Baby Name of the Day: Camden

Camden Town

Image via Wikipedia

Cross Cameron with London and you’ll end up with this rapidly rising choice.

Thanks to Tracy for suggesting the only name her husband likes. Our Baby Name of the Day is Camden.

If Camden brings to mind only Camden, New Jersey, it probably seems an implausible pick for a child. I’m sure the city has its good points, but political scandal, crime, and economic woes have dominated Camden’s story in the national media for years.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Camden Town is a neighborhood in northwest London. This Camden has been home to everyone from Madness to Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens to Oasis. George Orwell and Dylan Thomas both lived there around the same time. The Camden Markets – there are half a dozen – draw tens of thousands of visitors every weekend, selling everything from music to mirrors. If this was the only Camden you knew, the name might very well be as viable an option as, well, London.

The original Camden takes its name from Charles Pratt, a politician and the first to wear the title Earl Camden in the 1700s. Pratt developed the area in the eighteenth century. His son, the second Earl, became Marquess Camden in 1812. Just a few years later, Regent’s Canal reached the area, and Camden Lock opened. You can watch Kate Winslet walk around the area in her commercial for American Express from a few years back.

Camden’s history as a surname reaches back even farther. It probably started out as Campden, from camp – enclosure – and denu – valley. You can still visit Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds, the site of a real-life murder mystery from the 1600s, a tale so fantastic it almost has to be true.

The question is why Camden caught on as a given name. Unlike many surname options, Camden was never in US Top 1000 until 1990. A few theories to explain his rise:

  • Cameron caught on in a big way, reaching #62 in 1990, and peaking at #31 in 2000. Other Cam- names have followed, and Cameron still stands at #59 for boys;
  • Of course, Cameron Diaz rocketed to fame in 1994’s The Mask, encouraging more parents to consider it for a daughter – and sending parents who liked Cameron for a son looking for other options;
  • The long-running WB series 7th Heaven featured the squeaky clean Camden family from 1996 into 2oo7;
  • In 1992, Camden Yards opened in Baltimore, home of the Baltimore Orioles. The ballpark stands on the former site of the B&O Railroad’s Camden Station rail yard and incorporates part of a former warehouse;
  • Caleb, Carter, Connor, Cole, Cooper, Carson, Colton, plus Caden and K-spellings of nearly every one of those names are also stylish;
  • Place names were on the rise during the era, as were two-syllable names that end-in-n.

Add it up, and Camden goes from being an unlikely choice to an obvious one. The UK connection gives it a certain gritty, alternative vibe, but the baseball connection is as red, white, and blue as you might wish. With the easy nickname Cam, it is easy to see why Camden went from unranked in 1989 to #194 in 2009. His only drawback is just that – he’s so stylish it is hard to say how high he’ll reach.

Comments

  1. Angela 2 says

    I think Cam is a ridiculously cute nickname for a girl or a boy! There’s a beautiful town in Maine named Camden, so points for that!

  2. Kelly says

    I am so happy to stumble onto this site. I named my son Camden in 2003, not because of any association to New Jersey or London or 7th Heaven but because I found it in a baby name book while looking for Scottish/Celtic names. I liked Cameron at the time but it was becoming too popular. People frequently ask if I named him after the baseball field, while cocking their head to the side and offering a sarcastic “really” expression. But my son IS a Camden and he is fantastic. It is interesting that two stars just had baby boys and named them Camden–Kristen Cavallari and Vanessa Miinnillo-Lachey. :)

  3. caroline says

    Meh. Honestly, Camden has kind of a tacky vibe to me. I have known a few Camdens, so this may be one of those names that has jumped the shark already in the South/West where the surname/rugged names have been used longer. I don’t know, I think the easy kre8tive respelling potential doesn’t help at all here. Kamden, Kamdyn, Camdynn….Yep. Not into it.

    • Sara says

      Caroline, funny you mention the use of the name in the South/West. I grew up in Alabama and have lived in Texas for much of my adult life. Camden sounds dated to me. I’m surprised it is current and trendy. I would have just filed it away in the c. 1990’s bin with Cameron and company.

      • caroline says

        Totally. I knew Camdens in high school, even. I feel this way about a lot of names-Jackson, Cade, Hunter, Weston, etc. These names definitely had a presence in the Southern states long before they started really climbing the charts nationwide.

  4. Emmy Jo says

    I used to have Camden on my favorites list (as a boys’ name) when I was in college.

    I can see why it wouldn’t work if you live anywhere near Camden, New Jersey. But otherwise, it’s rather nice-sounding (albeit a bit trendy).

    For those of you pooh-poohing it, would it help to know that it’s the GIVEN name of an admirable character in a major work of Victorian literature? Mr. Camden Farebrother is the intelligent, kind-hearted vicar in George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

  5. says

    I’m not sure how I would feel about Camden if I didn’t know any, but because I know a few (all girls), I can’t really see it on a boy. Of course, I don’t like it on a girl so I wouldn’t consider using it anyway. I think the trendiness of it and the variation/ misspelling Camdyn have turned it into one of “those names” for me: names heard so frequently that people start inserting random Ys to make them “unique”.

    On second thought, I can almost picture it on a boy when I think of it only as a surname from 7th Heaven.

