Who doesn’t love a unique baby boy name? At the beginning of 2019, plenty of people were speculating about which baby boy names were going to be taking over the country. After all, the years of Liam, Aiden, and Jackson dominating the minds and imaginations of parents would soon be behind us. The 2010s were actually a sign of a big shift in parents’ attitudes in naming. Laura Wattenberg, founder of the site Baby Name Wizard, said in an interview with Quartz, “I think in past generations, parents were much more concerned about their kids’ names fitting in. But in the past 20 years, the focus has been 100% on standing out. Parents are really, really worried about their kids being ordinary.”
The site Nameberry often shares the top 1000 names of the year, making it one of the most comprehensive sources for naming data. But out of those 1000, only so many can truly be considered “unique.” These are 2019’s most unique baby boy names — not the baby names you heard everywhere.
One of the most surprising things about 2019 names was how much biblical names made a comeback. You can prepare to see a lot of little saint namesakes walking around elementary schools in the years to come. The anglicized name Soren comes from the Scandinavian Søren, which in turn is a form of Severus. The name Severus is probably only known to Americans as Harry Potter character Severus Snape, who was portrayed by the late Die Hard and Love Actually actor Alan Rickman on screen, but it has a longer history in Europe. There’s also St. Severin, who remains immortalized by the medieval structures made in his honor.
The original latin of the name means “stern,” according to Behind the Name. Considering that Severus sounds like the word “severe,” that isn’t surprising. The meaning might not be a big selling point, but Soren has other good qualities. It’s a softened version of Severus that still has a classic, European feel to it. It even sounds a little fantastical. One might also think of the famous 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The association lends even more sophistication to Soren. The unique baby boy name has been rising steadily in popularity over the 2010s, but it’s still pretty rare to hear a kid named Soren today.
Bodhi in the original Sanskrit translation means “awakening, enlightenment,” as noted by Nameberry. The Oh! Baby Names entry for Bodhi explains, “In Buddhist tradition, underneath the sacred Bodhi Tree in India is where Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha (the founder of Buddhism circa the 5th century B.C.) is said to have achieved bodhi (perfect enlightenment) after nearly 50 days of meditation. In other words, it’s the achievement of Nirvana.”
The spelling might throw some people off, but the unique baby boy name Bodhi, which is one of the most unique baby names of the past decade, should sound somewhat familiar. It’s pronounced the same way as Cody or Brody. The name of enlightenment and inner peace also sounds super friendly and endearing. You don’t even necessarily have to be a practicing Buddhist to use it. One person of note who has used the name Bodhi is Megan Fox, who named her son that, as noted by Today. The ideals of selflessness, self-realization, and peace are things that people from all walks of life can aspire to.
The fifth century’s Saint Declán of Ardmore was a contemporary of Saint Patrick and is best remembered for his monastery in Ardmore. Saint Patrick is arguably better known, but the name Patrick has seen a steady decline since the early ’90s, according to Behind the Name. Declan was a latecomer in that same time period, but the unique baby boy name has only seen more popularity as the years have past.
There aren’t many modern examples to point to, but the musician Elvis Costello was actually born as Declan Patrick McManus. Like other popular names in 2019, the name Declan has a connection to spirituality, which is somewhat surprising in an increasingly secular world. Nevertheless, religion-based names appears to have been a trend in 2019. Today shared predictions that proved such would be the case in January 2019: “The mainstreaming of yoga, meditation, and non-traditional spiritualism underpins the trend, along with a search for meaning that transcends the name’s surface qualities such as style and sound.”
Arlo is what you might call a sleeper-hit when it comes to baby names. After almost 70 years of disuse, Arlo shot up like a rocket in the mid-2010s (via Behind the Name) and placed 29th on Nameberry‘s top 1000 boy names for 2019. It’s a very unassuming name — rustic and homely. One possible reason for the interest in Arlo in 2019 was the recurring character from the TV show Justified from a few years earlier. So, where exactly does this mysterious name come from? Its Nameberry entry supposes that it could come from the Spanish name Carlo or perhaps from the Celtic word aherlow, which means “between two highlands.”
Wherever the unique baby boy name came from, it seems like Arlo has been leaving a good impression. One person on the site Baby Name Wizard shared, “My oldest son is named Arlo,” adding, “Arlo always strikes everyone as unusual, but in a good way. It’s a friendly name, but masculine and strong as well. It’s unpretentious and we have always had positive reaction to the name.”
