If you’re preparing to say “Howdy, partner” to a new baby boy any time soon, you’ve probably spent hours combing through baby names – so you may not be surprised to know that cowboy names are an up-and-coming trend. But we’re not talking about dusting off the old-school cowboy names like Roy and Billy and Amos. The new crop of cowboy baby names — often referred to as neo-Western or neo-cowboy — are edgy and masculine, rugged and bold.
These neo-cowboy baby names are at least in part inspired by the popularity of shows like Yellowstone, Outer Range, Longmire, and 1883, and the obsession with all things (not-so-old) Western doesn’t show signs of slowing any time soon; hoping to capitalize on the trend, Netflix has a highly-anticipated new series in the genre coming out in 2024 called The Abandons. If there’s any doubt about how much of an impact pop culture — TV series especially — has on baby names, look no further than Game of Thrones for an example. When the show debuted in 2011, the name Arya was at #714 out of the top 1000 most popular baby names, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration’s database. But by the end of the show in 2019? Arya had skyrocketed all the way up to #92.
The adventurous spirit and confident swagger of the Old West lives on in these neo-cowboy baby names, but they feel decidedly more fresh than the cowboy names of the 1950s Western dramas. Try on a few for size — and hopefully you’ll find a name that fits your baby boy like a broken-in pair of boots.
A perfect example of a surname-turned-first-name, Riggs stems from the surname Rigg, which means “lives near the ridge.” If you want to add a little more “oomph,” the similar name Briggs is always an option!
Calling to mind images of famous frontiersman Daniel Boone, this name — obviously — is also a surname. It comes from the Old French bon, meaning “good.”
Sources can’t seem to agree whether this name of Old English origin means “son of Judah” or “son of Jordan,” but either way, it’s a neo-cowboy name we can get behind. Plus, the nickname “Judd” is equally strong.
Destry is a popular cowboy name that is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. The name itself is derived from the French surname Destrier, which means “war horse.” The 1930 novel Destry Rides Again by Max Brand was made into two later film adaptations.
We have famous country singer Waylon Jennings to thank for this variation — because his name was originally Wayland! It comes from the Old English name Weland, which is possibly derived from the Germanic root word wīlą meaning “crafty” or “cunning,” though some sources say it means “land beside the road.”
You can’t think of Nashville without thinking of cowboy hats, and you can’t think of Nash without thinking of Nashville — so this name fits right in. It’s actually a surname derived from the Old English phrase atten ash, meaning “at the ash tree.”
The meaning of this one is fairly straightforward: it means “son of James.” But its masculine air and association with a certain famous whiskey gives it a perfectly rugged feel.
We’ll admit it: there’s no discernible reason why Jude fits so perfectly into the category of neo-cowboy baby names, but it just does. It’s got a serious air, and maybe the association comes indirectly from Jude Law’s character in the neo-Western Cold Mountain (though his name in the movie wasn’t Jude; it was W.P. Inman, which is decidedly less cowboy-ish). In any case, we love the way it sounds, and it’s a historical name meaning “the praised one,” so you can’t get much better than that.
Royal may sound like, well, a name fit for the aristocracy — but did you know it actually has deep roots in the cowboy category too? Actor Royal Dano was in multiple Western movies throughout the 1950s, making him (and his name!) synonymous with the genre. Now — perhaps in homage to that — Royal Abbott is a character in the popular neo-Western series Outer Range, bringing this name to everyone’s attention once again.
This surname (derived from the Old English dun and tun, meaning “hill” and “enclosure,” respectively) has gained popularity as a first name thanks to the hit show Yellowstone and its prequel series 1883, which follows the Dutton family — a sixth generation of powerful ranchers.
Steele is an elemental name that’s about as strong and bold as you can get. Not only is it giving cowboy, it’s giving romance novel cowboy.
Wilder has been on a steady incline up the popularity charts, and for good reason: it’s an adventurous, energetic name that evokes thoughts of – well, the wild. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s synonymous with the spirit of the quintessential pioneer family immortalized by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
This name packs a popularity double-whammy: it’s not only a neo-cowboy baby name, it’s a virtue name too, which are also hot right now. And when we talk about justice, of course the West comes to mind — after all, isn’t that what all the cowboy vigilantes are always seeking?
We have another Yellowstone-prequel character to thank for the popularity of this one: young cowboy Ennis, who is hired to safeguard a caravan traveling from Fort Worth to Oregon. The name itself actually has roots in the Gaelic inis, meaning “island.”
Whether you spell it Wylie or Wiley, can’t you just hear it in that irresistable cowboy drawl? There are even a couple of famous country singers by this name: Wiley Walker, and Wylie Gustafson of “Wylie & the Wild West.” For its origins, this is a place name — most likely the name of someone who lived by the River Wylye.
Ever since the days of Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, the name Rhett has held a dashing, sweep-you-off-your-feet charm. Add to that the pop-culture references — country crooner Rhett Akins and his son (also a country singer) Thomas Rhett, and Yellowstone character Rhett Abbott — and this name fits right in. It comes from the Dutch raet, meaning “advice” or “counsel.”
The name Maverick might make you think of Top Gun — but its roots lie with 19th-century Texas rancher Samuel A. Maverick, who refused to brand his cattle. Since then, the name has become synonymous with a free thinker with an independent and rebellious spirit.
Is it short for Zebulon? Is it short for Zebedee? Is it short for Zebediah? It doesn’t have to be — because Zeb is a perfectly good name all on its own. It’s less stodgy-sounding than its longer forms, with a youthful energy befitting any hardworking cowboy.
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