A football (or soccer ball) icon.

The 2014 World Cup is over, but the treasure trove of international names?  That’s left a lasting impression.

Thanks to Christina for suggesting Arjen as our Baby Name of the Day.

Arjen Robben plays for Bayern Munich most of the year, but he returned to his native land to play for the Netherlands national team during the World Cup.  He’s crazy fast, and was named 2013 Footballer of the Year in Germany, so he grabbed a lot of headlines during the tournament.

But what’s with that name?

It sounds a little bit like argentum – the Latin word for silver, source of the French l’argent and the English argent – though the latter is rare outside of heraldry.  But Arjen has nothing to do with the color or the metal.

Instead, it comes from Arjan, a Dutch form of Adrian – or Adriaan. A handful of men who used it as a diminutive, like footballer Arjan de Zeeuw was born Adrianus.

In Dutch, the ‘j’ makes a ‘y’ sound – AHR yen – which might make him even less accessible to an English-speaking audience.

According to the official Dutch statistics, in 2013:

  • 13 boys were named Arjen, which makes it the 834th most popular name.
  • Arjan was given to 14 boys.
  • Another 18 boys were named Adrian.
  • 20 boys were called Adrianus, which translates to a ranking of #625.
  • There were 41 Adriaans – making that the 368th most common choice.

Even if everyone of those boys christened Adrian, Adriaan, and Adrianus will be called Arjen (or Arjan), that’s a pretty rare choice.

And yet it isn’t a totally new one.  An eighteenth century Dutch astronomer was an Arjen.  And in Lethal Weapon 2, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover faced off against a bad guy from South Africa called Arjen Rudd.

A handful of Arjens have been born in the US in recent years – 20 in 2013, up from 7 in 2007.  That’s almost certainly a credit to Robben.

Arjan is more popular, but this is where the name’s story takes a twist.

While it isn’t common, Arjan is an Indian name.  In the sixteenth century, Guru Arjan was a Sikh Guru, a compiler of sacred texts and an organizer of teachers of the faith.  So it isn’t a surprise to see 22 new Arjans born in the US in 2003, and 5 back in 1990.

Arjan is also an Albanian form of Adrian, so odds are that those newborns represent a mix of backgrounds.

For parents seeking a modern name with Dutch roots and a pan-global vibe, Arjen has promise.  He’s rare and maybe a little bit complicated thanks to the j/y pronunciation issue.  But he’s unexpected and handsome, too – a name to consider for parents after the truly unusual.

What do you think of Arjen?  Is he wearable in an English-speaking country?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I have a Dutch friend named Arian (are-ee-en). I feel this name has tons of potential to be more popular in an English-speaking country, but think changing that one letter makes all the difference.

  2. I have a friend named Arian (R-ee-an, not air-ee-an). It’s a traditional Persian name. This spelling makes the name more accessible in English. Arien would work too.

  3. This feels like an updated version of Aiden. Very international, though! I wonder if it will sound as ethnic if it goes mainstream. Interesting to watch! Thanks, Abby!

  4. Thanks for the write-up Abby. I love how you dig in and find similar names across cultures! I agree with your assessment of “unexpected and handsome”.