Eames Chairs @ Designhaus, Vitra, Weil am Rhein
Eames Chairs at Designhaus, Vitra, Weil am Rhein by Ergonomik via Flickr

He’s a preppy surname with a modern vibe.

Thanks to Violet for suggesting Eames as our Baby Name of the Day.

Before we delve into the past, let’s address two details. First, I’m fairly confident that Eames rhymes with dreams, though I’ve found a few who argue that Eames sounds just like Ames.

Second, there’s a very current pop culture reference for Eames as a given name – a character from much-lauded 2010 movie Inception.

I was about to dismiss the character’s name until I read this piece. Given the use of Ariadne for another character, surely there’s more thought involved. In the film, Eames was a forger, known for impersonating others. But all of the movie was about a sort of intricate design, and attention to detail – and that’s what makes Eames a very appropriate choice.

More on that in a minute.

The roots of the name refer to a relationship, from the Middle English word eam or eme – uncle. Uncle might have been a literal reference to a relation, or it could have been a term of respect or endearment. In any case, Eames has a long history as a surname.

There are a handful of men who have answered to Eames as a first name, too, but they’re few and far between. He’s never charted in the US Top 1000, and was given to fewer than five boys born in 2010.

Designing couple Charles and Ray Eames – she was born Bernice Alexandra Kaiser – made their name in several fields, including graphic design and architecture, but especially furniture design. The seat pictured above is just one of the couple’s iconic designs – they created many an enduring piece. Even if you’ve never heard the phrase Eames chair, you’ve seen one – at least glimpsed one, on television shows ranging from Frasier to Mad Men, and you can buy your own reproductions at Design Within Reach.

Other notables aplenty have answered to the surname. Turn-of-the-last-century operatic soprano Emma Eames, and fictional detective Alexandra Eames on Law & Order: Criminal Intent come to mind.

There’s something about this name that can read as dimly sinister – a bit character on Charmed was a villainous sorcerer called Eames. Maybe it is the long e sound, shared by evil, paired with that hiss of a final s.

But mostly, Eames reads as high-style, a hero name. The couple’s accomplishments were many, enough that the design vibe carries through in this name. His ends-in-s sound is distinctive, and shared by Miles and a list of boys’ names that are attracting attention, from Brooks to Keats.

If you’re stumped for a middle name, Eames could be great for either gender. If you’re looking for a first name for a son, Eames is less French than Yves, less expected than Ethan. Or maybe – and this is a stretch – if you’d like to honor a favorite uncle, but don’t love his name, Eames is the world’s most subtle way to do so.

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. My love for the name Eamon makes me want to pronounce Eames like Ames. Then again, we’re huge Christopher Nolan fans here so my mind immediately goes to the Inception character and says Eames with a long E.

    I do like it but Eames is so tied to the film for me that if I met a child called Eames I would assume his parents were film buffs. Of course there is nothing wrong with that 😉

  2. Interesting about the meaning being connected with uncle…I have always liked Eames and when I researched it previously it has always been connected with Eamon, Edmund, Edward and the “wealthy protector” meaning.

    1. Shelby, from what I’ve see, the “wealthy” bit comes from the OE “ead”, meaning rich or wealthy, and the protector is from Edmund’s “mund” and Edward’s “weard” (which actually means guard). I’ve always thought of it being like a regent, someone who would rule in a child’s stead until the child was old enough (see: Edward Seymour). And Eamon is just the Irish version of Edmund, so it shares the meaning.

      So, Eames comes from the “eam/eme” meaning uncle root, and Edmund/Edward/Eamon come from the “ead”, meaning protector, root. It wouldn’t surprise me if they shared an origin, as it was usually an uncle that filled the Lord Protector’s seat.

      1. I’ve seen the name connected to Eamon, too, but it never clicked for me. Laura Rose’s suggestion that they’re linked via circumstance is fascinating, and feels right.

      2. Oh the wonderful world of names and their origins and meanings! Always very intriguing. My husband and I love to discuss names (whether there is baby on the way or not). The confusion of roots and origins happens a lot- one we have researched a lot is the Genevieve, Guinevere, Ginevra, Geni

  3. I like Eames, (rhymes with dreams) but I tend to like Ames (long A, rhymes with James) a bit better. Overall Ames has a stronger sound to me. Amos is another that is on my list.

  4. I first thought of the character from Inception. I liked the film but wasnt crazy about it like so many others seemed to be. But, I liked the character and the name Ariadne, so the movie association doesn’t completely kill Eames for me.

    1. Also, sorry about the double posts. I’m using my phone and sometimes my thumb hits “done” before I’m ready!

  5. I’m too much of a law and order: criminal intent fan to read this name as anything but the last name of Det. Alexandra Eames. I hear it and think Kathryn Erbe.