Smith: Baby Name of the Day

SmithThis is among the most common of the surnames, and yet relatively rare in the first spot.

Our Baby Name of the Day is Smith.

Once upon a time, a smith was a skilled metalworker.  The word might share roots with smite – to strike, from smitan, an Old English word meaning to hammer.  Medieval smiths fashioned swords and plowshares, and later, there were specialized goldsmiths and silversmiths and so on.

Over the years, it became a super common surname, so popular that Smith was almost anonymous, right up there with John Doe.  (Though – surprise! – parents seem reluctant to name their sons John Smith.)

But how about Smith?  Plenty of surnames make it to first spot.

If you were watching the final season of Sex and the City, you might immediately think of one character to wear the name.  Remember when Samantha Jones fell for a much younger man, a waiter hoping to jump start his acting career?  He was named Jerry Jerrod.  Samantha renamed him Smith Jerrod, and with helped him leave waiting tables in his past.  He, in turn, ends up being a thoroughly likable, decent guy – among the best of the boyfriends.

The series put Smith in the spotlight from 2004 through 2010 – the final season, followed by a pair of big screen sequels.  In 2003, just two dozen boys were given the name.  Fast forward to 2010 and that number was 78.  By 2013, there were 121 newborn Smiths.

Smith is catching on with parents beyond those who watched the adventures of Carrie and company.

Why?  Some parents might be reviving a family surname.  Some are probably looking for an alternative to Mason and Jackson.

But this name also benefits from a tough guy edge, for two reasons:

  • First, there’s Alias Smith and Jones, an ABC series from the early 1970s.  Featuring two outlaws trying to shed their scofflaw ways, it fit the pattern of television westerns.  While the series isn’t as renowned as, say, Gunsmoke, the title came from the legendary Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  There’s a line in the movie where the duo assumes those identities.
  • But here’s the biggie: Smith and Wesson is a gun manufacturer.  He didn’t make this list of dangerous names for boys, mostly because I find him subtle, especially compared to Gunner.  But if Remington can get a boost from his association with firearms, why not Smith?

In fact, Smith and Remington have a lot in common – though the fictional detective turned real sleuth played by Pierce Brosnan was far more famous.

There’s also 1908s indie band The Smiths, and, to make this more ambiguous, an actress named Smith Cho, who you might remember from the 2008 reboot of Knight Rider.

On a more obscure note, nineteenth century US President Martin van Buren and his wife, Hannah, had five sons: Abraham, John, Martin Jr., Winfield, and yes, Smith.   Abraham was named after Martin’s father and John after Hannah’s dad – but there’s no obvious namesake for Smith.

Then again, Smith was actually more common back in the day.  While Smith hasn’t cracked the US Top 1000 recently, he regularly charted in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Overall, Smith fits with other rising surname picks like Fox and Wilder.  He’s a little different, a little daring – and overall, a fresh possibility worthy of consideration.

What do you think of Smith?

Comments

  1. Jen says

    I know a little Smith! He’s pretty sweet, it wears well as a first name. I’ve never asked if it’s a family name, it’s not mom’s maiden name.

  2. says

    There is a short novel by J.R.R. Tolkien called “Smith of Wootton Major”. The hero of the story is given the ability to travel to the land of Faery, and, for me as a child anyway, one of the most enchanting things is that Smith’s ability shows up a shining star on his forehead.

    It’s an extremely charming, and in a way also a sad story, but with a great beauty attached to the sadness. When I read it as a junior name nerd, I had never considered or heard of Smith as a first name before, but after reading the story, I could understand why people might like it.

    (In the story, Smith is the blacksmith’s son and later blacksmith himself, so not clear – or I can’t remember – whether’s a title or a personal name, but it made me think of it as a first name).

    I don’t think it’s for me, but thanks to Tolkien, I can still see why it might be perfect for someone else.

  3. Julie says

    I kind of like Smith. I’ve often thought about how those with really common surnames (à-la Jackson, Green and Wilson) are the lucky ones who can pull off the usual first names like Flavia or Seneca… Maybe those of us with uncommon surnames should try using the extremely common surname in the first name spot… Smith Willauer, Jones Nordquist, Campbell Schwarzkopf.

  4. says

    How weird! I was just telling my husband that I love Smith as a first name. McGowan is a family name on my side, and I have been considering using Gowan or Smith. Smith is sporty, intellectual, refined, and cowboyish– a well-rounded feel.

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