Except this is the age of boys answering to River and Maverick, Jasper and Legend, Cash and Colt and Messiah.
With so many parents searching the dictionary for baby naming inspiration, new word names stand out and blend right in to the average kindergarten class, too.
My rules for adding a name to this list? It has to be easily used in a sentence as a word. And it can’t appear in the current US Top 1000. There might be some high profile celebrity babies with the name – but in many cases, these feel completely novel.
Turns out there are lots of new word names to consider for our sons.
MUSIC & LYRICS
Anthem – A little bit musical, a little bit patriotic.
Brio – Okay, this one stretches my use-in-a-sentence rule. But it means vivacious or dynamic, and that’s too good to pass by. It’s most often heard as a musical term.
Chord – If we name our daughters Harmony, why not Chord for our sons?
Drummer – A surname-style name for lovers of percussion … or possibly Christmas.
NATURE NAMES: WATER
Bay – A nature name that brings to mind the ocean, as well as a color.
Cove – More wearable than cave, and more coastal, too.
Dune – Sure, there’s the legendary sci fi novel, but it also brings to mind sand dunes.
Harbor – A word that brings to mind a safe place for ships, but also a place of refuge. That makes Harbor a little bit of a virtue name, too.
Ocean – Less rare than you might imagine, sometimes used for children born at sea. Oceanus Hopkins was the only child born during the Mayflower’s voyage to the New World.
Reef – Tropical and exotic as natural places go, and close enough to favorites like Reed to be name-like.
Sea – Sure, it sounds like the initial C. But then, plenty of boys have answered to Jay over the years, so this one should work.
NATURE NAMES: CREATURES
Bear – Cuddly and fierce.
Falcon – We tend to reserve Lark and Wren for girls, but Falcon feels more masculine.
Hart – It brings to mind affection, but it’s also an adult male deer, and occasionally a surname, too.
Hawk – Another soaring name for a son.
Lion – Leo feels mainstream, but Lion has an edge.
Lynx – Another wild cat. It got its name from the Greek leuk, the same root as so many Luc- names, because of the brightness of its eyes.
Wolf – Perhaps the most traditional of the creature names, used in German across the generations.
NATURE NAMES: PLANTS & TREES
Birch – Flower names tend to trend feminine, but trees? Birch feels like a boy’s name.
Elm – Another strong, resilient tree. They appear in poetry as excellent places for lounging beneath.
Leaf – The similar Scandi name Leif means heir, but it sounds almost like Leaf, which could work as a more obvious word name.
Oak – Surname Oakley – choose your spelling – is on the rise, but mighty Oak remains rare, and belongs on the list of new word names for boys.
Timber – As in -lake and -land, but really a stand-alone possibility. It could refer to wood ready for another use, or might be called out when a tree is about to fall.
NATURE NAMES: RUGGED & OUTDOORSY
Canyon – A deep gorge, like the Grand Canyon, and all the majesty that implies. It fits with so many two-syllable, ends-in-n boy names, but also with new word names for boys.
Summit – Almost a virtue name, since a summit is a peak. I’ve heard of kids called Everest and Denali, but Summit applies to all sorts of heights.
Trail – A nod to both paths through the wilderness, and those who blaze them. Bonus? It rhymes with Dale, which makes it feel just a little more name-like.
COLORS & LIGHT
Blue – A vivid color choice for a daughter or a son.
Bright – Lots of names, like Luke and Ray, hint at all things light and bright. But how ’bout the word itself?
Indigo – A deep shade of blue, right next to violet in the rainbow. It puts the I in ROY G. BIV.
Loden – A dark olive green, Loden is often used for waterproof jackets. That makes it outdoorsy, as well as colorful.
Navy – A shade of blue associated with sailors, and all things nautical. Rising in use for both genders, but I think it fits nicely with new word names for boys.
Red – A primary color, sometimes a nickname, and possibly a given name, too.
Russet – Sure, there’s the potato. But Russet also refers to a color, a rich, dark brown.
