Baby Names For Boys That Are In 'The Sweet Spot'

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 
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There are some boy names that have been popular since, like, the beginning of time: James, John, Robert, and Michael, to name a few. And then there are the names that ebb and flow, becoming wildly popular for a while and then receding into the bottom of the chart again before resurfacing decades later in a new popularity surge.

Take the names Scott and Kevin, for example — they aren’t what you’d call “classics” in the same way as James and John, and yet there’s no denying that they still both experienced a ton of popularity in the ’60s and ’70s. Every decade has its favorites, and the most recent crop of new parents have decided on theirs.

Like every fashionable name, the ones that are hot right now can be found all over the place. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with naming your baby something trendy — after all, plenty of people are doing it, obviously. If you love those on-trend names but want something a little less … well, everywhere, this list of alternatives to popular boy names is for you.

1. Liam

According to the U.S. Social Security administration’s baby name popularity charts, Liam is the #1 hottest boys’ name for the second year in a row (it unseated Noah in 2017). Its popularity is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that it’s an alternative to the uber-popular William, which has spent more than 100 years in the top 20. If you like Liam, you’ll love …

Ian. Like Liam, Ian is short and simple, and their very similar sounds make this one a clear winner. (If you pronounce it like EE-an and not EYE-an, that is!)

Levi. We’ve got the same amount of letters, and 50% of them match the ones that make up Liam — plus you’ve got the same “Le/Li” sound at the beginning.

Kian. This one is a spelling variation of the Irish name Cian, but the C often leads to confusion over pronunciation (at least among the non-Irish among us). The K ensures that everybody will pronounce it correctly: like Ian, but with a K.

Emre. The last of Liam sounds a bit like the first of Emre, with that distinctive M. And it’s also four letters, so if you’re looking to stick with a shorter name, this is a great match.

2. Noah

It stood at #1 for four years in a row, but Noah hasn’t always enjoyed such popularity; at one time, it dipped down until it was nearly in the 700s. It’s currently at #2, though, which means that chances are, you “know-a” a Noah. (Heh.) If you like Noah, you’ll love …

Joah. Yep — it’s Noah with a J! But unlike some made-up names, this one is a legitimate Hebrew name, and a rarely-heard one at that!

Jonah. Two syllable Biblical name with an “ah-” ending? Check. If Joah is too obscure for you, how about Jonah? At #145, it’s popular, but not over-saturated. There are also other alternatives such as Junah or Judah.

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Owen. This four-letter name echoes the sound of Noah, even if it isn’t spelled the same. And as a bonus, it’s got that long O sound which is trendy right now.

Nolan. Nolan has been slowly but steadily making its way up the charts since 1995, when it was #263. It’s currently at #64 — no doubt bolstered by its close proximity to Noah — but hey, that’s 62 spots below #1!

Rowan. Like Owen and Noah, this one has the long-O sound sandwiched in the middle, and the same two-syllable cadence. To switch things up even more, you could opt to spell it “Rohan.”

Shiloh. It may not end in “-ah,” but close — and its sound, with the stronger emphasis on the first syllable, makes it similar enough to Noah to be a really good alternative.

Noe. The Latin variation of Noah, you don’t see this one very often. Among Spanish-speaking communities it’s pronounced NO-ay (kinda like “no way,” without the W), but English-speakers tend to pronounce it NO-ee, like Zoey.

3. Oliver

With its jaunty, British-sounding flair, Oliver has seen a rise in popularity every single year since 1995. It can’t rise too much higher, seeing as it’s currently standing at #5 on the popularity charts. But if it continues on its trajectory, it could very well end up at #1. If you like Oliver, you’ll love …

Oscar. Sharing the same first and last letters, and charming old-fashioned quality (Oscar and Oliver were both in the top 50 in 1900), Oscar is a close contender — though not nearly as popular as Oliver right now, standing at #206.

Everett. This name shares three letters and a strong V sound, making it a perfect alternate choice.

Chloé Boulos/Reshot

Iver. If you don’t mind a shortened version (with a long I), this is the pick for you. With just two letters’ difference, this Danish name is “Oliver-but-not-quite.”

Donovan. Three syllables, with that strong V in the last one, make Donovan similar enough to Oliver to fit the bill — but it’s at #324, which means you’ll come across a lot fewer Donovans.

Archie. You might be thinking, “What on earth does Archie have in common with Oliver?” This isn’t so much about the sound of the names, but about the feel. Many people choose Oliver with the intention of calling their son Ollie for short, thanks to the trend of vintage-sounding “nickname” names for boys. Archie falls into that same category, and since it’s the name of the newest royal baby, it falls into a real sweet spot: still at #992 on the popularity charts, but it doesn’t feel unconventional.

4. Lucas

Its homespun charm has elevated Lucas to the top 20 since 2014, and just this past year the name saw its first breakthrough into the top ten. If you like Lucas, you’ll love …

Luca. You can knock the S off of Lucas and spell it that way, or insert a trendy K where the C should be (as in Luka), but either way, it isn’t hard to see why this one makes the list.

Lucien. If you love that “Lu” sound, why not take Lucien for a spin? It’s the French form of a Latin name that means “light,” so it’s perfect for the little light of your life.

