A Literal Use for -son Names

I wonder if the literal use of the suffix -son might be an another interesting baby name option for some families.

Perhaps if the parents like the idea of a Jr., but neither of them particularly want to use Robert: too common, not modern enough. Their son could be Robertson: a family-related honor name, a Jr.-type concept, and an in-style surname name all in one.

Or maybe if the parents are conflicted about a family naming tradition: they’d hate to abandon it, but on the other hand the dad felt it was a headache sharing a name with his dad, and he wants his son to have his own name. Perhaps they won’t have a Thomas Scott Andrews IV, but they can taper it off by calling him Thomason.

This naming idea has an issue we don’t run into when Peter has a son named Peter: using the -son could seem to exclude the other parent. Peterson is Peter’s son but he isn’t ONLY Peter’s, and/or we wouldn’t want to imply that Peter was the only important parent. And yet we’re not going to use Sarahson or Ashleyson, any more than we’re going to use Robertdaughter or Thomasdaughter.

The other issue is that it can only be done once: David can have a David Jr. who can have a David III, but David’s son Davidson is not going to name his own son Davidsonson. That part’s okay with me, though: Davidson could have a Davidson Jr. if he liked, and in fact I like that it’s a way to do a Jr.-like name WITHOUT putting pressure on the next generation to continue it.

29 thoughts on “A Literal Use for -son Names

  1. Rachel

    This is brilliant! You’ve just created an entire new genre of names and many of them are pretty catchy!

    Here are the hypothetical sons of my male friends:
    Michaelson (I love this fresh take on Michael!)

    Most of those are wonderful! They are recognizable and fresh and also distinct enough from the root name to give the kid his own identity.

    My fiance and I would have to name our baby Bradson, which I’m not crazy about, but I like the new possibilities.

  2. Stephanie

    This is the patronymic Ning system of Iceland for surnames. Stefan’s son is (name) Stefansson. His daughters bear the surname Stefandottir. You can always spot Iceland names from the surname system.

  3. Katherine

    This reminded me of an AHA moment I had just last weekend!

    My BIL Peter’s wife is pregnant with their first child. One of my top boy names is Simon. Turns out, in the bible, Simon is the son of Peter! My BIL is NOT AT ALL the church going type (I know he’s not opposed to religion, but he’s never been even a touristy church goer) and yet I think it would be a neat connection. As it happens, neither Peter nor Simon make me (a very frequent church goer) think of the bible; my first thought is Rabbit and Says. But both are positive.

    I wonder how many literary reference parent/child combos would fall into the category of Clever but not too Obvious or Cutesy. I think for siblings it would be too Cute, but for parent/child it is more of a wink.

    1. Brigid

      Hey Katherine–my understanding is that Simon was given the new name of Peter, just as Saul became Paul.

  4. K

    Interesting–I heard of a family where the parents, Peter and Laura, named two of their sons Pierson and Larson, just for this reason. I thought it was sweet.

  5. kim

    i think this idea is so cute for boys.

    i’m of norwegian ancestry, and for most girls in my family it seemed they added the father’s name plus the ‘datter’ suffix as a middle name so when they got married they were ‘karen andersdatter lastname’ or ‘anna pedersdatter lastname’, etc.

  6. Kelli

    This is exactly what we did with my son. My husband wanted a junior but you cannot have a nickname for Eric. I suggested Erickson.

  7. Giselle

    This is why I’ve always thought the name Allison is so funny…what does it mean? Son of Alice? For a girl?

    I wish I had thought of this as a middle name for one of my sons. I had a friend who named her son Michael Jefferson…and I wondered why I didn’t think of it for MY Michael…it sounds so good and is a more modern fresh sounding way to honor Jeff.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Yes, same with Madison and Addison and Mason and Mackayla—or with any -son name where the child is not the child of someone with that name minus the -son. With those names, and in the United States, -son and Mac- are just sounds (same as if they were spelled -synn or Mik-), not meaningful suffixes/prefixes.

      1. Micaela

        As a Micaela, I kind of resent the fact that “Mackayla” is lumped into the group you describe. I think it’s pretty well-established that names like McKayla and Mackayla are bastardized forms of Michaela, which is the legitimate feminine form of the name Michael (as is my spelling, which is the Spanish feminine version). That being said, you could have subbed in the name Mackenzie (and all its qreativ spellings) — the anglicized form of a Gaelic surname (meaning “son of Kenzie”) that has been co-opted as a feminine given name here in the US. Sorry to nitpick; just wanted to put in my two cents as an admitted name nerd!

