How popular is the baby name Tristram in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Tristram.
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A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people who were associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s.
Interestingly, the author of the register decided to include a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter included a long list of male forenames and their frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.
The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.
So, are you ready for the list?
Here’s the top 100:
John, 3,826 individuals
Peter (and Peirs/Pers), 175
Alexander, 98 (tie)
Arthur, 98 (tie)
Joseph, 78 (tie)
Lewis, 78 (tie)
Griffith (and Griffin), 60
Abraham, 54 (tie)
Leonard, 54 (tie)
Morris (and Maurice), 51
Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
Martin, 44 (tie)
Rice, 44 (tie)
Toby (and Tobias), 34
Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
Gregory, 28 (3-way tie)
Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
Jasper (and Gaspar), 26 (3-way tie)
Josiah (and Josias), 26 (3-way tie)
Randall (and Randolph), 26 (3-way tie)
Austin (and Augustine), 22 (tie)
Jarvis (and Gervase), 22 (tie)
Matthias, 20 (tie)
Reginald (and Reynold), 20 (tie)
Joshua 18 (3-way tie)
Marmaduke, 18 (3-way tie)
Valentine, 18 (3-way tie)
Fulke, 17 (tie)
Sampson (and Samson), 17 (tie)
Clement, 16 (4-way tie)
Ferdinando, 16 (4-way tie)
Herbert, 16 (4-way tie)
Zachary, 16 (4-way tie)
Cuthbert, 15 (3-way tie)
Emanuel, 15 (3-way tie)
Vincent, 15 (3-way tie)
Adrian, 14 (3-way tie)
Elias, 14 (3-way tie)
Jonah (and Jonas), 14 (3-way tie)
Allan, 12 (6-way tie)
Ames, 12 (6-way tie)
Barnaby (and Barnabas), 12 (6-way tie)
Gerard (and Garret), 12 (6-way tie)
Lionel, 12 (6-way tie)
Mark, 12 (6-way tie)
Abel, 11 (3-way tie)
Erasmus, 11 (3-way tie)
Roderic, 11 (3-way tie)
Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?
The author did note that “the more common names occur more frequently than they ought to…from the tendency to confuse less common names with them.”
For example, a person called ‘Edmund,’ if he is frequently mentioned in the Register, is almost certain to be somewhere quoted as ‘Edward,’ ‘Gregory’ as ‘George,’ ‘Randall’ or ‘Raphael’ as ‘Ralph,’ ‘Gilbert’ as ‘William,’ and so on.
Now here are some of the less-common names, grouped by number of appearances in the register:
Daniel, Dionis, Peter, Stephen, Judith, Susanna, Anna, Mehitable, Hepzibah, Paul
Which of the above names do you like best? Are there any you don’t like at all?
*Dionis’s name is evidently a truncated form of Dionysia, which derives from Dionysius, which originally referred to a devotee of the Greek god Dionysos. The names Dennis and Denise are also derivatives of Dionysius.
**Nantucket’s Oldest House, also called the Jethro Coffin House, was built in 1686 as a wedding gift for Jethro Coffin.
The baby name Tristram, which has been around for centuries, didn’t debut in the U.S. baby name data until 1958:
1958: 5 baby boys named Tristram
This was the year after the name Tris, which had charted as a girl name several times, first appeared on the boys’ list.
The influence behind both names was American actor Tristram “Tris” Coffin, who starred in the TV series 26 Men from late 1957 to mid-1959. In the show he played a fictionalized version of Thomas H. Rynning, captain of the Arizona Rangers during the early 1900s.
His first name is a variant of Tristan, immortalized in the tragic medieval tale of Tristan and Iseult (a.k.a Isolde). We don’t know for sure where the name Tristan comes from, as it’s been “altered from an irrecoverable original as a result of transmission through Old French sources that insisted on associating it with Latin tristis ‘sad,’ a reference to the young knight’s tragic fate.” Tristan may have been based on the Pictish male name Drustan/Drosten, a diminutive form of Drest/Drust/Drost, which was a common name among Pictish rulers.
If the name “Tristram Coffin” sounds weirdly familiar to you, you aren’t nuts — more than a few American men have borne this exact name. All are descendants of Tristram Coffyn, an immigrant from England who was one of the first settlers of Nantucket. In fact, the original Tristram Coffyn (c.1608-1681) was the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of actor Tris Coffin (1909-1990), born in a mining town in Utah three centuries later. (Another bearer was folklorist Tristram P. Coffin.)
Do you like the name Tristram? Do you like it more or less than Tristan?
Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Koch, John T., editor. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.