Where did the baby name Matlock come from in 1987?

Title of the the TV show "Matlock" (1986-1995).

The surname Matlock first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1987:

  • 1989: unlisted
  • 1988: unlisted
  • 1987: 5 baby boys named Matlock [debut]
  • 1986: unlisted
  • 1985: unlisted


Because of the TV series Matlock, which premiered in September of 1986.

The main character of the legal drama was Benjamin “Ben” Matlock (played by Andy Griffith), a criminal defense attorney from Georgia “whose folksy demeanor belies his considerable investigative and courtroom abilities.”

So then…why did a two-T version of the name, Mattlock, pop up in the data two years earlier?

  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: unlisted
  • 1985: 7 baby boys named Mattlock [debut]
  • 1984: unlisted
  • 1983: unlisted

The 1986 pilot for Matlock was being mentioned in the newspapers in late 1985 — and I did see the show’s title misspelled “Mattlock” at least once.

Title of the the TV show "Matt Houston" (1982-1985)
Matt Houston

But I think a better explanation for the two-T debut is a separate series: Matt Houston, which aired from 1982 to 1985. It was a crime drama that starred actor Lee Horsley as Matlock “Matt” Houston, a wealthy Texan who enjoyed working as a private investigator in his spare time.

Though the character’s first name was spelled with a single T, the nickname “Matt” probably suggested to viewers that it was spelled “Mattlock.”

Both Matlock (one T) and Mattlock (two T’s) were one-hit wonder baby names.

The surname Matlock, which comes from an English place name (the town of Matlock in Derbyshire), ultimately derives from the Old English words mæthel, meaning “assembly” or “speech,” and ac, meaning “oak tree.”

What are your thoughts on Matlock as a first name?


  • “TV Notes.” Evening Independent 3 Dec. 1985: 8-B.
  • Newcomb, Horace. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Television. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Matt Houston – Wikipedia
  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • SSA

Images: Screenshots of Matlock and Matt Houston

[Latest update: Oct. 2023]

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