Today we’re looking at sweet spot boy names.
What does sweet spot mean? They’re names that we all recognize, but they’re far from the Top Ten Liam or Lucas. We’ve heard them, and might even know a kid or two with the name. But they’re not everywhere – even though some of them are gaining in use.
Style-wise, it’s tough to call them trendy. But you wouldn’t consider them fusty antiques, either.
What makes for sweet spot boy names?
- As with the girls’ list, one spelling dominates. Sure, you’ll meet children called Kameryn and Gryphon, but most people will spell the names Cameron and Griffin. Sorry, Elliot and Elliott.
- You might not call these names classic, but all of them have a solid history of use as given names in the US.
- They’re not part of a name cluster, like the Aidens or the Axtons – though Aidan and Paxton might otherwise qualify. It also rules out Jax and Jaxson – though Jack or even Jackson might fit if popularity weren’t a factor.
None of the names rank higher than #50, and nothing is rising too fast.
For many parents, these qualities define their ideal name. If that’s you? Then sweet spot boy names is your go-to list!
2021 US Popularity Rank: #121
2016 US Popularity Rank: #193
At first glance, it’s a nature name, borrowed straight from summertime. But August goes back eons as a given name, worn by emperors and saints in various forms. Augustine and Augustus rank in the current Top 1000, too, but it’s the simplified August that hits the sweet spot. It’s simple to spell and pronounce, instantly familiar to everyone, a sunny, summery baby boy name. Augie and Gus both make friendly nickname options, too.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #76
2016 US Popularity Rank: #116
Axel sounds trendy and tough, but it’s actually the Scandinavian form of the Biblical Absalom – my father is peace, one of King David’s sons in the Old Testament. It makes for a nicely international pick, too, familiar throughout Europe as well as the United States. In our age of Jaxton and other creative inventions, Axel shares all their style, but with plenty of notable bearers, too. Rock star Axl Rose was born William Bailey, but he lends this name even more swagger.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #94
2016 US Popularity Rank: #187
If Bella is big for girls, Beau seems like a logical baby boy name, doesn’t it? Both come from romance language words meaning beautiful, though we tend to translate Beau as handsome. It’s a bright, bold name for a son – fun to say and easy to remember. Beau originally rose in use in the US thanks to television Western Maverick, back in the 1960s. The name still retains a certain amount of cowboy energy.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #62
2016 US Popularity Rank: #57
A Scottish surname long used in small numbers, Cameron became a fast favorite in the 1980s. What explains the name’s rise? Cameron was Ferris’ best friend in 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (And Cameron’s dad owned the vintage Ferrari they borrow for the day.) Or maybe it’s down to Kirk Cameron, star of Growing Pains, which debuted in 1985. Either way, it became a white-hot, fast-rising pick for a son … and then mellowed into a familiar, friendly choice for a child. The 90s brought a brief uptick in the name’s use for girls (courtesy of Cameron Diaz), but while it reads a bit gender-neutral, the name is far more popular for our sons. Cameron has become a modern staple, and yes, one of the sweet spot boy names.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #165
2016 US Popularity Rank: #205
From Dean Martin to James Dean, there’s something slightly mid-century about this name. Indeed, it peaked in the 1960s. But it’s never left the US Top 1000, and a handful of more recent references keep it relevant for parents today: Rory’s first boyfriend in The Gilmore Girls, and Harry’s fellow Gryffindor – and Quidditch teammate – in Harry Potter. The recent uptick in Dean’s popularity comes from Supernatural’s demon hunter, Dean Winchester. It’s a bright, compact sound, and a name that feels instantly familiar, but not overused.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #103
2016 US Popularity Rank: #136
A brother to long-time favorite Emma, Emmett is found in the US Top 1000 every year since we started keeping track. It’s more popular than ever today, part of the crop of -t ending boy baby names, including Beckett, Elliott, and Barrett. Several of them could be considered sweet spot boy names, but the honor goes to Emmett. It’s a little bit unassuming, a name with a homespun vibe. Twilight gave the name to a Tennessee-born Cullen vampire, but that only served to lift the name farther. One more pop culture reference: the hero of The LEGO Movie bears the name, too – but he spells it Emmet.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #184
2016 US Popularity Rank: #175
Sound-wise, Finn fits with traditional boy names like Ben and Dan. But it claims a whole other history. Finn is the name of a legendary Irish hero, a name both storied and enduring and fresh and new. It might be an Irish heritage for parents seeking something less expected than Patrick. But while Finn’s Irish origin is indisputable, it also brings to mind the life aquatic – the fins of fish and surfboards, lending this name a little bit of coastal cool.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #161
