rare boy namesLove rare boy names?

So many parents do! But just how rare? Some draw the line at anything ranked in the current Top 1000. But just over 200 boys receive names that sit right outside the rankings, at #1,014 or so.

Call that much less popular than Liam. But does it count as rare?

The US Social Security Administration reports on every name given to five or more boys or girls in a given year. (In other words, if four boys and four girls are named Pim, that’s not enough to make the list. But five boys? That qualifies.)

It’s possible to compile a list of names that don’t appear on the US Social Security list – Nameberry did a great one – and yet, that could be too rare, a name no one recognizes or knows exactly how to pronounce.

So how rare are these rare boy names?

These names were given to just eight boys between January 1st and December 31st of 2016.

A few more rules:

  • The name did not appear in an alternate spelling higher up on the list. Sorry, Aarron, Adom, Acxel, and dozens of others.
  • The name does not represent a slight twist on a popular pick. Good-bye, Zabriel!
  • Foreign imports may be included, but the pronunciation has to be reasonably intuitive in the US. (Though that’s a tough call, and it’s easy to be over-cautious.)

Dozens of possibilities remain, from the familiar to the unknown, but still very wearable.


Total births in 2018: 13

You might know Albion as a place name, but did you know it once referred to the island of Great Britain? First recorded some centuries BC, the origins and meaning remain obscure. Sound-wise, it falls somewhere between Julian and Orion and Albert.


Total births in 2018: 9

True Blood gave us a werewolf called Alcide Herveaux. Alcide comes from Alcides, a Greek name once associated with the legendary hero Hercules. We’re wild for -s ending boy names – just think about Achilles, Atticus, and Atlas, so why not Alcides?


Total births in 2018: 13

Word names keep coming. It leans patriotic, thanks to the phrase “national anthem.” Originally, the word referred to sacred music; later, it meant any song expressing joy. Only later did it refer to songs like “God Save the Queen” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Musical, meaningful, and unexpected, Anthem still feels wearable.


Total births in 2018: 6 (plus 17 girls)

Nature names continue to climb the charts, with River leading the way for boys. So why not Bay, another water-inspired choice? Like River, Bay trends unisex. It’s slightly more popular for girls. Credit ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, featuring a character named Bay Madeline Kennish, with making the name more familiar.


Total births in 2018: 6

Literary names like Atticus and Eloise appear on plenty of playgrounds. So do mythological picks like Orion and Juno. So why not Beowulf? The hero of an Old English poem, Beowulf defeats a terrifying monster. It may seem overly dramatic, but at least some parents have chosen it over the years. Celebrated set designer Beowulf Borrit might be the best known.


Total births in 2018: 9

Kids answer to Lennon and Hendrix, so no surprise Bonham is spotted, too. It honors legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. It comes from the Old French bonhomme, meaning good man.


Total births in 2018: 12 (plus 33 girls)

Like Bay, Breeze works for boys and girls. Weather-related names like Rain and Misty have been heard over the years. Sound-wise, Breeze also brings to mind fiery Blaze.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five

The brink is the edge; in international relations, brinkmanship refers to going right up to the edge of conflict in order to achieve goals. This makes Brink feel bold; a risk-taking name that might have been too much in another generation. But this is the age of Maverick, so Brink might feel brisk and appealing.


Total births in 2018: 10

Cal makes a cool nickname. Names like Calvin and Callum are rising, but Caldwell remains an under-the-radar option.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five boys (plus 13 girls)

It sounds like Amber with a a C. But camber means to arch or curve, and appears in several disciplines, including aerodynamics. There’s also a legendary Welsh king by the name.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five

Ewan MacGregor played a man-about-town in campy 2003 romcom Down With Love. His character’s name? The sporting Catcher. Catcher also brings to mind JD Salinger’s enduring literary work Catcher in the Rye – though Salinger’s antihero answered to Holden.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five (plus 21 boys named Cord)

Musical names have had a good run, but many of them lean girl – Aria, Harmony, Cadence. Chord, however, feels more masculine. Glee alum Chord Overstreet is the son of a country musician.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five

Claiborne shortens nicely to Clai/Clay, making this preppy surname name feel very wearable.


Total births in 2018: 11

Croy comes from the map, and is heard as a surname, too. Origins and meanings vary, but this name brings to mind croix – the French word for cross.


Total births in 2018: 14

Dak Prescott plays for the Dallas Cowboys. While his full name is Rayne Dakota, his nickname Dak seems to have inspired parents who are football fans, in search of a Jack substitute, or both.


Total births in 2018: 8

A surname name possibly coming the Gaelic word for oak tree, Darrow fits with all of those o-ending favorites. It also serves as a potential hero name, thanks to attorney Clarence Darrow, known for his wit and unwavering defense of civil liberties in landmark cases like the Scopes Monkey trial.


Total births in 2018: 9 (and 23 girls)

Diem brings to mind three things: D.M., for direct message. The Latin diem, for day, as in carpe diem. And maybe it sounds something like diadem, another word for a crown. It’s actually a Vietnamese name.


