From a ninth century monk to a 21st century television show, with pit stops in Hollywood and the White House, this name has history aplenty.
Thanks to Paul for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Humphrey.
Back in the 800s, in a little German town called Prüm, there lived a monk called Hunfrid. Hunfrid eventually became a bishop, and is remembered as a saint.
In his lifetime, Hunfrid’s Latin name would’ve been Hunfridus. But today, look him up in official church records, and he’s St. Humphrey.
Hun comes from a Germanic element meaning something along the lines of bear, or possibly strength. You’ll recognize -frid from Frederick; the element means peace. The Normans brought him to England, but found him waiting there, too, as Hunfrith.
The n-to-m switch wasn’t unusual. Humbert took a similar path. And many a name appears with both ph and f spellings.
In various forms, Humphrey had a good run in Medieval England. King Henry IV of England gave the name to his youngest son, the 1st Duke of Gloucester. He wasn’t the first well-born Humphrey; the royal Humphrey was named after his maternal grandfather. The 2nd Earl of Buckingham answered to the name, too.
By the late nineteenth century, Humphrey was only in sparing use. His last appearance in the US Top 1000 was in 1894. Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart – yup, that’s his given name – was born on Christmas Day, 1899.
Despite Bogart’s privileged Upper West Side upbringing, he fell in love with acting. First came Broadway, then Hollywood. He graduated from tough guy to romantic lead. He’s remembered best as Rick in Casablanca, heroically giving up the woman he loves. His career flourished from the 1940s into the 50s, when he won a Best Actor Oscar.
Today Humphrey might strike most as a surname. Possibly that’s thanks to Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr., vice president under Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. His son, Hubert Horatio Humphrey III, has also had a career in Minnesota politics.
If not a surname, then Humphrey might give you more of a zoological vibe. Animals aplenty have answered to Humphrey, including:
- A cat in residence at 10 Downing Street, jokingly referred to as the Chief Mouser. He was named after Yes, Minister character Sir Humphrey Appleby;
- A pair of bears. The first is a staple on Australian kids’ television, the star of Here’s Humphrey. The second is a minor Disney character who starred in shorts in the 1950s and 60s;
- In last year’s animated wolf movie Alpha and Omega, Humphrey is the underdog. He’s thrown together with alpha wolf Kate, and through a series of unlikely events, they fall in love.
Humphrey’s hopes for a renaissance come not from the animal kingdom, but from the small screen. TV’s Gossip Girl features the Humphrey family – aspiring writer Dan, his former rock star dad Rufus, rebellious little sister Jenny, socialite stepmama Lily. Dan is often referred to by his last name, and somehow it starts to sound just right.
With playgrounds filled with screen legends like Natalie, Ava, and Audrey, a little Humphrey might fit right in.