Baby Name of the Day: Quinlan

If you love Riley and Finn, but want something less expected, here’s a contender.

Thanks to Stephanie for suggesting the kelly green Quinlan as Baby Name of the Day.

Finn has Finley and Fintan and Finnigan, too. Parents seeking a longer option for Quinn can choose from Quincy and maybe Quinton. But Quinlan seems like one of the more appealing options.

And yet he’s never caught on. As of 2009, Quinlan had never appeared in the US Top 1000. Nancy lists just 82 Quinlans, plus boys named Quinnlan, Quinlin, and Quinlen last year.

Maybe that’s partially because Quinn feels complete on his own. He’s charted in the US Top 1000 every year since 1960 and ranked #258 last year – his best ever. Quinn also came in at #486 for girls, possibly lifted by fictional characters from Glee’s cheerleader-turned-teenage-mom Quinn to 90s animated MTV series Daria’s perky sis Quinn, also a cheerleader.

Quinlan’s meaning would work for a girl as well as a boy. It’s from the Gaelic Caoindealbhán or Caoinlean, emphasis on lean – the meaning is often given as slender, but also sometimes fair or attractive. Connor, Connell and a slew of Con- and Quin- names have different roots, but, of course, it is always possible that the lines blurred over the centuries.

There’s no shortage of notable Quinlans, but most wear it as a surname. You will find:

  • Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor gave the name to their son, Quinlin Dempsey. If you’ve seen the last scene of 2001’s Zoolander, you’ve caught his silver screen debut;
  • Quinlan Terry is a British architect. He renovated 10 Downing Street in the 1980s;
  • A minor character in the Star Wars comic book series is Jedi knight Quinlan Vos.

    As a surname, famous Quinlans are plentiful:

    • James Quinlan won the Medal of Honor as a Union officer during the Civil War;
    • Irish-born Bishop John Quinlan was a key figure in Roman Catholic Mobile, Alabama during and after the Civil War;
    • Thomas Quinlan founded the Quinlan Opera Company in 1910s England, taking his company on a tour of Australia, New Zeland, Canada and South Africa before going broke in the World War I era;
    • Sportscaster Jack Quinlan covered the Chicago Cubs in the 1960s;
    • TV’s Scrubs included the perpetual frat boy Dr. Todd Quinlan;
    • Robb Quinlan plays for the LA Angels. His brother Tom also played for the MLB;
    • Actress Maeve Quinlan can currently be seen on 90210 as mom to Adrianna;
    • Actress Kathleen Quinlan was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Apollo 13.

    On a tragic note, Karen Ann Quinlan’s case was a lightning rod in the Right to Die debate. Could it be that her story leaves a lingering hint of sorrow around this otherwise upbeat Irish surname?

    Should you find Quinlan on your family tree, it is definitely one to consider embracing for a child. Or if you love Quinn but find it just a bit too brief, Quinlan seems like a great formal option.

    The only parents who might be disappointed are those hoping for an exclusively masculine moniker. Quinlan seems just as likely to be given to a girl circa 2010!

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    Quinlan is definitely masculine sounding to me. I don’t mind it, but its not for me. I could definitely see this getting trendy.

    I don’t really like this name, either. I think it’s my hatred of all the trendy “-lyn” names that rubs me the wrong way.

    I like Quinlan for a boy, but I’m afraid the name is too taken over by girls via the popularity of Glee.

    I was surprised to find that Quinn hadn’t been more popular for girls. Besides Glee and a few other references, friends of ours used it for their daughter ten years ago. Still, Glee is SO popular that it may very well shift in the near future. And ForReal did spot a Kwynn Patricia …

    Thanks for doing this name, Abby. I fell in love with the name after reading it as a character in a Julie Garwood book (I don’t remember which one). I have loved this name for a long time and think it’s perfectly useable as a first name. I would use Quinn as a nickname.

    I think it is officially rare enough that it wouldn’t be a problem, Lady Gwyn – and at the same time, it doesn’t sound at all out of place. It’s the kind of name that you’re sort of surprised you haven’t come across more.

    Any Quinn name just makes me think Bob Dylan instantly… Mighty Quinn… so Quinlan seems plenty ‘boy’ to me. I also like Quintin (Quentin is fine too, but the ‘i’ spelling has a family reference and it was what I was used to seeing)… It’s an alright name.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Quinlan lately because I really like Quinn for boys but I’m almost positive it’ll be stolen by those greedy girl parents, thanks to glee. Quinlan seems more masculine to me than Quincy, but I don’t think I’d use it- it’s a little TOO last-namey for my taste. I’m not generally against lasts-as-firsts, but I feel like Quinlan is one you need to have a family connection to for it to work.

    My first thought has always been the author, but I just googled and realized it was Anna Quindlen. Another option, I suppose.

    Thank you, I was trying to remember that author’s name and coming up blank…

    I’m not a huge fan of “making up” a more formal name in order to use a nickname that’s a legitimate name to start with.

    I don’t care for it because of the trend of tacking -lyn and -ley (and -lynne and -leigh, etc.) on to random syllables. Just Quinn seems so much cleaner. I much prefer Quentin if someone needs a longer form to get to Quinn.

    I’m challenged by this one, because the only Quinlan is a girl. It’s a family name, though, and it is actually her middle. Her first is conventionally feminine. But then, if boys can be Jaylon and Sebastian, Quinlan doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    I have a son named Quinlan. His dad and I (again) couldn’t agree on a name until the the recovery room on the day he was born. Dad wanted Quin – I needed a two syllable variation. I offered up Quinton and that was rejected and when I offered up Quinlan we both felt it. A couple of times some family members have called him Quinnie (which I put a complete stop to) and to be honest I don’t mind Quin now, but for both of us from the day he was born have never shortened it. I didn’t know the meaning until now (and he just turned four) and he is definitely a handsome man!! As he has long hair he is oft mistaken for a girl due to his beauty, but I am wanting to embrace his First Nation background and so will grow his hair as long as possible. I love my little Quinlan and love that fact that his name is NOT a popular one.