Total births in 2018: 5

Legendary jazz guitarist Jean Reinhardt adopted the nickname Django for his Romani roots. It means “I awake.” This almost puts Django in the same category as Madonna or Cher – names for just a single celebrity. Except lately Django has other uses – characters in a Quentin Tarantino movie and the Disney-Pixar Ratatouille, as well as some other minor uses.


Total births in 2018: 15

Harry Potter fans know that Fawkes is the name Albus Dumbledore’s pet phoenix, who plays a pivotal role in several stories. Fawkes almost certainly refers to Guy Fawkes, a leader of the failed Gunpowder Plot revolution in England in 1605. Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks ever since – a fitting name for a phoenix. Is a stretch for a child? Maybe. But with Fox in the US Top 1000, this sound-alike might work.


Total births in 2018: 5

If Catcher makes the list, why not Fielder? It brings to mind baseball, but also the outdoors, as in the very popular Parker.


Total births in 2018: 8

Most avian appellations trend feminine, but Finch feels just right for a son. Maybe that’s due to Atticus Finch, of To Kill a Mockingbird fame.


Total births in 2018: 14

On a girl, Gale feels a little dated, despite the persistent popularity of Abigail. On a boy, Gale brings to mind the handsome and heroic Gale Hawthorne of The Hunger Games.


Total births in 2018: 10

Godfrey is cousin to Jeffrey, via the medieval form Geoffrey. The two were often confused. The name means “peace of God,” which seems appealing.


Total births in 2018: 7

Yet another surname name with potential, Hammond is a surname, place name, and the name of companies that manufacture, among other things, candy and electric organs. It’s not a stretch to imagine it on children, too.


Total births in 2018: 5

A nicely Irish pick, Hannon could work for the same reasons as Hammond.


Total births in 2018: 13

If Harrison is so popular, why not the similar-sounding Harrington? Interestingly, this one isn’t related to Harry and Henry, but shares the Har- sound. Also, Kit Harington makes it more familiar.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five

Originally, someone with the surname Holder lived near an elder tree – or near a symbol for one. It fits right in with Fielder and Catcher.


Total births in 2018: 10

Hugo and Hugh continue to climb. So why not Hughes? For 80s film buffs, it brings to mind John Hughes, director of so many classics from the decade, from Sixteen Candles to The Breakfast Club.


Total births in 2018: 7

Indio, California is home to legendary music festival Coachella. Robert Downey, Jr. chose the name for his son way back in 1993.


Total births in 2018: 11

Like Indio, you’ll find Kiel on a map. It’s a Germany city on the Baltic Sea. It may mean wedge, a reference to the shape of the bay on which the city sits. Or it could be short for dozens of name. With Kai riding high, Kiel could fit right in.


Total births in 2018: 24

A portmanteau of Leo and Giovanni, Leovanni feels promising. Maybe it’s because there are so many Leo names.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five

Celebrity surname names, like Winslet and Aniston, can work nicely. So why not Leto, as in Jared? It’s feminine in Greek myth, but has separate roots in the Latin laetus – happy.


Total births in 2018: 7

Many of the Mac/Mc names – Mackenzie, McKenna – have been ceded to the girls. But Mackay feels like one with potential to remain Team Blue.


Total births in 2018: 11

Speaking of Mc names with potential, MacGregor works. Sure, there’s Peter Rabbit’s garden nemesis. But it also feels like a refresh for Greg.


Total births in 2018: 9

Mia tops the girls’ charts. Feminine in Japan, masculine in Sweden, and seldom heard in the US, Mio offers an intriguing and different sound, all in a spare three letters.


Total births in 2018: 7

Like Nicholas, Nicanor comes from the Greek nike – victory. But it brings to mind the American writer Ernest Hemingway. He named his firstborn John Hadley Nicanor, the bonus middle inspired by a Spanish bullfighter Hemingway admired.


Total births in 2018: 29

Harry Potter meets the master wand craftsman in the very first book. It’s a Wizarding World surname, but sounds an awful lot like an Oliver-Alexander smoosh.


Total births in 2018: 7

The P, of course, stays silent in this word, referring to a sacred hymn.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five

This Spanish name comes from the word for shelter, a strong and appealing meaning.


Total births in 2018: 10

One of the two legendary founders of Rome, twin to Remus, Romulus inspired the eternal city’s name.


Total births in 2018: 13

Russell has never left the US Top 1000, but just Russ remains quite rare. It’s been barely holding on since the 1960s. And yet, it’s short, down-to-earth, and very wearable.


Total births in 2018: 6

In 2018, 17 boys were named Serge, while another six became Sergei. The Roman family name endures in most European languages – think Sergio – but is seldom heard in English. Sergei is the Russian.


Total births in 2018: 5

Speaking of imports, Severo is heard in Italian and Spanish, derived from the Roman family name Severus – stern. While the meaning might feel harsh, the sound appeals.


Total births in 2018: fewer than five

Arabic name Sa’id means happy; in Western Africa, the name evolved into Seydou. It appears as a first name and a surname.


