The top name for boys and the top name for girls have something in common: each name is made up of four letters. For two years in a row, Noah and Emma are not only the most popular names in the U.S., they’re also front-runners in Canada, France, The Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland. Obviously, there’s something desirable about a four-letter name.
Research shows that four-letter company names are simple, yet effective. Organizations with streamlined names generally show quick success—that is, when their names are easy to pronounce. Successful company names are short, to the point, catchy, and easy to remember. A simple, four-letter name for a business is not easy to find, though, as these names are widely sought-after.
Fortunately, not the same is true with baby names. There is virtually an endless list of desirable names comprised of only four letters. And, after searching high and low for the coolest names for boys, we’ve found 25 monikers that range from classic to unique. Besides Noah and Liam, these are the best of the best. For parents-to-be, we have a feeling these names will make many short lists--pun intended.
Some four-letter words are sinful, but these four-letter names are simply divine. Another reason four letter names are popular is they're less complicated for school aged children because they're usually easy to pronounce, spell and read, hitting all the checkmarks of school success.
Check out these cute and compact, four-letter contenders for boys, we guarantee that you and your son will love them!
There’s something marvelous about water. Flowing streams have a peaceful quality, and rivers are breathtaking sights. Water has lots to offer, including inspiration for a baby name.
The cup runneth over with cool and refreshing water names, including Ocean, Hudson, River, Mackenzie, and Jordan. Our favorite water name is the four-letter winner, Nile. The name is an Irish variation of Niall, meaning champion. Unlike the five-letter, Scandinavian version, Niles, the streamlined form hasn’t made the top 1000 boy's names chart in over a century. The more popular Niles ranks #1161 while Nile ranks #3114.
Fans of pop music may associate the name with composer and guitarist Nile Rodgers. He is the musical genius behind some of the world’s number one hits, including David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Will Smith’s Gettin’ Jiggy With It, and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.
So, if an uncommon name that feels familiar is appealing, consider this outdoorsy moniker. Just like the river in Egypt, the name just flows. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes mainstream.
The short form of Nathan or Nathaniel is the four-letter diminutive, Nate. Nethanel is an old Hebrew name that originated in the Bible. As a standalone name, Nate only appeared on the baby name charts in mid-2007. Its popularity reigns in Australia, where it ranks #43 for boys, but the name doesn’t even chart in America.
Although there are not many famous people with the name, a few come to mind. The late rapper Nate Dogg, born Nathaniel Hale, helped put a spotlight on West Coast hip-hop. Also adding to the name-fame is the interior designer and TV personality Nate Berkus. And, actor Nate Corddry, brother of Rob, is known for his role in the 2009 movie The Ugly Truth.
It’s a wonder why Nate isn’t a super popular name considering it’s easy to spell and easy to pronounce. But, with awesome nicknames like NATO and Nate the Great, it’s a name any son would be proud to bear.
There are many Wades out there, and it makes sense because the name has never been out of the top 1000 chart for boys—ever. The popularity of this name saw an uptick in the late 1940s, reaching as high as #195, but it started its decline in the early 1970s. Currently, it’s ranked #521 for American boys.
Historically, Wade is an English name that means at the river crossing. Although it’s become unisex, the name currently trending much higher for boys. Perhaps the connection to water allows the name to have a nature-inspired feel, making it fair game to both genders. Still, Wade slants heavily towards the males, beating the females in popularity by a 10-to-1 ratio.
Wade is also a namesake in the sports world. Thanks, in part, to longtime Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, and All-Star basketball player Dwyane Wade, the name continues to have long-running success.
Meaning God’s gracious gift, the name Sean is an Irish variation of John. This explains why Sean ranks in the top 10 name charts in Ireland. Stateside, Sean has slipped a bit in popularity as more parents are opting for trendy Irish boys’ names like Aidan and Liam. Still, Sean is holding his own in the U.S. at #223.
Perhaps its staying power is due to its connection to famous people. Hollywood sure has its share of actors named Sean; there’s Sean Connery (né Thomas Sean), Sean Penn, and Sean Astin. There’s also the Jamaican musician Seal Paul, and the co-founder of Napster and former Facebook president, Sean Parker. And you can’t deny the influence of music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and his Sean John clothing line.
