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Alternative Top Ten Names for Boys

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by Lindsay Law (subscribe)
I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Published December 13th 2012
Create your own trend
It feels like the choice of names for boys are more restricted and traditional than for girls. This is based on my daughter Josie's class, which has numerous boys with the same name, but no girl duplicates. I wasn't sure whether this highly unscientific "feeling" was anything more than that, so I decided to do a bit of investigation.

Luckily, the General Registrar for Scotland makes it easy for me to check trends in this part of the UK. On their site, you can download a list of every single name given to babies in Scotland in a particular year. It turns out my hunch was right: in 2011, 4031 unique girls names were given out, while only 3061 unique boys names were bestowed upon new babies. There were more boys (27,662) born than girls (26,109), so I also looked at averages: On average, each boy's name was given 9 times, each girl's name only 6.

So, are fewer male names available? Or is it because parents tend to be more traditional when naming boys? It could be either, and I will admit that I did find coming with a top ten alternative names for boys, which I thought people would actually want to call their sons, a bit more of a challenge than the one for girls.

However, I have risen to the task, and present to you my Alternative Top Ten Names for Boys. I've combined Jack/James/Jacob into one name, because they are all in the top ten and are all, essentially, from the same root. The good news is that this leaves a bit more room to squeeze in another two biblical names: Daniel and Joshua. In the baby boy naming world, in England at least, it's all about the biblical and the royal.

1. Harry Traditionally a nickname for another name in the top 100, Henry, this is a famously royal name. From "Cry God for Harry, England, and St. George" in Shakespeare's day, to the current royal celebrity cavorting in Las Vegas, nothing says England quite like Harry. The root, Henry, is a good old Germanic name, meaning "home ruler". My suggestion is to pick an equally iconic name from another famous King, the Lionheart, whose name has a similar meaning in the original proto-German: Richard, or "powerful leader".

Prince Harry
The most famous Harry in the world? Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Jack/James/Jacob James and Jacob became synonymous with each other, but go back to the original root of James, before it was anglicised as the Biblical Jacob, and you find an old Gaelic name. Use this instead: Seamus.

3. Oliver One of the Dickens' most well known characters, thanks to Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! Dickens offers a plethora of alternative characters to choose from, but most of them are also in the top 100, unless they are extremely obscure. I've found one that I think is unusual, Oliver's father: Edwin.

4. Charlie Third of the 5 kingly names in the original top ten, albeit only the nickname, and I need to look elsewhere for inspiration. What about the name's meaning? Charlie = Charles, which finds it root in Carolus. It means free man. Rather than find another name that means free man, I've decided to suggest the Scandinavian version: Karl.

Bonny Prince Charlie
Perhaps his full name, Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart, might be a bit much? Source: Wikimedia Commons

5. George I said nothing says England quite like Harry, but perhaps George does. Which is funny, because like many English names it actually has an old Greek root. This one rose to prominence which the arrival of the Hanoverian Royal House. They've got lots of interesting names over there in those Germanic royal lines, which never made the transition to England. However, I'm going to dispense with royal connections and just choose a characterful German name: Wolfram.

6. Thomas a biblical name, and one of Jesus's apostles. I'm going to stick with this theme and pick another, lesser known apostle. Although the name itself is very unusual,Thaddeus, you could shorten in to Tad for a playground nickname.

Thaddeus the Apostle, Jude
This is a painting of Thaddeus the Apostle, he was also known as Jude. I had a feeling Jude might be a little too well-known. Source: Wikimedia Commons

7. Ethan the first thing that jumped into my mind for Ethan was either Hawke or Hunt. One is an actor, one is a character in the TV and film series Mission Impossible. Hawke would make a very unusual first name, so I'm going to suggest that.

8. William - there are plenty of names, like this one, which have been used across Europe in a variety of different forms. One of the earliest Williams was Charlemagne's cousin, and the name has been used by Royal families from King William to Kaiser Wilhelm. The French form is less well-known, but it quite a pleasant sounding name. Try it on for size: Guillaume.

9. Daniel a famous biblical character, and I flirted with the idea of suggesting another biblical character like Japheth, Isaac, or Reuben. I think, though, I'm going to take inspiration from the story of Daniel in the lion's den. Names like Leonardo have really risen in popularity, so I'm going to dodge that one and suggest a related name instead:Leontis.

Daniel Radcliffe, Harry
Daniel or Harry, both in the Top Ten, therefore both out of my alternative top ten! Source: Wikimedia Commons

10. Joshua when I think of this name it's not the biblical character springing into my mind, but instead the U2 album, The Joshua Tree. I'm not cruel enough to suggest any of the band members' names, and inspiration has quite deserted me. So, I decided to pick a completely random name from the 2011 Scotland list, but only from the names that had fewer than 10 namings in the year. And so I unveil my final choice: Colby

So, there you go, my final pick for the Alternative Top Ten Names for Boys. Here's the round-up:

1. Richard
2. Seamus
3. Edwin
4. Karl
5. Wolfram
6. Thaddeus
7. Hawke
8. Guillaume
9. Leontis
10. Colby

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Your Comment
Another interesting article. Your suggestion of Hawke reminded me of a little boy in our playgroup called Talon - Now that's an unusual, albeit powerful, name!
by Erin (score: 2|560) 3063 days ago
My boys have the very traditional names of James and Henry but perhaps I could think of some alternative style nicknames
by Oxford Explorer (score: 2|655) 3057 days ago
I really like the 'Alternative Top Tens', and sense the beginning of a series here. :)
by Andy (score: 0|5) 3071 days ago
We toyed with naming our son Jacob or Isaac but they seem very common these days, as you say there is less variation among boys' names. We plumped for another biblical name in the end, Elliot.
by Oliver Philp (score: 1|26) 3069 days ago
I love traditional names too much didn't want anything too common so we went for WILLEM.
by belin (score: 0|4) 3069 days ago
Interesting suggestions.
by Jennifer Muirhead (score: 3|1227) 3068 days ago
Hmm interesting names. Great article.
by Ms. Samantha (score: 2|362) 3065 days ago
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