Meet 23 boys’ names you’ve never encountered before. They never once appeared in America’s baby name statistics until this past year.
What does it mean to be brand new? Consider that over 100,000 different names from Aaban to Zzyzx had already qualified in past years. (The minimum requirement is 5 boys or girls receiving the name in a single year.) To break new ground a name has to represent a shift in style, an openness to new languages, spellings, or sources of inspiration, or simply the boldness to go where no name has gone before.
I’ve selected some noteworthy names from the nearly 600 boys’ debuts in this year’s baby name stats. And if names like Klutch, Grizzly and Lucchese surprise you, just wait until you see the girls’ names next week!
Grizzly, Negan. Image credits: National Park Service, AMC Networks
TOTALLY BRAND NEW BOYS’ NAMES
Drizzt. Drizzt Do’Urden is a dark elf in the Dungeons and Dragons “Forgotton Realms” world. The name’s pronunciation is hotly debated by fans, though most at least agree that Drizzt is one syllable.
Axon. An axon is the long part of a nerve cell that conducts impulses away from the cell body toward other neurons. As a name, it sounds more like a superhero (or villain). Scientist by day, crimefighter by night?
JohnOliver. Maybe the emergence of this double name just reflects the rising popularity of the name Oliver. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with the breakthrough year enjoyed by comedian/talk-show host John Oliver. Maybe.
Hux. General Hux was a ruthless commander of dark forces in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, played by Bill Weasley Domhnall Gleeson. Parents seem particularly drawn to Hux as a nickname. Huxon, Hucksley and Huckson also made debuts this year, and Huxton and Huckston returned from hiatus.
Grizzly. Roar! America’s great brown bear is a symbol of the rugged frontier. Grizzly has long been a popular choice for Western place names and for brand names of products with a brawny image.
Negan. The character Negan of the zombie series The Walking Dead is a violent sociopath. That fact has surely turned some parents off of the name, but not all. As we saw with the year’s fastest-rising name Kylo, an appealing name can outweigh a villanous source.
Ocelotl. The Nahuatl word for Jaguar, Ocelotl also referred to the Aztec “Jaguar Warriors,” a fearsome fighting force of the Aztec Empire. That’s some old-school swagger.
Maccabee. The Maccabees were ancient Jewish rebel warriors whose triumph is remembered every year in the holiday of Hanukkah. As a baby name, Maccabee does seem a natural for this era of Bible names, action hero names, and surnames starting with Mac.
Calcifer. Calcifer is a fire demon in the fantasy film/anime film Howl’s Moving Castle. That probably sounds awe-inspiring, but Calicifer is confined to the household hearth. Think of him as a fireplace with a ton of personality.
Klutch. The crunchiest of macho names, Klutch is a brand name of products like power tools and custom auto wheels. This is an interesting case where the creative spelling of the word has crossed over to baby names, while the common word spelling “Clutch” does not appear in this year’s name stats.
Brodhi. It used to be that American parents altered the spelling of Bodhi (a Buddhist term for spiritual awakening) to make it easier to pronounce. Now we’re altering the spelling of familiar English names to look like Bodhi. You can think of this as either an extra-spiritual Brody or an extra-preppy Bodhi.
Eadric. Eadric the Wild was a leader of the English resistance to the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century. William the Conqueror’s name became an eternal English classic while the name Eadric faded to obscurity. But Eadric the Pure is a popular card in the Hearthstone online trading card game.
Brixx. Trend alert! Other names on the debut list include Brixen, Brixten, and Brixtin. X-power just keeps growing.
Griezmann. We’ve seen first names of European soccer stars take off here before, like Iker after goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Germanic surnamics, though, are usually non-starters as baby names. The surname of French star Antoine Griezmann is beating the odds.
Fionnlagh, Ruaridh. The debuts of these Gaelic names suggest that American parents may be opening up a bit to Gaelic spellings. Not feeling up to the pronunciation challenge? You may know these two better as Finlay and Rory.
Dune. Dune is a two-for-one hit one two hot styles: one-syllable nature names and science fiction names. It’s a majestic hill of sand, and a Frank Herbert epic with giant sandworms. For full effect, let people assume you intended whichever origin they find cooler.
Aceston, Lanceton. One syllable names continue to sprout suffixes, as parents feel that they don’t quite sound complete on their own. In these two examples, you can see parents grappling with the challenge of making sound, spelling and nickname all work together. Try it yourself: create a name that’s pronounced “ace-tun” with the nickname Ace and a straightforward spelling.
Wilco. The rock band Wilco joines the growing roster of rock & roll baby names. It’s one of the few still-active bands to be so honored. Most of today’s rock names are plucked from the playlist of classic rock stations.
Fenrir. Fenrir was a monstrous wolf in Norse mythology, and most modern references have followed that original model. (An evil werewolf in the Harry Potter series is a prominent example.) Unlike most villainous names, this one feels like a throwback to ages past.
Lucchese. If you live near New York, you might associate the name Lucchese with one of the “Five Families” of organized crime. To much of the country, though, this name is pure cowboy. It’s a classic brand of cowboy boots.
Astro. Astro is a celestial prefix, a major league baseball team, the Jetsons’ animated space dog, and a K-pop boy band. As surprising as the baby name may be, the biggest surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner.
The Wide World of Real Names