Baby Name of the Day: Adair

English: Glenveagh Castle. "Overlooking L...

Looking for a lighter form of the clunky Edgar? Searching for a truly distinctive name that leads to the heard-everywhere Addie?

Thanks to Kristin for suggesting Adair as our Baby Name of the Day.

Edgar stretches back to the tenth century English king Edgar, picking up a literary sheen thanks to a fictional Edgar in a novel by Sir Walter Scott, and writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edgar Allan Poe. He occupied the US Top 100 into the 1920s; at #216 today he’s not rare, but he’s also not exactly stylish.

Adair first appears as a surname. The old Anglo-Saxon version of Edgar was Eadgar; drop the g sound and Adair and Adare follow. It’s equally common on the map, in both spellings.

In the nineteenth century, Captain John Adair made a mint in the US, then returned home to Ireland intent of building a palatial country home to rival the royal estate Balmoral. Adair’s Glenveagh Castle nearly succeeded. Adair’s widow, the American-born Cornelia, opened their home to wounded soldiers during World War I.

Other notables to wear the surname include athletes and scientists, as well as:

  • If you’ve seen the Cary Grant classic Arsenic and Old Lace, then you’ve seen legendary vaudeville actress Jean Adair – she originated the role of the cheerfully murderous Aunt Martha on Broadway, too;
  • Poet Virginia Hamilton Adair;
  • Nineteenth century Cherokee Nation leader William Penn Adair – cowboy comedian Will Rogers was named in his honor;
  • For over a century, there was an Adair Baronetcy, created in 1838, and extinct as of 1988.

Adair has never appeared in the US Top 1000, but that could change for two reasons.

First up: the short-lived Showtime series Dead Like Me. The main character was Georgia, called George, an eighteen year old slacker with a dead end job who meets a bizarre accidental death, only to find that she’s been assigned to another dead end job – literally. She’s part of the local crew of grim reapers, responsible for helping souls cross over into the afterlife. Daisy Adair is one of George’s fellow reapers, a former actress who claims to have died on the set of Gone With the Wind. The show ran for just two seasons, plus a direct-to-DVD movie.

It’s an obscure reference, but in the current US rankings, we find:

  • The fast-rising surname Addison, #11 in 2010;
  • Adalyn, #256, with the more traditional Adeline at #322;
  • The regal Adelaide at #434;
  • Compact Ada at #552;
  • The spare Adele at #908.

Oodles of variant spellings dot the rankings. Beyond the Top 1000, there are even more options leading to Addie, like:

  • Adalia
  • Adalina
  • Adamaris
  • Adelie

All of those are far more popular than Adair, only given to 22 girls in 2010. 67 boys received the name, suggesting that Adair remains possible for boys as well.

For the moment, Adair occupies that rare space – a gender neutral, undiscovered gem. The “dare” sound lends the name an adventurous spirit, while the history provides an anchor. It’s a fun refresh on Edgar, or even possibly a creative feminine form.

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25 Comments

My two-year old daughter is named Adair and I love it more every day. My mother’s family is Scott/Irish and I went on a trip to Ireland with dear friends and stayed on the grounds of Adare Manor – so I’ll always have a positive association with that beautiful place.

I’m female, 20 – my mom named me Adair. Apparently it goes back a ways as a last name in our scottish family tree (just for males though). My mom just liked it as a first name…

I love my name Adair, but I’ve gone by Addie all my life. I’ve never thought of it as gender neutral before, that’s interesting!

Adair is a first name for females in my family, going back a couple of generations now. We pronounce it Uh-dair. I think it is a beautiful name, and it is difficult for me to imagine it for a boy.

i stumbled upon this site while doing research for my first name… i’m a female Adair, and i love my name! i’ve seen it pronounced A-dair (a character on the tv show Upright Citizens Brigade), but i pronounce mine as Uh-dair. i’ve always received compliments on my name’s uniqueness. it’s fun being the only Adair in town!

