Thanks to Lulu for suggesting Pierce as our Baby Name of the Day.
Pierce Brosnan has gone from the small screen’s dashing Remington Steele to the storied James Bond. In between, he’s proved himself a versatile actor – and a great baby namer, too!
Pierce started out as a surname, derived from Piers. Piers takes us back to Peter, which takes us all the way back to the Bible and to Simon, the apostle Jesus called his rock. In Greek, the word for stone is petros – and so Simon is known to history as St. Peter, and we’ve named children in his honor for generations.
While English speakers pronounce Piers and Pierce differently today – peerz versus rhymes-with-fierce – back in the day, spellings were far less standard and I’m not certain of the pronunciation. Peter was a popular name, and surnames like Perrin are also related.
Besides Brosnan, some other notable Pierces include:
- South Carolina solider-turned-statesman Pierce Butler signed the US Constitution.
- US President Franklin Pierce held office in the 1850s.
- Fictional M.A.S.H. doctor Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce is among the most memorable of television characters.
- One of my favorite uses is Glee’s Brittany S. Pierce – she claims Britney Spears stole her name.
- Television also gives us Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne on Community - his full name is the outlandish Piercinald Anastasia.
There are many more who answered to the last name, and doubtless that’s why Pierce was steadily ranked in the Top 1000 most years from the 1880s into the 1930s. He made it as high as #404 in 1892. I went searching for the reason for his sudden rise.
Could it be that nineteenth century parents were inspired by an outlaw from the Wild West? Charley Pierce was among the scofflaws making headlines in the 1890s. A former cowboy turned bandit, Pierce rode with the Dalton Gang and the Oklahombres. He’d meet a violent death before the end of the decade, but it tracks with Pierce’s peak. I wonder if nineteenth century parents were borrowing names from the newspapers.
More recently, Pierce caught parents’ attention when the television series Remington Steele made waves in the 1980s. Pierce has fit in well with several trends since:
- He’s something of a preppy surname.
- He’s also, thanks to Brosnan, viewed as Irish – a plus for a surname these days.
- As a verb, pierce conjures up arrows and other mildly violent actions. It comes from the Old French percier, likely from the Latin per – through.
- He fits with single syllable names for boys, especially other verb choices like Chase and Gage.
There’s also something intense, even intelligent about pierce – a piercing stare, a piercing question. And yet, Pierce shows no signs of a stratospheric rise anytime soon. He seems like a steady option, a modern choice for boys.
He’s a great spin on Peter, and if you’re looking for something clearly masculine, seldom heard, and yet instantly familiar, it is hard to do better than Pierce.