2016 US Popularity Rank: #179
A Scottish surname, associated with the telephone (thanks to Alexander Graham Bell) and the cracker (thanks to reformer Sylvester Graham), this name doesn’t feel tied to a particular decade. Instead, it’s heard steadily throughout the years, as a first and a last. One possible complication: some pronounce it more like gray-uhm. And yet, I think this still belongs with sweet spot boy names, a straightforward choice that we’re used to hearing just enough.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #232
2016 US Popularity Rank: #230
Griffin sounds gruff, but dreamy, too. Maybe that’s because of the gryphon, a mythical half-lion, half-eagle. It’s a Welsh name of debated meaning, but it’s also a common surname. A Top 1000 name since the 1980s, Griffin has bounced around the low- to mid-200s since the 1990s. That feels like the very definition of a sweet spot name. Bonus? It could shorten to stylish nickname Finn, if you were so inclined.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #120
2016 US Popularity Rank: #107
A surname name derived from Henry by way of Harry, Harrison started out as dignified as presidential. William Henry Harrison was inaugurated in 1841. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, took office in 1889. While the surname has a long history of sparing use, it was actor Harrison Ford that really put it on parents’ radar as a baby boy name. That makes it one of the earlier last name to catch on, when trends were just beginning to favor ends-with-son possibilities. It’s just a bit less popular than Top 50 picks like Grayson and Hudson, and that’s enough to put it on the list of sweet spot boy names.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #434
2016 US Popularity Rank: #430
Boy names ending with -o are wildly stylish today. Some, like Leo, feel vintage. Others, like Arlo and Milo, have history of their own, but sound more like modern innovations. File Hugo in the same camp as Leo. We know we’ve seen this one in the history books. It’s instantly familiar, but surprisingly seldom heard. The meaning is just perfect: it comes from a Germanic word meaning spirit or heart. As a bonus, there’s a sweet song from the Broadway musical Bye, Bye Birdie that features the name.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #128
2016 US Popularity Rank: #209
A nature name, thanks to the stone, Jasper fits with modern favorites like River. But it has plenty of history, too. In fact, legend tells us that Jasper – or Caspar or Gaspard – was the name of one of the Three Kings from the Christmas story. We’ve always loved J name for boys, but as Jacob and Jayden decline in use, Jasper feels like a new sweet spot possibility.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #140
2016 US Popularity Rank: #150
Jonah takes the evergreen, approachable Joe and adds some Old Testament style. With Elijah and Isaiah and Noah so in favor, Jonah fits right in. The story of Jonah and the Whale might appeal to parents of faith, and the connection to the ocean could also motivate some to consider this name. One more nature name tie: Jonah comes from a Hebrew word meaning dove. It’s appeared in the US Top 1000 every year since 1970, and has ranked in the Top 200 since the 1990s. If you’re looking for a Biblical name with current appeal that’s less common than Noah, Jonah is worth consideration.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #150
2016 US Popularity Rank: #160
Jude might be the best known boys’ name in a song, thanks to The Beatles. It took Jude Law to take it from obscure to mainstream, and today it’s a well-established choice. It feels traditional but sounds modern, and while it’s risen in use substantially, it remains relatively underused. Jude has bounced around the mid-100s since 2010, which puts it right in line with sweet spot boy names.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #71
2016 US Popularity Rank: #145
Short and strong, Kai makes for a culture-spanning choice. It comes from the Hawaiian word for ocean, but Chinese and German-Scandinavian origins exist, too. There’s also a plausible tie to Arthurian legend. Perhaps most importantly, Kai succeeds on sound, picking up where Ryan and Kyle left off, a choice more 21st century than cowboy-cool Ty. Despite being little used until the 1980s, Kai feels like a modern traditional now, a name steadily ranking in the US Top 200 since 2010.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #261
2016 US Popularity Rank: #294
Lane started out as a surname for someone who lived near a path; but today it feels like a name that’s at home in wide open spaces. A little Western and a little bit sophisticated, Lane could appeal to parents from many walks of life. It was used in small numbers for years, but got a big boost from the 1994 movie 8 Seconds. The movie was based on the life of Lane Frost, a champion bull rider who died in the arena in 1989. That’s the country cool vibe; but it also sounds right when Mad Men introduces a proper Englishman by the name Lane Pryce. While it’s sometimes a girl’s name – think of Rory’s BFF from Gilmore Girls, the numbers give this one to the boys.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #282
2016 US Popularity Rank: #409
