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Name This Name Style

January 22, 2021 laurawattenberg 34 Comments

Name This Name Style

January 22, 2021 LauraWattenberg 34 Comments
Illustration of an upward graph with a question mark

A name trend requires a common thread: a style link that makes a whole group of names rise and fall together. It might be a shared suffix, or meaning, or linguistic origin. Occasionally it’s something more elusive—a theme you recognize but can’t easily define. That’s the case with a new set of boys’ names. They share huge momentum and a sound that’s unmistakably new but maddeningly hard to pin down.

The new rising names are short and hard-edged but not curt. They’re casual and breezy yet bursting with energy. They’re almost preppy, almost metal, almost sci-fi, almost cowboy. They’re…well, see for yourself. Each of these names has at least tripled in popularity over the past ten years.


The trend also spills over into some more traditionally styled names with a similar sound. 1950s nicknames like Chip, Skip and Buck are unexpectedly soaring. Bluff -s surnames like Riggs, Briggs and Banks are red-hot. Punchy word names like Chief and Tuff are no longer “nickname only.” But sound alone isn’t enough to ride this wave; the name has to have a little edge to it. Familiar given names like Craig and Todd are still out of luck.

Put it all together and you have a clear trend, accounting for tens of thousands of American babies. Yet I’ve put off writing about it because I can’t properly describe it. I just know it when I see it.

If you see it too, what are you seeing? How would you describe this name style?


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • Lydia January 22, 2021 at 3:58 am

    They’re punchy. Craig and Todd are one-syllable too, but they lack punch. Sometimes the punch is in the sound, sometimes it’s in the meaning, but they’ve all got some punch.

    • Jacqui February 22, 2021 at 7:57 pm

      This is exactly the word I was thinking of! They’ve all got punch. I also think they could all star as lead males in books and movies like Twilight or Divergent. They are unmistakably swoon-worthy men of action, IMO.

  • SGC January 22, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    they look like comicbook noises to me.

  • lucubratrix January 22, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    This is so funny to me because fully two of my kids’ nicknames are on this list, and is it making me want to give my daughter Taz as an additional option? It sure is.

    I think of this style as Urban Cowboy… (And, yes, I’m having the song “Rhinestone Cowboy” stuck in my head hard right now. for those who don’t know this gem of classic country.)

  • Amy3 January 23, 2021 at 12:02 am

    While I agree these are undeniably punchy, for a style name Rhinestone Cowboy is hard to beat (and I loved that song as a kid in the 70s!). They feel like the names of rodeo kids.

    • Amy3 January 23, 2021 at 12:05 am

      And I now see @lucubratrix actually suggested Urban Cowboy. I’m going to stand by using Rhinestone instead. There’s a bling to all those Xs,Ys, and Zs.

  • LauraWattenberg
    LauraWattenberg January 23, 2021 at 12:17 am

    Space Cowboys, perhaps? Names like Syx and Luxx seem a little interplanetary.

    • holey
      holey January 23, 2021 at 6:46 pm

      That seems apt. When I read your list of names, one of the first things that came to mind was this bit in Mystery Science Theater 3000 where the characters come up with satirical action-man names – Slab Bulkhead! Punt Speedchunk! Big McLargeHuge!

      The list also made me think of those 50s studio executives coming up with names like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter. There’s something really fictional about the names, life imitating art. They’re the kinds of names you see on characters in police shows or sci-fi computer games.

      • holey
        holey January 23, 2021 at 6:58 pm

        I forgot to add that the movie they’re mocking is about a spaceship pilot.

    • Jordan December 16, 2022 at 2:40 pm

      I’d call these names “zippy.”

  • Daniel January 23, 2021 at 12:56 am

    I came here to say “punchy,” but see someone beat me to it.

    It’s the short, harsh sound that connects them with collision words. There’s a certain amount of onomatopoeia to words like “break,” “crack,” “crash,” “FWAP!” that is also shared by many of these.

    The punchiness is also that the names connotate toughness – except for maybe a few fringey “nature” names (Finch, Quill).

    However, I do really like Space Cowboys. It’s such a sci-fi trope to use x’s and y’s in names to indicate that something is alien.

  • Quiara
    Quiara January 23, 2021 at 1:10 am

    I like “Space Cowboys.” But I really like the idea of these as “Dude Ranch” names – “Westworld” names, even. They’re tapping into this well of super butch, super “”Western”” frontier fantasy, but sort of missing the mark here in a way that makes me think “tourist” – it’s a twisted parody of American butchness, almost.

    I also wonder – we’re a decade removed from “The Avengers,” and the superhero-ification of American popular culture; I’m curious if that’s a factor in American perceptions of masculinity across all social strata, and thus the names Americans give their sons. (Drax and Quill are both “Guardians of the Galaxy” characters; Hux is a character from a recent Star War.)

  • Chelsea January 23, 2021 at 4:13 am

    I’d call them Bladerunner names. Or Flash Gordon names.

  • Andrea January 23, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Comic book, space opera, super hero, video game influenced, etc. Star Wars: Luke, Han, Rey, Finn, Poe, Jyn, etc. Star Wars is basically a western set in space and the names you’re seeing sound like Space Age Western cowboys who carry a phaser or ray gun instead of a six shooter and battle space pirates and super villains trying to destroy the galaxy.

