Ever since a friend of mine (Andy) renamed himself Colt as an adult, I’ve been fascinated by the mythical power of Western names. Below is a fun list of names compiled by Christina Gregoire of Suite101.com.
Many of today’s parents are cruising baptismal lists from the1800s for inspiration. Part of the reason for this is that the 1860s (thanks, in part, to the Homestead Act) were a time of hope, when folks moved West to be independent and to give their kids a better life, away from the corruption of big cities “back East.” It was a time when communities hung together for survival, and bibles were the only books around.
The resurgence of these “cowboy names” can be seen as a reemergence of core values, like individualism, strength, and self-reliance. And, no one embodies these characteristics more than the cool, rugged American cowboy!
Individuals moving to the promised land of the Western frontier needed a lot of faith to leave behind everything they knew. So, many of these young ranch hands were given Hebrew names from the Old Testament (with whom the pioneers identified). In the 2009 Social Security Administration tally of U.S. names there are many examples of names that were reflect these American ideals.
Here are a few:
Caleb: In the Bible, Caleb was one of the scouts sent out by Moses to find the Promised Land. Caleb said that the land could be claimed with the help of God. Anyone can see the similarities between Caleb’s biblical story and the race to claim land in the American West. So, Caleb, along with nicknames Cale, Cal, and Cub, is a perfect moniker for a cute, cool little buckaroo or future country-western star.
Ezekiel: Ezekiel (or Zeke) was the name of an Old Testament prophet who lived in exile with the Judeans. The name Zeke would have been popular among those families exiled to the American frontier, just as the name is popular today, along with other names like Ezra and Josh.
Jacob: Use one of the old-time nicknames like Jake, Jeb, Jed, or Jock.
Jonas or Josiah: Western nicknames are Joe or Joss.
Levi: Great cowboy name. Nickname: Lee.
Zack: A countrified version of Zachary.
Everyone knows the names Jesse and Billy, from Jesse James and Billy The Kid, but here are more big western names:
Bryce: Like pioneer Ebenezer Bryce or Bryce Canyon Utah.
Carson: Like Kit Carson or Carson City Nevada.
Clay/Clayton: Like country music singer Clay Walker.
Cody: Like Buffalo Bill Cody.
Henry: Like Hank Williams the country western singer. (Hank
is a nickname for Henry.)
Remington: Like the famous shotgun company.
Ty: Like Ty Murray the nine-time world-champion rodeo cowboy.
Waylon: Like Waylon Jennings the country singer.
Wyatt: Like Wyatt Earp the lawman and frontier saloon keeper.
Without the big and little screen, very few people would know anything about the age of cowboys.
Bronson: Like Charles Bronson, a strong tough-guy actor in famous cowboy roles. Nicknames: Bronc, Bronco.
Clinton/Clint: Like macho actor and movie gunslinger, Clint Eastwood.
Dillon: Like Marshal Matt Dillon, a fictional cowboy character from Gunsmoke.
Hudson: Like Hudson Bay, Hudson Wyoming, and the modern-day cowboy in the movie Hud.
Maverick: Like TV characters Bret and Bart Maverick on Maverick.
Shane: Like the western movie Shane.
Zane: Like Zane Grey who made American cowboys popular in movies.
Western Place Names for Boys: Dallas and Austin are obvious choices, but look at maps of places like Wyoming and Texas for more ideas.
Colton/Colt: Like the ghost town in Utah or the handgun used by the Texas Rangers. Colt means young horse or tenderfoot. Nicknames: Colt, Cole. The name Colter means horse herder.
Jasper: Like Jasper National Park. Nickname Percy or Jas.
Weston: Like Weston Texas and Weston Wyoming. Weston means “western town”. Nickname: Wes.
Unique and unusual (and cool) Western Names:
Angus: Use the nickname Gus for a cowboy feel. Angus, an Irish name, was popular on the open prairies of the American frontier, and is a very common baby name in Australia, Scotland, and Canada (for 2009). One of the main characters in Lonesome Dove (book and movie) is Augustus “Gus” McCrae.
Ned: Short for Edward.
Oakley: Place of oak trees.
Winchester: Like the name of the repeating rifle. Chester was a hot name in the 1800s and was the name of Marshall Dillon’s deputy on Gunsmoke.
These are just a few of the unique names that reflect the spirit of the American West. For more ideas check out biographies of frontiersmen and names of champion rodeo cowboys.