Spotlight On: Ferdinand

The US might not quite be ready for Ferdinand but for me that’s part of his appeal. Like many names that sound a little out of the mainstream, his easy wear nickname, Ferdie, makes him more accessible with just enough off-beat flavor to give him hipster appeal.

The meaning of Ferdinand has been interpreted as “bold voyager” composed of German elements of journey and brave. What a fitting name for Ferdinand Magellan.

Ferdinand was more popular in the late 19th century than today, but never became widespread in the US. It ranked at 294 in 1880, the earliest year data is available from the US Social Security Administration. The name continued to hover between the upper 200s, 300s and lower 400s and then started a steady decline in the 1920s. The name left the Top 1000 a few times post World War II and then completely disappeared in 1972.

One could guess at a time when Jason, Chad, and Brent were hitting the scene, Ferdinand might have seemed a bit awkward in that crowd. But now could be a good time for Ferdinand to finally revisit the Top 1000.

To some, Ferdinand might seem not yet ready for this world. But consider Atticus. Atticus was one of the names mentioned in my last post about boy name trends. Atticus is still considered unusual among the general public, but the statistics show many people are warming to Atticus.

Atticus had appeared briefly in the Top 1000 in 1881, and then disappeared for well over a century not emerging again until 2004. But once Atticus hit the Top 1000 again he took off, zooming up the charts over 400 spaces in seven short years.

Determining what a name will do next is nearly impossible. Maybe Atticus will fizzle. But don’t laugh-off Atticus. Off-beat old-fashioned names are stylish among some segments of the US. A little Atticus could be coming to a preschool near you.

And if a preschool can have an Atticus among its rosters, why not a Ferdinand? I’m not the only one who sees Ferdinand’s potential., an online parenting site, includes Ferdinand among its list of “30 monikers inspired by famous explorers.”

I feel Ferdinand would seem like a more comfortable, familiar choice than Atticus for parents seeking an eye-catching, fresh, old-fashioned name. While both names had been absent from the Top 1000 for an extended period post World War II, Ferdinand had been used more extensively during the early part of last century. Yet Ferdinand never become overused, and he has been absent from the mainstream long enough to be fresh again.

I would recommend Ferdinand for parents who like names like Matilda and Clementine for their daughters or Lawrence and Edmund for their sons. I would discourage Ferdinand for parents who have two older sons named Camden and Logan or generally like the more modern style names.

There is the related Fernando for those with Spanish or Latino heritage or those who happen to like those kinds of names. According to Behind the Name, Ferdinand was actually derived from the Spanish Fernando, perhaps making Fernando the older name.

Both Ferdinand and Fernando can work without nicknames in these times when many parents try to avoid them, but for those who like nicknames both names can be easily be shortened to Ferdie.

And there’s something about a little 18 month Ferdie toddling around that makes me smile.

Photo credit


  1. Chloé-Marie says:

    Love Franz Ferdinand (the band) 🙂 Glad to see a pic of them for this name!
    I’d definitely consider it.


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