There are several variants of the name Sean, such as Shawn, Shaun, and Shane, but the four-letter Gaelic spelling has got a lot of zip. Although Sean is an old Hebrew name with a long history, it’s a name that will suit a boy at any age.
Finn in Gaelic means white or fair. From the Irish mythological hero Fionn mac Cuumhaill derives this Anglicized surname Finn. It would make sense the name would be more popular in Ireland than in the rest of the world, and yet it ranks #32 in its native country. It is, however, a top 10 name in Germany and the Netherlands. In the United States, the name has been a steady climber since 2000. Currently, it’s the 209th most popular boy’s name in America.
Pop culture has had an effect on the name’s popularity. Finn got an early start in the Mark Twain novel Huckleberry Finn. Later, the late actor Cory Monteith played Finn Hudson on the TV musical Glee.
As a first name, many famous parents have chosen this name for their sons, including model Christy Turlington, and actress Jane Leeves from TVs Frasier and Hot in Cleveland. Perhaps moms and dads want to honor their Irish traditions, or maybe they just like the sound. Whichever the case, Finn is a pretty cool name for a baby boy.
Cale is a modern, invented name. Some say it’s food inspired; others say it’s a short form of Calen or the biblical name Caleb. In Hawaiian, Kale is known as a form of Charles which means strong and manly. But in reality, the etymology of the word derives from the Gaelic surname Caol meaning thin and slender.
Cale with a C is the most popular variant. On Nameberry, Cale ranks #754, outperforming the alternate spelling of Kale which ranks #1343. The name can also be spelled Cael, Kayl, Cayle, or Kail.
The only drawback may be the association with the green, leafy vegetable. But parents name their children Oliver, Basil, Clementine, and Brie. Spelling the name with a C instead of a K may detract from the similar-sounding vegetable, but personally, we like kale, so the food connection is fine with us.
Whether soon-to-be parents are card-carrying foodies or not, Cale is an exquisite name for a boy. But if it’s too hipster for you, consider it as a middle name.
This English name comes from coal, the black, hard rock used as a fossil fuel. It can also be used as a nickname for Nicolas. And, if the mom-to-be is named Nicole, it’s a nice boy’s version of the name.
Cole has steadily climbed the charts in recent years. It’s now #115 for American boys, but it’s more of a favorite in Scotland where it ranks #62. Cole with a C is the most popular, but alternative spellings include Kohl or Kole.
Arguably, the most famous namesake is composer Cole Porter. There’s also the children’s nursery rhyme Old King Cole based on a real-life English king, although there has been much debate on the identity of this merry old soul. Hollywood brought Cole back to the modern times in the form of a young boy who saw dead people. Haley Joel Osment portrayed Cole Sear in M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Sixth Sense.
The more Cole is used today, the more it adopts a retro, vintage charm. It’s a four-letter winner that is sure to appeal to many expecting parents.
Ironically, this four-letter name means three. The name is sports lingo for a three-point shot in basketball. It started as a nickname for a third-generation man of the same name, as in George III, the grandson of George Sr., and the son of George Jr.
For example, during his first marriage, actor Will Smith named his first son Willard Carroll Smith III, which is not only the actor’s full name but also the full name of his dad. And for this reason, Smith calls his son Trey. Other famous namesakes of Trey are few and far between, but one obvious association is the singer Trey Songz, né Tremaine Neverson.
From English origins, the name first appeared on the U.S. chart in 1964. Trey climbed to #191 in 1993, but it has since slumped in popularity. It’s currently the 556th most popular boy’s name in America.
Expecting parents can spell it many ways, including Tray, Trae, and Trai but the conventional spelling of Trey is a unique enough choice for a baby.
The origin of the name Owen is not entirely clear. Some say it is the Welsh form of the name Eugene which means well-born or noble. Others say it comes from the Welsh word oen, which means lamb. What is clear is the recent rise in Owen’s popularity.
Within 10 years, the name jumped up almost 300 positions. Today, Owen is a top 100 boy’s name in the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Australia, Scotland, England, and Wales. The name ranks #36 in the United States, but it’s even more popular in Canada where the name ranks #13.
