It’s a colorful surname name with an equestrian vibe.
Thanks to Taylor for suggesting her daughter’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Bayard.
Bayard: Chestnut Brown
Back in the day, badius was the Latin word for a shade of chestnut brown. In Old French, it became bai, as in bay – the color that we so often associate with horses.
Think of Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races,” where the lyrics tell us “somebody bet on the bay.”
We might not immediately think of Bay as a color name, but it is, just as much as Gray or Ruby or Violet or Blue. Name your child Bay, and some might say it brings to mind bodies of water or howling wolves or bay windows.
But Bay and Bayard should also bring to mind the most famous horse in all of medieval Europe.
Bayard: Medieval Legend
The story goes like this: Charlemagne made a gift of a magnificent horse to the knight Renaud. The story first appears in the twelfth century epic Les Quatre Fils de Aymon, penned by Renaud de Montauban.
Renaud’s horse was called Bayard, and he was gifted with incredible talents. He could carry Renaud and his three brothers, possessed incredible strength, and could understand human speech.
Then Renaud quarrels with Charlemagne’s nephew, and kills him in a fight. The brothers must flee court, and they do so with the help of their trusty steed. Eventually, Renaud and Charlemagne are reconciled, and Renaud is forced to return Bayard to the ruler. Charlemagne plans to drown the horse, but instead Bayard escapes and lives in the woods.
He’s big in Belgium, where there’s a rock formation named after the horse, said to be formed when Bayard split the horse split the rocks with his hooves. There’s also a statue of the brothers’ famous escape.
Here’s a curious shift: Bayard was heroic at first, but over time, the reckless aspects of his character were emphasized. By the time Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, two centuries after Renaud de Montauban, Bayard was a daredevil who took unnecessary risks. Chaucer gave the name to several horses, but they were far less admirable.
Bayard: Surname and Given Name
As a surname, Bayard may relate to horses, to hair color, or to reckless behavior. Or it may be an occupational surname derived from baiart, the Middle English word for a cart.
There’s a Delaware family by the name – they produced six US Senators between 1780 and the early twentieth century. Photography pioneer Hippolyte Bayard wore the surname in the nineteenth century, and there was also an American Civil War general who answered to the surname.
As a first name, there’s nineteenth century poet and essayist Bayard Taylor, as well as civil rights activist Bayard Taylor.
Bayard: 2015 Possibility
Five boys were given the name in 2013, and I’ve heard of a few other children with the name – boys and girls.
Overall, it’s a true rarity, seldom heard. And yet I think Bayard is a very wearable possibility. Easy short form Bay is cool and breezy, sharing the playground with River and Mae.
But the full name has a preppy, buttoned-up feeling, making Bayard a buddy for Parker and Sullivan.
It’s a striking, distinctive name with one of the quirkier backstories I’ve found. If you’re hoping for a modern feel with a medieval plot line, Bayard might be the choice for you.
Frank Shepherd says
Try searching Pierre du Terrail…. my ancestor’s story might bring the bayard name even more excitement
This is actually a family name for me and the southern drawl that I’ve always heard it spoken with makes the name sound so much nicer. It’s a boy name in my family but we have always pronounced it “Baird” or “Bared”. My baby boy now has the name Bayard for a middle name.
C in DC says
There’s an episode of Globe Trekker that features a rancher named Bayard Fox. I think of it being a very rugged name. The way he pronounced it almost sounded like Baird.
Um, not for me.
*backs out of post quickly, content to be a hypocrite for loving Scarlet and Violet*
*returns to post briefly because she forgot something*
Incidentally, I love Bay. Amongst the 100 odd middles I considered for Ottilie. Bay made it through to the final twenty or so.
That is a list I would LOVE to see.
Haha, probably not the place but here’s a sample of the more ‘realistic’ ones:
Nell, Olive, Sabine, Theda, Lilias, Ida (EE da), Frances, Betsy, Sylvie, Jean, Dulcie, Constance, Blithe, Beatrix, Silke, Elke, Gretel, Violet, Anouk (over Annie/Anne), Alafair, Edith, Hazel, Imogen, Polly, Dimity, Mabel (said may BELL. May was her due date – let’s not go there), Tuathla.
I regret not using Alafair.
Wanted Alice but my Nan had a truly vile personal association and I just couldn’t do it.
For a few weeks prior to her arrival, she was Ottilie Violet (which Bonnie insisted she still was for a short period following). I felt like I was naming a new plant hybrid (seriously, Violet, Juniper AND Ivy together?), so I let it go 😛
Great list! Love Dimity, Elke, Gretel, Anouk, Theda, Lilias … wait, forget it – I love the list. And Alafair? Gorgeous.
Too bad about Alice, but there are times when you just have to let it go …
Love Bayard, very romantic.
Thank you for doing this post! We were set on having a girl named Bay for years but it took me a while to find a suitable longer form. I am big on having a formal name so the child has more than one name option.
When I first came across the name Bayard, I did not like it at all but over the next few weeks it grew on me. We only call her Bay but if she prefers Bayard in the future, she certainly won’t be one of 5 like I was with the name Taylor.
I do agree that Bayard is better suited for a boy, though. It does have a fairly masculine sound. Thanks again for featuring her name!
My pleasure! And I know EXACTLY what you mean about being one in a crowd. It is something I hoped to avoid for my kids, too. (Successfully in one case. The other one? Not so much.)
I kinda like it on a boy. Very interesting back story to say the least.
I’m also fascinated by the story, but I’m not keen on the name.
Bayard reminds me of Bernard and (Reynard the Fox). Which is a fine name, but I hate the way Americans say bur-NAAHRRd. I’m assuming Bayard is BEY-erd, which is better, but still clunky and masculine.
Bay is really cute, but feels insubstantial for a full name.
I read about the basset hound, Whitney, but I’ve yet to see the movie – good to know the character is an appealing one.
I’m a long time fan of Bay, but I haven’t a clue how to get to it as a nn. Bailey is out – just too popular – but I’m fascinated by Bayard’s story.
Like you said, Whitney – for baby #56,001!
Whitney Gigandet says
In the recent Alice in Wonderland movie with Johnny Depp, they added a sweet basset hound character by the name of Bayard. I fell in love with the name in the movie and now it’s on my perpetual list of names for the 56 thousand children I will never have 😉
Sarah A says
This is not my cup of tea. I think it sounds like a brother to Bailey in a matchy sibset. It also looks like Baird which makes me think of the unfortunate last names as first names trend. I do like the medieval history behind it though.
Nicolette Sari says
All I see when I look at this is barn yard. Sorry…but thats all I see…it might sound lovely if someone said it but written down thats all I get.
Hmmm … I normally like last names as names, but this one doesnt do it for me.. and the nn Bay is not that appealing either. I could see it being a nice choice if it had strong family connections, but this name is not for me.. maybe its the harsh yArd sound