Baby Name of the Day: Elvis

by appellationmountain on April 17, 2012

A cropped photograph depicts singer Elvis Pres...

A cropped photo of singer Elvis Presley; photo credit Wikipedia

He’s rock-n-roll royalty, and his surname has been a popular pick in recent years.  But is there more to this name than Presley’s legacy?

Thanks to Ivy for suggesting Elvis as our Baby Name of the Day.

Elvis lurked on the edges of the US Top 1000, years before Tupelo’s most famous resident first picked up a guitar.

A handful of possible origins exist:

  • Norse mythology offers up Alvis or Alviss, the name of a dwarf who courted Thor’s daughter, though Thor prevented the match.
  • A Cornish saint from the 400s or 500s answered to Elven, Elvan, or Elwin.
  • There’s a sixth-century Irish bishop sometimes referred to Saint Elvis.  His given name was closer to Ailbe or Ailfyw.  Elvis is a plausible modernization of the name, but so are Albeus and Albus.
  • The most likely explanation lies with the surname ElwesEloise and Heloise come from the old Germanic Helewidis or Heilwidis, which became Helewis, and eventually Elwes and Elvis.  Surname names were all the rage in the nineteenth century.  The 1880 Top 100 includes plenty of names that started out in the last spot: Clarence, Howard, Floyd, Chester.

For Elvis Aaron Presley his unusual given name was dad’s middle, Vernon Elvis.

Famous Elvii are plentiful:

  • Elvis Costello has been a force in music since the 1970s, though the Grammy-award winner was born Declan McManus and took his stage name in homage to Presley.
  • If you watched the Winter Olympics in the 90s, you saw Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko take home two silver medals.  And yes, he was named after the singer, too.
  • Grammy award winning merengue singer Elvis Crespo is yet another distinguished namesake.
  • Actor Anthony Perkins named his son after the singer, and Elvis Perkins is now working on a career in folk-rock.

There are also athletes, a film critic, and a few others.  Elvis fell out of the US Top 1000 in 2010, but the name was still given to 191 newborn boys.  I tend to agree with Nancy’s take on this: while Elvis’ sounds aren’t exactly fashionable, there’s nothing keeping this name from rebounding in the future.

But what if you’re considering Elvis today?

We live in an era that’s quite friendly to hero names, especially those with musical associations.  Think of Marley and Harrison, Lennon and Jagger.  Presley is one of the fastest-rising girls names of the past decade, leaping from #790 in 2000 to #274 in 2010.  Musical associations, too, are the epitome of style, from Harmony to Cadence to Lyric to Aria.

What argues against Elvis succeeding in 2012 is his slightly off-kilter sound.  The letter -v is big, as is the first syllable El.  And ends-in-s could be the new ends in -er.  But somehow, the name combined feels more akin to Alvin or Clovis than Elliot, Ellis, or even Vincent.

He’s neither precisely on-trend or decidedly off; everyone will instantly recognize how to say and spell it; and even grown men – and a woman or two – living in Memphis seem to be doing just fine with their famous name.

And if you want a convincing argument to use Elvis?  Even nearly two decades after its release, True Romance remains a gruesome-cool love story, with plenty of references to The King sprinkled throughout.  When Clarence and Alabama finally do live happily ever after, the name they give their son?

Elvis.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie April 17, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Elvis Andrus is a shortstop for the Texas Rangers.

I can’t shake off the idea that Elvis is cheesy. Of course, no child of mine would ever be cool enough to pull off Elvis, but that’s another issue all together.

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Sarah A April 17, 2012 at 7:34 PM

Elvis is cool, but he sounds a bit ‘elf-ish’. It’s one of those great names that everyone knows how to say and spell but your kid won’t share it. I think it would be difficult though for parents to use it unless they were big fans of Elvis Presley.

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Panya April 17, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Stojko is the only Elvis I’m a fan of. I’ve never liked the singers or their name.

Who knows how I’d feel about it if it weren’t tied so heavily with Presley…

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Sebastiane April 17, 2012 at 10:41 AM

A Croatian friend of mine once told me that Elvis is a traditional Croatian male name because of a famous saint.

My cousin’s middle name is Elvis.

I can’t say that I like it.

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Kristin April 17, 2012 at 10:05 AM

I enjoy the music of Elvis Presley, but not his name. It makes me think too strongly of elves.

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Kristin April 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM

That, and my babysitter when I was young was an elderly woman named Elva.

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Raquel Somatra April 17, 2012 at 9:14 AM

This is too funny… my mother was at an Elvis Crespo concert this weekend, so I’ve been hearing this name nonstop. That said, I don’t see this name getting to popular in the near future, but I think it will continue to be used hear and there. It’s definitely not my style.

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SkyeRhyly April 17, 2012 at 8:11 AM

Personally I dont like Elvis. The fact that it dropped out the top1000 can’t be a good sign for recovery either. I checked the beyond the top1000, and Presley is pretty much catching up to Elvis, and will most likely overtake it in the new couple of years.

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