Actor Owen Wilson has given the name visibility. Celeb parents love the name, too. Actor Kevin Kline, former talk show host Ricki Lake, and actor Noah Wyle all named their sons Owen.
If expecting parents prefer the Irish spelling, birth certificates everywhere will be seeing more Eoins and Eoghans and less Owens, but we love the American spelling just the way it is.
Colt may not be as popular as his equestrian cousins Roan and Marshall, but this may be a plus if you prefer unconventionality. The name, which means young male horse, has English origins. A male foal is strong in body and spirit. These are fine traits to bestow on a baby boy.
The short, macho name has a connection to football, as the Indianapolis Colts is a team in the National Football League (NFL.) Since Samuel Colt invented the revolver, perhaps the association with guns or with Colt 45 malt liquor keeps it from finding mainstream success. But when thought of as an equine-inspired name, the identity is an energetic and brave quality.
Other spin-offs of Colt include Colter, Colton, and Coltrane, but the one-syllable version has a lot more zip.
If you’re looking for a masculine name with a Western flair, Colt may be a rugged-sounding moniker for your little boy. We imagine Colt will have a stable character that will make his parents proud.
Yes, this name comes from the longer versions Jeffrey and Jefferson, but if a baby boy will be called Jeff anyway, just give him the four-letter version as a standalone name. The name translates to pledge of peace.
Although Jeff currently ranks low on the name charts, this name was mega popular in the late 1950s to mid-1960s. This may explain the host of Hollywood actors from this era, including Jeff Daniels, Jeff Goldblum, Jeff Daniels, Jeff Bridges, and Jeff Dunham. Other famous Jeffs include race car driver Jeff Gordon, and the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos.
Former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck has given the name international fame, although this Jeff was born Geoffrey. Beck is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Finding name inspiration from this musical genius just might bless a little boy to become a rock legend.
Thom may not be as popular as his cousins Thomas and Tom, but this aspect may be a plus if you prefer less common names. This name certainly isn’t rising on baby name charts. In fact, Thom ranks #3652 on Nameberry, but it remains a familiar classic. In the Netherlands, however, the name ranks significantly higher at #186.
Pronounced Tom, this four-letter version is the short form of Thomas. It’s also a creative way to spell Tom. Meaning twin, this name is of Aramaic, Greek, Scottish, and Hebrew origins. Thom entered the American boy’s name chart in the 1940s and peaked at #1722 within the same decade. The name is ranked #3652 on Nameberry, however, it's a popular Dutch name. At the moment, Thom is ranked #186 in the Netherlands.
Thom has gone up and down the name charts like a roller coaster. Although it’s trending downward, many parents still realize the appeal of this masculine name.
The name Adam will be forever linked to the biblical prophet. In the Old Testament, Adam was the first man in the garden of Eden. Along with Eve, Adam was, supposedly, the first human created by God.
This ancient name is a Hebrew name that means earth or son of the red earth. It found name-fame in the seventh-century, then in the 1700s, and then again in the 1970s. Currently, Adam boasts universal popularity. It’s a top 100 name in the United States, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and Australia. It’s even more popular in Sweden, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, ranking in the top 20 in these countries.
Famous bearers of the time-honored name include actor Adam Sandler, Maroon 5’s frontman Adam Levine, and singer Adam Lambert. Also, actor Leonard Nimoy, actor Alan Arkin, and British singer Maurice Gibb all named their sons Adam.
In a family with a long line of girls, Adam would be an ideal name for the first boy. Similar boys’ names like Aiden may be the trendy go-to of the day, but Adam will always be steeped in traditional charm.
As a four-letter abbreviation of the ultra-popular name Jacob, Jake falls just outside of the top 200 list for boys. At the moment, it’s the 205th most popular boy’s name in the United States. Jake is even more popular in England and Ireland, where it ranks 33rd and 27th, respectively.
