Sporty Baby Names for Your Future Champ
Choosing a baby name can be tough, but there’s inspiration everywhere you look. If you’re into sports, why not pay tribute to your favorite pastime or the athlete who inspires you the most? Of course, your kid’s name alone isn’t enough to guarantee their future sporting success, but being named in honor of one of the world’s sporting greats might just give them a nudge toward athletic prowess. Another option is to give your tot a name with a sports-related meaning.
You can take the sports theme as far as you like — and don’t be afraid to get inventive. One dad persuaded his baby’s mom to name their daughter Lanesra, which sounds extremely exotic but is actually the name of his favorite U.K. football team — Arsenal — spelled backwards.
Here are some of the best baby names inspired by sports, whether you dream of raising the next Serena Williams or Tom Brady, or simply want a name that has a sporty meaning.
If you’re a boxing fan, the biggest tribute you can pay to Muhammad Ali, the most famous and arguably the greatest boxer of all time, is to name your tot after him. The Arabic name Ali works for a boy or a girl, and means “supreme; exalted.”
In 2017, Ali was the 310th most popular boy’s name in the U.S. and just made it into the top 100 in Sweden the same year. Another nod to Muhammad Ali is Laila, his daughter’s name, which is a variation of the Arabic name Layla meaning "night; holy.” Incidentally, Laila Ali is also a world champion boxer.
Another world-class boxer, Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield is the only four-time heavyweight champion. The name Evander, believed to be Scottish or Greek in origin, means “bow warrior; strong man.”
However, Holyfield isn’t the only major athlete with this mighty name. Evander Kane, who was named after Holyfield, is a Canadian professional ice hockey left winger for the San Jose Sharks and won a gold medal at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament with Team Canada.
The Spanish variation of Helen, Elena is almost as popular in the U.S. as it is in Spain, Italy and Germany, ranking No. 67 in the 2017 baby girl name chart. It means “bright, shining light" and is Greek in origin.
It is also one of the most popular girl names in Russia, where it’s the name of a former major Olympic athlete, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva. (Despite the spelling, it’s pronounced the same way and is technically written as Elena in Russian.) Isinbayeva is considered to be one of the greatest pole vaulters of all time and has set an incredible 27 world records.
Why not name your son after the fastest man in the world, Jamaican Olympic runner Usain Bolt? The Arabic name Usain means “beautiful” and is believed to be a variation of Hussein.
If you don’t want to put too much pressure on your kid to get the gold medal at all track events, you could go for a name that means “swift,” such as the Irish name Emer, the Hebrew name Mehira, the Hebrew name Boaz, the English name Skeet or the English name Sherwin, which actually means “swift runner.”
Misty is a girl’s name with numerous sporting connections, including the Olympic gold medal-winning volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, American Olympic swimmer Misty Dawn Marie Hyman and the leading classical ballerina Misty Copeland, who also made history as the first African American female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.
Rather fittingly, Misty is a name of English origin that means “mist.”
A Latin name meaning “tranquil; serene,” Serena rose up the baby girl name charts in the U.S., following tennis champion Serena Williams’ domination of the female tennis world. She was ranked world No. 1 singles player eight times by the Women’s Tennis Association between 2002 and 2017.
Other tennis-inspired girl’s names include the saintly Maria after Maria Sharapova, which means “bitter or wished-for child;” the kickass Martina after Martina Navratilova, which means “warlike;” and of course Venus, as in Serena’s sister and fellow tennis champion, which is the name of a heavenly planet and the Roman goddess of beauty and love. (And if you have twins, what could be better than Venus and Serena?)
Tom, which means “twin” and is a name in its own right but may also be a shorter version of Thomas, is a simple, classic boy’s name that was in the U.S. top 50 boy names in 1880, but has steadily fallen out of favor since then. However, it’s a very popular name in Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands, featured in the top 50 list in those countries in recent years.
If you’re an NFL fan, the only Tom you’ll care about is Tom Brady, one of the top-ranking NFL players of all time. Other NFL superstar names to consider for your little one are Carson (Palmer), which means “son of the marsh-dwellers”; Clay (Matthews), which means “place with good clay”; and Luke (Kuechly), which means “man from Lucania.”
Honor one of the greatest basketball players of all time by naming your son Kobe, a Swahili name meaning “tortoise,” or Bryant, an Irish variation of Brian meaning “strong, virtuous and honorable." Once reserved for boys, Kobe has gained popularity as a girl’s name, and if you want to put a twist on it, you could go for the alternative spelling “Koby” or “Kobee.”
Other basketball-inspired names include Jordan, after Michael Jordan; Shaquille, after Shaquille O’Neal; and Larry, after Larry Bird. Big names in the female basketball world include Candace (Parker), which means “white; pure; sincere.” Or there’s Sheryl (Swoopes), which is a variation of the French Cherie, meaning "darling," and Kayte (Christensen), an interesting spelling variation on the more traditional Kate, which means “pure.”
