Let’s talk rare boy names 2017.
Rare makes for a slippery word in baby naming. Does rare mean not ranked in the current US Top 1000? Maybe. But more than 200 newborns still receive the 1,007th most popular boy name. Call that less popular than Noah, but maybe not 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 Raygun, 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.
Rare Boy Names 2017: The Rules
For this list of rare boy names 2017, I’m focusing on names given to just eight boys between January 1st and December 31st of 2016.
The rules for this list:
- It must be a “Great 8” – a name given to precisely eight boys in calendar year 2016, as reported by the Social Security Administration’s extended list. Why 8? No real reason, but plenty of blog posts have focused on names given to just five children. Inching up the list slightly reveals some rare boy names 2017 that we may have missed.
- The name cannot appear in an alternate spelling higher up on the list. Sorry, Aarron, Adom, Acxel, and dozens of others.
- The name cannot represent a slight twist on a popular pick. Good-bye, Zabriel!
- Foreign imports may be included, but I’m looking for choices that could potentially feel mainstream in the US in 2017. I may have been too conservative in this last category.
The good news? Dozens of possibilities remain, from the familiar to the unknown, but still very wearable.
Rare Boy Names 2017: A
Albion – 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.
Alcides – True Blood gave us a werewolf called Alcide Herveaux. Alcide comes from Alcides, a Greek name once used for the legendary hero Hercules. I think Alcide, hold the ‘s’, might feel more wearable. And yet Alcide is rarer than Alcides, so it’s the -s ender that makes the list. And hey, if Achilles, Atticus, and Atlas make the US Top 1000, why not Alcides?
Anthem – Word names keep coming. With Legend perched just outside the US Top 300, Anthem feels perfectly reasonable. 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.
Rare Boy Names 2017: B
Bay – 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. While just eight boys received the name last year, it was also given to 33 girls. Credit ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, featuring a character named Bay Madeline Kennish, with making the name more familiar.
Beowulf – Literary names like Atticus and Eloise appear on plenty of playgrounds. So did mythological monikers 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.
Bonham – Kids answer to Lennon and Hendrix, so no surprise Bonham is spotted, too. It honors legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. You might be able to unpack the meaning: from the Old French bonhomme, it translates to good man, though it eventually came to mean farmer.
Breeze – Like Bay, Breeze works for boys and girls. Two dozen girls and – of course! – eight boys received the name last year. Weather-related names like Rain and Misty have been heard over the years. Sound-wise, Breeze also brings to mind fiery Blaze.
Brink – 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 feels brisk and appealing.
Rare Boy Names 2017: C
Calhoun – Cal makes a cool nickname. Names like Calvin are rising, but Calhoun remains an under-the-radar option.
Camber – I first heard Camber as a girls’ name, 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 – hence Cambria, a poetic name for Wales.
Catcher – Ewan MacGregor played a man-about-town in the campy 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. It’s also sporty, and fits with all those ends-in-r names for boys.
Chord – Musical names have had a good run, but most of them lean girl – Aria, Harmony, Cadence. Chord, however, feels more masculine. Glee alum Chord Overstreet is the son of a country musician.
Claiborne – Preppy surname names feel mainstream today. Claiborne shortens nicely to Clai/Clay, making this one feel very wearable.
Croy – Croy comes from the map, and is heard as a surname, too. Origins and meanings vary, but this name always makes me think of croix – the French word for cross.
Rare Boy Names 2017: D
Dak – Dak Prescott plays for the Dallas Cowboys, and has likely inspired these eight parents to choose the name for their sons. It also brings to mind traditional Jack, though Dak’s full name is Rayne Dakota.
Darrow – 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.
Diem – 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, which might explain how it makes this list, but I think it could appeal for a great many reasons.
Django – 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.
Rare Boy Names 2017: E – F
Fawkes – 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.
Fielder – If Catcher makes the list, why not Fielder? It brings to mind baseball, but also the outdoors, as in the very popular Parker.
Finch – 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.
Rare Boy Names 2017: G – H
Gale – On a girl, Gale feels rather dated, despite the persistent success of Abigail. On a boy, Gale brings to mind the handsome and heroic Gale Hawthorne of The Hunger Games.
