Baby name trends may come and go, but today’s most popular baby names suggest that nothing beats a classic. Many of the popular boy names that have topped the lists in recent years have a certain throwback appeal, and find their roots in ancient Greek, Hebrew, Gaelic and Latin terms, such as David, Andrew and Elijah. Other popular modern boy names honor a beloved heritage, like Liam (Irish) or Anthony (Italian). And some just seem to ooze “cool guy” status, like Jackson, Logan and Dylan.
It’s too soon to tell whether the coming years will see a major shift in baby name trends, but the popular boys’ names below have enjoyed their spots in the top 30 for several years running.
Here are the most popular baby boy names and their meanings.
Aidan is an Irish name meaning “fiery,” derived from the name of the Celtic god of the sun and fire, Aodh.
According to baby name trend tracking site Nameberry, Aidan and its related spelling Aiden have enjoyed a recent resurgence of popularity in the past decade that inspired many “sound-alike” names such as Caden, Jayden and Braden. It’s a cool gender-neutral name for girls, too.
Alexander is a name of Greek origin meaning “defender.” Famous Alexanders in history include Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, inventor and scientist Alexander Graham Bell and of course the ancient conqueror Alexander the Great.
According to Nameberry, Alexander has been among the top 25 most popular boys’ names since the 1990s, with numerous “spinoff” names and nicknames such as Xander, Sasha and Alex.
Andrew is boy’s name derived from the Greek aner, meaning “man.” Andrew means “strong, manly,” and is the name of one of the first apostles in the New Testament, as well as two American presidents (Jackson and Johnson) and the patron saints of Russia, Greece and Scotland.
Andrew is one of those names that has been popular for decades, although Nameberry notes that it slipped out of the top 20 boys’ names in 2013. Drew and Andy are two likeable nicknames for Andrew, and variations on Andrew from around the world include Anders, Andre, Andreas and Andrei.
Anthony is a Latin name meaning “priceless.” Originally a family name from ancient Rome, “Antonii” evolved into the given names Anthony and Antony in the 17th century, according to Nameberry, and is the name of the patron saint of Italy and the poor.
While Anthony’s popularity peaked in the 1980s, it still ranks in the top 30 for boys names.
Benjamin is a Biblical boys’ name derived from the Hebrew for “son of the right hand.” Benjamin was a founder of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel in the Old Testament, and in more recent times famous Benjamins have been inventors (Franklin), composers (Britten) and even Jedi (Solo, Kenobi).
Gentle and a bit old-fashioned, Benjamin has been in the top 10 for boys’ names since 2015. The nickname Ben is a friendly shortened version with vintage appeal, while Benji has a playful feel.
Christopher is a Biblical name of ancient Greek origin meaning “bearer of Christ.” The name Christopher has been borne by saints, actors (Plummer and Eccleston, to name two), explorers (Columbus), architects (Wren) and authors (Colfer and Hitchens), but the best-loved Christopher of them all might be Christopher Robin, of Winnie the Pooh.
Chris is, of course, a popular nickname, but as Nameberry reports, some appealing and lesser-known variations are on the rise, including Topher, Kit and Kip.
The Biblical name Daniel is taken from the Hebrew for “God is my judge,” and is associated with the faithful Daniel of the Old Testament book of the same name. It has been among the most popular boys’ names since the 1970s, and according to Nameberry, over 10,000 baby boys are given the name Daniel every year.
Daniel is traditionally a popular boy name among Irish families, thanks to the classic Irish ballad “Danny Boy” and the similar-sounding Gaelic name Donal or Domhnall.
David is a boys’ name of Hebrew origin meaning “beloved.” The Biblical Daniel is the famous one who slew the giant Goliath with his slingshot, making David the namesake of triumphant underdogs everywhere. That same David is also the poet and champion of the arts who inspired the famous Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo. Quite a heritage to live up to!
With its artistic and religious pedigree combined with its classic appeal, David has ranked among the most popular boys’ names for decades, coming in second only to Daniel in boys’ names that begin with D, according to Nameberry.
A gender-neutral name that has skyrocketed to popularity in recent decades, Dylan is a Welsh name that means “son of the sea.” Most Americans associate the name Dylan with the Nobel-prize-winning musician Bob Dylan, but perhaps fewer know that Bob Dylan adopted his performing name from the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who wrote “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” among others.
Elijah is a Biblical name of Hebrew origin meaning “the Lord is my God.” In the Old Testament, Elijah was the prophet who confronted the controversial queen Jezebel and king Ahab of Israel, and who was later carried up to Heaven in a chariot of fire.
Classic and musical-sounding, Elijah is also an especially popular name among celebrity kids: Bono, Cher and a surprisingly long list of other notables have given their sons the name Elijah. Elijah is also gaining ground as a name for baby girls.
Ethan is an ancient Hebrew name meaning “enduring.” Its popularity in recent decades may have been kickstarted by the Tom Cruise character in the Mission: Impossible series, by 90s indie dreamboat Ethan Hawke—or maybe just by the name Ethan’s classic-yet-cheerful feel.
