Today we’ll look at rare boy names 2019. Every one of these picks was given to just eight boys born between January 1st and December 31st of 2018.
How rare is eight births? 19,837 parents chose the top name, Liam, for their sons. Even the choices bringing up the end of the US Top 1000 – Benton, Coleman, and Markus – were bestowed on 206 boys each.
So the great eights fall into the struck-by-lightning odds category.
A few rules: re-spelled names don’t count, so Brycin doesn’t make the list, even though eight boys were given the name. (But that’s a drop compared to the nearly 4,200 Brysons and another 569 Brycens.) Likewise, names that feel close but not quite the same don’t appear. (Is Ero a slimmed-down spelling of the Finnish Eero? Or a phonetic mini-name based on Arrow? Or am I missing something else entirely?)
These names could be given to a child born in the US today. And while it would still take some explanation, and possibly lots of spelling, for some of these to be understood, I do think they’d all wear well on a boy born in 2020s.
If we’re talking rare boy names 2019, Axel feels like the very opposite. It ranks in the US Top 100, a cool boy name that mixes tradition and edginess. But Axel comes from Absalom by way of medieval Danish. It’s an Old Testament name, a handsome and charismatic son of King David who ultimately rebelled. Maybe that tinges his name with grief, and explains the limited use. Or maybe it’s just an overlooked gem.
Natalie Portman named her son Aleph in 2011. It’s the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, sometimes associated with an ox. Despite the celebrity birth announcement, it’s never really caught on – though in fairness, it wasn’t used at all until Natalie and husband Benjamin Millepied chose it for their child.
Arcadia comes from an ancient place name, borrowed and re-cycled all across the world. It traces its roots to arktos – the Greek word for bear. We’ve heard Arcadia in English from time to time, and Arkadios or Arcadius perhaps in a history book. Russians name their sons Arkady in respectable numbers. But Arcadio remains rare, but reasonable in our age of Arlo and Mateo.
You might assume that every reasonable surname name has been pressed into service for our children already. How many kids answer to Madison and Tyler, Mackenzie and Mason, Harper and Cash? But Bingham isn’t big, at least not yet. Kate Hudson’s middle child, born in 2011, is named Bingham. It’s a family name twice over, plus shortens to the cool nickname Bing. Like Aleph, the celebrity birth deserves credit for the name’s use – but it remains very rare.
I would’ve skipped right past this name a few years ago. My brain mentally adds “flake” right after Bran. Or it did, until the world became obsessed with Game of Thrones. And while I’ll keep this spoiler-free, there’s a good chance you know all about Bran Stark already.
Some names appear in lots of European languages, but pass by English entirely. File Caetano among them. Kajetan and Gaetano are heard in other languages. Caetano comes from Portuguese. We borrowed the name, ultimately, from an Italian place name. There’s a Saint Gaetano way back when. And while I might normally drop this name from the list – the G spelling ranks slightly higher – but I think the C feels ever more wearable. It sounds like KYE eh tahn oh, an elaborate of the Kai sound we like so much in Malachi and other names.
Cal names are enjoying a quiet moment. Calvin is up; Callan and Callum climbed, too. The Calvert family founded what would become the state of Maryland; they held the title Baron Baltimore, hence the city name. Calvert comes from an occupational surname for a calf herder; but compared to Mason or Carpenter, that’s pretty much invisible by today’s standards.
We love a good surname borrowed from music, so why Jazz Hall of Famer, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Coltrane? Besides the many achievements of the legendary saxophonist and composer, his surname shortens to the familiar and very much in-favor Cole.
For this list, I tend to avoid names that feel cobbled together from popular elements. Grayton and Huxson feel like grafts of other names. At first glance, you might dismiss Dacian on similar grounds. But it’s a Romanian name, borrowed from the Roman province of Dacia. Emperor Trajan conquered it around the year 100. If you know your ancient geography, you might recognize Dacia as parts of modern-day Romania. They pronounce it more like da chee AHN. I’d say it DAY see uhn in American English, or maybe even like Jason-with-a-D.
An o-ending surname in the key of Arlo and Milo, Darrow brings to mind Clarence Darrow. A brilliant legal mind, born into a family with a long streak of activism, Darrow would take part in some of the most famous trials of his day. He’s remembered for his wit as well as his wisdom, and his defense of the underdog. The Scottish surname may come from a Gaelic word meaning oak tree.
We’re wild about Finn names, so why not Finbar? The Anglicized spelling of a traditional Irish name, it’s been worn by a sixth century saint and a teenaged Kennedy (RFK Jr.’s youngest son is William “Finn” Finbar.) If Finnegan, Finley, Fintan, and even Finnick all fall flat, but you’d love a longer name for Finn, well … Finbar might just be it.
Most bird names go to the girls, but Finch feels more equal opportunity. Maybe that’s because a handful of high profile characters have answered to the name. (David Spade played Dennis Finch in 1990s sitcom Just Shoot Me; the next decade gave us Paul Finch in the American Pie series. Both answered to their surnames more than their firsts.) I love this as a middle, but in an age of River and Fox and Rowan, Finch would fit.
