Zappa. Sinatra. Gehry. Baum. Does this pick guarantee your son will be destined for creative genius?
Thanks to Jane, aka the Foxymoron, for suggesting Frank as our Baby Name of the Day.
Frank was a Top Ten name when the US rankings were established in 1880. He stayed in the Top Ten until 1922, and remained in the Top 100 until 1988.
That’s not counting boys who were named the more formal Francis, but only answered to the short form.
It makes for a long list, including:
- Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra, born Francis Albert;
- L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz series;
- Architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry;
- Modern music trailblazers Frank Zappa and Frank Black;
- Director Frank Capra;
- Plenty of athletes, political leaders, and more.
Today, Frank sounds a little bit like a virtue name. But his roots are actually tied to the map. A Germanic tribe known as the Franks appears in the historical record as early as the first century; by 509, Clovis I reigned as King of the Franks. The tribe probably took their name from a javelin they favored, known as the frankon or franka. The Normans brought Frank to England as a personal name.
In the late 1100s, the Latin Franciscus – Frenchman – was a nickname given to the future Saint Francis of Assisi. He’d been baptized Giovanni, but his dad – a successful merchant – had been on business in France when his son was born. Dad nicknamed him Francesco, and father and son both shared an enthusiasm for all things related to French culture. But Francesco turned his back on privilege to form a religious order dedicated to living a simple life. He’s also the patron saint of animals.
In the sixteenth century, Saint Francis Xavier founded the religious order known as the Jesuits. Countless boys were named in honor of one or both of the religious figures.
As for the adjective frank, it also ties back to the tribe. Back in the day, only the conquering Franks were free – and so, free to speak.
Add it all up, and he’s clearly a saintly classic with quite a bit of backstory. And yet, Frank’s been falling out of favor for decades. A resurgence of interest in all things related to the Rat Pack failed to bolster ol’ Blue Eyes’ name. In 2009, Frank stood at just #289 – and had fallen steadily for decades.
Frank does have starbaby cred: Elvis Costello and Diana Krall used it for a son, Frank Harlan James, twin brother to Dexter Henry Lorcan. Amanda Peet’s older daughter is Frances Pen, called Frankie.
File Frank with other once ordinary choices that now sound offbeat on a child. There’s a capable vibe about Frank – you expect him to own more than one wrench, to be the guy you can call when your engine light clicks on. He’s not quite a grandpa name, but not quite primed for revival, either.
Let’s call him part of the next wave, a likely successor to Jack and Gus, Max and Sam. There’s also the presidential Franklin, which could put a stylish surname spin on Frank.
Regardless of his rather frosty ranking right now, Frank deserves recognition as a classic, an every guy name that will almost certainly make a comeback – eventually.
My name is Francesca, my mom always wanted to call me Frankie and I hated it cause I thought it was a boy’s name. Haha! They just called me Ces or Cesca.
We named my now almost-3-year-old Francis William and call him Frankie. We wanted a good strong Catholic saint’s name as well as a strong classic man name. We figured with a name like Frank he could be a mechanic or a CEO (or a President, though I wouldn’t wish that on him!). Anyway, we love it and haven’t looked back! We figure he’ll be Frank when he’s older, but for now Frankie is just so dang cute, and we get so much positive feedback the only negative I’ve ever gotten was from a ten-year-old named “Tyler” of all things, who said “that’s a weird name” (irony is lost on 10-year-olds, I guess). And he’s such a Frankie! Goofball and destined for football or hockey.
My 7 month old son is called Frank. Middle name Walter. A lot of people were against it (dare I even say offended) when I was pregnant. He really does suit it though! He has a grumpy, chubby face & he’ll be built for rugby. We do often call him Frankie which people seem to prefer here (England). I did nearly back out & opt for Freddie when he was a few hours old. I’m so glad I didn’t though, everyone knows the name yet it’s so unique here. There wont be any confussion in the playground when he gets to school anyway! I beam with pride every time I get to tell people my son’s name.
Frank isn’t really my cup of tea.It can stay in the retirement village for me lol There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s just opposite to my taste. The only Frank I’ve known has been one Sausage dog that was bonkers
New Mama says
We are naming our little one who is due soon Franklin/Frank. 🙂 Love it. Also, there is a new little boy at the school where I work who is a 2nd grader named Frank and he goes by Frankie.