According to the baby name popularity tracking website Nameberry, Ethan peaked at #3 for boys names in 2012, but is still holding strong in the top 30.
Gabriel is a name of Hebrew origin meaning “God is my strength,” combining gever, meaning “strong,” and ‘el, God. In the religious traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the archangel Gabriel offers counsel, reveals the meaning of dreams and visions and provides a line of communication between humanity and the divine. Gabriel is also known as the herald of the birth of Christ.
Noble and musical, Gabriel is a popular name choice for January babies and sons born on a Monday, since as reported by Nameberry, Gabriel is associated with both Januarys and Mondays—appropriate for a figure so strongly connected with new beginnings.
Henry is a Germanic name meaning “ruler of the home,” derived from “heim,” meaning home, and “rich” meaning rule. A long line of British monarchs named Henry dates from all the way back in the tenth century to the modern Prince Henry, a.k.a. Harry. But well beyond its royal pedigree, Henry has been the earthy, accessible name of great artists, inventors and pioneers from Henry Ford to Henry James to Henry “Hank” Aaron.
Henry is also one of those names that celebrities seem to love bestowing on their sons, including Julia Roberts, Viggo Mortensen, Meryl Streep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rachel Weisz, Jack White, Colin Farrell, and many more.
Jackson is an English name meaning “son of Jack,” which has risen to such massive popularity in recent decades that it has surpassed both John and Jack on the Social Security Administration’s annual record of top names for boys. Jackson sounds like a slightly more formal version of either Jack or John, which may help explain its durable appeal. The name has gained even more renown thanks to modern-day Jacksons like American artist Jackson Pollack, singer Jackson Browne and Jackson Wang of Korean boy band Got7.
Even more than Henry, it seems, Jackson is a favorite boy name among celebrities. Notable people who have named their sons Jackson include Spike Lee, Patti Smith and Charlize Theron.
Jacob is a Hebrew name meaning “supplanter.” In the Biblical story of Jacob and his twin brother Esau, Jacob repeatedly deceives his older twin in order to deny Esau his rights as the eldest son. But then the Old Testament describes how Jacob goes on to face numerous challenges—including wrestling with an angel—before eventually reconciling with his brother and becoming a leader of a new nation. Jacob’s legacy is complex, but he’s an incredibly important figure in Judaism and Christianity.
Ironically enough, Jacob’s revived popularity as a boys’ name in the late 1990s was inspired by another controversial Jacob, one-third of the love triangle in the Twilight series. According to Nameberry, Jacob was the number 1 boys’ name in America from 1999 to 2013, when it was supplanted (see what we did there?) by Noah.
Classic boys’ name James is the Anglo-Saxon version of the Hebrew name Jacob, meaning “supplanter.” James was the most popular boys’ name in America from the late 1930s into the 1940s, and it has never really gone out of style (in fact, James has evolved into a great gender-neutral name for girls in recent years). As Nameberry notes, more U.S. Presidents have been named James than any other name. Kings, apostles and fictional international super-spies have all carried the name of James, too.
While James is a name with a serious pedigree, it has some pretty friendly nicknames, including Jamie, Jim, and Jake.
Jayden is the Americanized version of the Hebrew name Jadon, meaning “thankful.” Jayden is most often considered a kind of hybrid of the names “Aiden” and “Jason,” and the name started its rise to popularity in the 1990s (thanks to Britney Spears choosing “Jayden” and Will and Jada Smith using “Jaden” for their sons), eventually peaking at #4 in the early 2010s.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the popularity of Jayden has propelled a host of wildly popular sound-alike names up the Social Security Administration’s top name lists—Caden, Braydon, Peyton, even Mason. But Jayden is the grandaddy of them all…or, to put it in gender-neutral terms, the grandparent, since Jayden is also a popular name for girls.
John is an English version of the Latin name Iohannes, meaning “God is gracious.” John is the most popular boys’ name of the last 400 years, and like the name James, it has never really gone out of style—even though it’s less used today than ever, John still ranks consistently in the top 30 boys’ names.
Timeless, classic and durable, the name John has a band of international “brothers” that are just as beloved: Sean (Irish), Juan (Spanish), Ian (Scottish), Evan or Ewan (Welsh), Giovanni (Italian) and Jean (French).
Joseph is the Latin form of the ancient Hebrew name Yosef, meaning “may God grow.” The most famous Joseph is probably the New Testament father figure and husband of the Virgin Mary, but Joseph is also the instantly recognizable, distinguished name of authors (Heller), athletes (DiMaggio), actors (Fiennes, Gordon-Levitt) and political leaders (Biden, Lieberman).
Joshua is a name of Hebrew origin meaning “the Lord is my salvation.” Gentle-sounding with just a hint of the Wild West, the Biblical name Joshua has been popular since the 1980s, reaching its highest ranking in the Social Security Administration data for baby names in the early 2000s. By 2015 Joshua had fallen out of the top 20 boys’ names in the U.S., but Joshua remains one of the most well-loved names of the last 50 years.
