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By Christine-Marie Liwag Dixon/Aug. 27, 2021 10:09 am EDT

Congrats, you’re expecting a baby boy! Now it’s time to pick out a name. You may already have a first name in mind, but what about his middle name? While you might shy away from choosing a name that’s too unique or informal for a first name, middle names allow a little more room for flexing your creativity.

Some parents might choose to use a family name for a middle name, or perhaps a name they love but that might be too old-fashioned or too funky for a first name. There are a lot of possibilities for middle names, which is a good thing, in theory, but also serves to make the selection of a middle name for your baby boy that much harder. Don’t worry, though, because we’ve got your back! From traditional names packed with history to more modern middle monikers, we’ve hand-selected the best names to give your baby boy as a middle name. Trust us, they’re perfect.

Ace

Your baby boy is at the top of your list, so why not make Ace his middle name? While Behind the Name notes that Ace has been traditionally used as a nickname rather than as a first name (let alone a middle name), Ace has been on the rise as a given name in recent years. Ace is the kind of middle name that pairs perfectly with a longer, more traditional name; first and middle name combos like Tyler Ace or Jared Ace certainly have a nice ring to them! 

Coming from the word ace, which means “highest rank,” the term is also a commonly used British slang word meaning “brilliant or excellent,” as noted by Lifehack, two things your baby boy is sure to be. If short and sweet is what you’re looking for in a middle name for your baby boy, then Ace should definitely be your first choice!

Fernando

At first glance, the name Fernando might seem a little bit showy and perhaps just a touch out-of-date for your baby boy. Behind the Name notes that Fernando — the Spanish and Portuguese version of Ferdinand — is on the decline as a given name in the U.S., after all, but that doesn’t mean you should rule it out. Ferdinand is ultimately derived from Germanic terms meaning “journey” and “daring, brave,” making this an adventurous and strong name for your little one.

If you’re still worried about how long this name is, remember that we’re talking about middle names here. Fernando might be a bit of a mouthful for everyday use (not that it isn’t lovely), but for a middle name that isn’t used regularly, it’s perfect. Plus, the name Fernando has the perfect pop-culture tie-in thanks to the song “Fernando” by ABBA, a song that was featured in “Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again!” Give this middle name to your baby boy and he’ll have a great middle name and a go-to karaoke song when he grows up!

Charles

Okay, Charles isn’t exactly the boldest name on this list, but it is a classic. A lot of parents these days are opting to give their babies modern, snazzy names, but a more old-fashioned name can be a way of balancing out a trendier first name and rooting it in something a bit more traditional. There’s a reason that the name Charles has been borne by some of the most famous men in history, including Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, and, in more modern times, Prince Charles.

Granted, Charles doesn’t have the most imaginative origin. Behind the Name notes that it can trace its roots to a Germanic term meaning “man.” Then again, some people think that it actually comes from the Germanic “hari,” which means “army” or “warrior.” Etymology aside, this name is tried and true and there’s a reason that it has been popular with parents for generations, making it a great middle name for your baby boy. 

Noel

Noel isn’t a very popular name in the U.S., which is a shame because it’s quite a nice one. Per Behind the Name, it comes from the French word for Christmas. Historically, the name was given to those born on Christmas Day, but your little one doesn’t need a festive due date to be given this moniker — although it could be a cute way of commemorating their special day.

In spite of the fame of noted playwright Noël Coward (who, for what it’s worth, was born just days before Christmas on December 16), this name isn’t used with much frequency, so we understand if you think it’s just a bit too rare to use as a given name. As a middle name, though, we think it’s pretty perfect. The name has flair, illustrious literary roots, and it rolls right off the tongue. It’s also a good option to balance out a shorter first name: how do John Noel or Blake Noel sound? Christmas birthday or not, giving your baby boy the middle name Noel is a pretty great gift.

