Using Last Names as a First for Your Baby

Mother holding newborn in hospital
Tetra Images/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

From Mason to Madison, Jackson to Avery, there are plenty of last names that have cracked the list of most popular first names for boys and girls.

In the past two decades or so, using a surname as a baby's first name has become less about acknowledging a name within the family tree, as it once was. It's become more about parents choosing a name on its own merits, that they like for their baby boy or baby girl.

Was it Madison who got everything started? It's possible the 1984 mermaid movie Splash, whose main character got her name from a New York City street sign, had something to do with the last-names-as-first-names trend. She went from never appearing on the chart to being consistently in the top 10 in a matter of a few years' time.

Of course, there's also Dylan, the last name of the 1960s counterculture singer Bob Dylan, which has been used for boys and girls in recent years, and Jackson, which has become a staple on the boys' list.

Whatever got it started, the last-names-as-first-names trend is hot and shows no signs of cooling off anytime soon. Here's a look at the most popular baby names which are really repurposed surnames.

Popular Last Names for Baby Boys


Mason has surged in popularity as a boy's name for the past half-decade and is now firmly planted in the top 10 of baby boy names. Mason means simply "stoneworker" or "builder." The name's etymology is rooted in the German word machen, which means "to make."


A name derived from Scottish, where it means "God has shown favor," Jackson has rocketed up the charts, first hitting the top 25 in 2009, where he's been ever since.


He hasn't hit the top 10 yet, but it's only a matter of time for Logan. The name, which has Scottish origins and means "small hollow," has been slowly but surely climbing the most popular names chart for about the past four decades. He's been well-used in pop culture for characters on TV shows like Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, and is the name of the mutant X-Men character Wolverine, played in the recent movies by actor Hugh Jackman. 

This name hasn't made it into the top 20 yet, but Carter has been making a steady ascent up the charts over the past decade. It's also been a popular name for characters on TV shows, like ER and Gossip Girl, and while it has some use among girls, this surname has been primarily building steam as a first name for boys. 


He's been in the top 50 for the past 15 years, but Hunter is still unique enough that it has appeal for parents looking for a unique name for their baby boy. Girls named Hunter have remained relatively rare. 


Meaning "son of the sea," most Americans probably associate Dylan with singer Robert Zimmerman, who adopted it as his surname. But he actually chose it in tribute to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (whose first name and last name are both a first name and last name!) The name is Welsh in origin, and while there's some use of the name among girls, Dylan has been among the top 40 most popular boys' names for nearly two decades.

What Are Some Popular Last Names for Baby Girls?


Ah, Madison, she of the mermaid movie, which is the likely starter of this recent surname trend. She hit the top 10 in 1997 and hasn't looked back since, several times rising as high as No. 2 among the most popular girls' names. Ironically, even though she's mainly a girls' name, Madison's English meaning is actually "son of Maud."

Another "son of" girls' name, Addison can also thank a TV show for her sharp rise in popularity. Addison Shepard was a main character on 2000s dramas Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice.  While she's fallen a bit lower on the charts in recent years, Addison rose as high as No. 11. Its original meaning is "son of Adam."


Another name that came out of nowhere, Avery barely ranked at all among girls' names in the 1990s but has steadily claimed a spot in the top 20. The name has its roots in English and means "ruler of the elves," not a bad choice for parents who seek a baby girl destined to be magical and mischievous.


The first name of the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper has lingered just outside the top 10 list of names for the past few years, after barely making a blip on the charts before 2005.

Less Common Last Names That Make Great First Names

The list does not end there. There are plenty of other last names that easily lend themselves to first names. You might consider some of these names to be strictly boys' names, others girls', and yet others to be unisex.

  • Anderson: Scandinavian, Son of Anders
  • Beckett: English, Bee cottage
  • Brady: Irish, English, Spirited, broad island
  • Campbell: Scottish, Crooked mouth
  • Carson: English, Son of Carr
  • Cassidy: Irish, Clever, curly-haired.
  • Davis: English, Surname derived from the first name David
  • Dawson: English, Son of David
  • Grady: Irish, Noble
  • Grayson: English, Bailiff's son
  • Harrison: English, Son of Harry
  • Hudson: English, Son of Hudde
  • Jefferson: English, Son of Jeffrey
  • Jones: English, Child of John
  • Kennedy: Irish, Helmeted chief
  • Kramer: German, Shopkeeper.
  • Lincoln: English, Settlement by the pool
  • Miller: English, Grain grinder
  • Murphy: Celtic, Sea warrior
  • Presley: English, Priest's meadow
  • Quinn: Irish, Short for Quincy (fifth son's estate)
  • Reed: English, Scottish, Red-haired; slender piece of grass
  • Sawyer: English, Woodworker
  • Slater: English, Roof slater
  • Smith: English, Blacksmith
  • Thatcher: English, Trade name of a thatcher
Was this page helpful?