Conrad brings to mind a saint, a string of kings, a hotelier, and a fictional pop star – to name just a few.
Thanks to Annabel for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Way back in the 800s, a powerful dynasty flourished in Germany. Known as the Conradines, they were Dukes and then eventually, Conrad I of Germany, elected king in 911.
The dynasty fizzled a century later, but the name had filtered into general use amongst German princes, and eventually, throughout much of Europe.
There’s a Saint Conrad in Konstanz in the tenth century, and more followed.
During the Middle Ages, many a king answered to the name. That includes a Duke of Swabia who later became King of Jerusalem and Sicily, as well as more than one Holy Roman Emperor. Many of them were Konrad, with a K.
It comes from either kuoni – brave, daring or kuni – people, along with rad – counsel, giving a strong, positive meaning that adds to its appeal.
It didn’t make it to England – or English – in steady numbers until the nineteenth century. But it occurs regularly after that, as a first and last name.
Polish-born British author Joseph Conrad penned Heart of Darkness in 1899.
There’s another famous figure. Born in 1887, Conrad Nicholson Hilton would go on to build hotels first in Texas, then all over the US and, eventually, the world. The chain still bears his name today. Several of his descendants share his first, but the most famous Hilton is his great-granddaughter, Paris.
Conrad peaked in the 1930s, but never even cracked the Top 200.
Then in 1960, the world met an Elvis Presley-esque singer in Tony Award-winning musical Bye Bye Birdie.
The tale was inspired by real events. In 1957, Elvis really was drafted and served eighteen months in Germany.
The Elvis figure was Conrad Birdie, a swoon-worthy singer who attracted crowds of screaming fans everywhere he went. Birdie promised “one last kiss” to an eager fan before he left for the army. Innocent high jinks ensued after the contest winner, Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio, was selected. (She stays true to her small-town boyfriend, Hugo, in the end.)
The big screen adaptation followed in 1963, starring Ann-Margret as contest-winning Kim. Her rendition of the theme song made her a major star – though the name she sang was Birdie.
Despite the rock star image in the musical and movie, this name tends to belong to a certain kind of privileged character in fiction.
There’s the son in 1976 novel turned 1980 film Ordinary People. Timothy Hutton won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn as tortured son of an affluent family, Conrad Jarrett.
1978 is the year we met the Drummonds of Diff’rent Strokes. If you don’t remember the famous 80s sitcom, it’s the story of a wealthy widower who adopts his housekeeper’s sons after she passes away. The patriarch, Phillip Drummond, was played by veteran actor Conrad Bain.
There’s also a character in Revenge, yet another moneyed patriarch, resident at Grayson Manor and one-time Governor of New York.
Later this year, we’ll meet one more: the hero of the third Kingsman movie, a prequel called The King’s Man. Set during the first World War, Harris Dickinson plays Conrad, a young, well-born man eager to serve his country in the conflict by joining up as a top-secret spy.
BY THE NUMBERS
All of this leaves Conrad waiting in the wings. It feels familiar. We’re used to long-time favorite Connor. But this name seems distinctive, too – a little vintage, a tiny bit retro. It’s a solid alternative to Henry or William or maybe Benjamin.
The numbers reflect this. In the year 2000, just 248 boys received the name. By 2018, that number increased to 513. That’s still a long ways from its former heights, but it shows that more and more parents are shortlisting – and choosing – this handsome, traditional name.
What do you think of Conrad? Do you think it’s ready for revival?
First published on November 1, 2010, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on February 12, 2020.
I have a Konrad (German names are a tradition in our family so we went with that spelling) and we get a lot of compliments on how strong his name is or people who have told us that was the name of their grandfather, etc.
We just welcomed a little Conrad earlier this month. We have gotten very positive feedback on his name, and we are quite enamored of it (and him)!
So exciting! And I’m delighted that Conrad is getting a good response. 🙂
I like Conrad. It’s not at all common in my area, and that’s a plus for me. However, I do find that it is a bit awkward to say. It seems like there’s just something a bit off.
My 9 year old son is Conrad….he goes by Conrad and it’s never been a problem. I love that we never run into anyone with the same name. He is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed little boy….a thinker, and very intelligent for his age.
That’s the best comment I’ve heard in favor of Conrad!
Lady Gwyn says
I like Konrad spelled this way-with the K. This is in honor of my German heritage. I like the idea of Cord/Kord as a nickname. I think it would be more usable here in my neck of the woods than other “hipster” names because of the strong German roots of this area. I have to add it to my list now!
Love Conrad! Like it so much better than Connor
That’s an EXCELLENT point – they’re very similar, but Conrad is more distinctive.
My husband is named Kurt, after his paternal grandfather Conrad. I really like Conrad and it’s a real possibility for us, but there are other names I love more.
Lola, maybe some of the contracted German forms would work for nicknames? Kord/Cord, Kort/Cort, Kurt
That’s a great idea, Julie! Cord/Cort appeals as does Kurt (but he may nix that one since we have an old family friend with that name). Still, it puts Conrad back on the list!
Charlotte Vera says
I instantly think of Joseph Conrad (born J
I confess, Conrad slips on & off my ‘suggest to him’ lists all the time. I like him, firmly. He’s definitely got that geeky vibe I so dig in my boys names (that’s Rufus way up there at the top of my list, still). My only problem is nicknames just don’t come easy to Conrad. Con does nothing for me and well, what else is there? Rad? Nah. Not terribly cooperative with nicknames to ease the Geek, really is something that bothers me. It probably wouldn’t bother others though. My other boys are regularly Leo/Lee & Simon/Sim, I need nicknames!
But he’s handsome, rather suave and fairly dashing to boot. I’d love to see him used far more often than he is!
If Mad Men is to be believed, Conrad Hilton Sr. went by Connie or Conny. You’re right about Con; it sounds too much like “KHAN!!”
That’s right! I’d forgotten that story line.
Whitney Gigandet says
I love Conrad! If we were having another boy right this moment, I honestly think Conrad would be our choice. It was on our list with Stanley, too. Again, it quietly honors my hubby and I think Stanley and Conrad sound nice together 🙂
C in DC says
I have two bad associations from jr. high with this name – one had it as a first name, the other a last name.