Portrait of Emperor Marcus Aurelius as a boy. ...
Portrait of Emperor Marcus Aurelius as a boy. Roman artwork. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve covered a lot of names in this family: Marco, Jean-Marc, and the once chart-topping Mark.  But today’s choice is the original, the source of them all.

Thanks to Milia for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Marcus.

Marcus was a Roman given name, worn by many an ancient notable.  There’s Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the man better known as Mark Antony.  It was the given name of the statesman Cicero, as well as Brutus, remembered by history as the assassin of Julius Caesar.

Unlike many antiques, Marcus has always enjoyed some use, appearing in the US Top 1000 every year.  He surfaces in unexpected places, too.  A sixteenth-century Flemish print-maker answered to Marcus.  So did early twentieth century theater entrepreneur Marcus Loew, co-founder of studio MGM.  At around the same time, Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey, Jr. was advocating the return of all people of African descent to their homelands.

Add up all of the possible variants, and the lovely thing about Marcus and company is that it makes for an enduring choice, found in some form in nearly every place and time throughout the Western world.  The Spanish surname Marquez is part of the cluster.  So are Marek, Marcel, and Marcello.  They’re all most likely related to Mars, the god of war, who probably borrowed his name from a similar Etruscan deity.  Saints, even a  pope, have answered to various versions of the name, putting it safely in the mainstream.

But today’s focus is on Marcus in particular.  An uptick began in the 1960s:

  • Television gave us the successful medical drama Marcus Welby, M.D.  from 1969 through 1976.  While Marcus was already on the rise, Welby pushed him into the Top 100.
  • Marcus Allen began his NFL career with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1982, and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • In the Indiana Jones movies, Marcus Brody is a fellow academic and something of a father figure to the intrepid Indy.
  • Nick Hornsby’s About a Boy was about a boy called Marcus.  The 1998 novel became a 2002 movie.
  • Marcus becomes a vampire name in the Underworld series, where he’s the very first of his kind.  Another vampire answers to Marcus in the Twilight series.

Marcus is huge in Estonia, and has had a good run in Scandinavia.  For American parents, he’s a stand-out alternative to naming your son Mark Jr., or maybe a way to honor a grandpa Mark.  He’s also a nice compromise between Atticus and Michael – classic, but not terribly common.

In recent years, Marcus has been more popular than you might expect, charting in the US Top 100 from 1970 through 2000.  He’s fallen slightly in recent years, coming in at a steady #145 in 2011 – a decrease, but still the most common of the cluster, beating out Marc, Mark, and even the ends-in-o Marco.

Marcus might not be the most stylish, but neither is he stodgy.  He’s a solid choice, an ancient appellation at home in the twenty-first century.

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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. Marcus strikes me as dashingly handsome too! Unlike boring Marc/Mark (It’s boring because I know soooo many of them). I’ve got a cousin Mark whom we “bark” at. (say Mark sharply & quickly and you’ll get what we do). He thinks it’s funny. 😀

    I prefer -us enders in general and while Marcus isn’t one I’d use (Lucius, Aurelius or Rufus for me) but I love seeing Marcus on little kids. Just not mine.

    And I’ll third SkyRhyly: I find a lot of African-American Marcus’ too. (half of the Marcus’ we know are so).

    I still think it’s a fabulously strong & handsome choice for a boy. 😀

  2. I really prefer Marc or Mark to Marcus – unfortunately I knew a Marcus when I was a kid and he got teased and called “mucous”, and that association is hard to shake. Marc was on my short list of names for my last baby, and I’d be happy to see it make a comeback in the not-too-distant future. I like Marcel as well but I suspect it’s perceived as ‘too feminine’ in the US.

  3. I really like Marcus. I do think he’s one of the safer ends-in-us choices, but that’s not a bad thing. I went to school with a Marcus and he was (and still is!) dashingly handsome so I have a positive association with the name. And I too have noticed what SkyeRhyly mentioned, that Marcus seems to be popular among African-Americans.

  4. I, too, prefer Marco, though Marcus is a thoroughly sensible choice. I know of a four year old Marcus, and the name suits him.

  5. I seem to notice Marcus is rather popular with the african american community. I don’t mind Marcus but he doesn’t interest me much, neither do any of the related names. I think Marco might be my favorite out of the bunch, but still a bit plain for an ends-in-o name.