        1. Swistle Post author

          That’s my very point: that in the U.S., Mc/Mac (as well as -son) are only sounds—whether they once meant something in another country or not. In whatever name they appear, they’re just bits of unmeaningful sound. “Mackayla” doesn’t mean “son of Kayla” any more than “Allison” means “son of Alice.”

    2. Rita

      There’s a difference between the surname Allison (Alice’s son) and the given name Alison, which is a medieval diminutive of Alice (by adding the French suffix “-on”) – similar to Marion, Manon, Ninon, and archaic nicknames like Beton (Beatrice) and Lilion (Elizabeth: nowadays spelt Lillian).

  8. Chelsea

    I had a friend whose husband’s name was Bryan, so they named their first son Bryson, so not quite the whole name, but still the same idea. I thought it was quite clever :)

  9. Katie

    I would be really uncomfortable using this system. Most children end up with their father’s last name and giving them a first name that basically means “son of their father”… it just seems pretty dad heavy. I would be more comfortable if the first name was a derivative of the mom’s name. However, a lot of these names a great on their own, I love last name first names (and first name last names).

    I also like this system a lot more than Jr.’s- I think it’s more current plus it’s a great way to update a “parent” sounding name for a child.

  10. British American

    I thought about this a little when I noticed that Jenson is rising heavily in the UK. Since my name is Jennie, Jenson would work for a name for my son. Though we’d already picked a first name and George Jenson just made me think of George Jetson. :P It was a nice thought in theory though.

    My husband’s name is Benjamin. Benson makes me think of Benson and Hedges cigarettes. So not the best association either.

  11. Jenny Grace

    As with all surname first names, it’s important that there isn’t a first name-ish last name in the mix. I think some work better than others. Jameson is very nice, for instance.
    Speaking of Jameson, this could possibly also work for the mother’s maiden name, if she had the right sort of maiden name for such things (James is a surname in my family). So if your maiden name was Roberts, you could name your son Robertson. Or Richardson, etc. That would be a way to honor the mother’s side.

  12. Katie

    I know that one Project Runway designer who has a gaggle of sons (Laura Bennett) started naming the later ones this way. I think she and her husband Peter have a Larson (Laura’s son) and a Pierson (Peter’s son). I thought this was adorable then, and I’m totally on board with it catching on! My son would be Joshson…or Katson. Not sure it works in all cases unfortunately.

  13. Kelsey

    I have thought of suggesting this to my husband if we have a son. I am from the south and it is very common to pass maiden names down as first or middle names. The only problem is both my maiden name and married name end with s so it the name just sounds too plural. My maiden name is Nichols, so I thought Nicholson might be a nice way to give the child my family name along our surname.

  14. Patricia

    This could work with many British or Scandinavian surnames, but I don’t think it would usually work with names from other languages. My maiden name is French and it definitely would sound bizarre with ‘son’ added to it. Same with first names that are from non-English source, although that would be less of a problem since so many male first names used in this country are English or English language versions. Interesting idea, though.

  15. Patricia

    Swistle, your new subscription service isn’t working for me. The previous post ($tubblefield) ended up in my trash box, while this one didn’t come through at all. I wonder if others are having that problem too.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Crud, I wonder what’s going on with it? It’s a WordPress feature, so it’s nothing I can tinker with on this end.

  16. Julia

    my son would have been Paul Joseph IV and I just couldn’t do it. Too confusing, bad relationship with Paul, Jr, lots of reasons — we kept the initials and named him Peter James — also a bit confusing as my husband goes by PJ, but it doesn’t matter anymore, the “baby” is soon to be 27 and has his own identity :)

  17. Kate

    My hubby is Jamieson and my FIL is James, too, deckled edges! Our son’s middle name is James. Wonder if this could work to honor grandparents; my dad is Paul, which I don’t love (sorry, swistle’s pseudonymed hubby!) but maybe Paulson…?

  18. Lina

    Funny that you used Sarahson as something you wouldn’t use. My friend named their first with Jameson as the middle, and for mom Sarah, the second has Saracen as the middle. Always thought that it was cute.


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