  6. Charlotte Vera says

    I’m a fan of the Cotswolds (such a gorgeous part of England!), but I’m not really a fan of place names as given names.

    On a different note, the etymology of this name had me wondering how connected it is to Campbell. You state, “It probably started out as Campden, from camp

  7. Sarah A says

    I was raised in MI and now I live in NJ so I would never think of using Flint, Camden, Trenton, Brooklyn, Hudson Aurora, or even Gary.

    For place names I think it’s better to use names of really big cities that are transcendent, like London or even (gasp!) Paris. Or use a city name that is special to you. Friends of mine conceived their daughter while living in Brooklyn then they moved back to the Midwest and so her middle name is Brooklyn.

  8. Bek says

    Yeah, count me amongst the Jersey natives. I think anyone in the area would probably find the use of the name on a child kind of weird. But that’s why I’m not generally a fan of place names – they can be really hit or miss, ya know?

  9. M says

    I’m originally from New Jersey, and the town is the first thing I think of as well. Camden is consistently voted the worst city in the country to live. It isn’t a place I’d ever want to live- and I’m from Newark!

  10. Lemon says

    I like Camden. It sounds smart and sophisticated and very in vogue right now. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t quite know. It does make me think of Camden Yards – weird because I’m not an Orioles fan, per se – but it’s got some history to it. I’d say Camden is way fresher than Cameron, which I’m plain tired of at this point. Cam’s always cool, though, right? Camden and Wesley would make nice brothers…

  11. julie says

    The gritty crime ridden New Jersey town is my first thought as well. That and the bastardized spellings of Camden in the my local paper’s birth announcements. (There was a Kamdyn recently.)

  12. Havoye says

    Not surprisingly (given my previous comments about masculine-sounding names on girls being done to death), I don’t like this one, especially for a girl. I guess I don’t quite understand giving your child the name of a place to which you’ve no personal connection, though I do understand that many people choose a name primarily because of the way it sounds rather than its meaning or its use elsewhere. I can’t see anything appealing about Cam, Cammy or Denny, either.

    I do empathize with the difficulty of finding a name you and your partner agree on, though! If this turns out to be “the” name, it certainly won’t be weird or out of place in a world where Peyton, Madison and Brooklyn are very common names for girls.

  13. C in DC says

    On a different note, I just learned that some friends of ours have a grandson named Kaisen. I don’t know how they’re pronouncing it, but I have the Caisson Song going through my head…

  14. C in DC says

    Surprising I like this. It feels closer to Calvin than Cameron to me. I also like the potential nn Denny.

    Camden Town and the Regent’s Canal – ah, what memories from living in London.

  15. Erin says

    I like this name a lot, probably because my only association is with the 7th Heaven family… they’re just so darn cute! That show is also the source of my love for the name Simon! Simon Camden. What a kid.

  16. Patricia says

    I meant to say, 2-syllable surnames ending in -an, -en, etc. are ‘at risk’ of being taken over as girl’s names too. Because of Cameron’s increasing popularity as a girl’s name, I expect Camden will be the new Cameron for girls — something “different”.

  17. Patricia says

    I can see Camden being used more and more for girls. It seems that about any 2 syllable surname that becomes popular for boys is in danger of soon turning up increasingly in the SSA girls’ column (and indeed there were 176 girls given the name in 2009, up 20 from the previous year).

    As for the name’s British connections, Camden isn’t in favor as a boy’s name in England/Wales, ranking at #2126 in 2009 (only 9 boys given the name).

    I like the sound of Camden, but would not recommend it as a personal name.

  18. says

    My husband’s cousin has a son named Camden. He must be 1 or 2 and lives in the midwest. His older brother is Quinton. I’m not sure if they go by Quin & Cam. Not really my style of names, but they do match quite well together.

    My association with the name is Camden Market in London – though I’ve never been there. I’m not at all familiar with the place in New Jersey. It would be nicer as a name if either place has a special meaning for you.

    I guess the harder -den ending (rather than the softer -ron of Cameron) does give it a more masculine feel.

  19. says

    Count me with rockingfetal, I’m originally from NJ and Camden has always been a place I’ve disliked. I’ve been to Camden Town and it’s lovely but gritty, scary Camden, NJ is what comes to mind first since I grew up near-ish to it.

    I like Cam, really. But Camden, not so much. That picture up there is all I see. :meh: Sorry!

  20. says

    Camden! Thanks for featuring my suggestion! I should probably point out though, that my ever-so-traditional husband actually likes this name for a girl. I almost fell over. Both for the reason that he actually came to me with a name that he LIKES, and the fact that it is one of those boys-names-for-girls.

    I could see Camden both ways, but the husband only loses his scowl when I mention boy names that are very masculine and traditional. He despises Henry, and I want to injure him for it. He didn’t grimace when I mentioned Declan though… very curious.

    I talked him into Camden-for-a-girl only if we could use a very feminine, family mn (or two!), like Camden Caroline Marie or Camden Elisabeth Anne. After this discussion, and my submission of Camden to AppMtn, he tells me that he also doesn’t hate Rowan. For a girl.

    God help us if we have boys…

  21. sadiesadie says

    I love Camden Town and have spent many hours winding through the booths. Saying that, I probably wouldn’t use it. But I like it better than all the aiden names.

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