Unfairly Dated Names: Gregory

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: Gregory

Firmly a “dad” name today, this dashing choice has been in decline the past few decades. Gregory peaked in the 1960s, making Gregory not just a “dad” name, but possibly a “dad to teenagers” name or even a “granddad” name.

Most of these dads and granddads had a name that was inspired (either directly or indirectly) by the late Gregory Peck (born Eldred Gregory Peck). The name’s peak coincided with the height of the actor’s film career.

The name saw big leaps in the 1940s. In 1944 Gregory Peck appeared in his first two major films, Days of Glory and The Keys to the Kingdom. For the latter, he was nominated for an Academy Award. That same year, the name ranked at #152 and leap to #96 the following year.

In 1962 Gregory Peck won an Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. That same year, Gregory reached its peak at #21. The name held that same spot the following year, probably as a result of many pregnant woman watching To Kill a Mockingbird and the Academy Awards that year who didn’t give birth until the following year.

Inevitably most of these dads and granddads, many with a name influenced by the actor, became “Greg” reminiscent of Greg Brady. The nickname, which seems so natural to the baby boomer generation, also takes away a little of the name’s luster.

Gregory with the nickname Greg has a similar pattern to other former boy hits:

  • Timothy (Tim) peaked at #11 in 1966 and 1967
  • Zachary (Zack) peaked #12 in 1994 (Zachery peaked at #167 in 1993 and Zackery peaked at #316 in 1996)

Say these names together, Gregory, Timothy, Zachary and notice the similarities: the y-ending, the three syllables, the stress on the first syllable. And of course all of them are easily shortened. It’s a pattern that hung around for nearly thirty years, and is still somewhat fashionable. Zachary was still in the top 100 last year at #64. Timothy was at #123.

And where did Gregory rank? At #279. This is a good rank for Gregory, making it still familiar but not overused.

For reasons not exactly known, To Kill A Mockingbird has influenced such current name choices as Atticus (#462), and Harper (#54 for girls and #607 for boys), both of these are dramatically going up in use. Other names from the novel, Scout and Nelle (the author’s given name; Harper was her pen name and middle name), are surprisingly outside the top 1000, but with their current styles have potential to get there soon. Being the name of the man who played Atticus, Gregory is indirectly in this class.

Despite impressive literary associations, many modern parents might strongly associate the name with the fictional Gregory House from the Fox TV show, House. The character is expectantly middle-aged with a cantankerous personality, not an image that usually inspires baby name choices. The Gregory House image is not strong enough to permanently ruin the name, however, given its long history.

Gregory has Greek origins, and its usage is mostly English. It is derived from the Greek gregoros, meaning “watchful, alert”. Gregory has been somewhat common since the middle ages, being the name of royalty, religious leaders, and several popes. Gregory has only left the top 1000 a few times in the late 19th century, but until it had begun its climb after World War II, it was slow to hit the top 300s, which happened in the 1930s.

Around the time the name hit the top 300s, it did see a gradual climb about 10 years before Gregory Peck hit the scene. In 1934 Gregory hit the top 300 at #298 and climbed to #152 in 1944, the year before the actor’s breakout roles. Like modern hit names Mason and Emma, Gregory was already making a slow climb when the entertainment industry supercharged its popularity.

Like other “unfairly dated” names, such as Amy, Gregory is a name with solid history that is simply returning to its natural respectable place after a popularity explosion. That makes Gregory a good choice today. Masculine, intelligent, sporty, and refined.

Readers: What do you think of Gregory?

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  1. I’d love to see Gregory used for more baby boys. Greg is very 1960s, but Gregory called Grey or Rory helps it feel fresh.

    • I think you could be on to a good theory – Greg is what’s dated, not Gregory. Those are great updated nickname ideas!

      • My son born in 2014 is Gregory and we call him Grey. We never get anything but compliments on the classic yet fresh name. I love it and think it’s perfect for the grandson of Grandpa Greg :).

  2. We have a higstreet bakery here in the UK called Greggs, which can’t help the name’s fortunes an awful lot. Personally, I’ve never really looked twice at the name, so it’s not unsurprising for him to be considered a dated name.

  3. I love love Gregory, but Greg scares me off. It’s one of many names where I feel like the name is great in full but the inevitable nickname is awful.


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