modern virtue namesModern 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.

Plenty of names have virtuous meanings, but aren’t, strictly speaking, virtue names. Leon means lion and suggests bravery, but Leon is in a different category than a word name like Valor.

The last few decades have seen a rise in all-new, fresh and modern virtue names. Some seem 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.

The virtues themselves are different, too. They’re less about innocence and devotion, and more about courage and individuality.

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.


ABEL (#215 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 (#153 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 (#301 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.

BOONE (#602 for boys)

Originally a surname, Boone comes from the French bon, meaning good, from the Latin word bonus, which is pretty much the same as the English word today. While it’s seldom heard in every day speech, boon can mean good even today – think of the phrase “a boon companion.”

CHANCE (#341 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 (#136 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.

CLEMENTINE (#558 for girls)

The French feminine form of Clement, Clementine brings to mind a small citrus fruit. But it originally means merciful. The fruit got its name from Father Clement Rodier, who accidentally created the hybrid in the gardens of the orphanage he ran in Algeria circa 1900.

CREED (#651 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 (#391 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.

FAITH (#191 for girls)

A name adopted by the Pilgrims sometime in the 1600s, Faith originally spoke to the parents’ trust and belief in their religion. Today it might be seen as broader. Faith can also mean loyal or trustworthy.

FELICITY (#457 for girls)

A lacy antique name meaning happiness, Felicity comes from a Latin word meaning luck. Felix and Felicia are related to the same root, too, but somehow Felicity sounds most like a straight-up virtue name.

GENESIS (#65 for girls)

A name that signals beginnings – in the Bible, of course, but in so many other things, too.

GRACE (#35 for girls)

A traditional favorite, Grace carries multiple meanings. There’s a Christian idea of grace, as well as beauty of form or movement. It might suggest charm or even gratitude. That makes it one of the broadest virtue names, one that feels universally good.

HALO (#769 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 (#215 for girls)

Musical and mythological, Harmony offers plenty of associations. But it makes this list because Harmony also means agreement.

HAVEN (#285 for girls)

A name implying safety, boosted by its meaning, as well as that stylish middle V.

JOURNEY (#315 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.

JOY (#467 for girls)

Short and sweet, but with plenty of energy, Joy is a vibrant name. It’s vaguely seasonal – think “Joy to the World.” But we can be joyful at any moment. Pixar’s 2015 hit Inside Out made Joy the main character, and the center of our identities, too.

JUSTICE (#764 for boys; #879 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 (#735 for boys; #484 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 (#132 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 (#764 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 (#40 for boys)

It brings to mind Top Gun’s leading man, but Maverick also suggests the modern virtue of independence.

PHOENIX (#261 for boys; #317 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 (#782 for girls)

A name rich with potential.

SAGE (#391 for boys; #144 for girls)

This name literally means wise, and also brings to mind The Seven Sages of Greece – a septet of ancient philosophers.

SAINT (#361 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 (#96 for girls)

One of many modern virtue names that convey peace.

SINCERE (#544 for boys)

It sounds like a Pilgrim-perfect choice, but Sincere is actually rising in use now. Sincerity might fit in with Felicity and company, too.

TREASURE (#761 for girls)

A trunk filled with rubies and gold doubloons isn’t meaningful, exactly. Treasure can also suggest something of great value. And so it’s virtue name adjacent, at least.

TRU (#644 for boys; #948 for girls)

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.



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?


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.


Originally, charism referred to a divine gift. The ancient Greek goddess name Charis is usually translated to Grace. But over the years, Charisma has come to mean something more secular. It’s the power of charm; the ability to attract others’ attention.


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.


This name straddles the new-old divide, thanks to a character in the Fantastic Beasts series.


There’s more history to Dare than you might guess. It makes this list because it implies a certain fearless risk-taking.


Essence refers to the fundamental quality of something, from the Latin esse, “to be.” Necessary is a synonym for essential; that edges it closer to virtue name territory. In 1970, the magazine Essence launched, a lifestyle magazine focused on African-American women. The use as a magazine title reinforces Essence as a richly meaningful concept.


