Eric: Baby Name of the Day

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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  1. Sarah says

    My husband is an Eric, as well. I’ve grown to like the name, but he’s convinced we need an Eric Jr. and there’s no way around it. I am NOT interested in any juniors. I like to think he’s kidding, but he’s probably not. Luckily, my pick is the girls name, so I’ll cross my fingers that I get nothing but girls. Juniors cause too much confusion and issues!! He was born in the late 70’s when it was really popular. I’m surprised to still see new little Eric’s, considering it sounds a bit dated to me (along with his brother Jason).

    • Allure says

      Tell him that you’re ok with Eric as a middle name for you kid in honor of his dad, but not as a first name, that you want your kid to have a fresh name, and a seperate identity from his dad.

      And I agree, Eric is quite dated these days.

  2. Silvie says

    I love this name. I’ve dated two Eric’s (I blame Disney). I disagree and think that this name is a classic without sounding stuffy or boring the way William and John can.

  3. Smismar says

    My BFF just had a baby on Saturday and this is his name (Erik)!! They aren’t “out” on FB, so I’m dying to tell someone. I love it! MN is Richard. Daddy is from Germany, so they needed something pronounceable both there and Stateside. Good choice, IMHO!!

  4. chaneltara says

    To go along with Photoquilty, My Erik has never gone by Err or Rick/Ricky. I asked him the other day if he ever was called Ricky, and he said he didn’t even realize that it was a nickname option but he hated it. He actually used to think he didn’t suit an Erik, and went by Alex (his middle name is Alexander) for a short period of time in his 20’s. (I like his full name Erik Alexander, it means “Ever Powerful Defender of Men”…Awesome name meaning.

  5. SophieGray says

    My brother’s name is Erich :) He’s always hated his spelling though!! I don’t mind Eric – he’s forever 80s to me though, as my brother used to whine that his name was boring because there were so many Erics growing up in late 80s Australia, and seldom any Sophies or Juliets, and Ariel’s Prince (my sister was obsessed with the tale!) He’s strong and protective and yet rather suave too :)

    He’s not at all popular in Australia – well, not in my state at least. He doesn’t even chart in the Top 100.

  6. says

    Eric is very sauve to me and very grown up. I have known some children called Eric’s friends children but it is a name passed down. Its almost hard for children to fill for me it just a very adult name

  7. Christina Fonseca says

    I have always had Eric on my Top 20 list. My dh has a son in his 20s named Derek. Had he and I been together at that point in our lives, he would have been Eric.

  8. Laney McDonald says

    I love Eric. My boyfriend is an Eric and we are thinking about using it as a middle name if we have a son. We both agreed that he wouldn’t be called Eric Jr. no matter how much we love the name. lol

  9. says

    I have a little seven-year-old Erik in my class this year. He’s named after his father, Erik Sr. No Swedish heritage for them — as far as I can tell, they’re 100% Mexican. But Erik has become mainstream enough to suit any ethnic background.

    It is a very good name. Like Lola said, it’s not one I often think about because it just feels so *normal*. But it is strong, masculine, handsome, and rather friendly-sounding, so I can see why someone would choose it.

  10. says

    I have several friends named Eric/Erik and thoroughly like the name without loving it. Probably because it’s completely normal and normal tends to go under both our collective radars for our own use. But it’s perfectly fine on the grownups we know! :) I have yet to meet a little Eric/Erik. The youngest one I know of is 20 this year. I do like his lack of major nickname potential and it’s spiffy enough in sound. Eric Idle is my third favorite Python, behind John & Terry (Cleese & Jones) and my favorite of the bunch in drag (I think because he was the most feminine looking to me as a kid)!

    Anyway, Eric is a lovely name, and one I wouldn’t mind seeing on a little one these days. A solid :thumbsup: for Eric/Erik!

  11. appellationmountain says

    My (half-Swedish) father was an Eric, too! Which makes my baby brother Eric Jr. And, as it happened, my first serious crush was also an Eric.

    So I have to say that I do truly adore the name.

    Photoquilty, my mother did NOT want a junior and attempted to call my baby brother Ricky. But it didn’t stick.

  12. photoquilty says

    It took me a while to get used to Erik-with-a-K, but now that I’ve been with my husband for 10 years (we’ll be married 8 in April) it looks more “correct” than Eric. My in-laws chose the name and the spelling based on their heritage – they have a strong Swedish line. My husband was born in 1979, so it is totally in line with my in-laws’ attitude that the name was on its way out, popularity-wise, when they picked it. There aren’t many nicknames. My husband would never let me call him Err, but my grandfather did used to try to call him Ricky and Rick.

  13. chaneltara says

    My husband is an Erik! I completely love it, and actually squeed when he told me his name (which earned me a reeeeally strange look!). I think it’s so handsome, and love how cool Erik looks over Eric. He said his dad chose the name off a box of cigars, and then suggested it to his mom, and she loved it. I think it’s a very powerful and dominant name, which doesn’t quite suit his personality, he’s so laid back, he’d make a better Alex or Sam. I would totally have a Erik Jr. if Erik wanted, but he doesn’t. We even threw around Erikson, but that’s not really our taste. Great name!


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