Total births in 2018: 9

Yet another -o ending boys’ name, Spiro comes from the Greek Spyridon, which might come from the Latin spiritus – spirit. For years, the name was associated with former Vice President Spiro Agnew, who served under Nixon – not an auspicious association. (Agnew was forced to resign – pre-Watergate – on charges of corruption.) Despite this baggage, Spiro’s cool sound might be worth considering as a new generation of parents thinks of the 1960s as the distant past.


Total births in 2018: 15

I long assumed Tavis came from Tavish, the Scottish form of Thomas. But it’s actually related to Matthew, via surname Tewes.


Total births in 2018: 13

Wait, what? Yes, boys are being named Thanos, as in the Marvel cinematic universe’s big, big baddie. While this name might succeed on sound, and could come from the Greek Athanasios – immortal – chances are that the few parents to use it were inspired by the super villain.


Total births in 2018: 7

Toretto sounds thoroughly Italian, possibly a place name. It could make a cool, edgy alternative to popular picks like Matteo and traditionals like Antonio. But – get this! – Dominic Toretto is the character played by Vin Diesel in the long-running The Fast and the Furious franchise. A town in Sicily is named Torretta; it means turret, as in tower.


Total births in 2018: 8

This is the age of Maverick and Legend, Messiah and King. Warrior combines a cool sound with an undeniably strong meaning. A bit brash, a bit modern virtue name, I can imagine Warrior striking some parents as the right kind of stands out-fits in choice. If Valor seems wearable, could Warrior be far behind? Another possible reference: NBA team Golden State Warriors, of California and Stephen Curry fame.


Total births in 2018: 6

Wilford feels like a grandpa name. And yet, we’re always on the lookout for the next wave of revivals. Wilford also combines two fantastic sounds – Wil, as in long-time Top Ten favorite William, and emerging favorite Ford.


Total births in 2018: 5

Half-William, half-Oliver, Wilver was the given name of baseball Hall-of-Famer Willie Stargell.


Total births in 2018: 9

With a winning first syllable, surname Wynton feels auspicious. Musician Wynton Marsalis raises the name’s profile, too.

Can you imagine any of these rare boy names catching on?

Originally published on June 26, 2017, this post was substantially revised on July 3, 2020.

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. Mio is the water flavoring. It might not be popular everywhere, but it’s definitely a pantry staple in my social circle.

  2. How can we find out how many babies were given a name outside of the top 1000? My son’s name is Tobin, born in 2016, and I can’t seem to search it properly on the SSA website. (Though we live in Canada, so he wouldn’t be counted anyway).

    1. Hi Courtney –

      First, the answer: 118 boys were given the name in the US in 2016.

      You can find it two ways. First, you can download the zip files from the Social Security website: https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/limits.html

      But when you’re interested in just one name, you might want to check out the data section of Nancy’s Baby Names. She has these amazing charts for every name with available data. Here’s the one for Tobin: https://www.nancy.cc/baby-name/tobin/

  3. I think Wilford, Mio, and Ollivander have the strongest chances of making it in terms of popularity. All of them are just different enough from overly popular names so that they seem unique and fresh without trying too hard. I also thought it was interesting how much Harry potter has influenced naming. I know the novels and movies were big, but something about naming your child after the series just seems, well, childish.

    1. I hear you – but I don’t think it’s that straightforward. In order to use a name, we have to be aware that it exists. And so a novel can introduce a name – and then we almost *forget* that we first read a new name in a book. It is especially powerful with a writer like JK Rowling, who draws from so many real, but neglected names for her characters. One we see it in HP, all of a sudden, Neville or Luna or Severus is everywhere …

      Well, Luna actually IS everywhere.

    2. I have a daughter named Emmeline. People ask if she’s named after the Anne of Avonlea character. She isn’t – I just love the name, and have loved it since I was a kid. Yes, the first place I ever heard it was in the Anne movies. When I was 8. However, I had all the in between time and a child’s imagination to separate the name from the character.

      I think those of us who encountered HP as adults tend to think of these rare names as “from the book” when the younger parents (who read the books as children) think of them as cool names that happened to be used in a book. Would any of us raise an eyebrow at Ronald, George, Fred, or Harry? And Hermione was a Shakespeare name first.

      Of course, that explanation does nothing to clear up Kylo.

      1. Nicely said, Amanda!

        I think Kylo succeeds on sound – Kyle + Kai + all those ends-in-o names. Except, well – yes, it does sort of make you sound like super fans of Star Wars. Which, of course, there are many! (Including my husband, though I doubt he’d want to name a child after a villain. Now, Leia … maybe …)

  4. Harrington is my last name! And I know of a baby born in 2016 with it- I guess he was one of the 8! But still… feels a bit weird as a first for me.

  5. Darrow has been a favorite of mine ever since I saw a documentary about the Scopes Monkey Trial.
    We passed through Indio this weekend and it always strikes me as having baby name potential. It feels hipsterish in the same vein as Arlo.

  6. Darrow is the protagonist in the Red Rising book series which is probably the main motivation behind most of those 8 names.

  7. Winton & Harrington are my favorites on this list. I’d be leery of using Anthem because of the insurance company & Brink because of the security company.

    1. I did think about the insurance company for a minute. They don’t operate here, so I might be underestimating the potential weirdness factor.