Where did the baby name Kiefer come from in 1988?

Kiefer Sutherland in Stand By Me (1986)

Actor Donald Sutherland and his second wife, Shirley Douglas, welcomed twins in late 1966. One of the twins was a baby girl named Rachel, the other was a baby boy named Kiefer after “Warren Kiefer,” alias of Lorenzo Sabatini, who had written and directed Donald’s first film, Castle of the Living Dead (1964).

The baby name Kiefer ended up debuting impressively (tied for 44th highest of all time!) in the SSA’s baby name data in 1988, thanks to Kiefer Sutherland’s success in films like The Lost Boys (1987) and Young Guns (1988).

  • 1993: 97 baby boys named Kiefer
  • 1992: 114 baby boys named Kiefer
  • 1991: 204 baby boys named Kiefer [rank: 709th]
  • 1990: 143 baby boys named Kiefer [rank: 855th]
  • 1989: 93 baby boys named Kiefer
  • 1988: 35 baby boys named Kiefer [debut]
  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: unlisted

The name even reached the boys’ top 1,000 for a couple of years (1990 & 1991). It’s sudden trendiness gave similar names like Keifer, Kieffer, and Keefer a boost as well.

The German surname Kiefer has several possible derivations. In some families it was originally an occupational name for a cooper or someone who kept a wine cellar (from Middle High German kuofe, “barrel”), in others it began as a nickname for a quarrelsome person (Middle High German kiffen, “to quarrel”), and in others it was simply an ornamental name referring to a pine tree (German kiefer, “pine”).

What are your thoughts on the baby name Kiefer?


  • Marks, Michele. “Ask Michele.” Southeast Missourian 22 Apr. 1993: 2.
  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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