Congrats on your baby-to-be, New Mama! Great name.
Congrats on the the arrival of the little one! Many best wishes .
Sorry about, that I never saw your reply – didn’t mean to be rude! I’m more the Ever type
I always waver between liking the idea of Frank and just not liking the sound. I’ve long liked Franklin, though not enough to put it on a short list, but the shorter Frank doesn’t appeal to me as much.
Charlotte Vera says
I would be pleasantly surprised to meet a baby Frank, although I wouldn’t use it myself. I’m afraid the name is somewhat tarnished for me due to Donnie Darko, which features a giant, skeletal bunny rabbit called Frank. I like the movie, but Frank reads a bit creepy to me now.
I’d forgotten about Donnie Darko’s rabbit – possibly because I’d been trying to block him out! That rabbit does give Frank a serious creep factor.
I love Frank! It’s my grandpa’s name. If we EVER have a boy, Frank will be in the running. The only thing is, I can’t imagine looking at my squishy newborn and calling him Frank. 3+ months, it seems to fit, but a newborn? Hmm…. not sure.
Emmy Jo says
Yeah, Julius didn’t really fit a newborn either. When we first introduced our son as Julius Arthur, almost everyone said, “Wow. That’s a really big name.” But after a couple months, once his personality came out, it no longer seemed like an odd fit.
Frank is just fun to say, Felix and Fredrick have the same crispness that I love, such a great name. The trendiness of -lyn in girl’s names has cooled my affection towards Franklin and I’m just not as fond of Francis and Francesca…
The Foxymoron says
Wow I’m so glad I requested this baby name! Thanks so much for a great write-up (it was so interesting!) and all the great comments which have made me like the name even more. Francis for a boy has never felt strong enough to me, but I quite like Franklin – great suggestion. Somehow Frank seems like the most solid and classic choice though, so I’m not sure. Love Frankie as a nickname for a young boy though.
We don’t use the term “frank” in New Zealand for a hot dog, but that was an interesting point from Kelleita! All in all, there doesn’t seem to be much to not like – and it actually makes it more appealing to me that the name hasn’t had a revival yet. Go Frank! 🙂
As an aside, I was surprised to read that Elvis Costello and Diana Krall’s twin sons are named Frank Harlan James and Dexter Henry Lorcan. Frank and Dexter just don’t seem to fit together for siblings, let alone twins! Frank and Henry would have made more sense to me. Or Frank and James. Or Harlan and Dexter. Don’t you think? It always surprises me when parents either go really matchy-matchy with twins (eg Milly and Molly) or they go for polar oppposite styles, like this Frank-Dexter combo. So random!
I keep trying to square Dexter and Frank in my mind, too. Maybe it is that I LOVE Dexter Henry Lorcan and I’m just meh on Frank Harlan James. I’ve never heard them talk about their sons’ names. I wonder if each parent named one? Or maybe if there are family names in play? Dexter and Franklin would’ve been great.
As for Milly and Molly – that level of matchiness bothers me. There were identical twins in my elementary school with matchy names, and I used to think it was cool. But then, I was 8. I believe I was also fascinated by scratch’n’sniff stickers, Barbie shoes, and the hand-held Donkey Kong game my aunt brought home from Japan.
You kind of like to think that by the time you have kids, your tastes mature.
Or maybe I’m missing something.
Emmy Jo says
I don’t think Frank and Dexter seem weird. Frank has a bit of an offbeat feel now, so I think it pairs well with Dexter.
The Foxymoron says
Oh no Emmy Jo, to me Frank is a stodgy old name, all set for a hipster revival, whereas Dexter is a name that screams “trendy!”. Mismatch, I tell ya! 🙂
I’m not a fan of Frank at all, but I love Frances and Francesca for girls, and Frankie for a boy. Since I don’t like any of the full names for Frankie, I thought of Frederick nicknamed Frankie– would that work, is it too much of a stretch? Hm…
I actually know a 2-yr-old Frank who is a twin to John. I find the pair so refreshing! I love those mid-century manly man names, so Frank is right up my alley though I think it feels a bit incomplete as the formal name.
Emmy Jo says
I like Frank! There’s a sweet little boy at my school with that name. We actually came very close to naming our son Franklin.
