She became a twentieth century staple, a cousin to Karen and Susan, big sister to Allison and aunt of Madison.
Thanks to Megalady for suggesting Megan as our Baby Name of the Day.
Megan is one short form of the enduring Margaret. But unlike Meg, Maggie or Gretchen, she was unknown in the US until the middle of the twentieth century.
Instead, Megan originates in Wales in the 1500s as Megen. Margaret, the name of saints and queens, has been steadily popular for centuries. Take diminutive form Meg, tack on that familiar -en/-an/-in ending found in so many Celtic languages, and Margaret (or Marged) becomes Megen and Megan.
If that’s not enough to make her a Welsh heritage pick, consider this: the parent to first use Megan in our modern era was the UK’s first (and so far, only) Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. Lloyd George spent his formative years in the village of Llanystumdwy, and his first language was Welsh. His wife Margaret was also born in Wales. Their five children were:
- Mair, the Welsh form of Mary
- Olwen, borrowed from a legendary maiden
- Gwilym, the Welsh version of William
Megan Lloyd George was born in 1902, likely sourced her parents’ understanding of traditional Welsh appellations. (And possibly encouraged by Megan’s ties to mom’s name, Margaret.) Her middle name, Arfon, is a medieval place name with mythological significance.
She may have been novel, but Megan wasn’t completely out of step with given names. The US Top Ten in 1902 included Helen, and tailored names like Evelyn and Irene were also current.
Over the next few decades, Lady Megan would have a career in politics, advocating for greater Welsh autonomy. The name Megan started to catch on. She debuted in the US Top 1000 in 1952, following tailored choices like Susan (#5 in 1952) and Karen (#8 in 1952).
Megan entered the US Top 100 in 1975. Then along came The Thorn Birds, and by a bit of magical misunderstanding, Megan was transformed into an Irish heritage pick. Colleen McCullough called the heroine of her bestseller Meghann, known as Meggie, the daughter of Padraic and Fiona. It’s an anachronistic choice. While there may have been a similar-sounding Irish surname or Old English given name, Meghann was an unlikely choice for a young Irish girl living in Australia.
The popularity of the novel and the television mini series boosted Megan even more. The name would hover around #10 from the mid-80s into the early 90s, a sister for Erin or Kelly, Lauren or Kristen. All of those once-popular picks are now solidly in mom name territory, and Megan is slipping fast. She was down to #164 in 2011.
Today we tend to see Megan as a thoroughly normal name, one that’s always been around. Mad Men gave the name to a character that couldn’t have possibly been a Megan. (She must’ve been born in the 1940s, meaning that Kathleen would’ve been a more era-appropriate pick.)
If the name isn’t fresh and new anymore, she is, at least, something of a modern staple. She’s actually more popular than Margaret, and still more often used than Greta. She may be a relative newcomer, but chances are she’ll be with us for a while.
Meggie pa Geggie says
I’m a Megan and I’ve known so many megans it does make my name seem boring. Two different guys I dated had a little sister named Megan. That wasn’t weird… I hated my name for a long time. I mean HATED. Especially in the early 2010s when every a-hole I told my name to would tell me to “shutup, Meg” (all thanks to that *lovely* misogynistic tv show Family Guy). Only recently did I learn to tolerate my own name. My dad named me after a woman who regularly gave him free food when he was homeless. All the megans in my life have been kind and compassionate people. One Megan went by Megnut, another magpie, and I think that is the cutest thing ever. When your name is an awkward fad from the 80s, you don’t take yourself too seriously. And that is what actually one of the strengths we Megans have.
I’m rather late to the game, but your post on ’80s names got me thinking about Megan. I’ve always had a soft spot for it, especially after reading Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger. Megan Hunter is the daughter of the first victim, and helps Miss Marple uncover the murderer. The character would have been born in 1922 England. Megan’s only downfall, for me, is that I’ve known so many of them. Still, it’s a lovely name. Decidedly feminine without an ounce of frill.
I’m a Meghan (rhymes with Reagan), and I’ve always been intrigued by the variations of this name; I’ve met several Megan’s, a Meghen, a Maghen, and a Maegon and seen numerous other spellings.
Growing up surrounded by innumerable Jennifers, Jessicas, Ashleys, Nicoles, etc the name had always seemed a bit on the rarer side (I was the only one in my class though I knew of two other Megans). Not until these last few years did I realized how prevalent Megan (and her variations) is. And though I didn’t always like my name as a child (especially since any personalized pencils, cups, or whatnot were invariably for a Megan and not a Meghan), I love it now. And the fact that my mother took it from a book (The Thorn Birds) makes the bibliophile in me happy.
