The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is a presidentia...
Grant Memorial; Image via Wikipedia

He’s a strong, masculine, single-syllable name with an almost virtue-name vibe.  Why isn’t he more common?

Thanks to Nicole for suggesting Grant as Baby Name of the Day.

After decades of naming our sons Jason and Ryan and Aiden, parents seem to be turning away from the predictable two-syllable, ends-in-n pattern.  Brevity is in, and we’re meeting more boys called Max – not Maxwell – and Jake – not Jacob – as well as newer entrants like Cole, Cade, Gage, Slade, and Blaise.

Grant isn’t exactly at the forefront of this trend, possibly because he’s just not trendy.  Grant has been a steady presence in the US Top 1000 since 1880, and he’s ranked in the Top 200 since 1983.

As a word, grant comes from the Old French granter, which was a spin on creanter, from the Latin credere – to trust.  But as a name, he’s almost certainly related to the Anglo-Norman French graund – tall.  Just like William with brown hair became William Brown, the tallest guy in the village named William became William Grant.

That’s an oversimplification, of course – like many a common surname, Grant absorbed many similar-sounding choices over the years.  He’s especially common in Scotland – there’s still a Clan Grant, complete with a tartan and a crest.

But it was probably American Civil War general turned US President Ulysses S. Grant inspired parents to use the name for their sons.  (You can actually find more than a few boys called Ulysses Grant Lastname from the Civil War era into the late 1800s.)

Grant also got a boost from fiction, when Jules Verne used the name for his 1867 novel In Search of the Castaways, known as Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant in French.

Notable Grants since then have included:

  • Iowa-born painter Grant Wood, best known for American Gothic;
  • Grant Withers was a Hollywood leading man as silent films gave way to talkies, but he’s best remembered as the first husband of a then very young Loretta Young;
  • NHL Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr;
  • Former Hüsker Dü drummer and co-songwriter Grant Hart;
  • Melrose Place heartthrob Grant Show;
  • NBA star, currently with the Phoenix Suns, Grant Hill;

He’s even more popular as a surname.  For one thing, the surname takes him to Hollywood, where it has been worn by handsome leading men from Cary Grant to Hugh Grant.

And yet despite all of these figures, with their diverse accomplishments, Grant has stayed middle of the road.  So much so that a pair of parents landed on Grant after building an algorithm designed to rule out names that were too unusual, as well as those that were too trendy.  The mom’s take?  She’s not sure that she loves it, but they can live with it.

Of course, their nifty algorithm was built with historical data, and names, well, they can change.  With all of those single-syllable choices catching on, it is possible Grant will graduate from the ho-hum middle to the ranks of the fashion-forward.  Grant ranks in the Top 100 of many a midwestern state.  In Utah, that hotbed of new trends, he keeps company with Bridger and Chase.

Could more parents discover Grant’s strong, masculine, but not over-the-top appeal?  Maybe.  But for now, he remains a safe bet for a nickname-proof option that will fit right in while standing out just a little bit.

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. Thanks for highlighting this great name! My Grant is 2 1/2 and it is the only name we liked, for all the reasons here (uncommon not weird, strong and manly, but not sounding like a brand of energy drink, distinguished but not clunky). People thought it wad weird for a baby but at 2 he’s more than grown into it. He loves when i sing the Batman song with “grantman.”
    We’re now stuck trying to find something similarly perfect for boy 2! My top choice, Avett, i just decided would be a weird man name even though it’s cute for a kid, kinda like that comment someone made about am 18 year old Jayden being weird. I’m thinking maybe Flint? I liked your article on it (“maybe it’s not TOO tough-guy”. Thanks for the more in-depth looks you give names! Much more helpful than the list sites.

  2. the link talking about the couple with the name algorithm is dead – i was hoping to find that they have a site with a name generator on it, any ideas if thats the case? im in the same boat they are trying to find good boy names that arent too trendy or too clunky. cant use the fabulous Grant because thats my husbands name ^_^

  3. One of my mom’s cousins is named Grant, and oddly enough, he is verrryyy tall! He is only about ten years older than me, and I always associate that name with my handsome, fun, older “cousin”. I quite love this name, and it would fit in well with my other favorites of Edward, Theodore, Cordelia, and Emelia!

  4. I live in California, and I think I’ve only known two Grants that I can remember. One I went to middle school with, so he’d be almost 30 now. The other is my friend’s 4-year-old son, Grant Kenneth, the older brother to a William Charles. I have a lot of respect for the name. It’s a strong, handsome choice — and it does do a great job splitting the line between historical/contemporary and uncommon/”normal”. It is the sort of name that you feel like you couldn’t go wrong with.

    That being said, maybe it is destined to rise in trendiness… I have a friend with a son named Kaden who is pregnant with her second baby. Their top girls’ picks are Madison and Emma. And their favorite boy name? Grant.

    1. Grant does inspire respect, doesn’t he? But Kaden and Grant – would NOT have expected that. Emma and Grant, sure.

  5. What do you mean “why isnt he more common?” I know plenty Grants haha. Maybe its just where I live. I’m with the people that say Grant is a little too bland for me.