Unfairly Dated Names: Douglas

Unfairly Dated Names are a subset of Spotlight Names most people don’t consider old-enough to recycle. Most of these names peaked around 15-60 years ago and are often typecast as parent and grandparent names. But their timeless and sometimes modern attributes make them stylish stand-outs for modern children. At one point these names were ahead of the trends, and likely will be again.

Unfairly Dated Name: Douglas

Before Scottish inspired Aidan and Colin, there was Douglas. This surname-name offers the eye-catching as-ending like Elias and Lucas, and easy-going nickname Doug. Doug has the same friendly quality as Ben and Sam.

Being handsome yet completely unpretentious, Douglas made a great addition to our list of White Bread names. But Douglas isn’t your ordinary surname. Before Douglas was the name of a powerful Hollywood family, it was once the name to a powerful line of Scottish earls, and means “Dark River.” Before Douglas became a clan name, it was actually the name of a river. Such an impressive pedigree for a name that seems friendly and unassuming.

While the name seems unassuming now, at one point during the mid-20th century the name had a courageous image due to General Douglas MacArthur. Incidentally, Douglas saw one of its most dramatic leaps in rank during World War II.

Between 1941 and 1942 Douglas leapt 30 places in a single year from #53 to #23. The following year the name dipped slightly, and remained around the #30 rank for the rest of the 40’s and stayed there through the 60’s. Douglas was in the top 50 for over 30 years from 1942 to 1973.

After seeing these numbers, I’m not surprised my Baby Boomer Dad has a cousin and at least two friends named Doug. For the Baby Boomer generation, every group of guys must have had a Doug. For Generation X parents like myself, Doug is closely associated with Melissa & Doug, the toy company known for its highly popular wooden educational toys. The company was started by a real life Melissa and Doug: Melissa and Doug Bernstein back in 1988 in their basement.

As recently as the 80’s the name was still in the top 100. In recent years, the name has declined rapidly. Douglas has declined over 300 places since the 90’s and ranked at #485 in 2010.

While Douglas may not be fashionable, the name still has fashionable qualities. Scottish names have been popular for decades. Surname-names have been around forever. The categories remain appealing, only the names themselves change.

Among Scottish names Douglas, along with Bruce, Craig, Kenneth, and Scott have stepped aside for Aidan, Cameron, Gavin, and Grant. Soon Alastair, Callum, Duncan and Ewan could be the next wave of Scottish names.

Among Surname-names Douglas, along with Allen, have made way for Mason and Everett. Archer, Bennett, and Porter could be the next wave of Surname-names.

Once all the more exotic Scottish names and “fresh” Surname-names have run their course, the mainstream will greet simplicity again and embrace Douglas, just like an old friend.

Readers: What do you think of Douglas?

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  1. My brother is an 80s-born Douglas and he absolutely hated his name until he started working with young children and saw all the tryndee names in vogue now. I think he appreciates it for its solid history as a “real” name now. Btw, he was named for Gen. MacArthur, who was my dad’s boyhood hero.

    • I wonder if Douglas stayed in the top 100 until the 80’s for that reason: Gen. MacArthur was many Dads’ boyhood hero. The name is solid though, and definitely not a flash-in-the pan kind of name.

      While I can’t claim to completely understand the male mind – does any one? – growing up outnumbered as the only girl with two brothers, I like to think I have some insight into the male mind, and I would think a guy would rather be named Douglas than some of the names on boys today.

  2. I like all the history and meaning behind it, but it sounds clunky to me, and not in an appealing way. I also don’t care for the Doug/Dug homophone thing going on. Plus, my last name is Huff, so the repeating ‘uh’ sounds is very unpleasant to me. All of that said, I would be charmed to meet a little Douglas.

    • I don’t care for the sound of Doug Huff either. I must admit I never considered how Doug sounds like Dug. Probably because I know enough people named Doug, and it never was an issue for them.

  3. Doug: Strong, masculine. I’d take it over a lot of more current names. I’m Daniel (Dan for a nickname).God is my judge. It was my Dad’s name: sadly, that something that’s also fallen out of fashionDad was a great but gentle man. I loved him, so I’m proud to have it. Daniel’s also a strong name that’s more masculine–solid–than lots of stuff I’m hearing these days.

  4. My brother and his wife are expecting a baby boy in December, and their choices are Douglas and Alexander. We’re worried that Douglas might sound a bit dated. What do you think?


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