M is letter of Michael and Matthew, solid perpetual favorites, as well as chart-toppers like Mason and all of those many Max names. But somehow, Malcolm is one of those solid, respectable M names perpetually overlooked. Worn by kings in Scotland and Malcolm X in the US, it also featured on television staples like sitcom Malcolm in the Middle tale of teenage angst and Firefly’s sci-fi anti-hero Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds. And many will immediately recognize journalist, best-selling author, and podcast host Malcolm Gladwell. Despite this long history, Malcolm has never cracked the US Top 200 – or left the Top 1000. It’s the perfect under-the-radar choice.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #75
2016 US Popularity Rank: #105
Miles combines a sort of colonial vibe – Myles Standish sailed aboard the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock – with all the jazz-fueled cool of Miles Davis. It’s a clever name for a runner’s son, too. Like Malcolm, it’s an M name, one that falls midway between the hyper-traditional and the oh-so modern. That makes it among the perfect sweet spot boy names.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #226
2016 US Popularity Rank: #177
Yes, there’s the grouchy, green, garbage can-dwelling Sesame Street character. And sure, it’s a brand of hot dogs with a catchy jingle. But more than that, Oscar is a name from Irish legend, one that likely came to Ireland by way of the Vikings. Napoleon so admired poetry about Oscar that one of his godsons was given the name. That godson later ruled Sweden as King Oscar I, returning the name to its Scandi roots and making it royal. The Academy Awards statue bears the name, lending it some Hollywood glam. Today it’s an established global favorite.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #75
2016 US Popularity Rank: #98
There’s a sixth century saint Romanos, so you can’t argue that this one is novel. But it took a soap opera to transform Roman from a name long-used in small numbers to one that plenty of parents put on their shortlists. The year was 1981, and the soap? Days of Our Lives. It’s climbed steadily ever since. Roman simply refers to someone from Rome, so it benefits from our affection for place names, too.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #91
2016 US Popularity Rank: #119
This New Testament name feels literary – as in George Eliot’s Silas Mariner – and stylish, too. It counts as a nature name, a subtle one, because it comes from the Latin Silvanus, from silva – forest. Justin Timberlake gave the name to a son in 2015, and then named his next album Man of the Woods. While Silas has appeared in the US Top 1000 nearly every year since data was first reported in 1880, it’s more popular than ever today, thanks to a mix of sound and meaning.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #247
2016 US Popularity Rank: #243
The Greek form of a Hebrew name, New Testament Simon sounds smart and traditional – but not too common. In England, it was big a few decades back. But in the US, it’s always hovered between the Top 200 and Top 600. That makes it the kind of name that everyone knows, but few people share. Another bonus? Simon shares the two-syllable, ends-in-n construction of so many mainstream favorites, without sounding like one of the crowd.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #305
2016 US Popularity Rank: #448
Brief and complete, Tate comes from an Old English given name of uncertain meaning. It’s been a surname name for generations, too. Today it feels just slightly unexpected, less traditional than Jack or Luke, but not nearly as modern as Cade or Ace. It’s a solid choice for a child, the kind that will wear well at every age.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #479
2016 US Popularity Rank: unranked
The numbers put Wells just barely inside the criteria for sweet spot boy names, but it’s a promising possibility. Wells carries multiple meanings – it’s a nature name, one that suggests health and well-being, and perhaps a virtue pick, too – after all, well is a synonym for good. Sound-wise, it’s a successor to William nickname Wills, as well as so many W surnames we’ve embraced over the years, from Wallace to Wilder.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #84
2016 US Popularity Rank: #117
Wesley has never left the US Top 1000. It might be a spiritually significant name, honoring theologian John Wesley. It could be a nod to cult favorite The Princess Bride’s Westley. Actor Snipes makes it cool, even edgy; Wes Anderson makes it independent and quirky. It’s tough to pin down this name, one that fits with traditional favorites like Calvin and Henry, but also modern choices like Mason and Bentley. But that’s good news, because that shape-shifter quality is often exactly what parents seek.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #100
2016 US Popularity Rank: #88
Xavier Roberts created the Cabbage Patch Kids and sparked a 1980s sensation. Professor Charles Xavier is the head of long-running superhero series X-Men. But long before the twentieth century, Xavier was a saint’s name, as in St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest who traveled the world as a missionary. The modern style probably explains much of the name’s appeal. (It end with an R and starts with an X and shares the middle v of Everett and Levi!) But it’s also true that modern parents have been hearing this name throughout their lives.