Americana surname name Ford is marching up the US Top 1000, prompting some parents to consider a longer form. Fordham works well. There’s a Catholic university in New York called Fordham; it’s named for the Bronx neighborhood where it is located. (There’s debate about the neighborhood’s name origins.) Bachelorette alum Ashley Hebert named her son Fordham “Ford” Rhys in 2014.
Like birds, gemstone names are often reserved for girls. But doesn’t Garnet feel perfectly masculine? Or maybe unisex – nine girls received the name last year, too. But it’s certainly wearable for a boy, the partner to Ruby or Scarlett. (Though they’re not always red.)
Do you remember The Nanny Diaries? The hit 2002 novel involved a nanny and her charge, young Grayer. Since then, Grayson has become a smash hit favorite in the US, while Grayer has languished in obscurity. (Though the 2007 movie adaptation pushed the name to peak usage – 21 births in 2008.) With ends in -er names so stylish and Gray such a favorite sound, this looks like a neglected gem.
Actor Hill Harper made me add this one to the list. At first glance, it’s too much of a word name. (Of course, that’s also true of River.) Or maybe a surname. Harper was born Francis Eugene; Hill is his mother’s maiden name. But it turns out that Hill has popped in popularity data for well over a century, probably thanks to its familiarity as a surname. And in our age of nature names perhaps it wears better than ever before.
I almost dropped Jesper, because it’s simply another form of the ecovintage Jasper. The ‘e’ spelling is Scandinavian, especially Danish. But it could appeal to parents to like the similarity to the unrelated Jesse, and so that earned it a spot on the list.
When I hear Jiro, I mentally add “dreams of sushi.” That’s thanks to the 2011 documentary by the name, about legendary sushi chef Jiro Ono and his sons. But even without that familiarity, Jiro could be a very approachable Japanese name, pronounced nearly the same in English as in the original.
Jules feels unisex; Julie is reserved for girls. But how about July? The month name feels more potentially masculine than May or June, possibly because of Julius Caesar. It’s consistently more popular for girls, but only by a bit. In 2018, 20 girls were named July, compared to just eight boys. That tells me it would still work just fine for a son. It has a fresh, interesting sound – less expected than August, easier to accept as a name than, say, October.
Yet another title name, Laird comes from a minor Scottish position that means, roughly, landowner. But it’s the ocean that makes this name famous. World-renowned surfer Laird Hamilton makes his unusual name appealing. It rhymes with declared. Its use pre-dates Hamilton in the US, though, and an actor, a poet, and a politician or two might also come to mind.
Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves share three children: Levi, Vida, and Livingston. It’s a Scottish place name-inspired surname, from land deeded to the Levin (or maybe Lewin) family in the 1200s. It brings to mind the explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone. It’s a longer name, but then, so are Cameron and Sullivan.
IT exec Marissa Mayer crowdsourced suggestions for her son’s name while she was CEO of Yahoo! In the end, she settled on Macallister for her 2012 baby. A Scottish surname cousin to the wildly popular Alexander, with the bonus of built-in nickname Mac, it’s never quite caught on. But I think it’s quite promising.
A gentle green nature name, Moss claims far more exalted roots. It’s a form of Old Testament patriarch name Moses, long used in older forms of English. Pulitzer-winning playwright Moss Hart lends it some additional familiarity. Like other rare boy names 2019, Moss has sat at the fringes for over a century, never common, but not disappearing, either.
I do love a good Shakespearean baby name. And the sound of Othello – all those Os and that great ‘th’ – seems quite current. And yet, it’s a tragedy – and the hero ends badly. Perhaps that explains why the name has a long history of sparing use, but has never really caught on.
Ages before Pierce Brosnan starred as James Bond, William Ploughman wrote the poem “Piers Ploughman.” Piers was a medieval English form of Peter; Pierce is a surname form evolved from Piers. And yet they all seem rather distinct – classic Peter, modern Pierce, and obscure Piers, which sounds just a little different from the -ce ending.
Legendary actor Redford makes this name feel handsome. It shortens to Red and Ford, both appealing possibilities. And it’s familiar, but not at all common – the kind of rare boys name 2019 that might appeal to the right parents. As for meaning, it probably refers to a stream crossing – a ford – that can be crossed on horseback. That’s sort of outdoorsy and rugged, too.
We like -s enders lately. Just ask Miles and Brooks. And surnames as firsts just won’t quit. So Rollins makes a logical extension of both trends. It also brings to mind musician and activist Henry Rollins, an association some will appreciate.
Fun fact: Rollins evolved from given names starting with Rol-, like Rolf … and Rollo. Rollo could fit right in with so many -o ending boy names, but for the moment, it lags far behind Milo and Arlo, Leo and Hugo. The most famous bearer of the name comes with a pretty cool story, one you might have caught on television series Vikings. And yet, it’s among the rare boy names 2019, scarcely heard – so far.
Maybe this one doesn’t count. Eight boys were named Thorn last year … but another eight were named Thorne. Still, sixteen births doesn’t exactly disqualify an entry into the rare boy names 2019 list, right? We all think of thorns as sharp, so it’s a nature name with considerable edge. But with boys answering to epic names like Maverick and Legend, is Thorn really too dramatic? Soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful included a character named Thorne Forrester from the 1980s up until the present year.
There you have it – 29 rare boy names 2019. Would you consider any of these for a son? Can you imagine some of them catching on?