Any parent will admit there’s a fine line between “classic” and “vintage” baby names and ones that are better left in the past. But these days, even the most modern-minded moms and dads are looking to history for baby naming inspiration.
And while things have changed a lot in the last hundred years (or more, as is the case with many of these names), there are a handful of baby names that continue on through times as beloved classics. Sure, there may be a few kids with the same name going through school together, but for many parents, that’s the idea! They want their children to have a strong and commonplace name that won’t set them apart for negative reasons, but they also want something that can withstand the test of time—and, in this case, the test of growing from a toddler to an adult who’s proud of their name and feels it suits them well.
Whether parents are just tired of the current pressure to be original and unique or they’re just out of ideas as far as family names and influences go, these classic baby boy names might just be the right fit—and there are 25 common enough and easy to spell names to choose from!
If the name Arthur makes you think of kings, is that really a bad thing? After all, almost every IG baby these days is called a king, so why not start yours off on the right foot? Royalty aside, Arthur is a strong and reputable name that can stand alone or be shortened into something cutesy like Art or Arty. The flexibility gives it appeal, but it also harks from medieval times—plus it’s popular in more than just English-speaking areas, too.
Although more “hip” names like Bentley and Bennett still revert to “Ben” as a nickname, it was Benjamin that originally spurred it. What’s completely adorable about Benjamin is you could also call your baby Benji well into his toddler years—how sweet is that? Nicknames aside, Benjamin is a strong name with Hebrew origins, and it carries centuries’ worth of clout in the baby name books! It’s also popular enough that people recognize and respect it, without there being a little Benny in every classroom.
Another name that could be considered inspired by royalty is Charles. However, Charles has been a popular name that spans decades, centuries, countries, continents, and more! It’s simply a very well loved and surprisingly common name for little guys—and we get the appeal. After all, you can call a baby Chuck, Chucky, Chaz, or simply Charlie, and they’re all equally adorable for a tiny tot. In the adult world, though? Charles is the ultimate in elegance and an impressive reputation.
This biblical name is another that spans multiple continents, languages, and religions. It’s short and snappy but still has an optional nickname (or two—Dave and Davey) built in. It also works well with a variety of surnames, even if you include some heritage or other cultural flair. And if you want a name with biblical roots, this one is tied to a great story about moral fiber and standing up for yourself even when you’re the little guy—a great lesson to teach your little David.
For a lot of parents, Edward became a name to shy away from, thanks to Twilight. But as the craziness seems to have died down, it seems appropriate to remind expectant families that Edward is still a posh and perfect name pick for any little boy. It’s timeless, sure, but it’s also great for matching with a more adventurous middle name. And you could call your little one Ed or Eddie if you prefer, and save Edward for when he’s really in trouble!
Another biblical pick that many parents love because of that fact, Elijah is also a melodious sounding name with a unique combination of letters that modern parents tend to love. So not only does it appeal to the traditionalist in the family, but Elijah is also a fun take on spelling for those millennial or other parents who were hoping to be a bit more adventurous with their baby’s moniker. And, you’ve got the benefit of a built-in nickname with Eli.
I know a handful of boys named Grayson, but I didn’t realize how popular it was until I actually looked up the statistics. The name harks from England and comes in a few variations—Greyson, Graysen, Greysen—but all are fairly popular on their own. There’s also the fact that Robin of Batman and Robin’s actual last name was Grayson—which is perhaps the reason why so many (possibly closeted) superhero fans are naming their little guys Grayson these days.
Finn is one of those impressively popular names that’s so widely used, I know at least three boys in one class who have the moniker. And there’s nothing wrong with that—naming your little guy Finn will guarantee he blends in in a good way. So not only is this name a classic in multiple countries, but it’s also trending because of the “nature” aspect—a la Huckleberry Finn. Parents of multiple kiddos often choose it to fit into a family that also has a River, Reed, Hunter, or other nature-y moniker.
While Benjamin is popular enough on its own, Franklin is also ranking high on popularity lists these days, and it’s thanks in part to the famous Founding Father. Ben Franklin did a lot of great things, of course, so naming your guy with their part of his name would be amazing. But Franklin is a sweet spin on the traditional “Frank” or “Frances” that still lets you give your tot a nickname if you choose. And honestly, it just sounds so regal and grown-up, even on a baby.
Henry is a name that seems like it’s never fallen off of popularity charts, so there are always at least one or two Henrys running around. In recent years, it seemed like only really brave parents were picking it because it was too much of a throwback for everyone else. But it’s sort of flown under the radar up until now, and there happen to be plenty of baby boys named Henry toddling around at this point—so what’s one more?
This name doesn’t really need explaining, as it’s become hugely popular since Harry Potter came out in all its forms over the years. From books to film to the fan website, there’s a lot to love about Harry Potter and his world. But there’s also the fact that Harry is a nickname for Henry, which is kind of adorable, and Harry on its own is a simple and sweet name for any little boy. And for Harry Potter fans, this one’s a no-brainer.