Fans of the ‘80s John Hughes movie Sixteen Candles will associate the name with Molly Ringwald’s love interest, Jake Ryan. Among the younger generation, Jake may be more closely associated with a werewolf, á la Jake Black of the Twilight series. Aside from the Twilight character, you may associate the name with another famous actor, Jake Gyllenhaal, who was born Jacob. There’s also the boxer “Jake” LaMotta (né Giacobbe.)
In Hebrew, the name means supplanter. Despite the obscure meaning, Jake is still a favorite among parents. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman have a son named Jake, as does actress Courtney Thorne-Smith.
Seth is an ancient Hebrew name that means appointed or placed. It’s a biblical name from the Old Testament. Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve. In Egyptian mythology, Seth was the god of storms and the desert.
In the year 2000, the name peaked on the U.S. boy’s name chart at #63. The four-letter moniker has since dropped to the #278 position. In the Netherlands, Seth ranks #122, and in England, it ranks #90.
The impact through pop culture references cannot be denied. From the TV series The O.C. to the film Superbad, characters named Seth have given the name a boost. Or perhaps its popularity is due to its connection to famous funny men, such as actor Seth Rogen, producer Seth MacFarlane, actor Seth Green, and talk show host Seth Meyers.
In this spirit, the name Seth could give a baby boy a good-humored start in life.
Coty is a reinvention of the similar-sounding Cody. The name began as a French surname. It originated from the French word cote meaning coast. This is why the name literally translates to small slope or river bank.
Some people debate whether Coty better suits a boy or a girl, but the statistics for the name Coty typically only report male data. The name is not prominent with famous people either. In fact, the name is not currently ranked in the United States, however, it ranks #8010 on Nameberry. Though it continues to decline as a given name, it remains popular among surnames.
When a name falls in popularity, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. All names peak and then decline. Some wallow in virtual anonymity for decades before making a comeback. Though it’s no longer a frequently heard name, Coty has a contemporary feel.
The name Joshua, which means the Lord is my salvation, has roots that go back to the Bible. In the Old Testament, Joshua was the successor to Moses. After many attempts, he led the Israelites to the Promised Land. In this spirit, the name could give a boy an auspicious start in life.
It’s fairly popular, ranking #33 in the United States, but it ranks even higher in Australia, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Famous Joshs include singer Josh Groban, actor Josh Hartnett, and actor Josh Duhamel. Joshua was also picked by such celebrity parents as singer Faith Evans, entertainer Donny Osmond, actor James Brolin, and NBA player Tony Parker.
Joshua exudes friendliness. It’s proof that a simple name can be powerful. And with no cutesy nicknames, it seems Josh has it made.
Ryan is a quintessential Irish name that originates from the surname O’Riain. It means descendant of the king or little king.
It’s a fresher alternative to the name Brian that has been popular since 1976, but it was really big in the 1980s. In 2015, the name ranked #39 on the boy’s name chart. Although some parents are adopting Ryan for their daughters, it remains a predominantly male name.
Tinseltown sure has its share of sharp Ryans. There’s Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Phillippe, and Ryan Seacrest to name a few. Perhaps its connection to famous people is the reason for its staying power.
The cute nickname Ry adds to its charm. And there are a million and one ways to spell it, including Ryne, Rian, Rhyne, Rynn, and Rayan.
In Italy, the name is Giovanni. In Scotland, it’s Ian. In Germany, it’s Hans. In France, it’s Yannick. And in the United States, the name is John.
It’s a Hebrew name that means Yahweh is gracious. John was a revered saint and a book in the New Testament. Almost as old as time itself, this masculine name is huge. It has never left the top 100 name chart for boys. And almost everyone knows a John.
There’s plenty of famous people with the name, including uber stylish actor Johnny Depp, actor Jon Voight, former President John F. Kennedy, and the late Beatles frontman John Lennon.
Along with a rich history, John comes with a handful of contemporary nicknames, including John John, Johnny, and Jack.
This ancient Scottish surname has been spelled many ways, including Grey, Graye, Grai, and McGreay. The meaning of the name is obvious: the gray-haired one. The earliest recording of the name appears in 1173.
Gray is one of those names that originated as a surname and then transitioned into a trendy boy’s name. Although it is a very common last name, it is quite uncommon as a first. Names like Grayson and Greyson have entered the top 100 for boys, yet Gray hasn’t secured a spot in the top 1000 baby names list in over one hundred years.
