Ian: Baby Name of the DayIan fit the mini name trend ages before we all fell for Jax and Kai.

Our Baby Name of the Day takes its inspiration from Jessie’s grandfather.

Ian: John’s Scottish Cousin

Count this name among the many international variations of John.

Along with Evan and Sean, it ranks among the most familiar forms of the name. It feels more wearable in English than the Russian Vanya or Portuguese João.

It debuted in the US Top 1000 back in the 1930s. Since 1982, the name has ranked in the Top 100 consistently.

How do John and Ian connect? The name started out as Iohannes in Biblical Latin. Swap the I for a J, and Johannes gives us John and company. The Gaelic Eoin evolved from Iohannes. The Scots whispered Eoin into Iain. Iain was slimmed down by one more ‘i’ over the years.

It remains common in Scotland, though another cousin – Jack – tops the charts there.

Ian: Anderson, McCulloch, Fleming & More

The name soared in the UK earlier than in the US. That’s why many of the best known bearers of the name hail from across the pond, including:

  • Rock stars from Jethro Tull’s Anderson to The Cults’ Astbury to my personal favorite, Echo & the Bunnymen’s McCulloch.
  • Writer Fleming, creator of the legendary super-spy James Bond.
  • Actors like McKellen, Holm, and current television heartthrob Somerhalder.

Add in plenty of athletes, politicians, scientists, and a British war hero or three, and this starts to feel like an ordinary name that stops short of being a regular Joe.

Fictional characters have appeared on EastEnders, as well as My Big Fat Greek WeddingPretty Little Liars, and more.

Ian: At the End …

No one argues that Ian stands alone, a complete name with a long and storied history.

But it also falls at the end of many a stylish name. From the current US Top 100, four names end with -ian: Sebastian, Christian, Julian, and Adrian. Few of them reduce to Ian naturally, but all of them feel like modern staples.

Credit some of this name’s appeal to our affection for the general sound and spelling. It feels on trend – but stops short of trendy – today.

Ian: Mini Name

The name appeals for another reason. It makes a short name, like fresh discoveries Gage and Kai. But it boasts almost as much history as Henry or James. That puts him in the company of mini names like Max and Ray and Eli. They may seem short on letters, but they’re big on style.

Ian: Solid & Sensible

Overall, this name serves as a solid, sensible pick for a son. It nods to Scottish heritage, while remaining perfectly mainstream. We recognize it instantly, but it never feels over-exposed. Fleming makes it dashing; McKellen lends it creative force.

If you’re seeking a stable name for a child that maintains plenty of style, Ian belongs on your list.

What do you think of Ian?

This post was published originally on February 16, 2012. Following substantial revision, it was reposted on March 15, 2017.

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 first soccer coach, back in the 70’s, was called Buzz and named his daughter 1@nette. I think that soured me n both junior-style and masculine names on girls. He was nice enough, but it seemed really weird to my fifth grade ears. Too bad, though, because it is a cool name.

  2. Abby, I was tickled to see Ian today, my beloved grandfather. We did finally have a son and we did name him in honor of my grandpa. My grandpa preferred John rather than his given name, so we named our son John

  3. The first boy I ever fell for in 5th grade was named Ian so I have this warm fuzzy feeling about the name. It doesn’t hurt that the likes of Ian Somerhalder bear the moniker either or that I’m of Scottish decent and my last name starts with Mc.

  4. I really like Ian! It’s a lot like Eric to my ears: a regular guy kind of name with that stylish bit of something extra.

    There’s also the character Ian in Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity”, he was played by Tim Robbins in the movie adaptation. It’s great because the Ian character is the “other man” and he’s this slick pan-Euro-poseur type. That movie made me see Ian in a whole different light 🙂

  5. I like Ian, but like the above poster, I like Ewan better. I have a question, though? Is Ioan (like Ioan Gryffund or however it’s spelled) a John variant-It sounds close to Ian?

    1. It’s pronounced YO-un in Welsh – nothing like Ian/Iain – but you’re right: it’s a Welsh form of John.

  6. I like Ian. I prefer Ewan, which I understand has an entirely different derivation than John, but still goes down that vowel-y, Celtic-y road.

  7. I love Ian. One of my cousins is an Ian. I also have a cousin in Latvia named Janis (pronounced Yah-nis) which is similar. If it weren’t for them, I’d consider using Ian for a son.