Axel

Something about the name Axel is just undeniably cool. It exudes power and confidence and, while you might worry that the name has a bit of a bad-boy edge, know that this moniker actually has deep and dignified roots. Per Behind the Name, Axel date back to medieval times and is the Danish form of Absalom, a Latin name derived from the Hebrew “Avshalom,” which means “my father is peace.” It’s no wonder that the name is on the rise in the U.S. In spite of its long history, it sounds quite current and edgy — something for which we can thank Guns N’ Roses’ lead singer, Axl Rose.

The name Axel packs quite a punch — perhaps a bit too much punch for a first name, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make the perfect middle name for your baby boy! With plenty of history behind it and a decidedly European air, we’re sure that your baby is going to love having Axel as a middle name.

Leo

Leo is a short and sweet nickname for longer, showier names like Leonardo and Leopold, but it also makes a pretty great middle name for baby boys. As noted by Behind the Name, the name has been popular for centuries and comes from the Latin word for lion. Astrology lovers will recognize this name as the fifth sign of the zodiac but, even if your baby boy is a Libra, Aries, or another zodiac sign, this ferocious moniker will suit him quite well.

A lot of people have borne this fierce name over its long history, including several popes, kings, emperors and, of course, “War and Peace” author Leo Tolstoy. The most famous Leos of all, though, are Leonardo da Vinci and Leonardo DiCaprio, as noted by Ranker. With such incredible company and such a powerful legacy, how could you not pick Leo as your baby boy’s middle name?

Killian

There’s something quite charming about the name Killian. While this lengthy moniker has Irish roots, tracing itself to the name Cillian and then back to the Gaelic word “ceall,” which means “church,” you don’t have to be Irish or religious to appreciate the beauty of this name. The name Killian only really started circulating in the U.S. in the 21st century, per Behind the Name, and might have been driven higher up on the charts thanks to the character of Killian Jones on the popular fairy tale drama “Once Upon a Time.”

While Killian might be a bit too showy of a name for your tastes — especially if you don’t come from an Irish background yourself — it’s pretty perfect as far as middle names go. The name is familiar enough that it won’t seem like an unconventional name choice, but Killian is also unique enough to be an interesting talking point.

Benjamin

Benjamin is another one of those names that’s a classic, but perhaps just a little too classic to give to your baby boy. While it has a lot of timeless charm and lends itself well to nicknames like Ben and Benny, it’s understandable if you don’t want your kid to be one of three Bennys in his kindergarten class.

If Benjamin is a name you’re passing up as a first name, you should still consider it as a contender for your son’s middle name, though. Behind the Name explains that this moniker comes to us from the Hebrew name Binyamin, which means “son of the south” or “son of the right hand” and has roots in the Old Testament. That means it’s been around for a long time, anchoring your son to some pretty incredible historical Benjamins, including perhaps the most famous Benjamin of all time, founding father Benjamin Franklin. And, of course, there’s actor Ben Affleck. With company like that, you should be ready to slap the name Benjamin smack dab in the middle of your son’s birth certificate.

Arthur

Okay, okay, we’ll admit that Arthur is kind of a stuffy, old-fashioned name, but remember — we’re talking about middle names here. Arthur is the kind of name that can help give a shorter first name a bit of gravitas — just ask Bea Arthur. A name like John Arthur or perhaps Chase Arthur would suit your little one nicely.

While you might associate the name Arthur with the beloved children’s character Arthur the Aardvark, there’s more history behind this powerful name than quality kids’ entertainment. Let’s not forget the legendary Arthur who has ensured that the name has been a popular one for centuries: King Arthur himself, aka the leader of the knights of the round table, aka the man who pulled the sword from the stone.

Per Behind the Name, Arthur’s exact origins are unknown but it might come from a Celtic word meaning “bear” as well as the Celtic terms for “man” or “king.” Whether or not you believe that King Arthur actually lived, you can’t deny that this name has some serious history behind it. Experts aren’t sure if the legend was based on a real man, but stories of King Arthur and his acts of valor have been popular with bards for centuries, giving the name deep literary roots.

Harrison

Traditionally more of a last name than a given name, Harrison has seen some traction with parents naming their little boys in the modern era, thanks to “Star Wars” star Harrison Ford. Of course, for middle name inspo we need look no further than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s firstborn, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. It was an unusual choice of a middle name for a monarch’s great-grandson, but who are we to argue with royalty? Besides, we can’t deny that this middle name sounds super cute.

