Let’s look at nature names for boys. Daring possibilities abound, but this list focuses on the most popular picks in the US.
In some ways, nature names for boys have fascinated us for decades. During the 1960s, common names like Craig and Glenn tiptoed close to the nature name line. A century ago, favorites like Leo and Ray hinted at life outdoors.
But the twenty-first century represents the golden age of word names, and that has lifted nature names in their purest forms.
To find the most popular nature names for boys, we have to leave the US Top 100. (For contrast, the girls’ list includes at least seven ranked within the Top 100.) But we don’t have to go far, and many of these names feel every bit as mainstream as the girls’ list.
I omitted so many maybe-almost-kinda nature names for boys, including Kai, Silas, Brooks, Leo, Drake, Sterling, Oakley, Ford, Craig, Leif. My rule? It had to be possible – at least in theory – to use the name solely to refer to something in nature. When in doubt, I asked myself about the images associated with the name. That pushed Ford off the list, but kept August on.
Read on for the 20 most popular nature names for boys!
Nature Names for Boys #1: Rowan
Current US popularity rank: #182
Rowan ranks well for boys, and also for girls – it comes in at #239. That makes this a true unisex choice, even though tree names tend to belong to the boys. Rowan also occurs as an Irish surname, related to the color red. That same source inspired the tree name, since the berries are red in color. Seldom heard before the year 2000, Rowan has become a go-to choice for children in recent years.
Nature Names for Boys #2: August
Current US popularity rank: #193
Strictly speaking, August belongs with the grand names, the Legends and the Kings. The Latin augustus means venerable. And yet, it feels like a gentle nature name thanks to the lazy, hazy height of summer month. (The month was, of course, named for ancient ruler Augustus Ceasar.) Celebrated playwright August Wilson also takes this name away from the Roman Empire and in a more creative direction.
Nature Names for Boys #3: Jasper
Current US popularity rank: #209
Jasper brings two things to mind: the gemstone, which is why the name makes this list. Also, tradition gives this name to one of the three Wise Men. It means “treasurer” in Persian. There’s no link between the stone and the job title – at least, I’ve never found one. The English have used it steadily over the centuries – Jasper Tudor fought in the Wars of the Roses. Once reserved for villains, today it’s on the upswing in the US. Jasper makes a great compromise, less conventional than classics like James, but not nearly as novel as names like Jayden. American artist Jasper Johns lends this name a a pop art cool quotient.
Nature Names for Boys #4: River
Current US popularity rank: #214
Back in the day, River stood out as a crazy hippie-gone-Hollywood name, suitable only for River Phoenix. And then, following Phoenix’s tragic death, a generation grew up and decided it was a downright great name, the masculine equivalent of nature names like Lily. River also picks up on the ends-in-r trend. When it first started to rise, choices like Connor, Carter, and Hunter were also catching on. Factor in that high-value Scrabble letter v, and River seems unstoppable.
Nature Names for Boys #5: Orion
Current US popularity rank: #324
Mythological baby names have always enjoyed some use, but never have they been more mainstream than today. But Orion feels more like a night sky name – and thus, suitable for this list – than one from myth. That’s probably because the constellation is among the most recognizable, thanks to the bright stars of the celestial hunter’s belt. With O names like Oliver and Owen climbing the charts, that appealing first letter also bolsters this name.
Nature Names for Boys #6: Colt
Current US popularity rank: #337
Have wild horses have inspired a growing number of parents to give this name to their sons? Or maybe credit goes to Samuel Colt, founder of the firearms manufacturer? Maybe both, but the data suggests that Colt – and Colton – owe their success to 1980s television series, The Fall Guy, starring Lee Majors. Majors played Hollywood stunt man Colt Seavers. The series folded after five seasons, but Colt and Colton kept marching up the popularity charts. In many ways, equine Colt is the forerunner of modern animal names like Bear and Fox.
I’ve yet to write about Colt. Please check back and I’ll update this when I have!
Nature Names for Boys #7: Sage
Current US popularity rank: #546
Sage combines the best of color names, virtue names, and nature names for boys, too. Depending on your preference, it can mean wise, refer to a shade of green, or be the name of an evergreen also used as an herb. Sage is used for boys and girls in growing numbers; it’s more popular for girls by about 200 places in the US popularity rankings, but still feels unisex.
Nature Names for Boys #8: Forrest
Current US popularity rank: #633 (Forest #1101)
Strictly speaking, Forest best fits this list. But the identical Forrest – a surname originally given to someone who lived near or worked in a woodland – ranks much higher. The name spiked after Tom Hanks played the unconventional hero at the heart of 1994 Oscar-winning movie Forrest Gump. It faded, but with our love of nature names, Forrest is back and could easily join River and Rowan farther up this list.
Nature Names for Boys #9: Clay
Current US popularity rank: #731
Clay and Clayton sound every bit as modern as Colt and Colton. But the Clay- names have appeared in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880. They started out as English surnames for someone who worked with clay or lived near a clay deposit. That makes Clay an obvious nature name, and yet a long history of use can make this choice feel more traditional than some others on the list.
I’ve yet to write about Clay. Check back for updates!
Nature Names for Boys #10: Fox
Current US popularity rank: #746
A newcomer to the US popularity charts, Fox benefits from several trends. It’s a short name, like Max and Kai. That ‘x’ puts Fox in the company of Felix and Jaxon. And, of course, nature names for boys are enjoying a moment. Today’s parents also grew up watching Fox Mulder search for the truth on long-running television favorite The X-Files. Since Mulder and partner Dana Scully continue to reprise their roles, we can’t forget that this name is out there.
