Is it massive? Is it powerful? How about savage and prepared to wreak havoc? If so, it’s ready to be a baby name—for boys only.
An emerging style of male word names is frankly ferocious. These names blow past traditional boundaries to present themselves as huge (e.g. Goliath), powerful (Dominance), angry (Furious), dangerous (Savage), and just plain out of control (Mayhem). Since the turn of the millennium, their collective popularity has risen by nearly 1000%.
Each of these boys’ names has appeared in US baby name statistics in the last three years:
Most of these names are still rare. Only Cannon and Titan rank among the top 1000 boys’ names. But they’re just one corner of a much broader movement toward aggressive and aggrandizing names for boys.
The Bigger Picture
If you can imagine a type of name that would suggest dominance, aggression or ego, you’ll probably find it among 21st-century boys names. For instance:
- Combative “doer” names like Slayer, Shooter and Warrior
- Preeminent titles like Pharaoh, Sultan and Emperor
- Weapon brand names like Ruger, Winchester and Wesson
- Expressions of victory like Triumph, Champion and Prevail
- Brands of extra-large condoms like Magnum, Maxx and Kyng
- Apex predators like Lion, Hawk and Wolf
- Deific terms like Almighty, Sovereign and Supreme
- Mythological embodiments of power like Kratos, Atlas and Thor
The hyper-aggressive style is spreading in subtler ways as well, such as spelling. The letter X acts as a turbocharger in phrases like “X Games” and “X factor.” A double X takes it to the extreme.
40 years ago, not a single name containing xx appeared in American baby name stats. Last year’s stats featured 44 different xx names like Brixx and Maxximus, accounting for more than 1200 babies—nearly all of them boys.
Why are so many parents naming their sons like supervillains and power tools? Individually, their motivations doubtless vary. Some parents are inspired by comic book or video game characters. Others may hope to instill confidence in a child they fear society will seek to diminish. Still others enjoy the aggressive imagery itself and find the names fun and exciting.
In other words, individually the names are chosen with care like any others. But taken all together, they point to an image of masculinity as dangerously volatile rather than steady and stalwart. Coming soon to adulthood near you.
I’ve also seen boys named Malice.
It’s like if Toxic Masculinity were a naming style.
What this trend implies about the current state of American masculinity is really distressing.
But at the same time, I can’t help but laugh at the name Ruckus. I can only assume none of the parents naming their sons Ruckus ever watched “The Boondocks.” Kind of hilarious to think that there are going to be real-life Uncle Ruckuses running around in a few decades.
Motivations vary but certainly as a name tracker for three decades, I see that traditional male names (not surnames) “going to the girls” is a factor.
@notcinnamon, welcome! I agree that parents of boys are backing away from anything unisex. I suspect, though, that it isn’t as much about *traditional* male names turning unisex but rather modern creative names like Phoenix, Dakota, Presley and River. A name choice is unlikely to come down to Chaos, Rage or Edward. 🙂
Hi Laura! I hope you don’t mind that I’m asking this as a blog comment. I was a fan of NameVoyager for years, and today I noticed that Nymbler is offline as well – and discovered that you were involved, at least, in its creation. As a lifelong name nerd those two tools were absolutely invaluable to me, and I would like to ask if you have anything similar in the works.
Hi Tina, and welcome! I hope you’ve found the Namerology NameGrapher: https://namerology.com/baby-name-grapher/
Thank you for the reminder about Nymbler, which I’d frankly lost track of. For those who never encountered it, Nymbler was a name search engine that worked on a search-by-example model — e.g. “I like Jasper and Felix, show me more like those.” (The Baby Name Wizard MatchMaker had a similar concept, but worked in a different way.) I love that exploratory approach to name search, as opposed to focusing on concrete criteria like “6 letters starting with V.” It allows for more serendipity and reflects how each name is more than the sum of its parts.
I would love to build a new and better search-by-example tool, and I have a ton of ideas for one! But no timetable, unfortunately. Namerology.com is a labor of love, and right now its ambitions outpace its resources. 🙂
Might as well just go with “Anvil.”