to gain in use, Darius might be another possibility. Dario, the romance language version, might have even more appeal.
At four syllables, Demetrius is another ancient option.
ELIJAH AND EMILIANO
There’s Biblical favorite Elijah, an Old Testament prophet popular in the Middle Ages, whose name is surging in the twenty-first century.
Elias and Elian are cousins to Elijah.
Eliseo sounds like another Elijah name, but instead, it’s the romance language version of Elisha, another Old Testament prophet. After a wave of girls named Alicia in the 1980s, Elisha feels feminine. But Eliseo seems like a different name altogether, vibrant and modern.
Emilio takes the pan-European Emil in a longer, romance language direction. Emiliano adds even more sound.
Also spelled with an I, Emmanuel is another name for Jesus. It’s a traditional pick through the years.
There are lots of reasons to love Ezekiel. It’s another Biblical boy name with plenty of history. The middle ‘z’ is cool, and Zeke makes a great nickname. Plus, it picks up on current favorites like Gabriel.
Evander fails to make the current Top 1000, but it sounds like an Evan-Alexander mash-up. Plus, it comes with a great meaning: good man.
FERNANDO AND FINNEGAN
Fernando is the Spanish form of Ferdinand. Both names share a great meaning: journey and daring. Though the most famous Ferdinand might be the bull from the children’s book, who was happiest sitting in a field, smelling the flowers.
Upbeat Irish surname Finnegan belongs on this list, too, the longest of the formal options for popular Finn.
If you prefer your boy names classic, it’s tough to beat Frederick. It’s a neglected gem in the US, though Freddie is on the upswing in the UK.
GIOVANNI AND GIDEON
It’s easy to overlook Gregory, since Greg can feel like it’s stuck in the 70s with the rest of the Brady Bunch. But use it in full, and it’s quite handsome.
The Italian Giovanni is a romantic, elaborate form of John, via Johannes. Nickname Gio is punchy and accessible, but Giovanni wears well in full, too.
I’ve long loved Gideon, one of those Old Testament hero names that’s heard over the ages, but never seems too common – though it’s on the upswing in recent years.
HARRISON AND HEZEKIAH
And then there’s Biblical Hezekiah, another possible avenue to Zeke if Ezekiel isn’t for you. You might also get the nickname Kai from the final syllable. The original Hezekiah is an Old Testament king.
ISAIAH AND THE IGGYS
Like Elijah, Isaiah is one of those Old Testament names, long heard in small numbers, but absolutely everywhere today. It means “God is salvation,” but it’s been so widely worn by athletes and celebrities, the image feels young and vibrant, and less Biblical prophet.
The modern state of Israel borrowed its name from an Old Testament figure who wrestled an angel. So while it feels like a modern place name possibility, it actually started out as a given name.
I think fiery Ignatius, from the Latin ignis – fire – counts as a neglected gem, but Ignacio, the Spanish language version, actually does rank – but remains relatively rare.
JAMESON AND JULIAN
Jeremiah measures among the longest, at four syllables. Jeremy – the medieval English form, was long the more popular form of the name, but today it’s Jeremiah on top.
Classic James takes on a surname spin as Jameson. It could be every bit as popular as Jackson, but perhaps the popularity of Jameson whiskey gave some parents pause – though it now ranks in the Top 100.
Like Jameson, Julian is among the long boy names more popular today than ever before. For something rarer still, the medieval English form was Jolyon, immortalized in John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga. The books remained widely read, and have been adapted for screens big and small from the silent film era into the early 21st century.
Speaking of longer versions of classic names, Jonathan isn’t really an elaboration of John – but it feels that way, which makes it seem even more traditional than it is.
For a newer possibility with ancient roots, how about Jericho? It’s teetered on the edge of the US Top 1000 in recent years, and feels like it’s just different enough to succeed today.
KILLIAN AND LORENZO
Leonardo comes in at four syllables, undeniably among the long boy names. For another Leo- option, there’s also ancient warrior name Leonidas.
Romance languages also give us Lorenzo, a form of Laurence. Even centuries later, Lorenzo de Medici, Renaissance ruler of Florence and patron of the arts, remains widely known. Machiavelli even dedicated The Prince to him. (The family answered to some fabulous names.)
