If James Madison alumni can name their daughters after alma mater, why not proud graduates of this Texas university?

Thanks to Joy for suggesting Baylor as Baby Name of the Day.

As Joy pointed out, Baylor is almost a smoosh of two popular surname choices: Bailey and Taylor. If he didn’t exist, you can imagine him being created, along the lines of Rylan or Kyler.

But Baylor does exist. Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor – usually referred to as R.E.B. Baylor – was one of three founders of Waco, Texas’ Baylor University back in 1845. It’s far from his only achievement. Baylor had a long career in politics in Kentucky and Alabama before moving to the Lone Star State – which was actually not yet a state on his arrival. R.E.B. helped draft the Texas state constitution, too.

Baylor was a busy guy, and he didn’t establish the institution of higher learning that bears his name solo. He and William Tryon initially suggested the idea at a gathering of Baptist church leaders. Reverend Matthew Hopkins got involved shortly afterwards, taking the lead raising money for the new school. Over the course of the nineteenth century, many changes took place – for a time, Baylor Female College operated independently. There was a merger with Waco University. But mostly, Baylor grew and grew and became well-established as a liberal arts college and member of the Big 12.

There are several possible sources for R.E.B.’s surname:

  • Spelled Bailor, it could be an English surname related to bail, as in the money posted to temporarily spring someone from the pokey. Bail has Latin and French roots, but ultimately relates to a word that meant something along the lines of to bear a burden;
  • Bailer and Beiler are German occupational surnames for those who work with barrels;
  • Böhler was bestowed upon those who came from Saxony, where more than one village was called Böhle or Böhlen. I lost the thread there; bohl could mean bald or could be a term signifying kinship, or I could be missing it entirely;
  • Some link Baylor to horses. Bay is used to describe a chestnut brown color, via the Latin badius, originally of horses.

Logical short form Bay also adds a hint of nature name style to Baylor. Couldn’t all those boys named River lead to a Bay?

And yet, Baylor is subject to being viewed as a nouveau coinage. If you have Baylor on your family tree or your college diploma, he’s a meaningful choice. Otherwise, you’d have to consider whether introducing your son as “Taylor with a B, like the university” will bother you.

If you’re up for the spelling, Baylor feels like a stronger option than some invented surnames. He’s yet to crack the US Top 1000 and even in 2009, Bayron was slightly more popular. But along with Baylan and Bayne, parents may discover Baylor yet.

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. Our daughter is named Baylor. My husbands great-grandfather’s name was Baylor, named after is mothers sir name and brought back to life for our daughter. He was also a beloved professor at the San Diego State University. They have a scholarship in his name and one of their geology building to this day is named after him. My childhood best friends were also named Bailey and Taylor like you mentioned above so loved that it was also a nod to the both fo them. We often call her Bay. And though we’ve had one person say like a hay baler? Mostly everyone else loves it. Just inquire enough she’s not met anyone with her name but familiar enough it’s easy. We also often get asked if we’re Baylor alum. We leaned into it and bought her a Baylor cheer outfit

  2. Love the name Baylor and am considering it for baby #4 if it’s a boy. I love how it sounds with our last name and love the shortened version Bay, which has special meaning for our family. My other three children also have short names (or short nicknames), so this fits well with them. I also love the fact that I have not heard this name at all in our area. So hard to choose a name nowadays that you haven’t heard a hundred times already!

  3. My baby boy Baylor is 18 months and we have yet to meet another. (Surprise, surprise). Like Jillian mentioned, it was the name of a character in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and that is where I found it. When people ask, I usually say I found it in a book, I just don’t mention which one! And you are dead-on with the introduction, it is “like Taylor with a B, just like the college.” Although I only say it when I get a quizzical look after saying his name which happens rather infrequently. People must be getting used to wacky names? I decided to go that route after naming my daughter Madeline after her great-grandmother. Madeline who currently has 3 other Madeline’s in her class. Oh well, you can’t win them all!

    1. My son’s name is Baylor! He was born the same year that book came out, and I almost fell out of my chair when I read that. 🙂 I had already decided on his name, as I was born in Waco, TX – home of Baylor University.

  4. I find it believable that people would like the name, but to my ears it is just as annoying as Bailey and Kayleigh and Taylor and so on.

    In light of it being the name of R. E. B. Baylor (I’m not American, forgive me) I could understand some parents logic but on the other hand it could attract psuedo-intellectual types as well.