Modern virtue names pick up where the Puritans left off.
Of course, we’re still using plenty of virtuous names from earlier eras. Think of Felicity and Grace, Faith and Mercy. They’d feel right at home on Plymouth Rock way back when, or on a playground right now.
But the last few decades have seen a rise in modern virtue names. Some lean a little bolder. Many are less specifically Christian. And while subtle picks like Sage make the list, more of them feel like they’re straight out of the dictionary. They’re word names with big meanings – sometimes ones that could be tough to live up to.
And yes, as they become more and more mainstream, we’re less likely to notice if Maverick is a little bit of a rule-follower or Chance likes to play it safe.
We know that meaning matters when naming our children, so it’s no surprise to see this modern virtue names on the rise.
TOP 1000 MODERN VIRTUE NAMES
ABEL (#196 for boys)
This one is a little bit of a cheat. Abel comes from a Hebrew word meaning breath, but it looks almost exactly like able, as in capable.
ACE (#156 for boys)
Ace is the king of the cards, a winning serve in tennis, an unstoppable fighter pilot. Is being top of the heap a virtue? Maybe. But the accuracy and strength implied by some of those uses certainly counts.
BODHI (#284 for boys)
A Buddhist term meaning enlightenment, Bodhi isn’t an English-language word. But the name’s rapid climb in use seems tied to our embrace of modern virtue names.
CHANCE (#326 for boys)
Old school virtue required the bearer to do something – to be Thankful or exhibit Patience. Chance isn’t a virtue in the conventional sense, but the idea of fortune – presumably, good fortune – seems rich with meaning.
CHASE (#125 for boys)
At first glance, Chase is an action verb. It’s a brother for Dash. But there’s also something about Chase that implies ambition and effort. So while it probably reads preppy and buttoned-down – even banker – to some, I think there’s space to consider Chase virtuous, too.
CREED (#678 for boys)
A modern, masculine equivalent of Faith.
DESTINY (#398 for girls)
A chart-topping favorite in the late 90s and early 00s, Destiny feels familiar today.
DREAM (#358 for girls)
It sounds fictional and fanciful. After all, there’s a Dream Kardashian. And yet, this name also evokes one of Martin Luther King’s most famous speeches. When “dream” is shorthand for “possibility,” it belongs on this list.
GENESIS (#973 for boys; #75 for girls)
A name that signals beginnings – in the Bible, of course, but in so many other things, too.
HALO (#738 for girls)
The crown or ring of light worn by saints and angels, Halo feels specifically spiritual and virtuous. Unless, of course, it’s the video game that inspired the name choice.
HARMONY (#198 for girls)
Musical and mythological, Harmony offers plenty of associations. But it makes this list because Harmony also means agreement.
HAVEN (#286 for girls)
A name implying safety, boosted by its meaning, as well as that stylish middle V.
JOURNEY (#267 for girls)
There’s something 80s rock star about this name, but also something spiritual and meaning-rich. Journee and Journi also rank in the girls’ US Top 1000.
JUSTICE (#638 for boys; #741 for girls)
An undeniable virtue name, Justice feels patriotic – the Pledge of Allegiance ends with “and justice for all.” But it’s bigger than that, the kind of principle that feels enduring and universally good.
LEGACY (#710 for boys; #433 for girls)
If Legacy implies that the child is merely there to uphold their family’s heritage, then the name feels rather burdensome. But Legacy also suggest the idea of embracing your history and carrying it forward, which qualifies as virtuous.
LEGEND (#118 for boys)
Legends are written about heroes – and villains, too. But presumably, parents who choose this name for a child are thinking of the former.
LIBERTY (#619 for girls)
A twin to Justice, Liberty brings to mind the American Revolution. It’s had a longer run as a sometimes-heard name than many on this list. Built-in nickname Libby makes it feel almost traditional.
MAVERICK (#47 for boys)
It brings to mind Top Gun’s leading man, but Maverick also suggests the modern virtue of independence.
PHOENIX (#248 for boys; #308 for girls)
It’s a colorful bird known for going up in flames, then being reborn from its own ashes. Crazy inspiration for a baby name? Maybe, but the idea of rebirth is an appealing one, if not exactly a virtue. The acting family has helped propel Phoenix into the mainstream, and the stylish letter x hasn’t hurt.
PROMISE (#740 for girls)
A name rich with potential.
SAGE (#427 for boys; #179 for girls)
This name literally means wise, and also brings to mind The Seven Sages of Greece – a septet of ancient philosophers.
