March Madness 2021 boys opening roundIt’s the most exciting contest in all of March.

Well, if you’re not into college hoops.

That’s right … March Madness Baby Names 2021 is here!

If you’ve been reading Appellation Mountain for any length of time, you know that we love unusual names. Sure, posts highlight the appeal of William and August. But rare names – those never seen in the US Top 1000 – have their day in the sun, too.

And those rare names? They’re often among the most-viewed posts on the site, year after year.

It’s those names that face off – the most-viewed, whether they’re favorites everybody loves or rarities no one ever chooses.

They compete, bracket-style, as we vote our way until we have just one final name to crown champion, for boys and girls each.

Television characters, sports figures, and other pop culture-inspired names often appear in the early round. This year is no exception. But they don’t normally advance. Other names appear in the US Top 100 – but that doesn’t guarantee any name a trip to the final.

That said, the names that win tend to be more familiar.

Past champs are as follows:

  • Nathaniel and Louisa in 2011
  • Arthur and Genevieve in 2012
  • Archer and Isla in 2013
  • Everett and Cora in 2014
  • Finn and Cora in 2015*
  • Theodore and Sylvie in 2016
  • Leo and Wren in 2017
  • Rowan and Eliza in 2018
  • Arlo and Margot in 2019
  • Caspian and Tess in 2020

*After Cora’s back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015, we agreed to instate a new rule: all past winners are immediately retired from future competition.

Appellation Mountain readers also tend to be ahead of the trends. We embraced Sylvie and Louisa and Archer when they were still beginning their climb up the charts. In fact, nearly every name that wins gains in use over the next several years – at least.

Let’s meet this year’s March Madness baby names 2021 contenders!

#1 PHOENIX (#257)

So many factors contribute to Phoenix’s spot at the top of the top boy names 2020 list. The cool X ending, an appealing place name, the fame of the Phoenix acting family. But maybe it’s the mythological bird, and it’s ability to regenerate from the ashes, that makes this such an appealing name. Also noteworthy: Phoenix is unisex, only slightly more popular for our sons than for our daughters.

#2 HUXLEY (#588)

An edgy surname name, Huxley combines the all-American appeal of Huck with the cool of that middle X. And it also continues our love of y-ending surnames, like Riley and Brady, for our sons.

#3 TORIN (unranked)

An Irish import with an appealing meaning – chief – Torin fits right in with so many popular picks, but sits just a little outside the Top 1000.

#4 ARROW (unranked)

Some might argue Arrow is a virtue name – after all, arrows fly straight and true to find their mark. But it’s also sporting, superhero (think Oliver Queen), and romantic (Cupid, anyone?), making it a word name to watch.

#5 WILDER (#486)

There’s something rugged and outdoorsy about Wilder, and yet it’s not nearly as borrowed-from-nature as Canyon or Ridge.

#6 COVE (unranked)

A nature name that’s always attracted a lot of attention at Appellation Mountain, could Cove’s current wave of popularity be due to the sound? If you’re looking for a middle – or even a first – to mark the year, this might make sense to some parents.

#7 EMRYS (unranked)

A Welsh name with ties to the stories of Merlin, Emrys has long been a popular post at Appellation Mountain – even if it translates to very few children with the name.

#8 ENDEAVOUR (unranked)

Is Endeavour Morse the longest running television character of all time? Created by British author Colin Dexter, the inspector featured in a television series beginning in 1987 and running through 2000. A prequel series – titled Endeavour – debuted in 2012 and is ongoing.

#9 HAYES (#296)

Aiden led to Hayden; now Hayden gives us Hayes. With s-ending boy names rising, Hayes makes sense. It also sounds cool – a little bit hazy, a little bit formal.

#10 DECKARD (unranked)

A name borrowed from the long-running Fast & Furious movies. Deckard Shaw is a bad guy who becomes a good guy. English actor Jason Statham plays the part.

#11 ST. JOHN (unranked)

This is such a curious name! We’re used to Sinclair and Santiago, but St. John is a rarity. Stranger still, instead of Saint John, the British tend to pronounce this name Sinjin.

#12 KOA (#740)

First came Kai. Now Koa is climbing the charts, another short Hawaiian name with a meaning borrowed from the natural world. In this case, Koa is a type of tree. As a bonus, the name translates to warrior.

#13 OTTO (#427)

Otto is a palindrome – how cool is that? This vintage name feels like it’s slowly following o-enders like Leo and Milo into greater use.

#14 RAPHAEL (#521; Rafael is #261)

A classic name beloved in many European language, Raphael remains relatively uncommon in English. Cool, edgy nickname Rafe ought to add to the appeal.

#15 PALMER (unranked for boys)

More popular for girls, Palmer still fits right in with Parker, Carter, and a slate of R-ending favorites for our sons.

#16 REID (#291)

A strong surname name, Reid feels sophisticated on a man, charming on a child.

















Thank you for voting!

Polls will remain open until Wednesday, March 10th. 

Check back next Thursday, March 11th to see if your favorites advance. And, of course, to vote in the next round of March Madness Baby Names 2021.

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. The first poll has Phoenix v Hayes as poll options but the poll heading says Phoenix v Reid! Enjoy these polls every year a fun way to get my husband involved in name discussions

  2. I think you have an error – “Hayes” appears twice while “Reid” does not at all.