The name Gotham first emerged in the U.S. baby name data in 2015:
- 2017: 37 baby boys named Gotham
- 2016: 50 baby boys named Gotham
- 2015: 46 baby boys named Gotham [debut]
- 2014: unlisted
- 2013: unlisted
It was the most impressive boy-name debut of the year, in fact.
Where did it come from?
The Batman-based TV series Gotham (2014-2019), which was set during Bruce Wayne’s teenage years.
The main protagonist wasn’t Bruce Wayne, though — it was Gotham City police detective (and future commissioner) James Gordon. In the very first episode, Jim met 12-year-old Bruce soon after Bruce’s parents had been murdered.
So…why is Batman set in a place called Gotham City?
“Gotham City” was first identified as Batman’s place of residence in the comic book Batman #4 (Winter 1940), which was actually published in January of 1941. Here’s how Batman co-creator Bill Finger chose the name:
Originally I was going to call Gotham City, Civic City. Then I tried Capital City, then Coast City. Then, I flipped through the phone book and spotted the name Gotham Jewelers and said, ‘that’s it,’ Gotham City. We didn’t call it New York because we wanted anybody in any city to identify with it. Of course, Gotham is another name for New York.
Why is Gotham another name for New York City?
It’s a tradition that was kicked off by writer Washington Irving, who referred to the city as Gotham in an 1807 issue of Salmagundi — a short-lived satirical magazine that lampooned NYC culture and politics.
He choose that name because of the medieval folktales about the English village of Gotham, the residents of which had a reputation for idiocy. (According to the tales, though, they were simply feigning madness in order to thwart King John.)
The name of the village (which is located in Nottinghamshire) is pronounced GOAT-um, and is derived from the Old English words gat, meaning “goat,” and ham, meaning “home.”
Getting back to the TV show, though…
Toward the end of season 2, corrupt mayor Theo Galavan — who’d been killed mid-season by Jim Gordon — was resurrected as “Azrael” by mad scientist Hugo Strange.
Azrael was only featured in two mid-2016 episodes of Gotham, but he is likely the reason why the rising usage of the baby name Azrael accelerated that particular year:
- 2018: 150 baby boys named Azrael
- 2017: 132 baby boys named Azrael
- 2016: 113 baby boys named Azrael
- 2015: 64 baby boys named Azrael
- 2014: 56 baby boys named Azrael
Azrael, the name of the angel of death in both Islamic and Judeo-Christian tradition, is derived from the ancient Hebrew words ‘azar, meaning “to help,” and ‘el, meaning “God.”
Which name do you think is cooler: Gotham or Azrael?
- Gotham (TV series) – Wikipedia
- Gotham City – Wikipedia
- So, Why Do We Call It Gotham, Anyway? | The New York Public Library
- Steranko, Jim. The Steranko History of Comics. Vol. 1. Supergraphics, 1970.
- Wise Men of Gotham – Myths and Legends – BBC
P.S. Ever wonder how Bruce Wayne was named? Here’s Bill Finger’s explanation: “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock…then, I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne.”