While Cassius might appear to have a noble Roman air about it, it is a puzzling choice for a unique baby boy name. The inspiration no doubt comes from Gaius Cassius Longinus, a character in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. However, he’s not exactly a knight in shining armor. Cassius is the senator that masterminds the entire assassination plot on Caesar. He’s often portrayed as petty, cowardly, and untrustworthy. Thankfully, there are some better role models for any young boys named Cassius today.
Cassius Clay was an abolitionist in the 1800s, and it just so happens that the famous boxer Muhammad Ali was also born with the name Cassius Clay. It seems like Cassius is a good choice if you have that awesome “C” alliteration in your surname. Plus, despite the awkward origins, the literary connection makes Cassius embody intellect and education. Nameberry helpfully pointed out that Americans pronounce the name CASH-us, whereas Europeans will typically say CASS-ee-us. Be sure to take pronunciation into account, unless you want to spend the rest of your child’s early years correcting everyone.
It’s almost too perfect that Maverick made this list. Calling someone a “maverick” typically means they’re independent and are a non-conformist. It’s a positive term that emphasizes their free spirit. The word maverick actually comes from a real person, politician and landowner Sam Maverick. Maverick refused to brand his newborn calves, a tradition at the time to differentiate ranchers’ cattle, reasoning that if any calf was unbranded, people could assume it was his. He simply just didn’t want to do what was expected of everyone. Over time, the phrase grew to take on a more modern definition.
Of course, we can’t forget the character Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who was immortalized by Tom Cruise in Top Gun. While the film was released in 1986, Maverick as a name only really took flight starting in 2010, according to Behind the Name. Perhaps this was due to people growing nostalgic for the film from their childhood when it came time to bring their own little one into the world. Nevertheless, if Maverick remains popular, you’re going to see a lot of classrooms full of them, which is pretty ironic given the unique baby boy name’s meaning.
Another unique baby boy name trend that blossomed in the year of 2019 was Celtic names. One need only consider how dominant Liam became in the 2010s to see that. Callum even sounds a little like Liam, ending with that apparently beloved “um” sound. Perhaps that’s why Callum became one of the top names of 2019 as parents wanted to give their child a unique name, but still keep a similar sound to other popular names of the time. The moniker continues to be a religious name as Callum’s original meaning was “dove,” according to Nameberry, and many Christian Scots associated doves with spiritual purity. Plus — surprise! — there’s a saint involved. St. Columba, from which Callum originates, is credited with converting Scotland to Christianity.
Notably, Callum is a very Scottish name and has been used for over a decade, according to Behind the Name. If parents have some Scottish heritage and want to get back to their roots, Callum could certainly fit the bill. In terms of notable examples, the Twin Peaks and Sex and the City actor Kyle MacLachlan has a son named Callum (via the New York Post).
When an American hears the unique baby boy name Ryker, they may just think of the Star Trek character Riker, even though the moniker is spelled a little differently. Or maybe they think about the infamous prison on Rikers Island in New York City. Across the Atlantic, though, it’s simply a German name. Still, according to Nameberry, Ryker is one of the top 500 German names in the United States, alongside heavy-hitters like Emmett and Leo.
With the hard “K” sound in the middle, Ryker seems a little harsh-sounding to be so popular. However, as Nameberry explained, “Ryker has three big things going for it: its Ry beginning (as in Riley, Ryder, and Rylan), its two-syllable rhythm, and its er ending. A nice surprise for many is it’s ‘rich’ meaning.” Still, it appears that Ryker is a divisive name. A commenter on Baby Name Wizard wrote, “It fits a sweet handsome boy in my opinion and it is definitely masculine in my opinion. … I’ve found that either people love it or hate it, but isn’t that the case with any name?”
Unlike many of the other unique baby boy names of 2019, Beau has been in use since the 1960s (via Behind the Name), making it a vintage name. The name Beau obviously comes from the French word beau. While used in English to define a lady’s suitor, the French word means “the beautiful.” It makes one think of a time when chivalry was key, and a man had to be charming to win a girl’s heart.
Englishman Beau Brumell was a friend to King George IV and an influential trendsetter for men’s fashion at the time. Jimmy Walker, mayor of New York City in the 1920s and colloquially known as Beau James, embodied the smooth, dapper man of his own time (minus his scandal, of course) and continued the name’s legacy. One could also argue that, due to the name’s history, it also reinforces the role of a boy as romantic pursuer and “white knight.” Overall, this name definitely gets high points for having a cool factor.
