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Popularity of the Baby Name Tifft

Number of Babies Named Tifft

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Tifft

Is Not Naming a Baby “Emotionally Harmful”?

Days ago, a UK judge ruled that a 5-month-old boy should be taken away from his parents in part because he had no first name:

“His father has refused to give him a name,” said Mrs Justice Parker in her ruling.

“I think ideally the mother independently would not have taken that view.”

The judge said the boy was starting to acquire language, and added: “Every child needs a name.”

She went on: “I truly think that it is emotionally harmful not to give a child a name.”

A century ago, it was common for parents to wait weeks, months, sometimes years before naming a baby. A handful of people (like Tifft and Gatewood) went their entire lives without a given name.

While most parents today name their babies soon after birth, some still choose to wait. Ben Harper and Laura Dern didn’t name their daughter Jaya until she was 3 months old. Picabo Street’s name wasn’t official until she was 3.

Do you agree or disagree with Mrs Justice Parker that it is “emotionally harmful not to give a child a name”? If your answer depends upon the age of the child, at what age do you think namelessness become dangerous?

P.S. “Mrs Justice” is the judge’s title. I couldn’t track down her given name.

Source: Child with no name must be adopted, judge rules (found via Twitter, thanks to Anna of Waltzing More Than Matilda)

Tifft, the One-Named Man

Alanson H. Tifft (1843-1903) and his wife Esther (1848-1922) of Brooklyn, NY, had three children. Their first, a baby girl born in 1868, was named Kittie. Their second, a baby girl born in 1873, was named Mary. Their third and last was a baby boy, born in 1878.

What was he named?

He wasn’t. He didn’t get a first name.

He was simply known as “Tifft” or “Mr. Tifft” throughout his life.

Said Tifft: “My father, Alanson Herbert Tifft, never liked his first name. Most people called him Herbert. When I was born, he and my mother couldn’t agree on a name for me. So father suggested that the matter of choosing a name be left up to me.”

But he never did choose a first name for himself. “I grew up without a first name, and I’ve never felt like appropriating one. Seems to me that I’ve gotten along just as well without one.”

His lack of a first name made headlines periodically. For instance, his marriage was announced in TIME:

Married. Mr. Tifft, paper box manufacturer of Brooklyn, N. Y., and one Ruth Esther Petersonn, of Fryburg, Me.; in South Berwick, Maine. A parental tiff over names left Mr. Tifft first nameless; he remains so, is listed in the telephone book as TIFFT.

(He called his manufacturing company “Tifft Bros.,” even though he had no brother.)

His mononym sometimes gave him trouble–when it came time to vote, for instance–but overall he was pleased with it. “You can sum it up this way: I’ve never been miffed at just being Tifft.”

He even managed to acquire a nickname; his wife called him “Tiff-it.”

But he didn’t carry on the tradition with his two sons, Robert Lincoln and Alanson Herbert. “I rather regret that now. We could have just called him Tifft II.” All of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren have first and middle names as well.


  • “Man with no given name declares he is quite satisfied.” Niagara Falls Gazette 20 Jul. 1939: 27.
  • Milestones.” TIME Magazine 21 Jan. 1929.
  • “Retired Lumber Dealer Lives 78 Years Without First Name.” Tonawanda News 12 Dec. 1956: 6.
  • “Tifft Is Only Name He Has, But It Goes Well on Checks; He Never Had a First Name.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle 23 Dec. 1923: 16 D.
  • Tifft, Maria E. A partial record of the descendants of John Tefft, of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and the nearly complete record of the descendants of John Tifft, of Nassau, New York. Buffalo, NY: The Peter Paul Book Company, 1896.