Hooray for Henry: The quirky classic that manages to stay cool
When Henry was chosen as the #1 favorite boy’s name on the collective 5-star lists of the nameberry community, I was somewhat surprised and yet somewhat not. Because in many ways Henry is the perfect boy’s name—as classic and historic as James and John and William –yet with a quirkier edge that makes it seem modern, and even hip.
Henry has a lot going for it. Let us count the ways:
HENRY IS POPULAR, WELL-LIKED, BUT NOT EPIDEMICALLY TRENDY.
At #78 on the Social Security list last year, Henry was given to fewer than 4,000 boys across the country. It was much more commonly heard in the past, having been #10 in 1900, 12 in the 1910s, 18 in the twenties, 25 in the thirties, then dipping to a low of 146 in 1994, after which it started its edge back up.
To pick out just a few among the many distinguished Henrys, there was explorer Henry Hudson, industrialist Henry Ford; in political history there have been Henrys Clay and Kissinger, in literature Henry Fielding, Adams, James, Longfellow, Thoreau and Miller, and other notables in the arts including Purcell, Moore, Fonda, Mancini, Winkler and Rollins—not to mention that historic string of English sovereigns, as well as pop culture icons from the Henry comic strip to the Oh Henry! candy bar.
HENRY HAS CELEB CRED
Henry has been a Hollywood hit since at least the early 1990s, when it was used by Meryl Streep, Martin Short, Dennis Hopper, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and others. More recently it’s been the choice of Heidi Klum and Seal, Julia Roberts, Steve Zahn, Minnie Driver, Jack White and Karen Elson, Norah O’Donnell and Rachel Weisz.
HENRY HAS GREAT NICKNAMES
HARRY is currently huge (#5) in the UK, thanks to the combined power of the young royal Prince (christened Henry) and Harry Potter, while remaing at a low point of #644 in the US. A nickname for Henry since the Middle Ages—Shakespeare used it as the familiar name of the mature King Henry V– it has also long been used on its own, with the distinction of claiming one American president—Truman—which Henry cannot. Other famous Harrys include Houdini (born Erich), Bing Crosby (born Harry), Belafonte, Connick and Reasoner. In addition to the Harry Potter franchise, it’s familiar through such titles as When Harry Met Sally, Dirty Harry, and Harry & the Hendersons, and as characters in John Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ books (Rabbit’s given name), The Third Man, To Have and Have Not and Twilight. David Letterman, Richard Dreyfuss, Simon Baker and Billy Bob Thornton all have sons named Harry.
HANK is the all-American athlete of Henry nicknames, with a catchy, good-guy, vintage feel. Distinguished bearers include baseball greats Hank Aaron and Hank Greenberg and country music legends Hank Snow (born Clarence) and Hank Williams Sr (born Hiram) and Jr., and the aforementiond H. Azaria.
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on October 7th, 2009 at 2:25 am
Henry is my all-time favorite boys’ name! I love its historic roots and timeless feel, and I think it’s very handsome, too.
For some reason, I’m not as bothered by the popularity of boys’ names as I am by the popularity of girls’ names, which is why my love for Henry is able to remain strong.
Great blog! 🙂
on October 7th, 2009 at 7:23 am
Count me among those, if there are any, who do NOT care for this name at all. In general the letter H is a clunky, goofy letter, producing clunky, goofy names: Henry, Herbert, Humphrey. Hugh is about the only H-name I can think of that is appealing. ‘Henry’ calls to mind, for me, some stuffy middle-aged Victorian guy who would not be much fun and is faintly ridiculous. Same goes for all his other H-mates.
on October 7th, 2009 at 7:45 am
I love classic boys name, but Henry is one I’ve never warmed up to. Henry sounds stodgy to me, and there isn’t a nickname I really like. Hal would be my favorite among the nicknames, but only for it’s princely Shakespearean association. Many years ago when visiting the family of an English friend, her husband Henry told me how ridiculous he found the American nickname Hank. I know many who love the name Henry on a little boy, but I find other classics – such as William/Will, James and Thomas far more appealing.
