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. Doesn’t work for me. There seem to be too many odd associations and the first thing I think of is Fritz Weatherbee because I’m in NH too.

  2. The phrase “on the Fritz” came from a comic strip. I can’t remember what it was called, but Fritz was one of the main characters

  3. I love it, but I think of Josef Fritzl. Perhaps I hang around with too many people into criminology, but he comes up simply as ‘Fritzl.’

  4. I’m not a fan of nickname names in general, and Fritz is no exception. I would rather use Frederick, with Freddie or Fred as a nickname. (I could never do this because we have a shih poo named Frederick Von Puppydog, called Fred or Freddie.) I don’t really like Fritz, it sounds to German too me, and my family has German roots!

  5. In our circles Fritz would be assumed in honor of Fritz Lang. I do love his work, but not enough to name a child for him. I also use the term “on the fritz” quite a bit.

    And yet, I almost like Fritz just as an alternative to Fred/Freddie which I really dislike. But I think I prefer Frederick in all his full regal-ness alone! Poor Frederick, he doesn’t have the cool nn options like Teddy and Theo that the similarly stylish name Theodore has.

  6. Years ago, someone told me she thought Fritz was a silly name because of the word “snickelfritz.” I don’t know what a snickelfritz is, but I’m guessing it’s not good. I do like Frederick, though. When I was in high school and I had to do that cliched “carry an egg around for a week and pretend it’s your baby” thing, I named my egg Frederick.