ROCKS & STONES
Flint – In sound close to Finn and Flynn, but actually a type of hard, gray rock. A flint can be used to spark a fire, so that lends some energy to the name.
Garnet – As red as Rory, and one of the few gemstone names that feels just right for a son.
Onyx – Often associated with the color black, Onyx is another gemstone at home as a boy’s name.
Shale – A common kind of rock, and also a potential name that brings to mind Sean, Shane, and Dale.
Slate – You might think of Slate as a bluish-gray color, a material used for roofing or writing tablets, but originally, it’s a type of rock. It sounds like Jake and Nate and plenty of other boy names.
Stone – Television journalist Stone Phillips lends this name some gravitas, but even without him, it’s an obvious choice for new word names for boys.
Bravery – An edgy sound, and a worthy quality. Just plain Brave works, too.
Dare – Dare has some history as a girls’ given name, but not so much that it wouldn’t work with new word names for boys, too.
Valor – A blazing name, brave and bold. And yet, in an age of Hunter and Carter, maybe it’s the tiniest bit more of a blend-in choice, too.
Endeavor – Inspector Endeavour Morse rivals other long-running television characters. He debuted on Britain’s ITV in 1987 and ran through 2000. Now he’s back in a 2012 prequel series, which is still going strong today. That’s increased interested in the detective’s unusual given name, spelled with an extra ‘u’ in the UK.
Resolute – A rock solid virtue, meaning determined, but also one with an Americana twist. Years ago, a British royal navy ship called Resolute was abandoned during an Arctic expedition. Americans salvaged it. Congress later returned it to Queen Victoria as a goodwill gesture. In turn, the queen had wood from the ship turned into the Resolute Desk, currently sitting in the Oval Office.
Noble – Aristocratic birth can make you a noble. Typically, noble refers to honorable behavior, and it actually did appear as a given name in the US into the 1950s – but I think it still feels fresh and modern.
Prosper – Another name with a certain Pilgrim sheen and a brief history of use, Prosper means to flourish, and that feels like an uplifting choice for a child’s name.
True – A universal virtue, and a straightforward choice, too.
Truth – Want something with just a little more sound than True? Truth feels every bit as virtuous, and slightly less expected.
Trust – Another quality admired by all, and a word that sounds surprisingly name-like.
VIRTUES: PEACE & FAITH
Concord – A place name associated with New England and grapes, but also a synonym for unity or goodwill.
Credence – Belief, but also a character in the Fantastic Beasts stories.
Zen – A branch of Buddhism, but also a state of calm.
VIRTUES: STRENGTH & VIGOR
Hale – Perhaps a bit archaic, but to be hale is to be healthy.
Hardy – Speaking of Hale, the phrase is often “hale and hearty.” But Hardy also means capable, robust. I can imagine them (almost) as very well-matched names for twin brothers.
Chosen – A name that implies the child is destined for great things. They’re cousins to epic boy names like Maverick, but with a virtuous or spiritual sensibility.
Gather – It’s a verb, of course, but Gather seems to imply gathering followers in a religious sense, or perhaps for another high-minded purpose.
Golden – Like Diamond, it’s a little bit flashy, but Golden also implies something deeper. A Golden Age or Golden Years are notable for their excellence.
Legacy – I’ve listed this with the epic boy names before, but Legacy implies something that endures, and that adds an extra layer of meaning.
Dodge – Sure, it’s a storied auto manufacturer, just like Top 1000 name Ford. But it’s also a quick movement – and maybe even a choice suited for baseball fans.
Judge – It can sound harsh, even authoritarian, but to be a good judge of character is a positive trait.
Link – Connection makes this verb feel powerful; long-running video game series The Legends of Zelda lends it a heroic sheen, and makes it feel slightly more familiar. (A generation of boys who are called Linc as a nickname for Lincoln make it more plausible, too.)
Pace – Pacing can imply worry, but pacing yourself and setting the pace suggest prudence and leadership.