Silas. Sharing a syllable pattern and the same ending with Lucas, Silas is popular but not “top 10” popular.

Declan. If it’s the strong C in the middle that draws you to Lucas, there’s always Declan — an Irish charmer with the same sharp middle sound.

Marcus. Its spelling may be a tad different, and it may have a different beginning, but Lucas and Marcus are definitely close enough to be viable alternatives for one another.

5. Logan

The name Logan has had a weird couple of years. In 2016 it was at #18. The very next year, it jumped all the way up to #5 — and then in 2018, fell back down to #10. Nonetheless, it’s been in the top 20 since 2012, and in the top 50 since 1996, so it’s probably not gonna be unpopular any time soon. If you like Logan, you’ll love …

London. The close parallels between these two names are obvious. London is definitely a unisex baby name, so if you prefer to lean to the more boyish side, there’s always Landon. But beware if you’re steering clear of popularity; Landon is #61 on the charts right now, while London is #821.

Brogan. This one rhymes with Logan, but has a stronger beginning sound and a decidedly Irish feel.

Keagan. Interestingly, this spelling — with the “ea” — is at #918 on the charts. But its spelling variation, Keegan with a double-E, currently stands at #351.

Ronan. The long-O sound at the beginning and the “-an” ending makes Ronan a suitably Logan-esque stand-in.

Lincoln. Like Logan, Lincoln has a sort of outdoorsy, log-cabin vibe. And though it’s definitely longer in length, it’s actually very similar in sound. Not to mention the adorable diminutive, Linc.

6. Mason

One of those perennially-popular classics, Mason has been in the top 1000 boy names since at least 1900, reaching its lowest point in 1957 at #896. But needless to say, it’s experienced a major rise — enjoying the top-ten spotlight since 2011, currently residing at #9. If you like Mason, you’ll love …

Macsen. This name has several factors going for it. First, there are only a few letters separating it from Mason. Second, it sounds a lot like popular and rising names such as Jackson and Maximus (it is, in fact, the Welsh version of Maximus). And third, you can shorten it to the rugged-but-cute Mac.

Tyson. If you thought we’d suggest Jason as an alternative to Mason, you’d be logical — but wrong. Jason was among the top boy names of the ’70s and ’80s, and although it’s still at #100 today, it sounds a little dated. But take a second look at Tyson: it’s got the right number of syllables, the right ending, and the appealing nickname Ty. And it’s at #360, in that “popular-but-not-TOO-popular” spot.

Asa. It was popular around the turn of the 20th century, and now it’s making a comeback thanks to our love of vintage names. Asa is short, simple, and sounds a lot like Mason (just without the beginning and end).

Malcolm. They don’t sound too much alike, save for the M, but put Mason and Malcolm next to one another and they look like they could be brothers.

Chase. Like Asa, this one has the “ace” sound in common with Mason. But Chase has more letters — the same number as Mason, to be precise — in case you’re looking for a similar name length too. You could also go with Jayce (or Jace, or Jase …).

7. Ethan

Ethan has been on a general upward trend since the late 1950s — but its biggest jump in popularity was when it went from #262 in 1988 to #87 the following year. This was likely due to a television series called Guns of Paradise with a main character named Ethan Allan Cord, and also because the swoon-worthy Ethan Hawke debuted in Dead Poets Society in 1989, thus securing his place among the ’90s heartthrobs. He may no longer be teenage dream status, but his name is currently at #12 on the charts. If you like Ethan, you’ll love …

Evan. Two syllables, just like Ethan, and the only difference is that one has a “th” and one has a “v.” Evan is fairly popular in its own right, at #86. If you want something a little lesser-used, try the Scottish name Ewan, which isn’t even in the top 1000; it’s obscure, but not “weird” thanks to well-known actor Ewan McGregor.

Heath. If it’s the sound of Ethan you like, you can’t get much closer than Heath — it’s only missing one syllable. If you insist on a two syllable name, you could try lengthening it to something like Heathland or Heathcliff.

Deacon. This one packs a one-two punch. First, it sounds very similar to Ethan, but is at spot #486 instead of #12. And second, it capitalizes on the current trend of “religion” names like Psalm and Saint (thanks, Kim and Kanye).

Elan. While some pronounce this one eh-LAHN, it can also be pronounced EE-lan, which is what lands it on this list: because when pronounced that way, its proximity to Ethan is uncanny. But either way you say it, it’s a two-syllable name starting in E and ending in N, just like Ethan.

Easton. Another soundalike, but much more modern; unlike Ethan, whose first appearance in the top 1000 was in 1901, Easton has only been on the charts since 1995.

If you love a popular name above all else and want to give it to your kid, go for it — it’s your baby, your choice, and obviously it’s a fantastic name or so many other parents wouldn’t have chosen it. Hell, name him Liam Noah William (ranked #1, #2, and #3) if you want to. But if you’re looking to choose a name that your son won’t hear everywhere he goes — even if no one is talking to him — these alternatives to popular boy names just might do the trick.

Need some help finding the perfect baby name? Check out Scary Mommy’s baby naming section: a fabulous resource for names, meanings, fun lists, inspiration, answers to baby naming dilemmas, and more!

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