He’s a surname worn by a jazz great. How would he work in the first spot for a child born today?
Thanks to Chantelle for suggesting Ellington as Baby Name of the Day.
Ellington seems certain to appeal to parents searching for that elusive compromise – a name familiar, yet uncommon. Distinctive, but not weird.
A handful of boys born in 2009 were called Ellington; however, the number of female Ellingtons was about the same. Perhaps that’s why he’s never appeared in the US Top 1000. Parents of boys worry that he’s the next Addison or Emerson, while parents of girls have so many options for getting to the nickname Ellie that they’re too busy choosing between Elliot and Elinor to land on Ellington.
Despite the feminine possibilities, this is one surname with an image both masculine and creative, thanks to legendary band leader Duke Ellington. Born Edward Ellington in 1899, he went on to become a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He was more than a popular musician – he appeared on the cover of Time in 1956, and he’s often cited for his work as a composer.
All of this overshadows Ellington’s roots as a place name. At least four places in the UK, and more than a half dozen in the US, answer to Ellington. The -ton clearly refers to town. The first part is less certain. It could relate to personal names derives from ealda – old – or to elf – Ella’s town.
It’s the only backstory I can find, but it feels lacking. Maybe it is the addition of the -ng that has me thrown. Most of those English Ellingtons have been on the map for centuries, appearing in earlier times as Ellintone or even more complicated variants. I suspect the –ng is part of a more complicated story related to the changing nature of English pronunciation, but that’s probably not part of the average parent’s name search.
If not for the jazz legend, Ellington might sound almost pretentious, too close to the fictional Carrington family name from Dynasty.
The challenge for a boy Ellington is the search for an acceptable short form – or the insistence on avoiding one altogether. With plenty of longer given names in the US Top 100 – Alexander, Sebastian, and Nathaniel, for instance – you might argue that Ellington can be just Ellington. And maybe so. One option that might satisfy is Eli – but that’s pretty far from the original name.
Still, Jackson, Tyler, Landon, and Hunter are all quite popular. Ellington combines a surname sensibility with the longer style of more classic choices. If your last name is short, and you’re willing to go nickname-free, Ellington has a cool, jazzy vibe that stands out.