Any parent can pick Harrison as their baby boy’s middle name, but it would be especially cute if one of them is named Harry. That’s because, per Behind the Name, the English last name Harrison is a patronymic meaning “son of Harry.” Don’t worry if there aren’t any Harrys in the family, though — this regal name stands just fine on its own. We think it goes especially well with a shorter first name, like Andrew or Steven — but we’d advise against using Harrison as a middle name if you’re planning on naming your baby boy Harry.

Santiago

Santiago might be a bit of a lengthy name, but the international flair it adds to your baby boy’s name will be well worth the extra ink on his birth certificate. While the name has Spanish roots, it’s okay if you’re not Spanish yourself but simply like the sound of the name — it has literary fame, after all, thanks to the character of Santiago in Ernest Hemingway’s timeless classic, “The Old Man and the Sea.”

The name also has a religious connection, coming in part from the Spanish word for “saint,” as noted by Behind the Name. Santiago is also derived from the name Yago, an old Spanish variation of the popular name James. That’s already a lot of trivia packed into one name … but wait, there’s more! There are several cities around the world called Santiago, including the capital of Chile; perhaps this will inspire your baby boy to become a globetrotter.

The name Santiago has been booming in popularity in the U.S., so your son likely won’t be the only one of his peers to sport this moniker. Instead, he’ll be one of the hippest Santiagos on the playground! 

King

While there are quite a lot of American parents who have given their baby boys the name King over the years, we can understand why some might want to shy away from it. After all, it’s quite easy for King to sound like a title rather than a name, and many parents might feel a little weird yelling out “King Richard” or “King Philip” when their kid is in trouble. Switch the order of those two names, though, and it’s a different story. Richard King and Philip King are pretty cool first and middle name combos that add just a touch of regality to an already stately name. The name itself refers, of course, to the male monarch of a nation; per Behind the Name, it has its roots in the Old English word “cyning.” 

Aside from the title being used by rulers over the centuries, King has some pretty surprising historical roots. Per Nameberry, famous people who have borne the name King include King Camp Gillette, the mastermind behind the safety razor. There’s also King Vidor, a famous film director who ruled Hollywood in the ’20s and ’30s. Then there’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who didn’t bear King as a given name but, nonetheless, helped spur the name’s legacy as one of the most prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Your baby boy will have a lot to live up to if you give him the middle name of King but, hopefully, the name will inspire him to greatness.

Beau

Beau is more than just an alternative to the name Bo. As noted by Behind the Name, the moniker comes to us from French and is the masculine term for “beautiful,” although in parts of Europe it’s used as a gender-neutral name. In the U.S. it’s more commonly given to boys, though, and is becoming quite popular for them, too.

Short and sweet, Beau is an ideal middle name for your baby boy. It pairs well with old-fashioned names, like Jeremiah, but sounds equally as snazzy with more current names, like Mason or Jayden. You may recall the moniker from the novel “Gone with the Wind,” but Nameberry notes that it’s also quite popular with celebrities like Art Garfunkel, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and Tori Spelling, who have all named their baby boys Beau.

Your baby boy is a beautiful one, after all, so why not put it in writing as his middle name?

Atlas

A middle name is a great place to get creative with your baby boy’s name, and Atlas is a great way to do that. While it’s been becoming more and more popular in the U.S. in the 21st century, Atlas still isn’t what you would call a traditional name. Rooted in mythology, as noted by Behind the Name, it’s believed to mean “enduring,” and is well-known as the name of the Titan punished by Zeus by being made to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders as he is forced to hold up the heavens.

That’s heavy stuff (literally), but Atlas is also a name that exudes strength and perseverance — good traits to instill in any young boy. The word atlas also refers to “a bound collection of maps often including illustrations, informative tables, or textual matter,” as defined by Merriam-Webster, making this an apt name for world travelers as well as those who hope that their little boys will be inspired by history.

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