And then there’s Luciano, another four-syllable option. The pronunciation of Lucian tends to be more ambiguous – I hear loo shun most often, just two syllables. But no question Luciano belongs on this list.
There’s also 5-syllable Maximilian and plenty of related three-syllable choices, too: the romance language Massimo and Maximiano, the ancient and grand Maximus.
Speaking of romance languages, I’ve long loved Matteo, though the single-t Mateo is more popular in the US today.
The popularity of Kai seems to have bolstered names containing the sound, like Malachi, too. In the Bible, it’s the name of a minor Old Testament prophet. It gained in use starting in the 1980s, right around the time heartland horror movie Children of the Corn gave it to a teenager.
NATHANIEL AND NIKOLAI
1990s favorite Nicholas is another long boy name from the letter N. International forms of the name fit here, too: Italian Niccolo and Russian Nikolai both come to mind.
With so many long, Biblical choice on this list, it seems fitting to add Nehemiah, too. With names like Elijah and Isaiah in the Top 100, lots of ends-with-iah rarities have also risen in use.
OLIVER AND PERCIVAL
For decades, Oliver leaned a little quirky. We might have called it classic, but it hovered in the high 300s and 400s, seldom heard. A young Ryan O’Neal wore the name in 1970 blockbuster Love Story, but the name remained in style limbo. That changed, though, and Oliver has been among the fastest rising boy names of recent years, rocketing into the US Top Ten.
Another syllable-rich option might be Orion. It’s night sky name with a muscular image, thanks to the mythological hunter behind the constellation. I think Orion also benefits from its similarity to longtime favorite Ryan.
Despite the popularity of Penelope, long boy names starting with P are pretty rare. I think Peregrine and Percival are daring, dashing options. But perhaps the most accessible is the Old Testament Phineas, though that feels like a potential spelling challenge.
QUINTILLIAN AND RAFAEL
Up-and-comer Remington might be the most obvious of the R long boy names.
There’s also Rafael and Raphael. It’s a classic choice with a sophisticated, European vibe, regardless of spelling. Rafael won the 2019 Great Halloween Baby Names contest, so it’s a reader favorite, too.
SEBASTIAN AND SULLIVAN
A handful of saintly choices, all with roots in Spanish, belong here, too. There’s Santiago, Santana, and Salvador, too.
The Biblical Solomon has benefited from our interest in longer names. It comes from the Hebrew word shalom, meaning peace.
And if you’re more of a Mason-Parker kind of namer, upbeat, Irish Sullivan might appeal.
THEODORE AND TENNYSON
Timothy peaked in the 1960s, and every Timothy was a Tim. But use the name in full, and, like Gregory, it feels far more modern and interesting.
Ancient Tobias works in the twenty-first century, too. Leading man Tobey Maguire was born Tobias in 1975; today Toby fits with Cody and Corey and Todd, firmly established in dad-name territory. But Tobias seems like a different category.
For something literary and long-overlooked, my vote goes to literary surname Tennyson.
ULYSSES AND VALENTINO
The letter V suggests Valentine and Valentino. The former is a saint, but perhaps too heavily associated with February 14th. Valentino picks up a certain stylish sheen thanks to the designer, born Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani. There’s also early Hollywood leading man Rudolph Valentino.
Ever since Luc Besson turned a French science fiction comic series into a space opera, I’ve wondered if Valerian might catch on. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was released in 2017, and the name spiked in 2018. But that still represents just 24 births, so this name remains rare.
WHITAKER AND WINCHESTER
Lots of W surname names feel stylish today, though many – think Walker, Wilder, and Wells – come in at less than three syllables.
Winchester and Washington fit with long boy names. But my picks for the most stylish? Whitaker, which feels interesting and accessible, too. There’s also Wellington, which might benefit from the success of Wells.
ZACHARIAH AND ZACCHAEUS
Zachariah, Zacharias, and Zechariah appeal, but so does plain old Zachary. They all come from the same Hebrew roots, meaning “God remembers.”
Zakai recently debuted in the US Top 1000. It’s cousin to Zacchaeus, an obscure name from the New Testament. Zacchaeus is a tax collector who gives generously to charity, lending the name an appealing backstory.
What are your favorite three-syllable or longer names for boys? What would you add to this list?
First published on November 16, 2016, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on October 28, 2019.