Race – Racer has made some headlines, but it’s Race that’s steadily more common as a given name – though still rare. Perhaps that’s because Race has history as a surname, too.
Revel – A choice that’s all about celebration – and joy!
Rise – An aspirational choice that brings to mind mountains.
Trace – Thoroughly outdoorsy.
Track – A name that made headlines thanks to political figure Sarah Palin’s children. (Her five kids answer to Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig.)
Trek – Takes Track off the beaten path.
THOSE WHO DO
Diver – An active image, and one that suggests enthusiasm, too.
Painter – An artistic surname name, and one that seems just a little different from long-time favorite Payton.
Pilot – Sixteen years ago, Jason Lee made waves for naming his son Pilot Inspektor. But with so many boys named Jett, Pilot fits in nicely.
Pioneer – A name both Americana and inspiring.
Racer – Speedy.
Ranger – Rugged and outdoorsy.
READY, AIM, NAME
Arrow – This one is gaining in use, but remains outside the US Top 1000 … for now.
Caliber – The appeal of so many weapons-related names is that they imply a mix of accuracy and excellence. Caliber suggests one who attains a high standard, making it so much more than a gun name.
Day – It sounds like Jay and Ray, but with the optimism of a new Day, too.
March – We’ve given June and even January to the girls, but March – a mix of active verb and month name – feels nicely masculine.
NATURE NAMES: WEATHER & SEASONS
Frost – The chillest of the new word names for boys.
Harvest – A name that feels abundant, and close to traditional pick Harvey.
North – Strictly speaking, North isn’t a season at all. But it brings to mind frosty winters and cool summers, an outdoorsy choice with the thermometer set to cool.
HEROES & ADVENTURES
Hero – Sure, it’s a lot to live up to … but then, maybe so is Maverick or Messiah, and they’re both popular choices.
Knight – Drop the K, and it’s a straight-up nature name. But with the K, it’s a medieval soldier … or a Jedi.
Quest – The ultimate adventure, one with a purpose.
VIRTUES: WIT & WISDOM
Keen – Sharp and smart, and once a slang term along the lines of awesome, too.
Reason – A name-like word that suggests intelligence and restraint.
Sincere – Another universally appreciated quality.
Wise – It can mean a little too smart – a wise guy – or considered, thoughtful, and intelligent. While it’s a lot to live up to, Wise is often heard as a surname, too, which makes it feel a little more wearable.
RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY
Ever – As in eternity.
Psalm – A sacred song or hymn, and an overtly religious choice.
Ransom – At first, it brings to mind letters cut from newspaper. But Ransom is also a way of referring to Christ’s death on the cross, when he gave himself as ransom for humanity’s sins. That puts Ransom in this category of new word names.
Solace – A name meaning comfort and consolation, a choice that signals compassion.
NEW WORD NAMES: EVERYTHING ELSE
Anchor – It holds you down, which can be a good thing.
Foster – To foster is to encourage, a near-virtue name possibility.
Gable – An architectural term, made dashing by Hollywood icon Clark.
Kin – The ultimate family name?
Kindred – It’s the K in legendary sci fi author Philip K. Dick. (It was his mother’s maiden name.)
Moss – A gentle nature name.
Revere – It signals respect and admiration – as well as American revolutionary Paul’s midnight ride.
Rocket – A name that signals new heights, just as surely as Summit or Rise.
Rye – An edible option, one that brings to mind bread, but also the plant.
Seven – A punchline of a baby name on 90s sitcom Seinfeld, today Seven feels like one of the most obvious number names.
Shelter – A gentle word name in the key of Harbor.
Steel – Strong.
Story – As appealing as many of the music names, but in a more literary fashion.
Solo – Sure, there’s Han. But long before Star Wars, this name referred to someone who preferred to go it alone.
What are your favorite new word names for boys? What have I missed?
First published November 18, 2019, this post was updated on June 30, 2020.