Eric: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on December 2, 2013

English: Portrett av Erik Magnusson i Stavange...Editor’s note: Today’s post was originally published on March 24, 2009.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on December 2, 2013.

He’s a modern classic, rich with history from the Vikings to the legends of the Knights of the Round Table.

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Eric as our Baby Name of the Day.

Eric comes to us from the Old Norse Eiríkr, from ei - ever and ríkr – ruler – enduring ruler, an appealing meaning.

The first element could also come from words meaning honorable or solitary.

Whether he was an enduring, honorable or solo ruler, Eric was clearly in charge. The name was worn by two kings of Denmark, six Norwegian monarchs and at least a dozen kings of Sweden.

In the 900s, Eric Bloodaxe – the records are silent on how he got his gory nickname – ruled Norway and parts of Northumbria.

King Eric IX of Sweden ruled in the 1100s and was responsible for converting his realm to Christianity.  He’s now known as Saint Eric, patron Saint of Sweden.

Then there’s also Erik the Red, the Norwegian explorer and father of Leif.  Leif made it all the way to North America.  Erik is best known for exploring Greenland.

Eric of Pomerania – born Boguslaw, descended from the kings of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark – eventually became king of all three as part of the short-lived Kalmar Union.

He’s in very sparing use in medieval England, possibly imported by the Normans, possibly left over from earlier settlements, or maybe imported from the Norse sagas and legends.  The -ric element was huge in names, many of which have faded from use, like Childeric, Emeric, and Theodoric, as well as a few that are still around, like Frederick.

Eric was seldom heard in English until the publication of Eric, or Little by Little, Frederic W. Farrar’s 1858 story of a boy sent away to boarding school while his parents are stationed in India.  Eric ends badly, but the book raised awareness of the name.

He’s appeared in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880, and entered the US Top 100 in 1950.  He peaked at #13 from 1973 to 1976 and just recently left the Top 100.  Today he ranks a comfortable #107.

There’s also:

  • Erik, peaked at #64 in 1980
  • Erich and Erick, both sometimes ranked.
  • Actor Eriq La Salle is the rare Eriq-with-a-q.

Notable bearers of the name include:

  • Ariel’s prince in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
  • A very different animated Eric, Cartman on South Park.
  • Early 20th century French composer Erik Satie.
  • Monty Python’s Eric Idle.
  • Topher Grace played one on That ’70s Show, and Omar Epps wore the name on medical drama House.
  • Let’s not forget guitar legend Eric Clapton.

Add in plenty of athletes, politicians and others and you can find a successful Eric in nearly any field of endeavor.

Arthurian legends include a Sir Erec, a knight of the Round Table, first introduced by Chrétien de Troyes.  It’s not clear where the French author found inspiration for Erec’s name.

Overall, Eric makes for a nice compromise.  He’s never been a Top Ten name like Jason or Joshua, so while he’s in dad-name territory, he’s not quite dated.  He belongs with names like Zachary and Colin – popular names with history, tough to pin to a specific decade, but not as evergreen as William or John.

Eric could be that perfect choice for a name that fits in without being too common, the one that everyone recognizes, but few kids share.

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