Sarah Palin Baby Names: Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, Trig

Sarah Palin's family: Sarah, Todd, Track, Willow, Piper.
The Palin family (minus Trig)

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, chose unusual names for their five children:

  1. Track, boy, 19 years old
  2. Bristol, girl, 17
  3. Willow, girl, 14
  4. Piper, girl, 7
  5. Trig, boy 4 months

Todd explained the origins of the names in a recent interview with People:

Sarah’s parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, ‘Track!’ Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That’s where I grew up, that’s where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there’s just not too many Pipers out there and it’s a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for “strength.”

But wait…in an earlier MSNBC interview, a Palin spokesperson had stated that Trig was a Norse name meaning “true” and “brave victory.” The Bad Baby Names Blog takes issue with both definitions:

Trig doesn’t appear to be any kind of “Nordic” name, as the family claims. There’s “Trygg”, a Norwegian name which means “safe” or “reliable” – but there’s unfortunately no “brave victory.”

Regardless of its meaning, Trig was the name of the baby’s great uncle, KTUU News learned from Sarah Palin’s father. He also mentioned that one of Trig’s middle names, Paxson, was chosen in honor of Paxson, Alaska — home of the Arctic Man snowmobile festival.

Several sources, including the NY Daily News, have suggested that Piper’s name was inspired by the Piper PA-18 Super Cub, a bush plane popular in Alaska.

Odd names tend to elicit strong reactions — mostly negative reactions, in this case. For instance, Rachael Brownell of Strollerderby calls the names “bizarre.” Conservative political commentator Debbie Schlussel says they’re “[w]hacked out and pretentious. And frankly, stupid.” Nancy Friedman of Fritinancy asks: “Do we want someone with such poor judgment in naming to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?”

How do you feel about the names?

Update, 6/2020: Looking back at the data for 2008, we can see that the focus on Palin — and her young baby Trig, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome — boosted the rare name Trig back into the SSA data after an absence of over 40 years.

  • 2010: 18 baby boys named Trig
  • 2009: 20 baby boys named Trig
  • 2008: 11 baby boys named Trig
  • 2007: unlisted
  • 2006: unlisted

Sources: John McCain & Sarah Palin on Shattering the Glass Ceiling, Alaska governor’s fifth boy is named Trig, Alaska’s First Family – The Bad Baby Names Blog, Welcome to Alaska, Trig Paxson Van Palin, What’s in the Palin children’s names? Fish, for one, Trig and Bristol: Palin Family Names Run Amok, Those Palin Kids’ Names, Palin in Comparison

10 thoughts on “Sarah Palin Baby Names: Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, Trig

  1. they won’t change how I’m voting one way or another because she’s the least of my concerns. But I think “whacked out and pretentious” sums up how I feel about them, too. I like odd names, but these are too odd for me (I think that about my neighbor with the baby girl named Sailor, too…and anyone who names their daughters Scout).

  2. The Daily Show, in a recent segment called Sarah Palin is Real, lampooned the names in the Palin family:

    Rob Riggle: I’ve got, like, 20 kids: Slag, Truck, Quandary, Glump, Chug, Turnip, Rockhammer…

    Jon Stewart: Wait, Rob, you have a son named Rockhammer?

    Rob Riggle: Daughter, Jon. Daughter.

    This part of the dialogue starts at 1:29.

  3. I never, ever, ever thought I would like that genre of name. But I have to say, they have real substance to them. They’re evocative of places and ideas important to their parents in Alaska– and they have that “spirit of the frontier” sound to me. I don’t live there, but I think the people of Alaska could be reassured that their governor really does care for them, really is one of them, through these names. Of all, Track seems to be the most random, but the others are well thought-out.

    They fit the spirit of Alaska, but the names obviously weren’t meant for the national stage.

  4. Trig is probably closely related to the Norse word-root trygg which means loyal, secure or firm. The Indo-European root deru (tru) was with a u-sound that became a y-sound with mutation (umlaut) in the Nordic languages sometimes before the Viking ages (I had to learn this in collage). A later mutation is that Y-sound became I-sound In Icelandic and Norwegian (not Swedish) in the middle ages which has not been adapted in the spelling of the words. Then most English adapted Nordic words with Y are respelled with an I.

    A male name based on this root is common in some Nordic countries is:Tryggvi no:Tryggve but it is maybe most common as a dog’s name, no. trygg or is. tryggur (old: tryggr) meaning faithful. (If Americans were not so trigger happy, I would say that Roy Roger’s horse Trigger could fit nicely into this collection).

    In Icelandic, this root trygg- or tru- is in a myriad of concatenated words. I would guess that the English word trust is of the same root. You should be able to find related German words by replacing the I with a U o

    Mrs. Sarah Palin’s explanation of the meaning of TRIG is therefore close in true in English as truthful or loyal but I can’t see an immediate relation to the meaning strength without stretching the meaning too far from its old-Norse origin and I fail to see any relation to brave victory.

  5. Jennifer – That’s a good point — the names definitely weren’t plucked at random from a baby name book.

    Kirk – Thank you for the language lesson!

  6. I agree with Jennifer that an Alaskan mentality may be at work here.

    I have not set foot in the State of AIaska, but from my perspective a good percentage of Alaskans must march to the tune of a different drummer. I personally think it takes a special type of person to live in Alaska. The state has a lot of climates from rainy Juneau to super cold Fairbanks, but the overall climatic conditions are harsh and pretty extreme.

    Then too, a certain percentage of people are always goingto be a bit eccentric, and there’s no doubt about it that these specific childrens’ name spell eccentricity. I’m of the opinion that these unusual names are very telling and revealing as to what makes this couple tick.

  7. There’s a lot of interesting thought here. While I AM a religious person, I don’t necessarily want to give my children ‘normal’ first names. My oldest daughter is Montana Faith and my youngest in Piper Grace. Palin obviously thought about the names she eventually used and had meaning to them, that’s the important part. Andrew can be just as meaningful as Bristol if there was a special reason for using it. She chose something important to her, so its not to you. Oh well, too bad for you. Just don’t name your own child that then.

  8. Hahahahhaha having lived my entire life as one of three or four Jennifers wherever I went… I would much rather have been named Willow! When a parent goes with a “popular” or “trendy” name they are basically saying they are not creative enough to think outside the box. No offense to all the other Jennifers out there, but I wish my parents had thought harder!

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