SAINT (#454 for boys)
Saint fits more closely with titles like King, or possibly Earl and Duke. But to people of faith, striving to imitate the qualities of saints is a positive. The name might imply this goal.
SERENITY (#85 for girls)
One of many modern virtue names that convey peace.
SINCERE (#600 for boys)
It sounds like a Pilgrim-perfect choice, but Sincere is actually rising in use now.
TRU (#677 for boys)
Tru recently debuted in the US popularity rankings, though names like True, Truth, and Truly have been on the edges for years. It’s clearly virtuous, a name with a strong and admirable meaning.
NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR MODERN VIRTUE NAMES
An anchor holds you down, which can be a bad thing – but easily suggests a steady, settled presence, too.
An arrow is a weapon, which makes this a strange fit for virtue names – at first. Arrows are also known for flying straight, for hitting their targets. In that sense, Arrow conveys a sense of purpose and focus – admirable qualities, both.
If Joy and Felicity are names, why not Bliss?
BLITHE and BLYTHE
Slightly more subtle than Bliss, Blithe and Blythe mean cheerful or friendly. The ‘y’ spelling outpaces the ‘i’ version.
A bold word choice, but possibly a stunning middle name.
Take Avery, add a Br, and the unexpected Bravery might be a possibility.
A cousin to light-filled Claire and Lux, as well as smart Sage, Bright feels more accessible than many potential short word names.
From an Italian word meaning spirited. Brio leans a little bit musical, but also high-energy, and yes, virtuous.
Another word for honesty, with a very name-like sound.
A rarity that implies a child is meant for great things.
A logical follow-on to virtue names like Felicity and Amity.
An unassailable virtue, Clemency feels more modern than Mercy, less expected than Clementine.
There’s something antique about Constance, but add a -y and Constancy fits with modern virtue names.
There’s more history to Dare than you might guess. It makes this list because it implies a certain fearless risk-taking.
Gloria remains stuck in style limbo, but virtuous word name Glory might substitute. It feels a little bit spiritual, but Glory is a secular concept, too.
Golden implies something precious and valued.
A harbor is a refuge, keeping ships safe from storms. That makes it a fit for this list.
Harvest implies abundance, as well as the practice of planting and stewarding crops.
Honor has some history as a given name, though often it was tweaked slightly. (Think Honora, Honoria, and Honore.) But just Honor fits best with modern virtue names.
An Arabic word meaning fate.
Undeniably a virtue, and an attractive sound, too.
Merit comes from the Latin meritus – deserving.
Noble previously ranked in the US Top 1000, but parents probably aren’t picking Noble for its vintage status. Instead, to be Noble is to excellent.
As in True North, an important concept in navigation.
Like Sincere, Patience has some history. But it feels fresh and new today.
A little bit Puritan, a little bit Vulcan, but overall an attractive sound.
An even rarer possibility than Journey, but appearing on the list for all the same reasons.
As in the American Revolution’s Paul. But Revere makes this list because it also means respect.
Another verb name with an uplifting meaning.
Along with Haven, a name that conjures up protection.
Originally an Old English word for little star, Sterling is also a term for British currency, and a synonym for excellence.
As in bravery, though Valor might feel even more name-like.
While it might be a lot to live up to, we all want our children to exhibit this virtue.
The name for a branch of Buddhism, ultimately derived from a Sanskrit word referring to a meditative state. But in American parlance, Zen means relaxed, calm.
In astronomical terms, the zenith is the highest point a celestial object reaches in the sky. It’s also a synonym for peak, which makes it something of a modern virtue name.
What do you think of modern virtue names?
First published November 23, 2012, this post was revised substantially and re-published on November 12, 2020. Additional updates took place on November 25, 2021, and again on December 1, 2022.
Kara McManigal says
What do you think about Endeavor for a boy?
I think it works. Mentally, I want to add the u – Endeavour, because of the ITV series Endeavour, the prequel to Inspector Morse, starring Shaun Evans. But of course that would be EXTRA confusing in the US. Sound-wise, it’s a little like an Alexander-Donovan mash-up, so while it would be very different, I say it’s perfectly wearable. I’d shorten it to Dev …
Melody K Maynard says
My son’s name is Revere. It’s technically his middle name but always what we’ve called him. Sometimes Vere for short. We have yet to meet another one ♡
I’m not sure I will get any replies. I’m looking for names that have virtue names as nick names for boys. For girls it’s a lot easier, Everly and for short Ever. Truly and true for short. The only one I can think of for boys is Wilder, with wild for short. Any suggestions would be amazing.
