Ask the Name Sage: Is Peter a Problem?

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

Welcome to Nameberry’s newest column, The Name Sage. Every week, I’ll answer one reader’s questions about naming a baby-on-the-way, or general baby name angst. And here’s the best part: we’d love it if you would add your thoughtful suggestions and comments to help expectant parents decide. The world needs more nicely named children, berries! Want to see your question featured? Please email

Kathleen and her husband are expecting their first child, a boy. She writes:

Here’s our dilemma: my husband is in love with the name Peter.

While I don’t love it, it has started to grow on me.  My main concern is the dirty joke associated with it.  Do you think that’s still an issue these days?  Also, can you suggest any some middle names to go with Peter?

There’s no question that Peter is a classic, worn by kings and saints and figures throughout history. From a child’s perspective, there’s the rabbit, as well as Pan and Parker – all appealing associations.

Into the 1990s, Peter was one of the 100 most popular names for boys born in the US. There are plenty of Petes out there, and yet Peter came in at just Number 208 in 2013. It’s the best of both worlds: an enduring choice that everyone will recognize, but one that isn’t too common, either.

Now, let’s talk about the teasing potential.

Yes, it’s there. Plenty of traditional boys’ names carry some less-than-ideal associations, including long-time favorite John. I do think it’s kind of an old school reference, and not one that kids today are likely to dredge up. We live in an age of tremendous diversity in given names. If a child can answer to Messiah without fear of mockery, odds are that Peter won’t have a problem, either.

In fact, I think Peter might be due for revival. There’s a new installment in the Peter Pan universe coming to theaters this summer – a sort of prequel called Pan. In 2016, Disney will release a live action version of Pete’s Dragon. Parents are about to be reminded of Peter’s potential.

There’s also the name’s stylish ‘r’ ending, shared by popular choices like Carter, Asher, and Jasper.

As for middle names, I like the idea of Peter Maxwell or Peter Harrison. Traditional choices like Peter Joseph, Peter Anthony, Peter Alexander, or Peter Henry would work as well, and you could always go for something really bold: Peter Atticus, Peter Matteo, Peter Orion.

I do think Peter would be a great choice for a son in 2015. It’s an underused classic, and the kind of name that wears well from the nursery into adulthood.

Now let’s hear from you, berries! What do you think of Peter, and can you suggest some great middle names?

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About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at
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23 Responses to “Ask the Name Sage: Is Peter a Problem?”

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Aut729 Says:

April 7th, 2015 at 11:09 pm

I honestly love the name Peter, and mostly all of its associations. I’ve always wanted to incorporate Peter into one of my own future baby’s names because Peter Pan has always been a huge favorite of mine, and reminds me of fun and adventure.

LauraJ88 Says:

April 7th, 2015 at 11:42 pm

There’s a fairly well known Australian fashion designer called Peter Alexander. Not a bad association, but one you may like to be aware of if you were to go in that naming direction.

Zoey_Artemisia Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 12:21 am

I agree with the above poster, that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I read ‘Peter Alexander’.

eveyalecia Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 12:22 am

… I don’t even know what the dirty joke associated with Peter is? So, I doubt most kids would know either.

That said, if kids want to tease, they’ll come up with something to tease about. There’s not much avoiding that, so don’t stress out about the possibility. I think Peter is a solid name choice.

krh21 Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 3:12 am

I used to babysit a boy named Peter John, I think it’s a great name

Essa Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 3:30 am

I have no clue what this dirty joke you’re referring to it (I am from the UK though so that could be why). I always think of Peter Rabbit when I hear Peter which I think is a great association. There’s also the biblical Peter, he’s great.

But honestly, until very recently (and I literally mean the past few days) I really hated Peter. I’m not sure why exactly but I think it was probably to do with the Peter’s I grew up with. However, I’ve began to see it’s potential, it just seems to have jumped out from nowhere and I can see my love for it growing. Sadly my bro-in-law is called Pete so it’s pretty unusable for us but I’ll definitely encourage you to use it!

For middles I like Peter Elijah, Peter Caleb, Peter Frederick, Peter Franklin. Or if you want something quite unusual to balance out the traditional aspect of Peter, I like Peter Arlo, Peter Fox, Peter Hart.

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 4:49 am

I love the name Peter, and to me it’s not dirty. It does seem like a name that is so many children’s stories and nursery rhymes, like Peter Pan and Peter Rabbit and Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, so it seems very innocent.

I like Peter Lewis and Peter Christian, if the second one doesn’t too biblical. Spiderman’s name is Peter Benjamin, which is quite nice.

ScarlettsMom Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 6:19 am

The only “dirty joke” I can think of is that “peter” can be a nickname for male genitals, but honestly, that’s really old-fashioned IMO and I can’t imagine a bunch of elementary-aged kids even knowing about that. I agree with Abby – if people can still use “John” without fear that their child will be teased about being a “toilet” then why even worry about a name like Peter? There’s just no way to absolutely safeguard your child from being teased.