For parents who are into those interesting spelling methods but aren’t so sure about adding extra vowels to an already established name, Isaac fits the bill! Its unique spelling is already well-known, so there won’t be any pronunciation or spelling errors for your little guy. But at the same time, the name has a modern sound and a bit of popularity on its own—but nothing as massive as names like Jackson or Madison in past years. It’s a happy medium for parents who want something a bit quirky and a bit traditional.
Although if you’re not a fan of Harry Potter and his wizarding world, James might seem like just another name, for HP-passionate parents, James is another perfect pick. James was Harry’s father, and picking a first name for your tot that echoes your favorite book and film franchise is an easy choice when it’s also a classic and common selection. And you could stick with James or abbreviate the moniker to Jamie or even Jim if you or your kiddo decide on it later.
Yet another biblical name, Jacob is popular across many cultures, continents, and even languages (such as Jacobo). But the appeal here is really that the name is two syllables, has a short and snappy sound, and can be abbreviated into the uber-cool Jake, which brings to mind a cool college-age kid. Suffice it to say, the name Jacob will take your tot through nursery school and all the way to a professional degree with an adaptation for each situation he encounters.
We’ll ignore the biblical implications of this name for now and focus instead on the versatility. Can you think of a single Joseph in your own life? Likely not at this point in time—or if you do know one, he goes by simply “Joe.” Which isn’t a bad thing—having a single-syllable name sometimes comes in handy. Joseph may have fallen off the board a bit, but it’s coming back as parents turn to the classics instead of resorting to J names like Joel or Jackson.
Maybe it was Kailyn Lowry’s middle son that inspired so many new parents to choose Lincoln, but we can’t really give the former teen mom credit for the longevity of the name. It’s one of the past US presidents’ names, after all, so it may have some historical importance to many people that choose it. Either way, it’s another easy to pronounce and spell name that will grow with the child, and that’s kind of the overall idea with classic boys’ names.
Although I didn’t choose the name Lucas for my son out of a baby book (for us it’s got family ties), I totally understand the appeal of it as a classic and nearly neutral name. It works in so many cultures—and apparently comes from multiple ones with different spellings, Lukas for example—and it pairs well with practically any last name. So while I may feel partial to my Lucas, I actually like that there are plenty of others out there!
Matthew was popular back in the ‘90s when I was a child, and it still seems just as popular now. Whether that was helped by Matthew McConaughey’s rise to fame or not, we may never know. But the point is that the name works equally well for children and grown men, and it’s another ubiquitous name that nearly any surname works with. Of course, nickname appeal is there too—imagine calling your little guy Matt or Matty through his toddler years.
Although there are many spelling variations for Nicholas—Nicolas and Niklaus are just two of my personal favorites—this name has been ever-present on popular baby name lists for centuries. No matter where you’re from or what languages you speak, you probably know a handful of Nicks in your daily life. It’s a strong name with plenty of customization options on the spelling, something some more creative parents will really like! And there’s nothing cuter than a baby boy called Nicky.
This name has seemingly become trendy again in recent years, although it’s never really gone away since historical times. Owen is an interesting and quirky name that many parents may overlook because of the unconventional lettering. After all, can you think of any other baby boys’ name that starts with O, let alone one that’s even remotely popular in mainstream baby circles? Apart from Orion and Odin, there aren’t a lot of O names for boys, so this one is unique in that aspect, yet common enough to not draw stares when you call your kiddo on the playground.
It might come from overseas for most people in the US, but Patrick has been a parent favorite for centuries all over the globe. But its popularity began eons ago, and plenty of us probably have an uncle Pat or a grandpa Pat, if not another generation beyond that. Patrick is a strong and robust name that can stand alone—there’s really no need to shorten it—and it’s a name that works equally well for newborns and grown men.
For parents who like nicknames, Robert is a great and timeless option. It’s also regal sounding, so if that’s something you’re after, you can’t really go wrong. Whether it’s a Rob, Robbie, or even Bert, your little Robert won’t have trouble introducing himself or getting teachers to pronounce his name correctly. Clearly, that’s part of the appeal with classic baby boy names in the first place. This name also has the benefit of being the first name of many famous people, too!
Samuel is another biblical name, but that’s not the only thing it has going for it. A few celebrities have chosen it—namely Jennifer Garner for her little guy—but it’s not so common that every other tot has the moniker. It has a bit of a unique spelling and pronunciation, but that doesn’t mean people will mispronounce it—it just means it’s not boring to look at or to say. And what’s more adorable than a little tot called Sammy?
When I first read this name, I honestly thought of Alvin and the Chipmunks, but there are plenty of other Theodores—and Teddys—throughout history to look up to! And the beauty of a big long name like Theodore is that your little guy can rename himself over time if he so chooses. From Teddy to Theo to Ted, you can shorten it however you please and still keep the more elegant Theodore for when you need to sound like you mean business.
An ever-popular pick among both parents in the US and, in particular, the UK- William is a traditional and strong name with roots that are equally strong. The name hasn’t dipped in popularity since people started tracking names, and though it originated in Germany, it quickly spread all over the country (and then all over the world). These days, it’s rare that you don’t already know a child or adult named Bill, Will, Willy, Liam, or Billy—and we don’t blame their moms one bit!