This post was originally published on June 15, 2010. It was substantially revised and re-posted on November 10, 2014.
From Beverly Hills, 90210 to a town near you, nearly everyone knows a nice guy with this name.
Thanks to Urban Angel for suggesting Brandon as Baby Name of the Day.
Brandon: From the 1950s to 90210
Decades before the zip code 90210 became associated with prime time drama, the name Brandon broke into the US Top 1000.
It wasn’t completely unknown before midcentury. A handful of newborns received the name in the early twentieth century, but Brandon name was very rare until the 1950s.
English singer Johnny Brandon might get some credit for the name’s rise. Or maybe it was parents looking for something similar to the Brad- names. In the early 1950s, Brad, Bradley, and Bradford were all on the rise.
In Kathleen Woodwiss’ 1972 bestselling romance novel, The Flame and the Flower, the hero answered to Brandon. Flame was huge in the 1970s, the equivalent of Fifty Shades of Gray today. There’s a definite increase in baby Brandons during the years post-publication.
Brandon cracked the US Top 20 in the 1980s. After Beverly Hills, 90210’s resident nice guy hit the small screen, the name tipped over into Top 10, and stayed there from 1992 to 1998.
How much did the series matter? The show wasn’t much for launching names. Other characters’ names were actually out of step with trends – Donna, Steve, and Brandon’s twin sister Brenda, all wore names that were appropriate, but certainly not trend-setting. Only nice guy Brandon, and, of course, bad boy Dylan, stood out as taste-makers.
But young Mr. Walsh was likable, and the numbers suggest that Brandon’s long stay in the Top Ten owes more than a little to 90210.
Brandon: Deep Roots
Brandon appears as a surname and a place name over the years, with several possible origins:
- Take the Old English brom – as in the hardy shrub known as broom or gorse – and combine with dun – hill – and you have a descriptive place name.
- In Lincolnshire, the Brant River probably gets its name from a word meaning steep, as in the river banks there.
- The Old Norse name element Brand means sword, and can be found in names like Hildebrand.
- It might also be a form of Brendan – prince.
Aristocratic Brandons figured in English history as early as the 1400s. It was even rumored that the much-married Henry VIII had his eye on Catherine Willoughby, a member of the Brandon clan, for a possible wife #7.
Brandon: Modern Staple
Today, Brandon feels like as conventional as Jason or Brian.
There are ever so many well-known Brandons, including:
- The late Brandon Lee, star of The Crow and son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee.
- Actor Brandon Routh played the Man of Steel in the 2006 entry in the Superman franchise.
- Viva la Bam skateboarder-turned-reality-star Bam Margera was born Brandon.
- Music gives us The Killers’ frontman, Brandon Flowers.
Add in a few athletes and other men of accomplishment, and it is easy to see Brandon as an ordinary Joe.
Game of Thrones – a show that has propelled names to the top – includes Bran Stark, whose full name is Brandon.
As of 2013, the name still ranked #70 – a handsome name on the wane, maybe more likely to be the dad than the son, but still very wearable for a boy today.
What do you think of Brandon? Is he a fading trend, or a modern classic?