Godfrey – Godfrey is cousin to Jeffrey, via the medieval form Geoffrey. The two were often confused. The name means “peace of God,” which seems appealing. The name’s vibe is old-fashioned, but that hasn’t hurt picks like Jasper and Felix.
Hammond – Yet another surname name with potential, Hammond claims more than one possible origin and meaning. Like many a surname name, it could wear well in 2017.
Hannon – A nicely Irish pick, Hannon could work for the same reasons as Hammond.
Harrington – 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.
Holder – 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.
Hughes – Hugo and Hugh continue to climb. So why not Hughes? For 80s film buffs, it refers to John Hughes, director of so many classics from the decade, from Sixteen Candles to The Breakfast Club.
Rare Boy Names 2017: K – L
Indio – Indio, California is home to legendary music festival Coachella. Robert Downey, Jr. chose the name for his son way back in 1993. Back then, Indio qualified as a wacky celebrity baby name. Today, it hits all the style markers for a great, under-used boys’ name.
Kiel – 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. In 2017, one possibility is that Kiel comes from Ezekiel, a Biblical boy name rising quickly in use.
Leovanni – A portmanteau of Leo and Giovanni, Leovanni typically wouldn’t pass the test for inclusion on this list. Most recent coinages have been committed. And yet, Leovanni feels promising. Maybe it’s because there are so many Leo names.
Leto – 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.
Rare Boy Names: M – O
Mackay – 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.
McGregor – Speaking of Mc names with potential, McGregor works. Sure, there’s Farmer McGregor, Peter Rabbit’s garden nemesis. But it also feels like a refresh for Greg.
Mio – 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.
Munro – Like the sound of Monroe for a son, but worried Marilyn gives this one to the girls? Consider the Scottish spelling Munro instead.
Nicanor – This names comes from the Greek nike – victory. But it brings to mind the American writer Hemingway. He named his firstborn John Hadley Nicanor, the bonus middle inspired by a Spanish bullfighter he admired.
Ollivander – Harry Potter meets the master wand craftsman in the very first book, and Garrick Ollivander appears periodically throughout the series.
Rare Boy Names 2017: P – R
Psalm – The P, of course, stays silent in this word, referring to a sacred hymn. As a middle name it feels striking and original, but perhaps this is tough to wear as a first.
Refugio – This Spanish name comes from the word for shelter, a strong and appealing meaning.
Romulus – One of the two legendary founders of Rome, twin to Remus, Romulus inspired the eternal city’s name.
Russ – 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, Russ might feel like the most modern member of the club, especially compared to Rusty.
Rare Boy Names: S
Sergei – Last year, 16 boys were named Serge, while another eight became Sergei. The Roman family name endures in most European languages – think Sergio – but is seldom heard in English. Sergei is the Russian form.
Severo – 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.
Seydou – Arabic name Sa’id means happy; in Western Africa, the name evolved into Seydou. It appears as a first name and a surname.
Spiro – 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.) And yet, 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.
Rare Boy Names: T
Tavis – I long assumed Tavis came from Tavish, the Scottish form of Thomas. Talk show host and author Tavis Smiley puts it in the spotlight. Some might find it too close to Travis and Davis, but I think it works.
Thanos – Wait, what? Yes, eight boys were named Thanos last year. And if you don’t why that’s bananas, well, you haven’t been watching the development of 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. For that reason, I almost deleted it from this list. Except. Kylo charted in the US Top 1000 this year.
Toretto – 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.
Rare Boy Names: W
Warrior – In another era, Warrior would never make my list. But 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.
Wilford – Wilford feels like a grandpa name, a little fusty and dusty. 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.
Wilver – Half-William, half-Oliver, Wilver was the given name of baseball Hall-of-Famer Willie Stargell.
Winton – An Old English surname, Winton is heard less often than Winston, or even Wynton – the spelling used by musician Wynton Marsalis. But it remains an option, with that winning first syllable.
Do you think any of these rare boy names 2017 are future hits? Would you consider any for a son?