Editor’s note: This post was originally published on March 11, 2010 and was substantially revised and republished on March 25, 2013.
Trade names are hot, and if boys can be called Mason and Cooper. Why not this equally workaday appellation?
Thanks to Corinne for suggesting Shepherd as Name of the Day.
Shepherd peeked into the US Top 1000 just once, in 1887. It takes some digging to find a real-life bearer of the name. I’m guessing that most of those early Shepherds were wearing family surnames.
While some occupational surnames are mysterious, their trades unknown in modern life – think Tanner - or simply forgotten – like Thatcher, Shepherd is transparent. From the Old English sceap – sheep – and hierde – herd, the name means to round up the livestock. Crook-carrying nomads have done this work for generations.
Archer might shoot arrows. Taylor is all about stitching. But a shepherd’s flock can be spiritual as well as woolly. The Latin term pastor literally means shepherd, and pastorem means “to lead to pasture.”
The parallel between sheep and souls isn’t new. The second century work The Shepherd of Hermas, remains an influential piece of Christian writing today and was once considered scripture by some. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I penned Cura Pastoralis. Plenty of churches are known as Good Shepherd and Jesus himself is often depicted as a shepherd.
If you’re looking for a masculine choice with a healthy dose of spiritual sensibility, Shepherd is an option.
Notable bearers of the name include:
- Shepard Fairey, a street artist with serious high brow status. Among other notable images, he designed the Obama HOPE poster. Shepard was originally his middle name – his first name? Frank.
- Shepperd Strudwick was an actor from the 1930s through the 80s, known for a handful of small roles in notable films. He was born John Shepperd.
- In the 1950s, Shepard J. Crumpacker, Jr. served as a Congressman from Indiana.
- Shepard Menken actor graduated from the radio to other mediums, frequently working as a voice actor. His most notable role was as the animated, valiant mongoose Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in the 1975 film adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling tale.
Shepherd is on the rise in recent years. Chalk it up to two small screen influences: a television reporter and a space odyssey.
First there’s FOX Report with Shepard Smith. The FOX News anchor was born David Shepard Smith Jr. His career has progressed steadily throughout the 2000s.
There’s also the short-lived, but much-lauded Joss Whedon production Firefly, later reborn for the big screen as Serenity. It’s a blend of the Wild West meets outer space in the twenty-sixth century. Shepherd Book was a pastor of an unspecified Christian faith. Shepherd was his title, but his first name was never mentioned in the series.
Shep is the logical short form – but somehow Shep feels like a dog name. This name works best if you’re inclined towards nickname-free options.
Overall, Shepherd makes for a intriguing choice. More than 100 boys received the name in 2011, suggesting that he’s not completely undiscovered.