NBNS21: Boys Opening RoundTime for the boys’ opening round in the 2021 New Names Showdown!

Not sure what that means?

Typically, on the Friday before Mother’s Day, the US Social Security Administration releases the new names popularity data, based on births in the prior calendar year.

It’s a fascinating list, and we dissect and review it for all sorts of information.

One of the most interesting parts? The returns and debuts. They’re the names that failed to rank in the prior year, but now claim their space in the Top 1000.

Some names debut after slowly gaining for years. Others are more surprising. The returning names, too, range from those that have teetered on the edge for years to those that are back after years of absence.

A few dozen names make the list of returns and debuts annually. And every year, I narrow the list down to just eight of the best new names for boys.

And then you vote until just one final name remains – the champion!


  • In 2016, we picked Wilder. The name has climbed from #963 to #431.
  • Shepherd took the title in 2017. From #851, Shepherd has now reached #605.
  • 2018’s winner, Wells, debuted at #915. It’s now at #545.
  • And for 2019, we selected Archie. It went from #988 to #466!
  • Callahan, the 2020 victor, rocketed from #896 to #798.

All in all, we have a solid track record of choosing boy names. (Our girls’ record is much more mixed.)

Now … how should you cast your votes?

Some readers prefer to vote for the name they think is most likely to catch on, and that’s fine. But I say just plain vote for your favorite – the one you’d love to hear on more children in the coming years – or maybe even choose for a child of your own.


  • Adler #920 – Stylish surname name with strong meaning: eagle.
  • Davian #981 – David meets Julian in this handsome invented name.
  • Everest #982 – A name from the natural world that signal achievement, and nods to the Top 100 Everett.
  • Jones #946 – Effortlessly cool – and surprisingly overlooked – surname name.
  • Leif #917 – A Scandi cool name that hits somewhere between Viking and the natural world.
  • McCoy #926 – Makenna and Mackenzie were big for girls, but McCoy is the real deal for our sons.
  • Rio #783 – Take our love of River and the appeal of o-enders like Milo and Leo, and Rio seems inevitable.
  • Zev #921 – A high-value Scrabble name borrowed from Hebrew, with a fierce meaning: wolf.


RIO #783 v EVEREST #982


LEIF #917 v DAVIAN #981


ADLER #920 v JONES #946


ZEV #921 v McCOY #926


Thanks for voting! Polls will remain open through Wednesday, July 14th. Check back next Saturday to see which names advance, and, of course, to vote in the next round!

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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