This post was originally published on July 19, 2010. It was substantially revised and re-posted on September 16, 2015.
If kids can be Brooklyn and River, why not this name?
Thanks to Urban Angel for suggesting Bridger as our Baby Name of the Day.
Bridger is part-place name, part-occupational name, and all surname, too.
Once upon a time, Bridger – just like Bridge or Bridges – referred to a person who lived near a bridge or earned his living as a bridge keeper, often acting as a toll collector in the days before EZPass.
Tolls made bridges big business throughout much of history. One of the oldest surviving bridges dates back to the thirteenth century BC. Visit Argolis, Greece and you can still cross the Arkadiko, just like the ancient chariots once did.
The word comes from the Old English brycge, and Brücker is Bridger’s German cousin.
You might guess that Bridger is yet another ‘r’ ending surname name that’s newly fashionable for boys. That’s only part of the reason this name has caught on in recent years.
Bridger: Famous Figures
General Joseph Bridger arrived in Virginia back in 1654, and owned acres and acres of property back in the day. His descendants still gather regularly.
Virginia-born Jim Bridger became the quite the legend as an explorer, tour guide and all-around mountain man from the 1820s into the 1850s. I’m not sure if he’s related to the famous family, but it seems possible.
What we do know is that Bridger went to Missouri as one of William Ashley’s Hundred, young men who set out to work as fur trappers. He went on to play a pivotal role in the history of the West, mediating disputes with Native Americans, establishing safer and shorter routes and founding a trading post of his own. Jim was hearty – he walked the length of the Rockies – and sharp, learning several languages. By the time he died in 1881, he was known not only for his trailblazing, but for his telling of tall tales.
The West is dotted with places named in his honor:
- There was a fort in Wyoming. It’s now gone, but the surrounding the surrounding town, still called Fort Bridger, remains.
- There’s a city in Montana, as well as a mountain.
- There’s also another mountain, a pass, and Bridger-Teton National Forest, all in Wyoming. (That’s the national forest in the picture.)
He’s become something of a legend. A fictional version of Jim appeared in a 1961 episode of NBC’s Western Wagon Train.
More recently, Aldo Raine – Brad Pitt’s character – in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds – told his recruits “Now, I am the direct descendant of the mountain man Jim Bridger.”
Bridger: Big in the West
Bridger has dipped in and out of the US Top 1000 since 1999, and ranked #986 in 2014. But those numbers are deceptive. In Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, the name has cracked the Top 100. The name currently ranks #62 in Wyoming in 2014, #87 in Montana.
In other words? Most of the 200-some newborn boys given the name were born in the American West. It’s quite rare everywhere else.
And yet, Bridger has potential. Thanks to that great Americana backstory, the name feels rugged and self-reliant. Along with names like Archer, it could be part of the next wave of ‘r’ ending names for boys. It’s less polished and preppy than Parker or Carter, but I think that probably adds to the name’s appeal.
If you’re after something that feels distinctive and capable, Bridger belongs on your short list.
What do you think of Bridger? Do you think it could catch on?