on October 7th, 2009 at 8:29 am
I’m another who isn’t wild about Henry. I don’t get ‘hip’ from it at all really–just stiff. But, I suppose different impressions and associations is what makes the naming world go ’round. My sister recently told me she thinks of Alexander as nerdy–to me it is downright regal.
on October 7th, 2009 at 9:03 am
Thanks so much for this blog!! Henry is the name we chose for our little boy (due in just one more month!) and we love it! We had no idea it was so popular. (In fact, as a Jen born in 1972, I refused to consider names in the social security top 50 — my kid is NOT going to be one of six kids with same name in his kindergarten class!)
But we do love it for a lot of these reasons — its long history, its Shakespearean heritage (the St. Crispin’s day speech makes me cry — and not just when I’m pregnant) and its wealth of nicknames (all of which go with our difficult last name).
At the same time, and this was important to us, it’s a real, recognizable, American name — not made up in the last decade, not something anyone will have trouble pronouncing, and not something that will have to be spelled out over and over. (We have that problem enough with the last name).
We plan to call our little guy Harry as a baby — and when he’s old enough, he can choose for himself which of the many variations best suits him.
on October 7th, 2009 at 9:10 am
My nephew is named Henry (3), which is also my maiden name. As a child, I could never have imagined a little boy named Henry, only a stodgy old man, but the name perfectly suits my tow-headed, pirate-loving nephew
on October 7th, 2009 at 9:22 am
I love Henry! He’s stayed on our short list for a second boy. He does split the difference between the quirkier picks on our list, like Ignatius and Calder, and the safer ones, like William. Plus, there’s a Thomas the Tank Engine train named Henry, so our oldest loves the name, too. (He wanted to name Clio “Henry Gordon” – after two trains.)
But then, I like H names in general – Henry, Hester, Harriet, Helena, Hugo …
on October 7th, 2009 at 9:23 am
I picture a wee tyke named Henry driving all his kindergarten classmates bonkers by continuously belting out (very loudly) “I’mmmmm Henery the Eighth, I am, Henery the Eighth I am, I am! I got married to the widow next door, she’d been married seven times before! And every one was a Henery (HENERY!), she wouldn’t take a Willie or a Sam…”
I think I could love a kid like that.
on October 7th, 2009 at 9:33 am
I love Henry, and Hal and Harry in particular for nicknames. Unfortunately, we have a last name that combines with Henry to make a famous person, so it’s right out.
on October 7th, 2009 at 11:22 am
I absolutely ADORE Henry! It’s my favorite boy’s name and the top contender for whenever I have a son. It’s so classic-sounding and strong. It makes me think of Henry DeTamble from The Time Traveler’s Wife and also from the Boxcar Children–so major plusses in my book. =)
I don’t quite see how Harry/Hank/Hal is a nickname, but I do love Harry.
Very happy to read about Henry!! Great blog!
Tracey R Said
on October 7th, 2009 at 11:31 am
I’m another that doesn’t really like Henry. Not that I dislike it. Just not in my favorite list, nor are any of the nicknames. I think it’s because the only Henrys I knew growing up were old men who hadn’t figured out that people really did bath daily instead of weekly; the only Harry I knew was on the slow end of normal and never brushed his teeth. So Henry/Harry to me smell bad. Apologies to my favorite Wizard notwithstanding.
on October 7th, 2009 at 12:18 pm
my grandpa was Henry/Hank and I’ve wanted to use it for a son for a long time! I think it might be a middle name contender at this point. It is a great name!!
Sarah P. Said
on October 7th, 2009 at 12:46 pm
Not gonna lie, I’m absolutely in love with Henry. 🙂 It’s just so darn cute!
