Fritz the Cat
Image via Wikipedia

Frederick is a classic that shows signs of revival.  Would this nickname form stand on his own?

Thanks to Emily of All In the Name for suggesting Fritz as our Baby Name of the Day.

If Fritz were spelled Frits, I doubt we’d be talking about him.

But his z ending is irresistible.  Boys are answering to Zane and Xavier in record numbers.  The sound makes for a compromise – parents can choose a relatively conservative name, but still feel like the zippy z lends their son’s name some dash.

Fritz is also something of an antique revival.  He had a good run.  As an independent name in the US, he appeared in the Top 1000 every year from 1880 through 1968.  That’s not counting plenty of boys christened Frederick but answering to Fritz instead of Freddie.

I’m surprised he fared so well.  In the twentieth century, Fritz had a number of other uses:

  • It was a generic name for a German soldier during both World Wars.  Eighteenth century King of Prussia Frederick the Great was nicknamed Old Fritz.  Nineteenth century German Emperor Frederick III also wore the nickname, and was widely known as the son-in-law of Queen Victoria.  Plenty of ordinary Germans answered to the name, too.  By World War II, Fritz was eclipsed by Jerry, but he’s still in use as a generic name for a German man world-wide.  It’s not exactly nice, but just like using Joe for an ordinary American, it stops short of being cruel, and doesn’t damage the name;
  • Controversial cartoonist R. Crumb gave the name to his X-rated cat in the 1960s.  Crumb was inspired by a pet cat named Fred.  Crumb is also famous for reminding us that comic strips are not just for kids.  His Fritz did all sorts of decidedly grown-up things, many of which were downright bad.  Despite the relative obscurity of Crumb’s work, both the comic strips and the 1972 film adaptation became cult classics.  Add in the less successful 1974 sequel and it is hard to say Fritz without adding “the cat.”  Then again, Felix has overcome his feline associations;
  • “On the fritz” means that something is not working.  The saying has been around since the early twentieth century, and the best explanation I’ve found is that fritz is the sound of an electric spark.

Of course, Fritz is also a surname related to the Germanic Friedrich, and there are notable Fritzes to consider.  My favorite has to be innovative filmmaker Fritz Lang.  Even if you haven’t seen 1927’s Metropolis, you probably know some of the imagery – Madonna borrowed the look (and Lang’s monocle) for her video “Express Yourself” in 1989.  Think of a dystopian future when we’re all cogs in a machine until we rebel.

Other uses include:

  • Former US Vice President and presidential hopeful Walter Mondale was nicknamed Fritz – his middle name is Frederick;
  • Sci fi author Fritz Leiber;
  • Olympic gold medalist in downhill skiing Fritz Strobl.

He’s an intriguing nickname option if you love Frederick, but aren’t sold on Fred.  But how would Fritz wear independently?  You’d have to be pretty daring to consider Fritz.  But that z sound makes him more current than you might otherwise expect.

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. Where I live (in New Hampshire), there is a TV personality named Fritz Weatherbee, who I’ve heard is MEAN. I do kind of like Freddie though.

    Fritz just makes me think of things on the fritz…

  2. We had a beagle named Fritz, named after Mondale… It might just of been a local phenomenon, but Fritz was a really common dog name when I was a child.

    I love Frederick, but I prefer Freddie or Fred as the nickname.

  3. I’d go with the full name Frederick on the birth certificate and then fail at the nickname Fritz, because I wouldn’t think I was ‘cool enough’ to pull it off! 😛

    We did put Frederick in the middle name spot for George – as I just really like the name and how it sounds friendly. I did suggest Frederick as a first name and did notice that Fritz was listed as a nickname – I guess going straight for Fritz would eliminate Fred and Freddie, if you disliked those.

    I’ve noticed myself using the word “futz” a lot, when George is fussing – so it might be a little weird to have a Fritz who was futzing. 😛

  4. My family is of German-Russian heritage and my mother grew up in a German-American community. She dated a boy named Fritz in high school. His brother was Wolfgang.These German names feel uptight and heavy-handed to me.

  5. I like Fritz. I think it’s cool. But I’d probably use it for a dog before I use it for a son.

    Also on the TNT show “The Closer,” the main character’s husband is named Fritz Howard. He’s a very nice, quite attractive FBI agent.

  6. I live in an old house, where things are constantly on the fritz so I can’t imagine naming a baby that.

  7. I love Fritz, but loathe Frederick. Go figure. I think my pure loathing of Frederick is because I’ve known a bunch of nasty ones. But Fritz is fun! He’s the good guy with a good end in “Night of the Rainbow” which is one of my favorite semi-obscure novels. Leo’s the protagonist, but Fritz is prominent too.

    I couldn’t use Fritz because my family uses “on the fritz” an awful lot. But I think it’s awesome (and yes, I’m a Fritz the cat fan), and would absolutely rather see Fritz than Fred/Freddie. I used to know a Fred in H.S.who called himself Derf (Fred backwards), Fritz doesn’t make sense backwards: bonus points! 😀

  8. I love Fritz as a nickname -I wrote a story with a character named Ferdinand and called him Fritz, Freddy and Andy throughout. My mom (around 60) thought it was a name for an old man, though. It might just need more people like me to start using it and change the perception. But I’m not sure it could stand as a given name.

  9. The Fritz who comes to my mind when I hear the name is Prof. Friedrich Bhaaer from Little Women. I read the novel repeatedly as a child, so Fritz has a positive association but only as a nickname.