I named my daughter Adair, she was born in 2007. We are American, of Celtic ancestry so I wanted something Celtic and unusual but not hard to spell or pronounce. I have an Irish name and it’s been mangled every which way– I have to repeatedly spell it and correct people’s pronunciation, so I didn’t want to plague her with a name like that.

We pronounce it uh-dare. Have received tons of compliments on it!

Adair has been completely stuck in my head since Monday, and I think I finally figured out why. The first European child born in the New World was named Virginia Dare, which I have always thought was the most lovely name. Adair has that same vibe–daring yet ladylike.

It also has a nature vibe to it that makes it sound fresh – the meaning is Scottish Gaelic for “oak tree ford”. I love the Edgar connection so I’d probably use it for Team Blue. Team Pink has a lot of names already 🙂

I like it, but on a boy, not a girl. I think I’d prefer it in the middle spot simply due to its “a dare” sound, but it would be a nice way to honour an Edgar.

Adair for a girl! Love it, love it, love it! If I wanted to go the unisex direction, I’d use Ellis and Adair for girls – Elle and Ada. Oh, I also like it for a boy’s middle name…

There’s a female contestant on The Glee Project right now named Ellis – I think she’s 18 or 19. But I do know a boy Ellis, too.

Someone else just told me that, Abby! I’ve been trying to push Ellis (for a girl) on NB for, like, a year, and so far I’ve only got one supporter really. Ha!

Adair makes me think of Fred Astaire, so the name feels graceful and elegant with some real panache. I also like that it’s a short name with the accent on the second syllable, so it makes a great middle name.
Ruby Adair
Frederick Adair
Jasper Adair

Growing up the only Adair’s I knew were females, so I automatically think girl though I know that it was originally and traditionally a boys name.
I really do love Adair, Adele, Ada, Adelaide…I even like Addison and Adeline/Adelyn and I’d probably like them even more if they weren’t sooo popular. Though these all pale in comparison to my new favorite: Adelais (or Adalay) which has the sophisticated sound of Adelaide without the harsh LAID sound that bugs me.

I live in Oklahoma and there’s an Adair here that’s a really small town. When I hear the name all I can think of is the weatherman talking about Adair, Oklahoma. Outside of Oklahoma though… I could see people using it for boys. It would probably sound even cooler on a girl though because it’s unexpected.

Chantilly, I was just about to mention that there’s an Adair County in Oklahoma! I bet they’re both named after William Penn Adair. I wonder if it’s too much of a stretch to use Adair as a Cherokee heritage name? I really like the sound, for either a girl or a boy.

I live in Adair County, OK! What I’m curious about is how most people pronounce it outside of OK. I lived in Tennessee briefly, and I remember a woman’s last name was Adair. However, she pronounced it uh-Dare. Here in Adair County it’s A-dare.

Definitely a-dare. Almost no difference in emphasis on the syllables for me – but then, my vowels are a little wacky thanks to my mid-Atlantic accent.

I love Adair for a girl. I think it sounds very classy and stylish. Adair and Blythe,another one of my faves, would make great sisters.

As a Yank, Adair strikes me as ALL boy. I think it’s the ‘dare’ that makes me think so.
Snazzy, simple and neat, I really like Adair, even though I, personally am more likely to use Edgar. I like Edgar WAY more!

I know an Adare in her mid-twenties. Her sister’s name is Lucinda. A very stylish pair–well, they are New Yorkers 🙂

This is one of the names I can see working well in Australia, as it has strong Irish-Scottish roots. We have had our own distinguished Adair, Adair “Chil” Blain, who was an surveyor and MP, served in two World Wars and was also a POW.

It’s also an aristocratic surname – the Adair Baronets were created in the 18th century for Robert Shafto Adair, whom the song “Bonny Bobby Shafto” was written about.

I went to school with a girl called Adair, but have seen both male and female Adairs. The trouble is, they all seem to be in the 30-40 age range – is this too “mum and dad” age for children?

There’s also a store that sells linen called Adairs, not sure whether that would people off or not.