Knox is an old Scottish name, coming from the word cnocc, or “round hill,” according to Behind the Name, but its popularity in the 2010s has a very distinct starting point. The twins Knox and Vivienne were born to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in 2008. According to E! News, the name Knox came from Pitt’s maternal grandfather, Hal Knox Hillhouse. It should then come as no surprise that Knox started to climb in popularity after 2008.
The rise of the unique baby boy name Knox as a first name was in line with the trends of the past few years. Jennifer Moss, CEO of the site BabyNames.com, explained to the Chicago Tribune that it’s all part of the current fascination with genealogy. “We see more of our family trees on sites like 23andme.com,” she said. “Use one of these names, and your family’s happy.” It looks like Brangelina isn’t immune to the phenomenon, and parent copycats latched on in 2019.
One would think that most parents would want to steer clear of a namesake who’s most famous for being murdered. The name Abel, of course, comes from the bible as Adam and Eve’s second son who is killed in a jealous rage by his older brother, Cain. On the plus side, this means that it’s a biblical name that hasn’t been overused. And bel was the good son ,after all, so there’s technically nothing inherently negative about the name. And the moniker has some literary connections outside of the bible, such as the character Abel Magwitch in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
Will Arnett and Amy Poehler named their second son Abel in 2010 (via Us Weekly). Perhaps an even more famous namesake is Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd. So far, neither appear to have been victims of fratricide. Joking aside, the unique baby boy name does have a sweet, humble feel to it. It’s doubtful that the biblical story will come up as a source of teasing on the playground, and you can be sure your son will probably be the only Abel for miles.
Magnus is not a unique baby boy name for the humble. The original Latin literally means “greatest,” according to Nameberry. It makes sense considering words like magnificent. Magnus just sounds like it demands your attention. That’s probably why it has a history of being used by royalty. The great Charlemagne himself was also known as Carolus Magnus, another way of saying Charles the Great. His legacy would lead several kings of Norway and Sweden to be named Magnus. Clearly, the name Magnus is intended to have a commanding presence — and it succeeds.
A few celebrities have started to use the name for their own sons, including the likes of actor Will Ferrell and Pitch Perfect‘s Elizabeth Banks. This probably accounts for some of Magnus’ rising popularity, but its climb (via Behind the Name) has been slower than some of its contemporaries. Parents are possibly thrown off by Magnus’ dominant sound for their little baby, not to mention the implied ego of being the “greatest.” Nevertheless, your baby should be the greatest to you, so what other people think shouldn’t matter.
The unique baby boy name Aurelius has a great leadership quality to it. The name is of Latin origin and means “golden one,” according to Nameberry, so it has a somewhat flashy connotation without being overwhelming. Marcus Aurelius was Caesar of the Roman empire from 161 to 180 CE, and he is considered to be one of the last of the Five Good Emperors. For a long time, he was also a symbol of the Golden Age of the Roman Empire.
The thing about a name like Aurelius is that it has grandeur, but also a kind of warmth to it. It helps that the female versions of the name, Aurora and Aurelia (which were also very popular in 2019), make one think of grace and beauty. Admittedly, because of its heavy Roman origins, Aurelius is a little hard to come up with nicknames for. But at least parents won’t be lying if they say their son is a golden child.
For a long time, it was considered tacky to name your baby after an animal or thing, such as the names Apple and Wolf. The year 2019 it seems came up with one final twist, as the name Bear was ranked 136th in the United States, according to Nameberry. As a moniker, Bear teeters on that edge of pleasant-sounding and ridiculous. One significant person of note named Bear is, of course, the famous survivalist Bear Grylls. There’s also the son of One Direction’s Liam Payne and singer Cheryl Cole, who welcomed son Bear in 2017 (via People).
Actress Kate Winslet also has a son named Bear, and she explained better than anyone the appeal of the name. “We settled on Bear quite early on,” Winslet told Ellen DeGeneres in 2014. “A friend of mine when I was younger was nicknamed Bear, and I just had always really loved it and he was very much a bear — he was everyone’s shoulder to cry on, he was a big bear hug, he was just this great figure in my life.” Thinking of the unique baby boy name that way, having a teddy bear for a son doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
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