Typically used as a nickname for more exotic names like Calliope (or Kalliope) and Calendula, Kallie is the name of female Canadian Olympian Kallie Humphries, who was the first woman to lead a mixed-gender bobsled team. It’s a variation of Callie, which is a Greek name meaning “beautiful.”
Other stars of the Winter Olympics who might provide baby name inspiration include Russian figure skater Alina Zagitova, U.S. snowboarder Chloe Kim and U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen.
If you want to encourage strength in your daughter, why not name her after the most dominant female fighter in the world, American professional wrestler Ronda Rousey? If you prefer a more traditional name, go for Ronda’s middle name, Jean, an English and Scottish name meaning “God is gracious.”
Other notable female fighters with great names include Cat Zingano, who became the first woman to win a UFC fight by technical knockout; former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion and professional boxer and kickboxer Holly Holm; and former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate.
Raise a waterbaby with a name inspired by an Olympic swimmer, such as Dara (Torres), which means “pearl of wisdom, or oak tree.” Or you could name her Missy (Franklin), which means “honeybee.” For boys, there’s also Aaron (Peirsol), which means “high mountain; exalted; enlightened” or Johnny (Weissmuller), which means “God is gracious.”
Alternatively, you could choose a name with an aquatic connection, such as Moses (“delivered from the water”), Varuna (“Hindu God of water and the ocean”) or Kano (“the god of the waters").
There are lots of fun, unique sports-inspired names out there for your new arrival.
One such name can be taken from American hurdler and bobsledder Lori Susan Jones, who is best known as Lolo, a diminutive of Caroline that means “free man.”
If you like the names Anne and Anna for a baby girl but want something more quirky, consider the Swedish version Annika, which means “grace.”
It is also the name of retired Swedish American professional golfer Annika Sörenstam, who is regarded as one of the best female golfers in history.
Another fun name is Babe, in honor of George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr., the American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball spanned 22 seasons.
Babe is a diminutive of Barbara, which is a Latin name meaning “foreign woman."
Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, who wowed the world during the 2012 Olympics, is the first woman of color of any nationality and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion. Her name is just as impressive as her athletic prowess. It means “God is my strength” and has ranked in the U.S. top 1000 girl names since the 1950s.
Simone (Biles), Dominique (Dawes) and Shannon (Miller) are other names of world-class female gymnasts. Past and present male stars of the gymnastic world include Mitchell Jay "Mitch" Gaylord, Peter Glen Vidmar, Rusty Joiner and Marcel Nguyen.
Austin may be more popular as a boy’s name — it ranked No. 75 in the U.S. baby boy name chart in 2017 — but a growing number of parents are giving it to their daughters. As the shortened form of the English name Augustine, it means “great, magnificent,” and can also be spelled Auston or Austen.
In the sporting world, Austin Rivers is a shooting guard/point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Auston Matthews is a left-wing player for the Toronto Maple Leafs and IIHF World Championship gold medalist.
Reigning UFC lightweight champion Connor McGregor is arguably as entertaining as he is skilled in the ring. Bad-boy antics aside, his name was one of the hottest baby boy picks in 2017, ranking at No. 56 in the chart. Connor is a name of Irish origin meaning “lover of hounds” and, according to Irish mythology, there was a king in Ulster with the name.
Other notable athletes called Connor include New York Red Bulls soccer player Connor Lade, former professional American baseball player Connor Jackson, and American swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Connor Dwyer.
Despite sounding similar to Dana and Danielle, the Slavic Danica is a name in its own right, and it’s one with a beautiful meaning: “morning star.” The most famous sporting Danica is Danica Patrick, the award-winning American professional stock car racer, who was the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500.
Undoubtedly the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing, Danica also made history by becoming the only woman to win an IndyCar Series race, thanks to her victory in the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
Super Bowl champion and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2012, Peyton Manning offers two options for a baby name. Peyton, an English name meaning “fighting-man’s estate,” is more popular as a girl’s name, but is equally cute for a boy. If you think Peyton is too feminine, consider the NFL star’s last name: Manning, which could also be linked to Peyton’s brother, Eli, American football quarterback for the New York Giants.
Or perhaps Eli is your favorite of the three. Meaning “ascended, uplifted, high," this Hebrew name has been consistently in the top 800 U.S. baby boy names since 1880, hitting an all-time high of No. 44 in 2012.
If you don’t want to name your baby after a particular athlete but want their name to have a sporty meaning, go for something like the Hebrew name Noa, which means “movement, motion."
There's also Zaza, which means “movement.”
Names with the meaning “champion” include Kendrick, Carlin, Curran and Nolan, which all work well for either a boy or a girl.
Other great sports-inspired baby names include Bernice, which means “she who brings victory;” Siri, which means “fair victory;” and of course Victoria, which simply means “victory.”