Lo Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 7:25 am

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Peter rising. It’ll be one of the first names I look up when the new name data is released next month. Peter (along with John) is high on our list for a future boy. One of the draw backs for me is the expression “to Peter out”. I’ve noticed that middle names with an internal “r” sound quite dashing with Peter.

ThistleThorn Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 7:28 am

My brother’s name is Peter Michael and he’s never been teased about it or had any negative associations, except when I call him “Peter pumpkin eater and peter rabbit.”

Missmolly Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 10:40 am

My 17 year old son is Peter Nathaniel. When he was born, we considered the male genital “issue”, but decided to for it, on the principle that if kids want to tease, they will find a way regardless.

In 17 years, there have been no negative references that I’m aware of, and my son loves his name. He loves that everyone recognizes his name, but he shares it with no one he knows. When he was tiny, a friend’s mom affectionately called him Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, which made him giggle, and later his martial arts instructor called him Peter the Great, which was a compliment.

I’m biased, but I’m constantly amazed that Petroleum isn’t more popular.

niteowl13 Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I don’t really love the name, but I do have an ex named Peter. He is Peter James. His family nicknamed him P.J. It is a classic name and P.J. is adorable.
I think of the Nursery rhyme: Peter, Peter Pumpkin eater. Also, Peter Rabbit though.
Peter is overlooked and I do think that is sad. I babysat a boy named Peter in a time when boys were mostly named Brandon, Dylan and Cody.

GirlyWhirly Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 1:49 pm

I don’t know the dirty joke that you’re referring to. My first thoughts are either Peter Pan or Peter Parker. It’s not my style but I don’t see anything wrong with it or any teasing potential.

amf0224 Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 2:33 pm

I really don’t know what dirty joke there is, and I’m a teen in high school! Anyways, I like Peter and I love it’s association with Peter Pan, and the rabbit and spiderman are also cool associations. I’ve started to like it when I saw it on another post and it’s growing on me! I also like Peter Maxwell and Peter Orion. Also, Peter Atlas, Peter Fox, Peter Arlo, Peter Finn, Peter Michael, and Peter Blake.

jamee29 Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 5:33 pm

I knew a boy when I was in grade school named Peter. Yes, he was constantly teased (by the other boys) and snickered at because of his name. I always felt sorry for him because he felt he had to lash out at everyone and constantly keep his guard up.

Personally, I think the name Peter is a fine upstanding name.

SimoneKadele Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 6:25 pm

I don’t even know the dirty joke!!

Lciamp Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 8:24 pm

We have a Peter Daniel born in 2012. It’s a wonderful name! I could not imagine him being any other name. He’s super sweet and caring even at 2 1/2. He equally loves outdoor rough and tough and sitting quietly to read. We’re very proud of the boy he is and think he personifies the true meaning of being a “rock”.. Eventually for his family and faith.

ashthedreamer Says:

April 8th, 2015 at 10:41 pm

I adore Peter! And I’m with @SimonKadele – I didn’t even know about the dirty joke until I came to Nameberry. Peter’s on my own list, though, and I’d have no qualms about giving it to a son one day! I think Peter’s super handsome. Right now I’m really liking Peter Donovan, or Peter Atticus (I was surprised to see it on the blog, because I had only thought of it a day or so ago!), or possibly Peter Amadeus or Peter Joshua. I love Peter Leo Frederick, and would love to see it used, but I wouldn’t, as there’s no family ties for me. I think I really love Peter with a Leo name, though–Peter Leo is great, but I’m really crushing on Peter Leopold now, too! Even Peter Leonidas or Peter Leonardo. So handsome!

Alvina Says:

April 10th, 2015 at 12:03 am

Peter is a classic name. If parents had to cross off every name that at one time had been used by someone in a risque manner there would be a lot less names available. Please don’t let this concern keep you from using this wonderful name.

SunKissedChild Says:

April 12th, 2015 at 1:42 am

I have no idea how Peter is related to anything dirty! And although I don’t mind Peter, it’s just sooo overused where I live. I have a cousin Peter. an uncle Pete, an uncle Peter, my boyfriend from school was named Peter, and my husband has a cousin Peter as well. That’s not even to mention all the Peter’s that we know from school and church! It’s way too overused for my liking.

tori101 Says:

April 12th, 2015 at 6:43 am

I’m so confused what’s the dirty joke reference regarding Peter… both me and my sister are confused about this haha. Maybe it’s because we’re from England.

Anyhow I love Peter it’s a strong masculine classic that is due a revival. Peter is a great choice. I love Peter Orion that is so cool : )

Heidigm221 Says:

April 22nd, 2015 at 7:23 am

I was born in the 80s and have never heard of the Peter/male parts joke or reference. Whomever asked this question and has this concern must be of another generation— before mine?

9 Names I Can’t Stop Recommending – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

August 24th, 2015 at 1:01 am

[…] or Henry or James. But I nominate Peter. Between Parker, Pan, and Pete’s Dragon, there are plenty of appealing associations for a boy with the name. Since it was a Top 100 name in the US through the 1970s, Peter can be […]

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