Famous namesakes include Joshua Tree National Park and a baseball teams’ worth of well-known actors (Brolin, Hutcherson, Gad, Hartnett, Radnor, Duhamel, Jackson, Charles…).
Liam is a boys’ name that means “protector.” An Irish variation of the English-German name William, Liam is currently the most popular boys’ name in the U.S., and one of the fastest-rising names on record (it wasn’t even in the top 10 until 2012, according to Nameberry).
Well-known Liams include actor Liam Neeson, musicians Liam Payne (of One Direction) and Liam Gallagher (of Oasis) and a number of Irish cultural and political figures including novelist Liam O’Flaherty.
Logan is a Scottish boys’ name meaning “small hollow.” Originally a Scottish family name, Logan has been growing in popularity as a first name for boys since the 1970s thanks to the sci-f- classic Logan’s Run. Logan is also a cool gender-neutral name for girls.
The Marvel X-Men character Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, is a big part of the name’s appeal in the U.S., along with Logans on Gilmore Girls and a number of other shows. Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God also features a character named Logan.
Lucas is a Latin name meaning either “from Lucania” (a region in southern Italy) or “light,” if Lucas is considered a variation on the name Luke. The variation Lukas is the most popular boys’ name in the Netherlands, Spain and Norway.
Lucas is a big name among big-screen cowboys from Cool Hand Luke (a.k.a. Lucas Jackson) to Lucas McCain of The Rifleman, and a number of fictional characters from Ivanhoe to Stranger Things have been named Lucas as well.
Mason is a popular gender-neutral name of English origin meaning “stone worker,” derived from an Old English word macian meaning “to make.” It’s a name for creators, hard workers and—according to pop culture—werewolves. (And Kardashians.)
Mason peaked at #2 in 2011, but its enduring popularity has boosted a number of sound-alike names such as Cason and Grayson.
Matthew is the English form of the Hebrew name Mattiyahu, meaning “gift of God.” Like Joshua and John, Matthew is a soft-yet-strong Biblical boys’ name that has been popular for decades, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. Name “spin-offs” from Matthew that are also popular now include Matteo, Teo and Mattias.
Matthew and Matt, much like Lucas and Luke, are old-school names that bear a hint of the Wild West thanks to gunslingers like Matt Dillon. But Matthew has a gentle feel too, thanks to its sound and namesakes like Matthew Cuthbert of the Anne of Green Gables books.
Michael is a name of Hebrew origin meaning, “Who is like God?” The rhetorical question posed by this Biblical name isn’t intended to be answered of course—but it suggests the importance of humility, grace and sincerity in life. The archangel Michael, important to Jewish, Islamic and Christian traditions, leads an army of angels to victory against Satan and is the patron saint of soldiers, making Michael a popular name in military families. Michael was the #1 boys’ name in America for over 50 years.
Notable Michaels in history and literature are almost too many to list, but modern Michaels have included sports legends (Jordan), designers (Kors), actors (Douglas, Fassbender) and political leaders (Pence, Bloomberg). And of course, Michael Scott of The Office, best boss ever.
The boys’ name Noah is of Hebrew origin and means “peace.” The Biblical story of Noah and the ark is known by children around the world, and word-lovers are grateful to American lexicographer Noah Webster for his pioneering dictionary.
Noah is one of the most popular boys’ names of the last two decades and currently ranks #2, although it hasn’t always been as widely-used as it is today. Along with old-fashioned Biblical names such as Elijah, Micah and Jonah, Noah has resurfaced as a gentle-sounding boys’ name with a serious feel.
Oliver is a Latin name meaning “olive tree,” an ancient symbol of friendship and peace. While the name Oliver fell seriously out of fashion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it has resurfaced in a big way in the last two decades as a likeable vintage-sounding name for boys with a friendly meaning (and a wildly popular twin sister, the name Olivia).
Oliver isn’t just popular in the U.S.—it’s also enjoying a big surge in popularity abroad. Oliver is the #1 boy name in England, Australia and New Zealand and #2 in Scotland.
Samuel is a name of Hebrew origin meaning “heard of God,” and makes a sweet name for a much-wished-for little boy. Samuel has a serious, old-fashioned appeal while its softer, friendlier nickname Sam is both gender-neutral and easy-going. A Biblical name with a long history of popularity, Samuel has many notable namesakes, from Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) to revolutionary Sam Adams to film legend Samuel L. Jackson.
William is an English name meaning “resolute protector,” derived from the German “wil” meaning will and “heim” meaning helmet. According to Nameberry, William is one of the most popular boys’ names of the last 4 centuries, second only to John.
William has numerous royal and presidential namesakes from Prince William to William Clinton, in addition to world-shapers like William Shakespeare and William the Conqueror. William is one of the top 10 boys’ names of the past decade.