KyleThis post originally appeared on January 5, 2009.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on August 11, 2014.

Kai might be more stylish for boys born in 2014, but this name remains more popular.

Thanks to Skye for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Kyle.

Parents tend to play it safe when naming their sons.  The enduring classics – think William and Joseph – tend to be used and re-used.  And yet there’s a growing category of modern classics, names that would have been rare in the nineteenth century, but have become solidly established in recent decades.

File Kyle in that category.

During the nineteenth century, only a few boys received the name every year.  But he gained steam throughout the twentieth century, reaching the Top 100 in 1974 and staying there through 2009.

The meaning is usually given as channel or strait, from the Gaelic caol.  The term is still used for bodies of water in Scotland today.  It’s sometimes a surname, derived from the place.

There’s also Scotland’s Kyle District, complete with the ruins of Kyle Castle. The district was folded into another county in 1889. Places called Kyle remain on the map in the US, Canada and Australia.

The region suggests yet another possible meaning for Kyle: legend says it was named after Old King Cole. Before the merry old soul inspired his nursery rhyme, he was a semi-legendary King of the Britons. Cole traces back to the Roman Coelius or perhaps Caelestis. The latter survived as Celestine and means heavenly.

Today Kyle is quite down to earth, thanks to famous Kyles like:

  • NASCAR driver Busch
  • Actor MacLachlan
  • One of the animated characters on South Park

As for the surname, there’s:

  • In the 1920s and 30s, Beatrice Kyle was a world famous high diver, performing stunts all over the globe.
  • Television presenter Jeremy Kyle hosts a British version of The Jerry Springer Show.
  • When she was first introduced, the comic book Catwoman was the secret of identity of whip-carrying burglar Selina Kyle.

Kyle may have recently left the Top 100, but the Ky sound remains current.  There’s Kai, as well as Kyle-Tyler smoosh Kyler.  On the girls’ side, Kylie – pick your spelling – has had a good run, along with Kyla.  Sky, Skye, Skylar, and Skyler have all seen use for boys and girls.

Maybe that’s one of his drawbacks – Kyle has been around long enough that he’s in dad-name territory, and with all of those other Ky- names, he doesn’t feel very original.

But if you can overlook the possibility that your son might sometimes share a classroom with Skyleah or Kyson, the name offers up an appealing compromise. While his history is undeniable, he’s very much a modern name. His sister could be the equally sensible Melissa or Rachel as easily as the intriguing Scottish Elspeth or Isobel.

While Kyle is no longer exciting and new, that could be his strongest asset.

Do you think Kyle is a modern classic, or a fading trend?  Are there other K names for boys that you prefer?

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. Definitely a modern classic – it’s my youngest brother’s name! He’s 29 🙂 I actually think all four of us siblings have modern classic names. We’re Brooke, Troy, Courtney and Kyle.

    It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve met a young Kyle though. It’s a shame, I think it fits in really well with a lot of the names that are currently popular.

    1. I know a 9 y.o. Kyle! His parents wanted something “normal” but felt like William, Robert, John, James, etc. weren’t quite their style.

  2. I grew up with a female Kyle, in face her full name is Kyle Matthew S….. She was named for her grandfathers. I love the name Kyle for a girl, or a boy. Until I was in 8th grade or so, even being the name nerd I was, I always thought Kyle was a girls name, then a boy named Kyle moved into out school and I realized she actually had a boys name haha. To me it has always been universally either or. To me, it is a strong name for a Female, yet a softer name for a male, but definitely beloved.

    I would use it, but having a niece named Kylie means it is out for me, too bad.

  3. Hate Kyle. I immediately think of the South Park character, and then all the wimpy boys I’ve known with that name. And now there are a million girls named Kylee, Kaileigh, etc… no thanks.

  4. I am a female Kyle, and I love my name. I’m even going to name my daughter after me, someday, if I have one.

    I never thought of my name as anything but MY name, not a boys name, not a girls name, just something that I’ve always been called, and I LOVE it. I would never trade my name for any other.

    I say this because I know of a lot of girls with more masculine names that HATE it, but I love being the only girl Kyle in my entire school, and though I am more masculine than most of my female friends, I enjoy immensely the fact that I can go both ways and sometimes tease people about guessing my gender.

    I LOVE it.