The baby name Crew blends buttoned-up style with a rough-and-tumble vibe.

Thanks to Chantal for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

CREW CUT

Long before it was a name – of any kind – this word had multiple origins and meaning.

As hair cuts go, a crew cut is pretty traditional. It was the go-to choice for soldiers during World War II. Crew cuts are everywhere in mid-century America, and remains a common, conservative option today.

The cut gets its name – at least in American English – from the sport.

That’s because men who rowed crew in the early 1900s, mostly at Ivy League schools in the United States, adopted the short cut to keep hair out of their eyes while racing.

Preppy and clean cut, the style inspired American clothier J. Crew.

And while the sport is no longer reserved for elite institutions, the idea of crew retains that polish.

MOTLEY and WRECKING

The baby name Crew has a little bit of a split personality.

For every one who thinks rowing or J Crew, there are others who hear it and think motley or wrecking.

A motley crew originally referred to a band of pirates.

Respell it slightly, toss in a heavy metal umlaut or two, and there’s 80s glam metal band Mötley Crüe.

A wrecking crew might be a demolition team in construction. But it’s since been applied in dozens of other senses, from sports to a famous group of session musicians. (You’ve heard their work, backing everyone from Frank Sinatra to Cher, even if you don’t know it.)

In fact, the English word originally comes from the Latin crescere – to grow. In Old French, a creue or crue referred to an increase in military recruits. By the sixteenth century, the word meant the band of recruits themselves. We can assume that some were orderly; others, not so much.

In a more neutral sense, you might refer to a group of friends as your crew. It’s a word name, but once tinted with warmth, mischief, and achievement, depending on the context.

MARDI GRAS

In New Orleans, you might belong to a krewe.

Krewes put on the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations, sponsoring floats and parades.

That could put them on the rowdy wrecking/motley side of the line. But it’s worth noting that krewes are full-blown civic organizations, known for significant charitable work.

The world-famous Krewe of Rex parades on Mardi Gras itself; the foundation associated with the club has granted millions of dollars to New Orleans public schools, as well as other efforts.

SURNAME NAME

So how did the baby name Crew come into use?

Like so many choices, it started out as a surname.

Mr. Crew didn’t row.

Instead, he probably came from an English town, north of London and south of Manchester on the Welsh-English borders. The name started out as Cryw in Welsh, or possibly criu. It originally referred to a weir, a dam-like structure used in a stream to trap fish, though it can also mean crossing.

There’s also the similar Carew, from a place name derived from the Welsh word for fort and another meaning hill.

You might think of the fictional Sara Crewe, created by Frances Hodgson Burnett for her enduring novel A Little Princess.

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BY the NUMBERS

Like so many place-names-turned-surnames, Crew eventually made its way to the given name spot.

But unlike Hunter or Carter or Reid, this is a relatively new name. The baby name Crew first appears in US data pretty late – not until 1995.

That tracks with the expansion of J Crew. The company adopted the name in 1983, opened its first store in 1989, and became a 1990s staple.

The name debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2011.

Crew climbed in use from 2011 through 2017, reaching #715.

Then famous design duo, Chip and Joanna Gaines, welcomed baby five. The Fixer Upper couple’s four older children are Ella Rose, Emmie Kay, Drake, and Duke. Would the new baby also have an E or a D name? A double name?

Crew Gaines arrived in 2018, and the name soared in use, reaching #578 that year.

By 2023, the baby name Crew stood at #260.

The spelling Krew comes in at #647, and newcomer Crue ranked #729.

Other options sit outside of the current US Top 1000, including Crewe, Cru, Krewe, Kru, and Krue.

Combined, these spellings increase the popularity of the name Crew. It’s worth noting that Crews could be one more variant of the name – or another spelling for Cruz and Cruise, which are used in even greater numbers. And some of these spellings are used as baby girl names, too, though not often.

One more reference suggested by the spelling Cru: it can refer to a French vineyard. Cru comes from the same Latin word crescere, to grow. If something is “grand cru,” it’s of high quality – in wine originally, but now things like chocolate and beer as well.

