Pop Culture Baby Name: Rowdy

The baby name Rowdy debuted in the US baby name data in 1959.

The black-and-white TV western Rawhide (1959-1966) was set in the 1860s, just after the Civil War. It depicted a group of men who drove cattle from San Antonio northward via the Sedalia Trail to Sedalia, Missouri.

One of those men was Rowdy Yates, the group’s ramrod (second-in-charge after the trail boss). Rowdy was played by a young Clint Eastwood. The show’s popularity helped launch Eastwood’s career.

It also helped launched the baby name Rowdy, which appeared for the first time on the Social Security Administration’s baby name list in 1959:

  • 1966: 29 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 1965: 40 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 1964: 39 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 1963: 38 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 1962: 45 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 1961: 29 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 1960: 27 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 1959: 22 baby boys named Rowdy [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

Unlike many pop culture baby names, Rowdy didn’t fade away after the show left the airwaves.

Two or three dozen baby boys got the name every year for the next few decades, until the 1990s, when usage actually picked up.

Here are the most recent numbers for Rowdy:

  • 2012: 108 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 2011: 127 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 2010: 100 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 2009: 133 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 2008: 140 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 2007: 106 baby boys named Rowdy
  • 2006: 107 baby boys named Rowdy (+ 5 named Rowdie, + 5 girls named Rowdy)
  • 2005: 79 baby boys named Rowdy

A large proportion of all this usage happened in Texas specifically.

Here are the same years as above, but for Texas only:

  • 2012: 27 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas
  • 2011: 36 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas
  • 2010: 23 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas
  • 2009: 21 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas
  • 2008: 27 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas
  • 2007: 21 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas
  • 2006: 25 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas
  • 2005: 27 baby boys named Rowdy in Texas

There were also a good number of Rowdys born in Oklahoma.

So, what does the word rowdy mean, and where does it come from?

It’s a specifically American word that was first recorded as a noun in the early 1800s. It originally meant “lawless backwoodsman” and was probably based on the word row, “noisy commotion.” Today, a rowdy is “a rough, quarrelsome person.” The adjective rowdy is synonymous with words like “disorderly,” “unruly” and “boisterous.”

Source: Rowdy – Online Etymology Dictionary

P.S. Another TV Western that influenced baby names? Bonanza.


3 thoughts on “Pop Culture Baby Name: Rowdy

  1. My cousin is a Rowdy from Oklahoma. I always attributed it to the fact that his mother was super young when she had him and from a small, rural area. I’ll have to ask her where she got the name when I see her. FYI, his younger brother is Cody so to me, they just seem rodeo-inspired or something.

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