The baby name Gage feels strong and capable, but smooth and modern, too.
Thanks to Beth for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
It’s tempting to list the baby name Gage with modern virtue names.
Two possible meanings attach: measure or promise.
Both come from the French word – gauger. It means to measure something precisely.
Originally that something was often money.
Or metal. Weights and measures mattered, back in the day before digital scales. An assayer was in charge of checking the gauges – the weights – that were used for so many transactions.
And so Gauge or Gage became the occupational surname for those who lent money, borrowed from the weights themselves. Since borrowing money is a sort of promise, the baby name Gage suggests a kind of guarantee.
In modern usage, if we’re gauging a reaction or an amount, it often means “eyeballing” or “estimating.” But other uses remain far more precise – gauges on a railway track, for example, or shotgun gauges.
Plenty of aristocratic surnames have filtered into general use over the ages. There’s Clarence and Darcy and Cecil.
Gage counts, too. At least sort of.
There’s a title in the Peerage of Ireland – Viscount Gage. It was created in 1720 for Thomas Gage. The family had been a big deal for a few generations by then, complete with a manor house acquired via marriage. Plenty of distinguished Gages followed, including a military leader and a botanist.
Thanks to the latter, there’s a genus of flowers in the lily family formally known as gagea.
All of this make the baby name two-parts occupational, one-part aristocratic.
But what put the baby name Gage on parents’ shortlists?
It’s not a what, but a who – Stephen King.
A smattering of boys received the baby name Gage prior to the 1980s.
Then, in 1983, King published Pet Sematary.
The Creed family – dad Louis, mom Rachel, daughter Ellie, and son Gage – move into a home on a busy road, one known for claiming the lives of many a hapless dog or cat.
There’s a pet graveyard nearby, but it isn’t just your regular resting place for Fido. Instead, if you bury something there, it returns – reanimated and, oh by the way, evil.
Louis tries this with Ellie’s cat, so he oughta know better when his son, Gage, dies tragically on that same road.
But hey, this is Stephen King. Sure enough, Gage becomes a murderous fiend, and the tale does not have a happy ending.
Following the success of the 1983 novel, Pet Sematary became a 1989 movie. Despite poor reviews from critics, the movie proved a blockbuster success.
BY the NUMBERS
The horror movie also launched the baby name Gage.
A handful of children received the name prior to the 1980s.
In 1983, eleven boys were given the baby name Gage. By 1984, that number jumped to 42.
And in 1989, the year of the movie’s release? 171 births, enough to put the baby name Gage on the US popularity charts at #755.
It peaked in 2009, at #141.
Not only did the baby name Gage benefit from the novel and movie buzz, but it fit with rising favorites like Gabriel, Jack, and Aidan.
A movie reboot in 2019 fared modestly well, but the baby name Gage was already sliding. As of 2020, it had fallen to #477.
Other notable Gages include:
- Nora Roberts has characters named Fox, Caleb, Layla, Cybil, Quinn, and Gage in her Sign of Seven trilogy.
- In the final season of 1990s hit Walker, Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris’ character mentored a rookie ranger named Francis Gage, usually called Gage.
- Actor Gage Golightly has played Hayley in The Troop and Teen Wolf’s Erica. She also suggests that Gage might be a unisex possibility.
21ST CENTURY STAPLE
The baby name Gage is fading today. And yet, the style that Gage represents – short, bright, surname-style choices – isn’t really going anywhere. We’ve just traded Gage for Knox and Crew.
If you still want to choose Gage for a son today? Because it never really hit the big time, peaking comfortably outside of the US Top 100, it feels current but not common – that could be a win.
And really, it’s a style parents have embraced since the twentieth century. Just ask a generation of dads with names like Craig.
All of this makes Gage something of a twenty-first century staple, the kind of name that we may very well hear making a comeback circa 2083.
What do you think of the baby name Gage?
First published on March 6, 2012, this post was revised substantially and re-published on November 3, 2021.
I knew a guy named Gage (and also a guy named Sage, funnily enough, in that same school) born in ’99 or 2000. Literally never knew it was a real name that other people had
Here’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for a while and this seems like the perfect time. My husband’s name is Gage. He just turned 60. We had been married for a couple of years when, in 1979, I missed my creative writing class to go hear my favorite author speak at our local library. Stephen King, of course. I thought it would be crowded, but there were only about 15 people present. I took three of my books to be autographed, which was made even more special because it was my birthday, September 20th. His wife Tabitha was also there because, as I found out that night, his birthday was the next day. I don’t remember mentioning my husband’s name to him, but was surprised when Pet Semetary came out and the baby’s name was Gage. At the time it was an unusual name – in our case it was a family name. Strange coincidences, I know, but true. I still have the autographed books, of course!
Now that is a story! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Gage's Mom says
We welcomed our son, Gage Edward, on January 2, 2012.
My husband chose our son’s name and, although I had heard the name before (which I can attribute to Stephen King), it never crossed my mind to name our child Gage. I always liked the name, but I can’t say it really stuck with me over the years; at least not enough for it to make the list of baby-to-be names.
Truth be told, I wanted to name our baby James. Yet when he finally arrived, I took one look at him and just knew that he was a Gage. The name suited him perfectly. Now we call him our Gagie Baby and, at four months old, he just laughs and coos so sweetly. Not at all evil like the Gage in Stephen Kings novel!
When I picture Gage all grown up, I visualize a smart and dignified man; much like the article has suggested of the Gage family of Ireland. To me, Gage is a strong name; one that is very masculine and worthy to take note of; though with a meaning of “pledge or promise,” it’s hard not to. But again, I am Gage’s mom, so how can I not exude some bias!
I never understood why people like this name, and now I’m more confused than ever … this name always reminds me of the word “greengage”; gage is another word for “plum”.
Funny, I’ve always liked Sage for a boy, but I really don’t care for Gage at all. In fact, I just associate it with guns…
Exactly! Gage just brings to mind the ugly variant Gauge.
I looked it up– In 2010 there are very few girls named Gage/Gaige, but Sage/Saige and Paige/Page are largely given to females. It’s not the hard “G” sound since the “Gray- ” names are pretty evenly split between both sexes. I’m guessing it’s the association with hunting and shotguns keeps Gage male.
You know that’s right! – You say “Gage” – I see creepy fiendish “Pet Sematary” boy.
(Strangely, this was a movie I chose to watch at my birthday sleep-over – not my best year for movie choice – that goes to the “Say Anything” year). However, it definitely had the effect of equating Gage with evil for me. End. of. story. By the way, the first half of “mortgage” doesn’t really help with the whole death-link issue in my mind, so not surprisingly, I can’t quite get behind the name. Maybe if I met a little boy… a sweet one who was not, y’know, even too naughty, I might move past the Gage=evil thing in my crazy mind.
Gage has always been a favorite of mine and is currently in my top four [flip-flops at #3 with Heath]. Years ago when we were discussing potential baby names with my in-laws, Gage was the favorite of my father-in-law. I just love the sound of it.
Interestingly, of the 90-some kids in my graduating class, three of them have a Gage/Gaige [that I know of]! We were born in 1980-1981, so we were all around eight when the movie came out. I read the book in my teens, and can’t have been the only one of us.
C in DC says
My father’s name was Gary, often called Gig. Gage would be an interesting tribute name, I think. Could also work as a tribute to George.
I knew a Gage in high school. so he would have been born in the 70s, long before Stephen King’s book.