Failure to Launch Names: Mack in the Early 2000s

This series is a subset of Spotlight Names dedicated to names that had the potential to become huge for a certain decade. They represented a certain era well, but for whatever reason never made it to the top 100. Perhaps for these names, their time is yet to come.

Mack in the Early 2000s

Perhaps some names are just too obvious to catch on. I would bet this is the case with Mack in the early 2000s. Before delving into the history on Mack, let’s talk about hit names with blatant similarities: Jack and Max.

Classic nickname-turned-given name, Jack hit 34 in 2005. This was Jack’s most recent peak, but not Jack’s highest peak. The name actually hit an all-time peak at 14 two years in a row back in 1929 and 1930. Max has been steadily climbing the charts for the past 30 years, hitting an all-time peak at 98 in 2010 (the most recent year data is available). Before then, Max peaked at 99 in 1914. But, as mentioned before Max is also a short form for several names and is heard more often than a 98 ranking would suggest.

So how does Mack compare? Mack peaked in 1900 at 96. A guess would put Mack in the top 150s or at least 250s, considering when Mack last peaked and the current rankings of the very similar Jack and Max. But alas, Mack has been nearly missing from the top 1000 for over 20 years. Mack did briefly reappear in 2009 at 979, and then disappeared in 2010. Perhaps Mack will return for 2011 or 2012.

Mack’s return to the top 1000 is a real possibility. Style-wise, perhaps the Jack, Max and Mack sound has not yet run its course. I had hypothesized parents would soon tire of this sound. But these names have history going for them, which may give them long-term appeal.

Sometimes I underestimate current names’ long-term potential, seeing current names as more dated than reality. For example, until I looked up the stats, I guessed Jack and Max both peaked about 10-15 years ago, but in reality Jack recently peaked seven years ago, and Max could still be on the rise.

So what about Mack? Why hasn’t Mack caught on? Some feel the Mack Truck association has been detrimental. But for every parent who finds the Mack Truck association too harsh for their son, surely there’s another parent who relates to the industrial, hard-working machines, and finds the association a plus.

It’s not as if the trucks were a precursor to the name. On the contrary, Mack was a man’s name long before it was a truck’s name. Mack has a couple of different origins. One is as a shortened form of several Gaelic surnames beginning with Mc or Mac. Another origin is as a medieval short form of Magnus, which means “great.” Magnus is a name I predict could see great success as a member of “us-enders“. Perhaps if Magnus goes up in usage, Mack as both a short form for Magnus and a given name could see a resurgence.

I have been told that Mack is already popular: as a nickname for the über popular Mackenzie (and all of its variant spellings), McKenna (and all of its variant spellings), and all other trendy Mac and Mc surname names on girls.

Of all the masculine names “going girl” the rugged Mack is among the last I would expect, despite the feminine Mac/Mc surname trend. But when I reconsider, and realize Sam and Alex work on girls, Max or Mack on girls seems possible.

Mack as a given name on a girl, however, doesn’t seem to have caught on yet. Mack has never reached the top 1000 for girls since 1880, the earliest year data is available. In 2010 Mack was given to fewer than 5, if any, girls.

The theory is that once a male name has “gone girl” there’s no going back. But Mack has potential to be an exception due to a few factors:

  • Mack sounds very similar to Jack, and Max which are more popular on boys at the moment.
  • In 2010, Mack was still a lot more popular on boys, given to 179 boys vs. fewer than 5, if any, girls.
  • Mack was once moderately popular as a boy’s name in recent history, unlike Ashley which never reached the top 300s on boys.
  • Even if Mack increases on girls, Mack can be acceptable on both genders just like Alex and Sam.

Readers: What do you think of Mack?

Photo credit


  1. Max Astrophel says:

    Mack on girls seems to be mostly a media phenomenon. There are a lot of Mackenzies on screen (perhaps more than one would expect in real life, especially on older age groups), and being referred to as Mack at some point seems universal there. In my day-to-day experiences, girls named Mackenzie either avoid nicknames or use Kenzie.


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