G-ca by Too Far North via Flickr

If Cannon and Gunner are hot for boys, why not this surname that feels slightly more academic?

Thanks to Katie for suggesting Gannon as our Baby Name of the Day.

Gannon isn’t exactly Harvard, so if you’ve never lived near Erie, Pennsylvania, it might not immediately conjure up images of higher education.

But Gannon is, indeed, a four-year university founded back in 1925 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie. John Mark Gannon was Erie’s Bishop when the school was established. He was also an Erie native, and a driving force for education in the region.

Gannon seems to have emerged as a surname derived from Mag Fhionnáin – yet another Gaelic appellation related to Finn, and thus meaning fair.

There’s a second – possibly more familiar – meaning to Gannon. Also spelled Ganon, he’s the bad guy in Nintendo’s long-running The Legend of Zelda video game series. Some sources give his full name as Ganondorf. Let’s just say that names ending in -dorf won’t be catching on any time soon.

Between 2002 and 2006, Gannon appeared in the US Top 1000, peaking at #683 in 2003. He’s still in use, just a little bit outside of the rankings today with, Nancy tells us, 154 boys receiving the name in 2009.

Gannon might bring to mind one of these figures, all of whom answered to Mr. Gannon:

  • Bill Gannon fought with the Irish Republican Army, taking part in the conflict that sparked the Irish Civil War;
  • One Life to Live‘s football-star-turned-district-attorney Hank Gannon appeared on the show for more than a decade. There’s a whole family with the same surname – wife, daughter, long-estranged bad-guy younger brother. Hey, it is a soap opera;
  • Before Harry Morgan was Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H, he was Joe Friday’s partner on Dragnet. Morgan played Officer Bill Gannon from 1967 through 1970, and makes other appearances in later incarnations of the series;
  • If you happen to be in Davenport, Iowa, you can visit the M.V. Gannon House, the former home of nineteenth century Irish immigrant turned newspaperman, Michael V. Gannon;
  • 1968 Western flick A Man Called Gannon lends the name some cowboy cred.

The list goes on, but none of these associations is strong enough to create a lasting impression. Instead, Gannon falls somewhere between preppy surname picks like Brooks and aggressively masculine choices in the key of Slade. Nameberry included Gannon on their list of “good” unusual baby names, in the company of choices like Eben, Lander, and Reeve.

I’m inclined to agree. Gannon doesn’t have enough history to please everyone, but two-syllable, ends-in-n Irish appellations remain popular, and plenty of parents are bored with Ryan and Aidan. The formula continues to dominate the US Top 100. Gannon feels more distinguished than nouveau picks like Baylen, but he still boasts a modern vibe.

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. My son, Gannon, was born in 1984. As a child, he was a surfer, water polo player, City lifeguard and he grew up to be an engineer. People easily got used to his name. As a matter of fact, we quickly had more and more babies in town named “Gannon”. People actually bragged to me that now, they have a Gannon too. I loved it! Interestingly, Gannon moved to Germany after college, for fun and excitement and a job working on a giant laser. Anyway, there are now little Gannon’s popping up all over Germany. They are not related to the original though, hah!

  2. My sons name is Vannen which is a 2 syllable n ending name but I think it sounds beautiful and is original, I have yet to meet another one. To each their own, I think people are taken aback when they hear a name for the first time and it sounds weird to them but if they say it a couple times it may grow on them, in the beginning of time names started somewhere, they were all original once