Editor’s note: This post was originally published on May 20, 2011. It was substantially revised and re-posted on May 20, 2o13 – for Julia.
He’s an upbeat surname option with a certain amount of edge.
Thanks to Lemon and Emily for suggesting Rafferty as our Baby Name of the Day.
Three-syllable, ends-in-y surname options like Romilly, Delaney and Bellamy all have a fashionable feel for girls. But Rafferty’s sound is a smidge harsher, and seems more appropriate for a son. He’s less aggressive than Gunner and Slade, but his tough-guy vibe might appeal to parents considering choices like Wyatt and Gage.
Where does Rafferty get his street cred?
The first syllable – raff – brings to mind the word raffish. Jane Austen would tell you that raffish is another word for vulgar – think riffraff. “Raffish charm” means that something is a little rough around the edges, but all the more attractive for the lack of polish. That gritty undertone is what makes Rafferty lean masculine.
Most people will recognize Rafferty as an Irish heritage choice, the kind of surname that fits right in with Riley. Rafferty ultimately comes from Rabhartach, a given name referring to the rising tide, a symbol of prosperity and abundance.
Jude Law chose the name for his son in 1996, lending Rafferty some serious starbaby style. And yet only a handful of boys have been given the name in recent years. What gives?
While Rafferty’s sound is cheerful and his meaning positive, that air of ne’er-do-well haunts him. The name has been chosen for characters who range from the hapless to the downright unsavory:
- In Australia, late 1980s television drama Rafferty’s Rules followed the life and times of local magistrate Michael Rafferty. There’s nothing especially untoward about Michael, but the title was borrowed from an Australian phrase. Rafferty’s rules means no rules. It’s somewhere between total chaos and gentle lawlessness. There’s a vintner known as Rafferty’s Rules Wines, too.
- There’s a spectacularly violent minor comic book character from the 1990s.
- Along the same lines, Sin City’s bad guy, Jackie Boy, is Jack Rafferty. Benecio del Torro played the villainous cop-gone-bad in the 2005 film adaptation.
- On a lighter note, Scottish musician Gerry Rafferty was part of Stealers Wheel in the 1970s – but their hit single “Stuck in the Middle With You” is famous for being in the violent breakthrough Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs.
- There’s also Chips Rafferty, an Australian actor, born John Goffage. His career spanned from the 1940s through the 1960s, including an appearance with Elvis Presley in 1967’s Double Trouble.
- Then there’s 1975’s Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins, a mostly forgotten movie featuring Alan Arkin as a former Marine-turned-driving instructor who heads off on a road trip with two women. It’s memorable mostly because it was an early Jerry Bruckheimer project.
While names like Damien and Regan have been boosted by unlikely uses, Rafferty seems held back by pop culture – or at least not helped by it. And yet no single Rafferty is so dastardly as to render the name unwearable.
File Rafferty with Crosby, Huxley, and Murphy – new surname names that just might work.
I do love this name. I couldn’t use it because it pairs terribly with my surname, although I might be able to get away with the shorter Rafe in the mn slot.
I have a 2 month old Rafferty, so I obviously love the name! We call him “Raff” a lot of the time- it’s easier for my three year old to handle.=)
Aw, I have a Rafferty too! Rafferty James, turned 5 in September. He fits his name so well, all the ladies adore him and I can’t say we’ve really met another yet. It’s the best!
Love, love, love Rafferty. Great sound, great nickname–I’d choose Rafe. Rough and tumble and roguish. So awesome.
Lady Gwyn says
Oohh, I love Rafferty! It isn’t high on my list, but I do love it-with Rafe as a nickname. I would love to meet a little Rafferty-as long as it’s a boy. I really, really hope this one doesn’t go to the girls. I love Reilly for a boy, but I am very sad it has gone to the girls so quickly.
I so love Rafferty! It’s on our list for the baby if it’s a boy. I don’t love that Rosy and Rafferty both start with R, but I think Rafferty is so cute.
Eh, too surnamey for me. It doesn’t seem to have much substance, either– especially compared to classic sound-alike Raphael, which I really like.
Charlotte Vera says
He’s not my usual style, but I find I quite like Rafferty. I don’t think I’d ever put it on my list of absolute favourites, but he does have a certain rakish charm and lacks the more obvious associations of the similar sounding Raphael.
This is one of those names that I just can’t imagine having to say over and over again. It’s ok the first time, but multiplying it just accentuates the harshness of the name.
There’s a popular local eatery ’round these parts called Rafferty’s, so it definitely makes me think “Pub!” too 😉
I’ve probably read too much regency fiction, but I’m having trouble not thinking that Rafferty sounds like a name for a wicked child. I’m being really inconsistent though, because I have the opposite feeling towards Raphael/Raphaela.
Oh, I forgot I suggested this! And, boy do I still love it! I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t imagine myself saying it over and over again toward a future child, but I’d love to meet a little Rafferty – actually, I’d love to meet a Rafferty of any age! It’s got a really approachable, yet roguishly handsome quality to it that I appreciate very much.
I used to hang out in a “bar” named “Old Man Rafferty’s” in New Brunswick, NJ. Good food there. I have no clue if they’re still open but there’s my assocation with Rafferty!
I like him but will never use him myself, Rafferty’s got the exact same rhythm as my surname. They sound funny together. But I like him nonetheless. Brothers Huxley & Rafferty would make me *swoon*! 😀
Oh, I would love to meet a Huxley and Rafferty! This is funny, but I really want to get an English Setter and name him Huxley – I’ve wanted to for awhile now. I could get an Irish Setter for his brother and name him Rafferty. Adorable. 😉
Sarah A says
Lola – Old Man Rafferty’s is still here, I was there just a few weeks ago! And yes the food is great 🙂
I actually like Rafferty, even though I’m not keen on surname names. There is something just so adorably devilish about Rafferty. And he sounds so fresh next to all of the tired ends-in-y boys names like Jeffrey and Timothy that I grew up with.
Thanks so much for this post! I love Rafferty. I think it fits well with the Milo, Oscar and even Nathaniel.
Christina Fonseca says
I love the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”; he is my sole association with the name. I would love to meet a little boy named Rafferty!
There’s an Australian celebrity baby called Rafferty – Rafferty David Hughes, son of comedian Dave Hughes. Since then, I have seen it used a few times.
All I can think of is Rafferty’s Rules (even though the slang expression is very dated now), and there is also a baby food company called Rafferty’s! Gosh maybe people are calling their babies after the baby food!
It fits in well with the trend (here anyway) for Raf- names like Raffie, Rafe, Rafiki and Rafael, but I could never use it myself.
Lou @ Mer de noms says
I love Rafferty! For me, whenever I see the name written down, it sometimes reads like the word raggedy, which increases my fondness for the name, somehow.
The connection with RiffRaff nowdays always makes me think of WiffWaff – and Boris Johnson’s (Mayor of London) proclamation that WiffWaff is coming home, after the Beijing Olympics: ‘Other nations, such as the French, looked at the dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner, we saw it as an opportunity to play.’