Ever shares sounds with Everly, Everett, and Evelyn and Eva, too. But it also suggests endurance and legacy. More fanciful choices, like Evermore and Evergreen, might make particularly appealing middles. But just Ever is a unisex choice rich with potential.


There’s something slightly 1960s flower child about Freedom and Free, but no question they fit with modern virtue names.


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.


Most often a nickname for something longer – Luciano, for example – Lucky might follow former nickname-only names like Bear into the mainstream.


Merit comes from the Latin word 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 Latin name, Pax was originally a goddess of peace. Strictly speaking, this one breaks the rules for making this list of virtue names. But Pax feels broadly understood in English. This is also an example of how sometimes names do start out as feminine before becoming more popular for our sons.


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.


Today, Ransom makes us think of demands for money to release a captive. And that’s been one of the word’s meanings for centuries. But to ransom is also to redeem. Christian’s speak of Jesus’ death as a ransom paid for the sins of man.


At first glance, Rebel isn’t a virtue name at all. It’s a term for an insurgent. But this is the age of Maverick. To rebel is to resist, and we’re all familiar with storylines where the rebels are the good guys. Think Star Wars, after all. Rebel Wilson helps make the case for this as a given name, too. So while the Pilgrims wouldn’t have shortlisted this one, Rebel might be given as a modern virtue choice today.


It’s just one letter removed from Rebel, but Revel has a whole different vibe. To revel is to celebrate; to make merry. Revel can also be a noun, a synonym for festival or party. It’s a bolder choice than Joy, but with the same energy.


As in the American Revolution’s Paul. But Revere makes this list because it also means respect.


Another verb name with an uplifting meaning.


Serendipity is the act of discovering something delightful and wholly unexpected. The word was coined in the 1700s, inspired by a Persian fairytale titled “The Three Princes of Serendip.” These men do, indeed, encounter good fortune at unexpected moments. It’s a lot of word, coming in at five syllables, but it might have potential.


Along with Haven, a name that conjures up protection.


As in activist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth. It would be a hero name even if it weren’t a virtue one, but it means “one who travels” or “stays briefly,” making it a cousin to Journey and all that name implies. She adopted Sojourner Truth because she believed God was calling her to testify.


Solace is a synonym for comfort; it’s often associated with grieving.


Originally an Old English word for little star, Sterling is also a term for British currency, and a synonym for excellence.


To be swift is to be fast, but also smooth. The surname was probably once given to a fast runner. Singer Taylor Swift puts her mark on the name, too.


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.


To exhibit zeal is to puruse a goal with passion and tenacity. It’s an energetic sound and meaning, and a name-like sound, too.


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.



Another English word with Latin roots, Amity refers to friendship. Medieval name Amice is another variant.


An English word name, most common in Anglophone Africa.


A familiar, and unambiguously good, blast from the past.


Clementine is a favorite for our daughters, but Clement is the original, masculine form. Thanks to an early pope, as well as a Saint Clement, versions of this name were known across Christian Europe.


To strenghten and console. Comfort is also a family name for artist and jewelry designer Louis Comfort Tiffany; he was named for his paternal grandfather.


A former favorite, Constance is an elegant, buttoned-up name with an undeniable virtue vibe.


To be earnest is to be truthful in a serious manner; that’s the same as the root of the given name Ernest. The similarity between the word and the name has caused both spellings to be used as first. Oscar Wild’s beloved comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest, has hastened the confusion.


To extend Mercy is to forgive. It’s often an expressly religious name.


A name in the key of Amity and Charity, but perhaps a little harder to live up to.


The Beatles’ song puts a different spin on this medieval, and later, Puritan favorite.


An old school virtue updated by television’s long-running Bones, featuring the brilliant Dr. Temperance Brennan as a forensic anthropologist who helps the FBI solve crimes.


As in truth. Take it even farther and use Verily, an archaic term meaning “truly.”

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; December 1, 2022; and November 9, 2023.

virtue names virtue names

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. 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 …

  1. 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 ♡

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

  3. 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.