  • Elizabeth January 23, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    Space Cowboys: An intergalactic epic journey starring the Breezy Boyz: Kross, Drax, and Teak.

  • LauraWattenberg
    LauraWattenberg January 23, 2021 at 8:10 pm

    @holey It does seem like a 21st-century version of the Rock & Tab names! (Which BTW were all the product of one man’s overheated imagination: ) And @Quiara I agree about the superhero style. So many great suggestions in this whole thread. I also think many of the names beg to be written in a heavy metal font. But “Metal SuperCowboys from Space” isn’t exactly pithy. 🙂

    • Andrea January 24, 2021 at 4:22 am

      There’s also a touch of hard liquor — Skyy Vodka — and small town rodeo/NASCAR — Kase, Kash — in some of these name. But yeah, there’s metal there too. Action hero,, tough guy dialed up to 10, the sort of guy who joins the space version of the Texas Rangers and can take and throw a punch. He goes out with his buddies when he’s home on leave to the auto demolition derby or rodeo at the state fair, then gets some action at a small town street dance. I would bet a lot of kids with these names are small town or ranch boys.

    • holey
      holey January 24, 2021 at 6:19 am

      If “Space Cowboys” doesn’t work out, maybe:
      -Closeted 50s Hunk
      -Buzz Lightyear
      -Action Man

      Or, based on Andrea’s comment, “Raygun Names?”

  • Marelle January 23, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    I’m going to go against the grain and call them Fireworks (Fireworxx?) names. Sound wise they all have a whizz and a bang to them, and style wise they’re designed to stand out from (above) the crowd.

    Although Active, Punchy and Space Cowboy are all excellent descriptions too.

  • Emily January 24, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    All could be members of the Palin clan. But let’s not honor her with a name trend!

  • Bolt January 25, 2021 at 12:24 am

    I would call them Rugged Hero names. Tough, punchy and outdoorsy, these kids are definitely the protagonists of their own action/adventure stories.

  • LikeToPivotPivot
    LikeToPivotPivot January 30, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    What has been the biggest media consumption difference between todays parents and 20 years ago? Its video games. These are all video game character names. That’s why it looks like all of these adventure tropes combined into one. Sci fi, fantasy, cowboy, space, super hero, all popular themes for video games. Parents are imagining their kids as being the main playable character in their own great adventure, similar to the video games they have been playing all their lives. I’d call this style Playable Character style.

    • holey
      holey January 31, 2021 at 8:04 am

      Nice observation!

    • LauraWattenberg
      LauraWattenberg February 1, 2021 at 7:02 pm

      @LikeToPivotPivot that’s a great insight about what links the various style elements! Even the preppy side, which could reflect the use of short surnames as character names, especially in military-styled games. Now I just have to make sure to distinguish the style name from “video game names”–an existing list of names popularized by game characters.

      • LikeToPivotPivot
        LikeToPivotPivot February 2, 2021 at 10:37 pm

        I do think they are different phenomenoms too. It is easy to imagine someone naming a child after an established character like Link, Sephiroth, Kairi, or Geralt. But I imagine this is different, closer to the lawyer or doctor test, although perhaps not done explicitly. A lot of video games ask you to name your character too, so the prompt is already there.

  • KO February 3, 2021 at 6:56 am

    Pack it up folks, this is the right answer! Playable Character names is perfection.

    • Nic Woo February 3, 2021 at 5:12 pm

      Classic Hero Redux Names.
      21st Century One Syllable Man.
      Player One Gamers.
      New Century Everyman.
      Next Gen Politician.

      I’m a nineties kid that went to school with a Kip, Tell, Lad and Hutch. But this a Trip, a Haze, and Nox, names I’ve seen for boys since.
      …With that reference all those boys I knew were treated uniquely in the eyes of peers, seen as leaders in a few ways, and seemed funner. Hence the last notion about politics, implying a story there, and the reluctant hero nicknames to connect to Everyman.

  • JGuliaP February 22, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    To me, these are “flint” names. They have a toughness and seem like they could spark or ignite. Along the thought lines of Rhinestone Cowboys and video game characters, these names have a sort of steampunk-esque, old-times AND futuristic feel. Are they an old nickname that has been passed down through the family or a totally new modern creation?

    It’s like the opposite of raindrop names. These names do not flow. They clang and grind.

    • Elizabeth February 23, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      Very nicely put.

  • lucubratrix February 24, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    This post made me have a revelation about my naming style. My formula for a winning name that feels like my kid is an ornate Masterpiece Theater names that pares down to a Rhinestone Cowboy dual identity.. It makes so much sense, even if I’m only unpacking it a dozen years after I embarked on the naming journey. I’m a parent who regularly takes my kids to both operas and monster truck rallies, nerd/geek spaces and shooting ranges. One of my primary aspirations for my kids is that I’d like them to be able to fluidly move through both pretentious and salt-of-the-earth spaces with equal ease.

  • katjsh
    katjsh June 20, 2021 at 4:01 am

    I’ve been gone so long and this is from a while ago but had to comment. When I read the post I thought “today’s heros” but then the video game comments hit it perfectly “Gamer Hero”.

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