Today’s choice just might be a modern classic.
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Eric as Name of the Day.
First, I should note that Photoquilty actually requested Erik. Both spellings are valid – in fact the k spelling is probably closer to the original, the Old Norse Eiríkr. In the US Eric has trumped Erik consistently in the rankings, but if you’re of Scandinavian descent, Erik remains a valid heritage choice.
I’m tempted to group Eric with names like Zachary – they have plenty of history, and enough use that they cannot be considered trendy. But they’re not quite classics like William or John, either.
Eric has been a popular pick in recent years. He entered the Top 100 in 1950, peaked at #13 from 1973 to 1976 and remains in the Top 100 (at #83) today.
Erik peaked at #64 in 1980. Spellings Erich and Erick have also charted. ER’s Eriq La Salle appears to be the rare Eriq-with-a-q.
While all agree that Eiríkr is the original version of the name, there are competing schools of thought about the name’s meaning:
- Most link the name to the element ei – ever – and ríkr – ruler, which is usually translated as enduring ruler;
- Others suggest that the first part comes from ehre, a Germanic element meaning honorable;
- Lastly, some link the ei element to the word for sole or alone.
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.
King Eric IX of Sweden also became a saint. He ruled in the 1100s and was responsible for converting his realm to Christianity.
The other famous early Eric is Erik the Red, the Norwegian explorer and father of Leif. He’s best known for exploring Greenland.
While the name has remained in use in Scandinavia, it 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. Despite the fact that Eric ends badly, the book raised awareness of the name.
Modern Erics are legion. For starters, I’ll list:
- Ariel’s prince in The Little Mermaid, making Eric a Disney name;
- A very different animated Eric, usually called Cartman, on South Park;
- Early 20th century French composer Erik Satie;
- Monty Python comedian Eric Idle;
- Two television Erics wear similar last names – Topher Grace played Eric Forman on That ’70s Show; Omar Epps plays Dr. Eric Foreman on House;
- Then there’s guitar legend Eric Clapton. If he’s inspired some parents to name their daughters Layla, doubtless a few sons have worn his name, too.
Add in a handful of athletes, politicians and others and you can find a successful Eric in nearly any field of endeavor.
It’s also worth noting that Arthurian legends include a Sir Erec, a knight of the Round Table. However, I can’t find enough information about the origins of his name to conclude if he’s related to Eric, too. It’s probably one of the more awkward spelling options today.
Overall, Eric makes for a nice compromise. He’s never topped the charts, like Jason, so he doesn’t feel dated. He’s familiar, masculine without being aggressive, and wears well on a child or an adult.
If Eric has any shortfall, it is the lack of nickname options. But he’s quite appealing on his own.