Langland's Dreamer: from an illuminated initia...
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Peter is a Brady and a bunny rabbit, and a saintly classic, too. This related name takes him in a more dashing direction.

Thanks to Emily for suggesting Piers as our Baby Name of the Day.

Peter was a nickname given to the apostle Simon, indicating his importance in the early Christian church. It comes from the Syriac kefa – rock. Kefa became Cephas became Petros, and eventually we arrived at the name we know today.

Given the significance of the saint, it is no surprise his name was popular in Medieval Europe. Variants can be found throughout the Christian world, from the Spanish Pedro to the Russian Pyotr.

The Normans brought the name to England as Pierre or Pierres; in English, the common form became Piers, though variant spellings abound.

Piers endures at least in part because of William Langland’s fourteenth century epic Piers Plowman. The protagonist is Will, a man who has drifted off to sleep and dreams of heaven and hell. Will’s dreams are a search for the Truth, and Piers the Plowman appears as his guide.

Beyond his literary uses, Piers was worn by historical figures. At the turn of the 1300s, King Edward II made his close friend, Piers Gaveston, the 1st Earl of Cornwall. Two centuries later, a member of the influential Butler family of Ireland answered to the name Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond.

By then, however, Piers was fading in favor of Peter. Surnames derived from the name cluster are many, including:

  • Pierce, Pearce;
  • Parkin, Perkin, Perkins;
  • Pierson, Peterson.

The surname form Pierce has long appeared in the first spot. After Pierce Brosnan’s career took off with the 1980s detective series Remington Steele, Pierce re-entered the US Top 1000. He’s bounced around since then, ranking #480 in 2009.

Both Pierce and Piers share a pronunciation – the single syllable peers, though you might hear more of a -z ending – peerz, especially for Piers.

Piers has never appeared in the US rankings, but several familiar figures wear the name:

  • Piers Courage was a British-born race car driver, when he wasn’t busy being heir to the Courage Brewing family;
  • Piers Morgan graduated from British tabloids and reality shows to win The Celebrity Apprentice and snag his own show on CNN;
  • Piers Anthony has penned many a New York Times bestseller in the fantasy and sci fi genre.

As for the kind of pier that you see near the water, it may ultimately link back to the same origin, but it isn’t certain. Piers does pick up a certain noun-name vibe, and maybe even a hint of nature-name style, from the similarity.

With single-syllable surname borrowings from Blake to Reece finding favor with parents, Pierce seems likely to remain in use. Piers takes the name in a more adventurous direction. While it would take some spelling, and maybe a dash of explaining, Piers could wear equally well.

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. I like Piers a lot, although I go back and forth about actually using it for a little boy. My only brother’s name is Peter, and I think having a little Piers would be a nice way to honor him without having another Peter – especially since our first and soon-to-be sons will both have more unusual names. Piers fits the bill in a lot of ways… it might grow on me more.

  2. I would rather use Pierce than Piers, especially since they would get pronounced the same in my neck of the woods. Also, Piers still seems a bit…twee. At least to me.

  3. I really like Peter, but Pierce is so aggressive looking. Piers should seem softer, but instead feels less name-like and more like a location,

  4. It has a certain air of toffish twit about it, much like Guy (which I adore), but I do prefer it to wet blanket Peter.

    1. Yes, it has a somewhat ‘posh’ British vibe to me too. My only association is with Piers Morgan.

      And I didn’t realize that it was related to Peter.