2021 US Popularity Rank: #23
2016 US Popularity Rank: #211
The Z makes this name instantly a little cooler, as does author Zane Grey, known for his tales of the American frontier. But it still falls of the right side of classic; it’s sometimes associated with Alexander, or even John. Popular animated series Lego Ninjago gives the name to the ninja who wears white – yet another reason the name might appeal to the 12-and-under set. It straddles the classic and cool categories, a very wearable sweet spot boy name.
Those are my picks for the sweet spot boy names! What would you add to the list?
This post was revised and updated on October 13, 2020, May 23, 2021, and again on May 24, 2022.
So many of these feel really popular in the PNW. We know at least two Silas Malcolm Jude Xavier Oscar Simon and Miles!
So I’m English, my husband is American and there are a few names that always absolutely baffle me in their lack of transatlantic crossover! Graham is *always* ‘Gray-am’ in the UK but my husband would say ‘gram’. Craig is Cray-g to me but ‘creg’ to him, and to his ears, Carrie and Kerry are indistinguishable whereas to me they’d be very clearly different vowel sounds. It’s fascinating!
Such a great list! (tho I’m definitely biased because my sons are named Graham and Malcolm 🙂
So excited to see Zane on here as I was going to suggest it! I love Malcolm, Lane, Jonah, Wesley, and Xavier; Oscar is growing on me as well. I think Morgan, Spencer, and maybe Nolan would fit here too.
I think you have a typo with Oscar’s popularity number.
Ha! Yes. Thanks – fixed.
Dean Winchester should definitely get a mention here considering Supernatural’s impact on baby names in the US.
So many great names here. Axel and Silas might be my faves.
I’m so confused – how would you pronounce Graham/Graeme except Gray-um? Maybe it’s some kind of transatlantic pronunciation black hole because I’m in the UK but I can’t even work out another way you’d say it . Help!
Gram, like the cracker.
I’ve never heard the “Gray-um” pronunciation. I’m front a mid-Atlantic state and have lived in the mid-west, east coast and the south. I say and hear “Gram”. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear “Gray-um” where I live now but I would find it odd.
@Cece, a Canadian here to agree with your general message of “say what now?!”. I’ve never even considered that this could be anything other than Gray-um. I think the second syllable of this name must disappear at the US border.
Yeah, in general, Americans pronounce Graham like ‘Gram’ and Brits pronounce it ‘Gray-um’. I have heard it both ways, but the rule has never faltered. A good example is in the movie ‘The Holiday’, where Jude Law plays a character named Graham. He calls himself ‘Gray-um’, but Cameron Diaz’s character says ‘Gram’. It is an interesting difference to note. 🙂
Interesting! My husband is actually American and when he got home last night I asked him to say it – Gram! It’s so weird to me though, it’s a word with two syllables, not one 🙂
Actually, as an American myself, I always pronounced it ‘Gram’, but then aftering hearing it the British way…I think I like ‘Gray-um’ better. For some reason. 🙂
I had the same question until I saw the cracker reference, and I have lived in the Southern/Mid-Atlantic US my whole life. I would pronounce the name like gray-uhm, but the cracker as gram.
It’s usually pronounced gram here in the States.
Abby Jo says
So many of my favorites on this list. Malcolm, Oscar, Miles, Silas, Graham. So many good choices here! 🙂