Truman or Truett, with True/Tru for short – that seems like the obvious one.
Valerian, called Valor – all from Latin valere, strong.
Frederick, called Free
Everett, called Ever
Richard, called Hardy
Paxton, called Pax – Latin for peace
Fun Q – I’ll ask it on social in a bit!
I never thought I would be excited about virtue names as a category. I feel like there’s so many names you have talked about recently that could be on the list: Fable, Psalm (though maybe not), and Evolet, just to name a few. I never realized Clementine was a virtue name, but that makes so much more sense than generations of people essentially naming their child orange.
My husband’s name is Revere! He goes by the nickname Reeve. I think it’s a beautiful name, especially with his very normal American surname. We’ve yet to meet another Revere, and despite how strange it can sound to other people, they usually love it and want to talk to him about Paul Revere (whom he knows all about). So glad you included this name!
I like virtue names quite a bit. Of those listed I like Sage, Harmony, Bliss, Truly, Harvest, and Zen/Zenith. However I prefer Sojourner to Journey and Gloriana to Glory. Gloriana is actually fairly high on my list, as are Beau, Knightly, Esperanza, and Grace.
Brave and Bravery have me thinking of Intrepid. I’ve joked with my husband about Freedom-Fighter as a faux middle name, but just Freedom seems like it might work. Same with Patriot, Rebel, and Rogue.
Sojourner should be on this list! As should Freedom. Maybe Patriot and Rebel. But Rogue? I’m not sure if that’s a virtue name … or a vice one!
I like Caridad. I think it is charity/kindness in Spanish. Also Corazon is heart in Spanish.
I had a friend named Honore when I was young. It’s pronounced On-oh-RAY.
Isadora Vega says
Some unusual options that aren’t listed here: Eloquence, Euphoria, Promise, Empathy, Guardian, Heart, Valor, Virtue, Lively, Wonder, Paz, Radiance, and Esperance. With the exception of possibly Paz and Esperance, they’re pretty much middle name territory for me.
I’m torn on virtue names. I do love them, but I couldn’t give a virtue name to one child without giving a virtue name to all of my children. Another thing that sticks with me is this: I would MUCH rather my children exhibit virtuous traits rather than have them as a name.
Just this week, I heard the new-to-me virtue name, Anthem. I haven’t decided if it’s “too patriotic” or if the religious definition slides it into the usable category
I’m surprised with myself, but I really like Revere… it reminds me of Concord, another virtue name with a masculine sound.
Well, Noble (and his big brother Royal) were my Great-Uncles. I’ve toyed with Noble for a loooong time. I nearly had boys named Leo & Noble! Fast forward nearly 30 years, Noble is still my favorite for a boy. Not that I’ll use it myself, but I’m staring at Grandma-hood myself. Maybe I’ll have a grandbaby named Noble!
For boys, I also like Loyal.
For girls, I’m over the moon for Glory, Clemency & Blithe! Completely adore Glory, but would use Glory as a nickname for Glorianna. I ‘see’ the similarity between my own name & Glory and I think that’s why I like it. 😀
Oh and I forgot to say – I adore Blythe/Blithe and Phoenix.
And my mom thinks I should consider Haven for a boy.
I like the idea of Harvest for a boy, I think, but I’m not quite sure of it.
Guilty pleasure, but I have pondered Tenacity for a girl. I don’t see it de-throning my love for Verity or Amity though.
I like the idea of Peacemaker for a boy. But despite “blessed are the peacemakers…” it is *deep* in middle-name-only territory for me. Oh, and there’s the whole Colt Peacemaker issue too, though if Beretta and Kimber are okay nowadays…? lol
I know this will eat any credibility I haven’t already lost, but my favourite verb name would be Iridesce. I love the sound of it. It’s a bit girlier/rainbow-ier than Bright.
A. Waguespack says
Love Tenacity on a girl! Teensie makes the cutest nickname. Verity and Amity are also faves.
Tenacity has potential!
I had a dream recently that our little one due in May would be a girl named Glory. It’s not my usual style of name, but I find it very appealing. I don’t know if the dream will come true (we have about a month before we find out the gender anyway and no compromises on names have been made whatsoever) but it’s fun to read about it.
I also really like Honor and Merit.