He’s a working name with a cowboy vibe, a surname promoted to the first spot in recent years.
Thanks to Beth for suggesting Gage as our Baby Name of the Day.
There’s a tendency to put Gage in the modern virtue name category, with his meaning listed as pledge or promise. That’s a very liberal interpretation.
In Old French, gauges were the actual measures used by moneylenders. Gauge or Gage became the occupational surname for those who lent money, borrowed from the weights themselves. In the sense that the act of borrowing money is a sort of promise, then that’s where the name picks up his appealing meaning. Anyone with a mortgage can get the idea.
Gage became a verb around the 1400s – to gage, to weigh, to measure – and plenty of gages and gauges that measure and weigh and otherwise judge have been developed since then.
Gage wouldn’t be the first occupational surname to come into general use, but there’s a twist. We can thank master of horror Stephen King for Gage.
Remember 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 cemetery 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.
The novel was published in 1983, with the movie adaptation following in 1989. Suddenly, there he is, debuting at #755 in 1989. But it isn’t just about the movie. Gage fit with other names on the rise – the long a sounds shared by up-and-coming Jake and Aidan. In 1990, Gage hit #359, and he’d made it all the way to #141 by 2009.
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.
- There’s even a girl Gage, teenaged actress Gage Golightly, recently seen as monster-fighting over-achiever Hayley on The Troop.
If all of this is a little too nouveau, there’s something more, something that saves Gage.
There’s a title in the Peerage of Ireland – Viscount Gage. It was created in 1720 for Thomas Gage, but the Gage family had been a big deal for a few generations by then, with a manor house acquired via marriage. Plenty of distinguished Gages have followed, including a military man and a botanist. Thanks to the latter, there’s a genus of flowers known as gagea.
Overall, Gage is a modern moniker, but he’s not without history to anchor him. If you’re looking for a short, 21st century appellation with roots, Gage is one that could appeal.