Nature Names for Boys #11: Blaze
Current US popularity rank: #858
Saintly Blaise has nothing to do with fire. Instead, that traditional name brings to mind the ancient martyr – now invoked against illnesses of the throat – and mathematician Blaise Pascal. But respell it Blaze, and this name transforms. From an Old English word meaning shining or white, Blaze brings to mind campfires and the brightest of summer days. The name also serves as a virtue name – think of trailblazers.
I’ve yet to write about Blaze … check back for updates!
Nature Names for Boys #12: Heath
Current US popularity rank: #876
You might call it a field or a meadow, but heath describes a specific habitat, found across the globe. It leapt to given name status thanks to The Big Valley, a 1960s smash hit Western featuring a handsome, cowboy-hat-wearing Heath, played by a young Lee Majors. (If you’re counting, that’s Majors’ second contribution to this list.) The late Heath Ledger also keeps this name familiar to today’s parents. If it hadn’t peaked in the 1970s, it would almost certainly feel like a fresh discovery today.
Nature Names for Boys #13: Ridge
Current US popularity ranking: #879
Ridge just plain sounds rugged. The Old English root of ridge originally referred to the back of a man or an animal; today it’s a geological term a long, narrow mountaintop. (Think of a mountain ridge and a backbone to connect the two ideas.) It’s outdoorsy and modern. The Bold and the Beautiful first put Ridge on our list of possibilities in 1987, but today most parents are likely inspired by the sound and nature name style, rather than the soap opera characters.
Nature Names for Boys #14: Briar
Current US popularity rank: #1004*
Briar feels like a nature name that should succeed today. It brings to mind former favorites like Brian and Bryce, Brianna and Bree, as well as so many -r ending names we love today. It sits on the very edge of the US Top 1000, just outside for the boys and slightly inside for the girls. A briar or brier is a thorny shrub; it reads feminine to some because Briar Rose is one name for the princess in Sleeping Beauty, but I still think sound puts Briar in the same unisex category as Rowan.
I’ve yet to write about Briar! Check back for an update.
Nature Names for Boys #15: Bear
Current US popularity rank: #1055*
Plenty of names bring to mind bears, from Teddy to Arthur. So why not just plain Bear? Cuddly and fierce, it’s become a celebrity go-to, chosen by Kate Winslet and Liam Payne, among others. Another association is legendary college football coach Bear Bryant, born Paul William. Animal names appear in the US Top 1000 for boys and girls alike, so it’s no surprise that Bear is slowly transitioning from sometimes-nickname to full-on given name status.
Nature Names for Boys #16: Stone
Current US popularity rank: #1097*
If you’re looking for a name both strong and modern, Stone seems like a contender. Traditional boy names from Rocco to Peter share the meaning, but just Stone has never quite caught on. It did appear in the US Top 1000 from the 1990s until the early 2010s. Credit probably goes to respected news anchor Stone Phillips. It’s a family name for Phillips, a regular on network news in the 1990s. Today the name feels like a logical nature name for a son.
I’ve yet to write about Stone. Check back for an update!
Nature Names for Boys #17: Onyx
Current US popularity rank: #1123*
Onyx looks invented, thanks to that ‘yx’ ending. But it’s legit. The gemstone comes from a Greek word. I tend to think of it is as black – and indeed, it’s often used as the name for a shade of black. But the mineral comes in a wide range of shades, from white to yellow to red to, yup, black. If we’re naming boys Jasper, Onyx fits right in, with the all the added cool of the letter x, too.
I’ve yet to write about Onyx. Check back for an update!
Nature Names for Boys #18: Everest
Current US popularity rank: #1266*
Surname name Everett continues to climb for boys, so no surprise this mountain peak also rates as a boy’s name. Experienced climbers spend years preparing to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain. As with many nature names, that lends a subtle vibe of challenge and achievement to this name. It’s gaining in use for boys and girls alike, but holds an edge as a masculine name.
Nature Names for Boys #19: Ash
Current US popularity rank: #1291*
More than one Ash name has ranked in the US Top 1000, some in the Top 100 and even Top Ten. There’s Ashley and Ashton, and now Asher, too. But just Ash belongs to a type of tree, also known as a fraxinus. They’re common in Asia, North America, and Europe, and the trees feature in familiar folk tales. Ash Ketchum, of course, is the world’s best known Pokemon trainer, which makes this name familiar to millennial parents.
I’ve yet to write about Ash. Check back for an update!
Nature Names for Boys #20: Cedar
Current US popularity ranking: #1341*
Another tree name, Cedar stands tall. The Ancient Romans may have associated cedar with immortality; even today, it’s often the wood favored for a hope chest. That lends some appealing meaning to this nature name. Cedar’s sound makes it a logical choice for a child’s name, another -r ender that substitutes for the more popular River or Rowan.
I’ve yet to write about Cedar. Check back for an update!
The * indicates names outside of the current US Top 1000. The US Social Security Administration publishes information on any name given to five or more boys or girls in a single year. Nancy’s Baby Names lists the Top 2000. You can download a zip file with all of the Social Security data here.
Would you consider any of these nature names for boys? What are your favorites?