Rafe is a hip vintage name with an easy-going personality. This is an awesome find—an easy-wear name with a funky style along the lines of other masculine R-names such as Rafferty, Roscoe, Rufus, and Rupert. The letter R on boys is beginning to take on an artsy, boyish appeal—at least for me.
What sets Rafe apart from these other R names, however, is Rafe seems more likely to be accepted in locales where hipster names aren’t accepted. If you love east coast names but live on the west coast, maybe Rafe is for you.
Rafe achieves a balance between the Atticus’ and the Wyatt’s, while still generating surprise, and does all of this effortlessly. Rafe has a style similar to Nick, but Rafe is a lot more original and maybe just slightly more intellectual, but not so intellectual to come off as pretentious. Rafe belongs to a group of names I call the “motorcycle-riding poets’ society”, a group of names that would fit 50’s beatnik characters. Right now this group of names consists of two: Julius and Rafe. I’ll let you know once I add to the list.
The name is rare, given only to 78 newborn boys in 2011. Long ago, Rafe had a very brief visit to the top 1000, at #809 back in 1880, the earliest year baby name statistics are available from the U.S. Social Security Administration.
Over the past decade, Rafe’s popularity has held steady (since Rafe is outside the top 1000, these numbers aren’t ranks but number of babies):
|Year||No. of Babies|
Rafe is a form of Ralph, the phonetic spelling, most common in the 17th century. Both RAYF and RALF are acceptable pronunciations for Ralph. Reportedly, Welsh actor Ralph Fiennes pronounces his first name like Rafe.
Rafe is more well-known in England. There is an English actor, Rafe Spall who may not be a household name in the U.S., but is known in the U.K. for his role in the U.K. sitcom, Pete Versus Life. While the name is more familiar in England, it is not terribly common in the U.K. either, but is more popular there than in the U.S. in proportion to the population. In 2011 there were 59 boys in U.K. named Rafe, giving it a rank of #588, which it shares with a few other names.
Rafe may see its most immediate success in another English-speaking country, Australia. I base this theory on how many times Rafe appears in Australian birth announcements on Australian baby name blog, Waltzing More Than Matilda. Rafe appeared in these announcements three times in the past year, each time as an older sibling. I can’t claim my method is 100% scientific, but considering the country’s relatively small population, I suspect these numbers are enough to suggest Rafe may at least have an up-and-coming presence in Australia. Time will tell.
Rafe has also been cited as a form of Rafael and a diminutive of Rafferty. For those seeking a long form for Rafe, both Rafael and Rafferty are as good as any. But I feel short names are just as distinguished as longer ones, and feel the name works well as a stand alone name.
The name’s single syllable also make it the perfect connector middle name. For those looking for an easy middle name that is more original than John or James, Rafe is a great candidate.
Other than Rafe Spall, there is Rafe Alston, a basketball player, Rafe Morris, an Australian singer-songwriter, and a famous fictional Rafe, Ben Affleck’s character in Pearl Harbor, Rafe McCawley.
If Ben Affleck can pull off a name, then it must have a refined masculinity, in my opinion. I can picture Rafe on a little boy or a grown man. I can also picture Rafe on a lawyer or a construction worker. Stylish and versatile, this unusual short name has potential to become an up-and-coming hit.
Readers: What do you think of Rafe?