Today’s choice is a fashion-forward import that could catch on.

Thanks to Rachel for suggesting Stellan as Name of the Day.

Stellan sounds like the masculine counterpart to Stella, but that’s not so. While Stella comes from the Latin for star, Stellan is Scandinavian. His exact origins are uncertain – some link him to the Norse stilling, for peaceful. Other sites insist that he means star, too.

A Swedish website suggests that Stellan is actually German in origin. That fits with the evolution of our word still, meaning “at rest,” which traces back to the Old High German stillen. But nearly all of the notable bearers have been Swedes, including:

  • Stellan Mörner, an early 20th century surrealist painter;
  • Stellan Skarsgård, the actor seen in movies from Good Will Hunting to Angels & Demons to Mamma Mia.

The list gets more obscure from there. There’s a World Table Tennis champ from the 1970s, Stellan Bengtsson, plus a current international chess champion, Stellan Brynell. There was also a Danish film director, Stellan Rye, who died during World War I.

With an uncertain meaning and a lack of famous bearers – at least in the US – it is possible that Stellan could remain obscure forevermore.

Or not. Actors Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan after Mr. Skarsgård back in 2003. And consider these sound-alikes:

  • Rhyming Kellen comes in at #444;
  • Other -l in the middle, ends-in-n choices include Dylan (#51), Colin (#114) and Collin (#143) plus Nolan (#131);
  • Sharing that same construction and a modern, 21st century vibe, the US Top 200 also includes Jaylen (#184) and Rylan (#217).

Factor in popularity of girls’ names Stella and Ella, and it is easy to imagine parents embracing this masculine moniker.

But that hasn’t happened yet. Stellan has never appeared in the US Top 1000, and he’s not terribly common in Sweden, either. (At least he’s not in their Top 100.)

Some might like the idea of Stellan as a Swedish heritage choice, but that feels like a stretch. It’s probably more accurate to group Stellan with that cluster of names that have some slight history, but are almost considered modern inventions. Stellan fits right in with choices like Kai – the name of Jennifer Connelly’s firstborn – or Chase.

So if you’re seeking a boys’ name that feels more authentic than a smoosh of popular elements (like Rylan, Kyler or the -adens) but still appears novel and relatively untethered to religion or a specific heritage, Stellan might work for you.

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. We chose Stellan for our son’s middle name because his Swedish god-mother suggested it. We call him our lucky star….

  2. We had a hard time coming up with a name for our second son and third child. We both liked the way Stellan sounded as soon as we heard it and it works with our older son Ronan and daughter, Isla’s names (we think). It helps that baby Stellan is rather robust and blond with blue eyes (like his father – who has a smidge of Swedish blood – mostly German though) whereas his brother and sister are both dark haired and dark eyed like me! Anyway, people react very favorably to his name. I think it sounds masculine, despite being so near to the girls’ name Stella. I do call him Stell Bell and Stelly Belly for his nickname. Alas. 🙂 I’m very happy with our choice.

  3. I like Stellan, too. If I named my son this I might worry that it would be seen as just another of the interminably popular “

  4. Stellan is a cool choice, I know a few (Swedish of course) from when I spent time in Sweden. I always felt that it could easily fit in with the current trendy male name ending in the -en sound like Aidan, Caden & Kellen.

  5. I really like Stellan. I think it’s masculine, but modern. It could be a nice way of honoring a Stephen.

  6. I actually think the popularity of Stella and Ella could hurt Stellan. People will probably find it too feminine (as SG said up there)

    For me, it reminds me too much of Stalin.

  7. The popularity of Stella makes Stellan sound fairly effeminate to me and I don’t think I could use it for that reason. But it is a lovely name.