The unusual name Wanderlei popped up in the U.S. baby name data in 2009:
- 2011: unlisted
- 2010: unlisted
- 2009: 5 baby boys named Wanderlei [debut]
- 2008: unlisted
- 2007: unlisted
So far, that’s the only time it’s made an appearance (though the very similar name Vanderlei has shown up twice, also starting in 2009).
What was the influence?
Brazilian mixed martial artist Wanderlei Silva, who made a name for himself in the U.S. thanks to the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).
After being part of the UFC in the late ’90s, he re-joined in mid-2007 — at a time when the company was growing in popularity and getting mainstream media coverage. His first bout in the Octagon was against Chuck Liddell at the end of 2007. He lost that match, but won his next one against Keith Jardine in mid-2008.
I’ve never heard Silva pronounce his own first name, but the sports announcers call him VAN-der-lay. (Interesting side note: The letter “w” doesn’t naturally occur in Portuguese, so you’ll only see it in personal names and foreign words.)
You might be surprised to learn that the first name Wanderlei — along with the spelling variants Wanderley, Vanderley, and Vanderlei — are not exactly uncommon in Brazil. Other people with the name include, for instance, former soccer players Wanderley Paiva and Vanderlei Luxemburgo.
These first names come directly from the corresponding Brazilian surnames, all of which derive from a single Dutch surname: Van der Ley.
And the Dutch surname can be traced back to a single man: Gaspar van der Ley, “a well-known 17th century officer from the Dutch West India Company” who settled in Brazil during the period (1630-1654) when the Dutch controlled a large part of northeastern Brazil. (His first name is also spelled Caspar and Kaspar, depending upon the source.)
What does the surname Van der Ley mean? It’s a variant of yet another surname, Van der Lee, the original bearers of which would have lived near a canal called “De Lee” or “De Lede.” The second component of the name is derived from the Middle Dutch word lede or leide, which referred to dug or excavated watercourse (as opposed to a natural one).
What are your thoughts on the baby name Wanderlei?
- Dutch colonization of the Americas – Wikipedia
- How Dutch Brazil Was Lost – Leiden University
- Keller, Karen. Portuguese Phrases for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007.
- Lee, van der – Nederlandse Familienamenbank
- Long, Gideon. “Soccer — 360 years on, the Dutch retake Fortaleza.” Reuters 27 Jun. 2014.
- Van der Lee – Wikipedia
- Wanderlei Silva – Wikipedia