It’s definitely not a frilly, super-girly name of the sort that seem to be popular now (Isabella, Arabella, etc) but I’ve often felt that it’s a comfy name that one can relax in (not unlike a worn, but favorite old sweater). Thanks for featuring this “New Classic”.
I began to appreciate Megan when I saw that the Baby Name Wizard put it in its “New Classics” section. I was always fascinated by the New Classics, but found them too boring to use. A new classic is a name that can be imagined on anyone from newborn to 40 (perhaps 45-ish), but rarely on anyone over 40-45-ish. And sure enough I know a Megan my daughter’s age (she’s 5) and went to high school with a Megan…ahem… about 20 years ago. The name doesn’t seem out of place on either one of them.
But a Grandma Megan seems weird.
“New Classic”, I like that.
Sarah A says
Megan is one of those names that is nice enough but I just know too many of them for it to be interesting. I’m in my late 20s and it seems like growing up every other girl had one of 6 names, in all their variant spelling glories: Megan, Lauren, Kristen, Sarah, Jessica, Ashley. That’s why it seems kind of blah. And the same way that the name Michael doesn’t feel Biblical to me because it’s so common, Megan doesn’t feel very Welsh.
I completely agree with Katybug, the anachronism of Megan Calvet Draper’s name is incredibly annoying. She’s French Canadian and her father is a Communist – at least a Russian name would have been believable 🙂
Megan was probably my first name-crush. When I was in 2nd grade, there was a 1st grader named Megan (Meagan?) I just thought her name was really interesting in comparison to all of the Sarahs, Jennies and Julies. I still really like the name, but my SIL’s sister is named Megan and I can’t stand her…
My neice (soon to be 20) is Megan (Meg-an) Susanne. I like the flow but not much else (the Susanne is for me). She’s been simply Meg for so long, I sometimes forget she’s not a Margaret! 😀 I love, love, love Marguerite and almost used it on Josie but I’m glad I didn’t. She’s so not a Daisy (my preferred nickname).
Megan’s little brother (soon to be 17 and driving!) is Eric, which seems a bit mismatched until you realise Eric is a family name on his Pop’s side. Sweet, but very 80’s names for sure!
Laura Rose says
I was going to be named Laura from the beginning, but my mother says if she considered anything else, it was Megan. I say Mehy-gan or Meg-an, like Panya said, somewhere between eh and ay.
FWIW, most of the time I say this as MEG-an [as does my mother], but sometimes that first vowel is somewhere between /eh/ and /ay/.
I REALLY dislike MEE-gan. I thought I read that was more of an Australian pronunciation?
Mee-gan is the traditional Aussie pronunciation – I am a Mee-gan. I personally hate May-gan.
Megan Draper’s anachronistic name on Mad Men has really grated on me, a rare slip by such a detail oriented show.
Perhaps her parents were influenced by Lloyd George?? Canada being a Commonwealth realm and all…
oh how fun! …i’m a Megan 🙂
C in DC says
I grew up with a Meeghan family, so there’s probably a surname connection somewhere, but like Lou, I say the girl’s name as meh-gahn.
You just reminded me of one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of the name Fiona. Meggie’s mother was the first time I’d heard the name. She’s such a stern woman!
Lou @ Mer de Noms says
My goddaughter, born in ’09, is a Megan. The name remains inside the Top 30 at #23 here in England&Wales. She is actually still at #8 in Wales when you split the data.
Personally, I didn’t really like the named until young Meggie came along because I knew a girl named Megan my age who wasn’t particularly pleasant. For what it’s worth, I say meh-gahn.
Charlotte Vera says
One of my youngest cousins (now about to graduate high school!) is a Meghan. I remember being surprised when I found out they were throwing an h in there. Ah well. Her middle name is Louise, and while I’m not usually in favour of combos where both names have the same number of syllables I think that Meghan Louise works because of where the accents fall.
The 1980s Anne of Green Gables films starred Megan Follows as Anne Shirley. Follows pronounces her name “mee-GAHN” rather than the more popular “MAY-gen” . Her siblings are Edwina, Laurence, and Samantha.
I remember the first time I heard the name — I was in kindergarten and a girl named Meghan lived in a blue house down the street, we ate grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch the one time I went over to play, and she had a kaleidoscope, which I thought was the coolest thing ever — I instantly fell in love with the name. Yes, my name-nerd-ery [? haha] started that young! When I found out that her spelling wasn’t “legit”, I was shocked and angry — how could this nice girl with the well-off parents have the wrong spelling?! 😀
Megan is part of the reason I adore Margaret. I could never use Margaret as a first name because I wouldn’t be able to choose between Maggie, Megan and Daisy to call her.