PREPPY HELLRAISER

Even without the celebrity design duo, the baby name Crew still might’ve caught on.

It’s a single syllable name, brief and brisk, just like Jack or Cole.

We love Drew, a name that peaked in the late 80s and 90s, just before Crew got its start.

But Crew’s new popularity is also about the dual nature of the name.

Like Wilder and Brooks, Crew is a preppy hellraiser. It’s a name you’d expect to hear in privileged circles. It fits a member of the freshman class at Yale or an associate at a white-shoe law firm.

But it sounds just as right jumping off a dock into a Texas lake. Or hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

A tiny pop culture boost has made this one of the most stylish baby boy names of the 2020s, a choice with widespread appeal.

The baby name Crew is a little bit of everything. A trustworthy, traditional-adjacent name. But also a modern, bold choice.

What do you think of the baby name Crew? 

First published on June 17, 2011, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on June 27, 2018; February 23, 2022; September 14, 2023; and June 9, 2024.

Crew

Preppy and Daring

Crew offers two separate, equally appealing images. It’s a clean cut, Ivy League athlete … and a rebellious, thrill-seeking X Games daredevil, too!

Popularity

#260 in the US as of 2023

Trend

holding steady

Origin

From a Latin word meaning “to increase” Eventually it meant “to recruit” and then referred to the recruits themselves

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?

25 Comments

  1. I really like the name Crew (Crewe, Krew, Crue, Kru, Cru). And with the recent trend of “boy” names being used for girls (ie. Lincoln, Wyatt, Wynn) I think it could work great as a spunky girl’s name! Although I would probably stick with the “c” spellings for a girl.

  2. I love it. Found it under the category of “macho swagger” in a baby name book. We are preppy people and Fans of J crew as well. It sounds preppy to me. Adorable! We are using it and I hope it stays ranked 1000. Because I like the originality!

  3. I love Crew! We just had our third child yesterday and if she had been a boy, we would have used Crew. I find it fresh, preppy, athletic, and fun spirited. Maybe next time!

    1. I named my son Crue just four months ago, and we get tons of compliments! I like the spelling Crue much better than Crew. It seems more like a name, and we have a two syllable last name, so it sounds pretty strong with that. His actual full name is Hudson Crue, and we call him Crue. We think it is strong, but different. 🙂

      1. We named our son Krew. We love it….some people love it/some people don’t. I will say its very fitting for our little one. I’m pretty sure the name will grow in popularity in the next few years. Its definalty a strong/oroginal name.

  4. I think Crew’s kind of cool, really. I can’t decide on the spelling. On the one hand, Crew has that preppy hipster connection to J. Crew, which is bad and good, depending on who you are and how you look at it. And, it definitely reminds me of collegiate crew teams, as in rowing. Preppy! But, the name itself doesn’t seem as preppy as, say, Reid (which I love). It’s like modern prep, yea? Then we’ve got Crewe, which has all the prep that Crew has with the added literary link to Sara Crewe and Captain – it is Captain, yes? – Crewe in The Little Princess, a timeless classic. Sure, the story’s about a little girl, but why not use it for a boy? Perfect.

    Side note – my sister loves the name Brooks for a boy, also a rather preppy choice. My mom likes to tease her and say she should have two boys, Brooks and Crew. Brooks Brothers and J. Crew. Yep, that’s my mother for ya! She could throw in a Ralph, too, but my sis isn’t big on that, and she can’t use Lauren – it’s my name. Polo? Weird. The day in the life of a prepster’s sister… 😉

  5. I’ve actually used Crew for a fictional character…except my character was a girl in a family of career criminals…so obviously my first thought for a “Crew of what?” is a crew of criminals 🙂 As to using the name Crew in the real world…It’s a bit too ultra-modern wordy for me.

  6. Eh, not one I would use. While I am not against ALL word names-heck, I like Honor and Violet-but this one doesn’t do it for me. I guess because I think of crew like a road crew (who pave our roads), not so much with the rowing and yachting crews. But this could be because I live in landlocked Nebraska, and no one here has a yacht as there is no where to sail it!