Category: baby name Cooper

Cowboy Names: Back in the saddle again

cowboy baby names

Just as we’ve been heralding the trend towards cowboy names, it looks like we could be in for a posse of new ones.

In the L.A. Times the other day, an article talked about prime-time television’s “reinvigorated love of the western, where projects are sprouting like cactus in the desert…and viewers may see the biggest glut of westerns since the genre’s heyday of the ‘60s.”

It was that heyday that incited the stampede of names that hadn’t been heard in a century onto the boys’ popularity lists of the 1950s, sixties and seventies, some of which are still riding tall in the saddle.

Read More

Occupation Names: A Labor Day Salute

With Labor Day upon us, it seems like the perfect moment to focus on the original pre-barbecue meaning of the holiday and celebrate hard-working occupational names.  So we’re looking back to wtoe we wrote on the subject in our book Beyond Ava & Aiden, but here focusing on the less used, fresher sounding examples, and those with less obvious meanings, so no Archer, Shepherd or Baker.

Have you noticed how many of the boys’ names climbing up the ladder end in the letters ‘er’? They sound really new and cool, but in reality a large proportion of them actually originated in medieval England as occupational surnames, when Timothy the Tanner morphed into Timothy Tanner—as if in our day Pete the Programmer became Pete Programmer. And even if a large proportion of these are trades that no longer exist in this Digital Age, and some of their meanings have been lost to time, part of their appeal as a group lies in their throwback reference to basic concepts of honest labor, adding some historical heft to their appeal, and giving them more weight than other fashionable two-syllable names.  They offer the parents of boy babies a comfortable middle ground between the sharper-edged single syllable names (Holt, Colt), and the more ornate longer names (Gregory, Jeremy) of the recent past.  Here are some of the most usable ones, together with their original, sometimes arcane, meanings.

The er-ending names

  • Banner— flag bearer
  • Barker –stripper of bark from trees for tanning
  • Baxter— a baker, usually female
  • Beamer — trumpet player
  • Booker — scribe
  • Boyer — bow maker, cattle herder
  • Brenner — charcoal burner
  • Brewster — brewer of beer
  • Bridger — builder of bridges  
  • Carter — cart maker or driver, transporter of goods
  • Carver — sculptor
  • Chandler — candle maker
  • Chaucer — maker of breeches, boots or leg armor
  • Collier — charcoal seller, coal miner
  • Conner — inspector
  • Cooper — wooden barrel maker
  • Coster — fruit grower or seller
  • Currier — leather finisher
  • Cutler — knife maker
  • Decker — roofer
  • Dexter — dyer
  • Draper — woolen cloth maker or seller
  • Duffer — peddler
  • Farrier— iron worker
  • Fletcher — arrow maker
  • Forester — gamekeeper, forest warden
  • Foster — sheep shearer
  • Fowler — hunter of wild birds
  • Glover — maker or seller of gloves
  • Granger — granary worker
  • Harper —  harp maker or player
  • Hollister — female brothel keeper!!
  • Hooper —  one who makes or fits hoops for barrels
  • Hopper — dancer, acrobat
  • Hunter — huntsman
  • Jagger — a Yorkshire name meaning peddler or carrier
  • Keeler — boatman or barge builder
  • Kiefer — barrel maker or overseer of a wine cellar
  • Lander — launderer
  • Lardner — servant in charge of the larder
  • Lorimer — a spur maker
  • Mercer — merchant, especially in luxury fabrics
  • Miller — grinder of corn
  • Nayler — maker of nails
  • Parker — gamekeeper in a medieval private park
  • Porter — gate keeper, carrier of goods
  • Potter — maker or seller of earthenware pottery
  • Quiller — scribe
  • Ranger — game warden
  • Rider/Ryder — cavalryman, horseman, messenger
  • Sadler– saddle maker
  • Salter — worker in or seller of salter
  • Sayer –several meanings:  assayer of metal, food taster, woodcutter (as in Sawyer)
  • Slater — roofer
  • Sumner — court summoner
  • Thatcher — roofer
  • Tolliver — metal worker (Anglicization of the italian Taliaferro)
  • Turner — turner of wood on a lathe
  • Webster — weaver, originally female
  • Wheeler— wheel maker

 Other occupational names

  • Baird— minstrel or poet  
  • Beaman— beekeeper
  • Chaplin— clergyman
  • Farrar— blacksmith, metalworker
  • Fisk— fisherman
  • Reeve— bailiff, chief magistrate
  • Smith— metal worker, blacksmith
  • Steele— a steel worker
  • Todd— a fox hunter
  • Travis— gate keeper, toll collector
  • Ward— watchman, guard
  • Wright— carpenter, joiner

Read More

college names

In the course of her daughter’s college search, guest blogger Susan Chesney discovered a whole new category of name possibilities.

Our daughter Laura is applying to colleges, fourteen of them to be exact. Her brother Peter  (Vassar ’08) took her on a college tour to New York and New England last summer. We didn’t accompany them so that we could save money.  I have an expensive weakness for decent accommodations and healthy food. But our kids can travel on a shoestring.

Peter and Laura visited twenty schools. They texted and called us often, talking incessantly about the various colleges they had visited that day and those they would be touring next.  I remember hearing the name “Sarah Lawrence” in a whole new light, and thinking, that’s pretty! “Bard” sounded quirky, and “Bates” sounded kind of creepy like the Bates Motel in “Psycho.”

When they returned home, the quest for the perfect college wasn’t over.  Laura has a book called “The Best 366 Colleges,” with descriptions of schools across the United States. Laura has been carrying THE BOOK around for two years now. She has talked about this college and that and is open to going to school in Ohio, Pennsylvania and even as near to her family as (gasp!) California! As she talks about different colleges, I am hearing more and more names that have cool potential for baby names, my constant obsession, as you Nameberryites all know!

Because we live in California where most college are universities named after the cities they are located in, many of the far-away liberal arts colleges have names that I had never heard of until now, such as Kenyon, Allegheny, and St. Olaf. But others have names that are familiar like Reed, Bowdoin, and, of course, Harvard.

A few days ago as I was obsessing about names, I realized that THE BOOK is not only an amazing collection of college descriptions, it is also a delightful dictionary of classic, quirky, vintage, and place names that could provide great inspiration for all of us on Nameberry.

College Names


ALLEGHENY (al-uh–GAIN-ee, but my daughter and I think uh-LEG-uhn-ee is prettier.) – Pennsylvania

(University of Michigan Ann) ARBOR – Michigan



BEREA – Kentucky

(University of California) BERKELEY (Go Bears! Sorry, I’m from California!)

(Sweet) BRIARVirginia

BRYN (Mawr) – Pennsylvania

CLARE(mont) – California

(Santa) CLARACalifornia

DREW – New Jersey, could be a boy’s name, too.

EMORYGeorgia–also unisex

MARQUETTE – Wisconsin

(Claremont) MCKENNACalifornia

SARAH (Lawrence) – New York

Read More