I have a grandfather named Harry and a great-grandfather named Hugh, so for me this name has family ties. As a child I even had a pet rabbit named Henry the Eigth. 😛
Family aside, Henry and Harry flow well with my other favorites….also inspired by grandparents and great grandparents: Maggie, Charles, Jane, Edward, Mae, Frank, Sylvie, Hugo, and Vivien…so don’t be surprised if I ever have a son named Henry!
British American Said
on October 7th, 2009 at 1:23 pm
Great post and great name! My Henry is turning 2 in a couple of weeks. 😀
My husband wasn’t so keen on the name, when I first suggested it (and we didn’t settle on a name until after Henry was born.) He was worried that Henry would end up being Hank, which hubby doesn’t like. But that hasn’t happened.
Being British, I prefer the nickname Harry, but it does seem like a name in it’s own. So our Henry is Henry. Or his nickname ‘Hens’. I do like ‘Hal’ too, but I guess we’ll see if Henry wants to be Henry, Hank, Hal or Harry when he’s older. My grandma had a brother named Henry and he went by Harry.
I would prefer it if it didn’t get top 10 popular, but I did pick the name knowing that several celebrities had picked it and it is on the rise, especially in our state.
on October 7th, 2009 at 1:26 pm
I agree that Henry is a quintessential classic with an edge. Its a nice solid choice that ages well with tons of nice nickname options to choose from.
on October 7th, 2009 at 1:44 pm
Love the name Henry, although not a big fan of his nicknames. I smile every time I see it when I’m scouring through birth announcements for my blog. Great story.
on October 7th, 2009 at 4:24 pm
I love Henry! It’s my top choice for a boy. We are having a girl in December, which I’m very excited about, but if it had been a boy, we would’ve called him Henry Nathaniel. While I love the name, I’m a bit bothered with all the attention it’s getting–will be super popular by the time I ever get around to using it, if ever! Having a much harder time deciding on girls’ names–there are so many more girls names I love than boys’ names.
on October 7th, 2009 at 4:32 pm
Linda wrote this post, which leaves me free to add my own Henry story. Our first child was supposed to be Henry….but was a girl. Our second child I insisted on naming Joe after my dad, with the proviso that if we had another boy it would be Henry. But by the time Boy #2 came along, we decided that while we loved Henry, we were hearing it a little too often in our yuppie town. But I still love it and have never met a less-than-wonderful Henry!
Sophia Corinne Said
on October 7th, 2009 at 5:32 pm
I’ve liked Henry since reading The Time Traveler’s Wife (other great names in the book are Clare and Alba) and it just seems like a classic. My favorite celebrity baby named Henry is Henry Chance (Rachel Weisz’ son). I wouldn’t use it myself but I love it on other people.
on October 8th, 2009 at 5:57 am
i LOVE the name Henry – expecting my own little Henry in November 🙂
on October 8th, 2009 at 10:50 am
I love Henry! I pressed for it so hard when I was pregnant, but unfortunately, my sister in law’s abusive ex and babydaddy’s name is Henry. It’s out forever, and it makes me so so sad!
on October 8th, 2009 at 2:59 pm
I love Henry but then I do tend to like slightly ‘stodgy’ boy’s classics. It is definitely more popular in the UK but no excessively so.
on October 8th, 2009 at 8:03 pm
I think it’s goofy too. It doesn’t manage to stay edgy for me just dull like Daniel or James.
on October 21st, 2009 at 7:59 am
I really like Henry, but I’m afraid the blogger is wrong: it really is epidemically trendy, or at least it will be within the next 5 years.
on August 21st, 2010 at 6:37 pm
If my sister didn’t have a cat named Henry, I would totally dig this name.
on March 3rd, 2011 at 6:10 am
I would never call my child Henry as it sounds too fuddy duddy to me. I do however love Harry and Harrison.
on August 5th, 2013 at 5:42 am
Henry is a name that has grown on me as i have aged along with names like Arthur, James, Arlo, Oscar etc i like to think of them as grandpa names
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