I love the name Francis for a boy with the nickname Frank or Frankie, as well as Francesca for a girl (again, nn Frankie). Frank is so simple yet solid and not too trendy.
Sarah A says
My uncle is from Italy and his name is Francesco but he goes by Frank. So for me I’ve always thought of Frank as a nn for Francesco or Francis. It’s too much of a nickname to use alone on the bc in my opinion, but I like it. Frank is strong without being harsh or in-your-face.
It just makes me think of the dad from Everybody Loves Raymond! Frankie is really cute for a little boy though – I also like Frankie for a girl, as a nn for Francesca.
Frank still feels a little harsh and musty to me, but I love Frances for a girl…
In other news, Christina Applegate had her little girl – Sadie Grace LeNoble! I’m sort of obsessed with Sadie LeNoble. How cute is that?
I love Frank — esp as short for either Francis or Frances. Then, for either gender, you have the softer option as well. Plus, my gramps was Francis.
I know a little Francis, who goes by Francis – it is quite nice on a boy, but I’m curious to hear what he prefers when he hits school age.
I know a Francis (jr) who is school age – dad goes by Frank and son is Francis. I find it really charming as it suits his personality to a T…
Whenever I hear Frank I tend to think of Anne Frank, whom I admire greatly. That was fascinating trivia about St. Francis, aka Giovanni!
I think it is one of the most fascinating name stories … I think of it whenever I hear Miley dismissed as an inauthentic name.
C in DC says
I was going to campaign to use Franklin for a boy, if our girls had been boys. We’ve had a lot of significant Franks in our lives (including the person who introduced me to my spouse), and the -lin subtly ties him to my grandfather and my mother.
The only thing I really don’t like about Frank is that it’s another name for a hot dog. 😛 Wouldn’t really want to put that on my son…
And you know … I never thought of hot dogs. Good point. Possibly hampering the Frank revival …
Frank Zappa. Frankie Goes to Hollywood. “Blank Frank” (old Brian Eno song). Yeah, this name has good musical associations for me. But then I also think of Frank Burns from M*A*S*H, he of “Ferret Face” and “Frank Burns eats worms” fame. 🙂 I’d probably never use it, but I do like the thought of Frankie as a nickname for a lovely little Francesca (a name I absolutely adore).
My great grandfather was a Franklin who went by Frank. I love it! The name Francesca (nn Frankie) is in our name list for a girl, too.
I love Franklin for a boy. And I adore Francie as a nickname for Frances for a girl. However, I had a lab named Francie (named after a character from the first season of Alias), so I think it’s out for a girl.
I really do like Franklin on a boy. We live a stone’s throw from a popular restaurant/brewery called Franklin’s, though – so there’s no way we could consider it!
British American says
I like Fred, which makes me think Frank is pretty cool too. But maybe I’m liking it more because it’s the name of my brother’s dog. (Not that I’ve met the dog, but that I hear the name every now and then.) The dog connection means it would probably be weird for me to name a son Frank – though I guess, not totally out of the question, with the dog being very old and in another country. 😛
It’s one I’d guess that was more popular in the UK? (I can never seem to find the link to the official England names.)
Frankie is rather cute on a girl too, short for Francis. Francis isn’t one I’d pick for a girl though – and Frankie being cute for girls does detract from my like of Frank for a boy.
I’ve not met any little Franks – though I may remember a Franklin at the library storytime awhile back.
I do think you’re right about him making a comeback in years to come.
Since Hank for Henry seems to be in the midst of a revival, I can only imagine Frank is set to follow …
I’m not sure about the UK. It’s not in the Top 100 – you have to download their Excel spreadsheet: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/Product.asp?vlnk=15282
Oh, and Frankie was the little girl in Blue Valentine, so yeah, Frankie for a girl? Very current. And I like it a lot.
I LOVE Frank! I’ve mentioned my fabulous Uncle Frank before. His mail always said “Francis M. C(surname) but he really was ‘just’ Frank. (My Mother was a Frances) So I have a few reasons to love the suave simplicity that is Frank. I have Francis Henry Porfirio on my long list, nn Frankie when he’s small and Frank when he’s bigger. Frank fits with my kids without trying. I really like his vibe: strong, capable, smooth & dashing. Yeah, Frank is absolutely, completely awesome!