If you don’t like cutesy nicknames, Gray has no other spin-offs. In fact, Gray is usually the nickname of other names, such as Graham and Grayson. Celebrity parents are also jumping on the Gray bandwagon, and many are adopting the name for their girls. Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna are among several others who chose this name for their daughter.
By a show of hands, who knows a boy or a man named Mike? I’ll assume there are many hands in the air as Mikes are everywhere. In fact, the name Michael has never been out of the top 100 chart for boys—ever. In 2015, the name ranked #9 in the United States. But for almost 50 years, Michael was #1.
Biblically, Michael was an archangel who defeated Satan. The Hebrew name means who is like God. But Michael is a name that spans religions, cultures, and countries.
Mike is a namesake from the world of celebrity. Thanks to big stars such as actor Mike Myers, former boxer Mike Tyson, comedian Mike Epps, football coach Mike Ditka, and baseball players Mike Piazza and Mike Mussina, this name continues to have long-running success.
To be different, some parents are considering Mikhail, Micah, or Mickey as an alternative. But Mike is the safe and familiar go-to that we all love.
If you’re looking for a twist on Shawn, try Shaw. It’s an English name that means dweller by the wood. For such a common surname, you’d think it would appear in the top 1000 baby names list, but alas, no. In fact, Shaw is the least popular name on this list. According to Babycenter, it currently ranks #3625.
While Shaw is not a run-of-the-mill name, it’s distinctive and quite memorable. You may remember Reverend Shaw Moore as the minister in the 1984 movie Footloose. The name also has literary associations to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. There was also the big band leader and clarinetist Artie Shaw.
Searching for a unique name that sounds familiar is easier said than done. Also, it’s nice to find a name that is simple to spell. Plus, you may appreciate a name that can’t be shortened into a cutesy nickname. Shaw checks all of these boxes.
Originally an English surname, Nash translates to by the ash tree. Sitting comfortably in the American top 500 boys’ list at #344, this four-letter name found fame in 1997, the year after the debut of the cop TV series Nash Bridges starring Don Johnson and Cheech Marin. It found a spotlight once again in the 2001 Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind. Actor Russell Crowe played real-life mathematician John Nash, a Nobel prize winner who struggled with schizophrenia.
For music fans, a boy named Nash could give a nod to Nashville, the home of legendary country music. The musical connection continues with the British singer-songwriter Graham Nash from the rock trio Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
A bunch of fun pet names comes with this moniker, including Nashtag, Nashbrown, and Nashed Potatoes. The name can also be used as a nickname for Ignatius. However you spin it, Nash has got personality. With this name, a boy is sure to have a spunky character to match.
If expecting parents prefer an unconventional name, Rhys is a solid choice. Pronounced Rees, this Welsh name means ardor, rashness, or enthusiasm. This is why the name is more popular in England, Ireland, and Scotland, where it ranks #126, #98, and #92, respectively. Rhys is somewhat less popular in the United States where the name ranks #513.
Joey McIntyre from the boy band the New Kids on the Block named his son Rhys Edward. Fortunately, there are several spellings of the name, including Rhyce, Rhyse, and Rice. Soon-to-be parents are also using the name Reece, but we love the four-letter version.
And because of actress Reese Witherspoon, parents have found a female spelling of the same name. We'll still go with the four-letter masculine version because Rhys is a sophisticated name with an easy-going charm.
From Spanish origins, the name Cruz means the cross of the Christ or crucifix. Cruz is actually the Spanish word for cross, which is the symbol of Christianity.
In 2005, football legend David Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria, named their third son Cruz. This gave the name a popularity boost. In 2010, the name really started to rise in the ranks. By 2012, Cruz peaked on the boys’ name chart.
Soon-to-be parents should be warned, though; Cruz is considered a unisex name, although parents are often choosing the alternate spelling Kruiz for girls. Actually, there are a million and one ways to spell it, including Cruse, Kruze, Cruzz, Cruiz, Kruzz, and Cruize. Still, Cruz is used mostly for males, and we love this four-letter name for boys.