by Linda Rosenkrantz
Not many parents dream of their kids growing up to be philosophers. And yet there’s something to be said for namesakes who have pondered the universe, searching for meaning: the big thinkers with big ideas.
These philosopher names come from a diversity of periods and cultures. And if some of them sound too esoteric, bear in mind that Aristotle, Sophocles and Plato are used regularly as everyday names in modern Greece.
So here are 14 of the most usable, together with their philosophical isms.
Anselm, St. –an Italian monk who founded Scholasticism. Anselm is a German name meaning divine protection, associated in modern times with the German artist Anselm Kiefer, whose paintings, sculpture and installations reflect German culture and history. It has never ranked in the US.
Aristotle – the ancient Greek philosopher, scientist and logician who has been called the “Father of Western Philosophy.” Commonly used in Greece—as in Greek shipping magnate Onassis (middle name Socrates)—Aristotle is also the name of a character in the video game Rygar and is seen in several comics and movies. A distinguished name made accessible via nickname Ari.
Augustine—St. Augustine of Hippo was one of the most influential Christian thinkers. Augustine is actually a diminutive of Augustus and was used in several generations of George Washington’s family. Sharing the nickname Gus with his many august cousins, Augustine now ranks at #761.
Blaise Pascal—French philosopher, mathematician, scientist and theologian who invented an early digital calculator. A strong, single-syllable French name, Blaise was chosen for her son by Amanda Beard and appears in Harry Potter as the character Blaise Zambini.
Josiah Royce—American objective idealist philosopher who emphasized individuality and will. The quaint biblical Josiah is on the rise, now at #53, its highest point ever, and can make an appealing alternative to Joseph and Joshua. There have been Josiahs in both Marvel and DC comics.
Ludwig Wittgenstein—Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic and the philosophy of language. Though it hasn’t been used in this country since 1933, could Ludwig make a comeback a la Laszlo and Otto?
Noam Chomsky—contemporary American linguist, philosopher, and political activist. Although it doesn’t have its biblical weight, Noam makes an attractive alternate to overused Noah. Chomsky was actually born Avram Noam; it’s also a middle name of Sacha Baron Cohen. Noam is a Top 70 name in France and was the #1 name in Israel from 2014-16, where it’s also commonly used for girls.
Plato—Athenian father of Western philosophy and student of Socrates. Plato is another name often used in its land of origin. It was a major character’s name/nickname in the classic film Rebel Without a Cause and could be a distinguished addition to the list of o-ending boy names.
Seneca— Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist. The name of one of the Gamemakers in The Hunger Games, also with Native American associations, Seneca could make an interesting choice for both boys and girls.
Simone–Ernestine–Lucie–Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir—20th century French Existentialist philosopher and social theorist, best remembered for her feminist treatise The Second Sex. This elegant French name got some athletic vigor via the two Olympic-medal gymnasts Simones in Rio in 2016. Simone is currently #733, a perfect fitting in/standing out position.
Søren Kierkegaard—Danish existentialist philosopher and religious thinker. Gentle Scandinavian Soren jumped onto the US list in 2003 and has now climbed up to #558 here, and 320 in France—higher than in its native habitat. This could be due to the number of Sorens suddenly seen in books, films, TV shows and video games.
Zeno of Elea — a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher known for his paradoxes; and Zeno of Citium, founder of the Stoic school of philosophy. Both strong and cheerful, Zeno has a kind of offbeat sci-fi feel. It’s also the protagonist name in the novel Confessions of Zeno and was briefly on the US popularity list at the turn of the last century.
Do you have a favorite philosophy-related name?