Are UK Babies Named Derek Anymore?

The BBC is in search of UK babies named Derek.

Alfie, Ruby, Archie, Jack, Evie, Florence, and Ava are all in fashion and conjure up nostalgic thoughts of working-class Britain between the wars.

But there are some names that seem immune to rehabilitation.

Derek is one of those names.

Derek, originally a short form of Theodoric, was brought to Britain during the Middle Ages by settlers from the Low Countries. Theodoric comes from a Germanic name meaning “ruler of the people.” (It’s not related to Theodore, despite the resemblance.)

The name Derek remained rare in Britain until the very end of the 1800s. Even as late as 1881, Great Britain only had 6 males named Derek and 15 named Derrick.

Yet in 1934 Derek was the 14th most popular baby name in England and Wales. In 1944 it had fallen to 27th in the list. In subsequent decades it fell from 37 to 43 before reaching 100 in 1974. It has not reappeared since.

In 2011, only 22 baby boys in England and Wales were named Derek. Even fewer were named Derrick (6) and Derick (3).

So far, the BBC has heard from just one UK parent — Lee Woollard of Luton, who welcomed a son named Derek in July. (Baby Derek is named after his great-grandfather Derrick.) Lee says:

We have had ‘interesting’ reactions to his name, some people like it while others look and say “are you serious?” or mistake it for Eric. The anaesthetist at our hospital said she had been working there 10 years and it’s the first one she had seen delivered.

If you know any other UK babies named Derek, forward this post (or the original article) to their parents!

Source: Redmonds, George. Christian Names in Local and Family History. Toronto: Dundurn, 2004.


5 thoughts on “Are UK Babies Named Derek Anymore?

  1. In 1898, a New Zealand newspaper called the name Derek “peculiar”:

    The Hon. Derek Keppel’s somewhat peculiar Christian name is a corruption of Theodoric, otherwise “the gift of god,” and should more properly be spelt Deric.

    The article went on to talk about infamous English executioner Thomas Derrick. This strongly negative association (Derek/Derrick) could very likely be the reason the name Derek remained rare in England for so long.

    Source: “Derivations.” Otago Witness 17 Nov. 1898: 59.

  2. The BBC has published a list of responses to the original article.

    Some of them:

    I was born in 1972 and christened Derek Edwin Grubb (despite never having appeared in a Dickens novel). I hated my name. From quite an early age, I cringed every time it was called. Even as a child I felt there was something not quite right with “Derek”. Being from Liverpool, I was nicknamed Degsy. Meanwhile “Degsy” Hatton was “taking on the Tories”. It was a stigma throughout my teenage years. While I wasn’t shy with girls I’d say it definitely hindered my success with them. When I was 18 I changed my name. I sort of regret that choice now, it’s a bit action hero-ish, but I’d rather live with a name an 18-year version of me chose, than the one my parents gave me. Jake Ryan, formerly Derek, Liverpool

    By implication, you are suggesting that I am not popular and unlikely to be rehabilitated. I have been a Derek for 68 years. It has never been a problem for me apart from with people who cannot pronounce their letter Rs. In some quarters, I have learned to respond to DEWEK. Disgruntled Dewek of Grafton Regis

    And now I know I’m part of a dying breed. My name is Derek, a name I’ve loved for 28 years. It always served me well, mainly because nothing rhymes with it. Bullies on the playground were speechless. Awesome. I had a son two years ago, my wife and I named him Denver. I would have named him Derek Jr, but my wife wasn’t having that. Apparently she agrees with your article and Derek just isn’t fashionable anymore. Derek Jory, Vancouver, Canada

    Being named Derek myself, I enjoy having such a unique name in a world filled with Johns, Jacks, Michaels and Davids. In a time when individuality it becoming less and less apparent I like to think it gives me a platform to stand out amongst the more popular and frequently used names. Derek Amoako, London

    I was born in 1947 and am called Derek, with my son born in 1995 also being called Derek. I am very proud of the name Derek, and with there being less people nowadays with the same name, it tends to make you feel more special, rather than the run of common names. Derek Irwin, Hampshire

  3. Britain has a new comedy-drama TV show called Derek, starring comedian Ricky Gervais as the titular character. If the show becomes popular, I wonder if it will influence the perception/usage of the name Derek over there.

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