The baby name Robert held the top spot for years. Even as it has fallen out of favor, it remains polished and traditional, a strong choice for a son.
It’s easy to see the roots of the baby name Robert in Germanic Hrodebert – bright fame.
There’s a similar name in Old English, so when the Normans brought Robert to England, the two merged.
It’s been in heavy rotation, a favorite for boys in English, from the Middle Ages to the present day.
FAMOUS ROBERTS: BRUCE, BURNS, BROWNING
It feels impossible to list every famous bearer of the name Robert, but a few stand out.
The early saint Robert served as the first bishop of Salzburg, Germany around the year 700. (Though he’s often called Rupert.)
Robert the Bruce restored independence to Scotland during his reign as king in the early 1300s. Then came Rob Roy, an early 1700s Scottish outlaw in the key of Robin Hood, who became a folk hero.
Poets Burns, Browning, and Frost take the name in a literary direction.
BY THE NUMBERS
No surprise, then, that Robert ranked in the US Top Ten in the early twentieth century.
By 1924, it reached the #1 spot, unseating John. It remained there until 1939.
That puts Robert in an elite fraternity. Only eight names have ever ranked #1 for boys in the US: John, James, David, Michael, Jacob, Noah, Liam, and Robert. Until Liam reached the top spot in 2017, Robert was the only non-Biblical boy name to rank #1 in the US.
That means, of course, that the famous Roberts don’t stop with the history books.
There’s also actors Redford, De Niro, and Downey. Athletes and musicians abound.
BOBBY and BOB
It’s easy to miss some uses of the baby name Robert, because we know them almost exclusively by a nickname. Bobby Kennedy comes to mind; so do Bob Ross, Bob Dylan, and Bob Marley.
The baby name Robert also shortens to Robin – as in Hood – as Rob and Robbie. The latter two seem a little more current than Bob today, but they all work.
In less conventional nickname options, Robert also shortens to Bertie and Bert, as well as rising favorite Bo.
FALLING FAST = OPPORTUNITY?
All of this makes for a rock solid traditional name. But after so many years of heavy use, Robert has fallen out of favor. As of 2018, it stands at an all-time low of #71. Names including Owen, Mason, and Wyatt might be relative newcomers, but they’re all more popular than Robert these days.
But here’s the thing: classic names are subject to trends, even if they’re never trendy. The baby name Robert remains a Top 100 pick, meaning it will remain a reliable choice for a boy.
If you’re frustrated that every kid you know is called Henry, James, or William, then Robert might be the logical substitute. Bob sounds like your great-uncle, but Robbie and Rob are far more contemporary.
Would you consider the baby name Robert for a son?
First published on June 24, 2011, this post was revised substantially on July 10, 2020.
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As the one who suggested this Name of the Day, I have to explain why I chose it. I knew it wouldn’t fit in with most of the other, more unusual names here. My boyfriend’s name is Robert, after his grandfather Robert and mother Robin. He’s thought about carrying it on in some way, though not as a first name. I’m not fond of Juniors. Anyway, that is why I wanted Verity’s take on this name.
Emmy Jo says
I love Robert. I’ve always thought it would be a good name to write love letters to. (“My dearest Robert” — see doesn’t it sound nice?)
I think the name would sound just fine on a young child today. I had a student named Robert a few years ago — he would be in fourth grade now. I’ve known a couple Roberts who would be in their mid- to late-twenties now. They both went by Rob. One was my sister’s high school boyfriend. The other was the handsome heartthrob of our college dorm. The girls used to gather in one of the dorm rooms near the bathroom whenever he would shower in hopes of catching a glimpse of him in his towel as he walked down the hall. (I never participated, of course, and he’s NOT the reason I like the name.)
@ Patricia – thank you! The full moniker here is Catherine Elizabeth, same as the beautiful Duchess of Cambridge 🙂 I think it’s amazingly cool about your international family. <3
I know what you mean about immigrants picking names they think will blend in. I met a Vietnamese immigrant family in the early 90s who very proudly introduced us to their youngest child, their "Canadian son Dennis" (the three older children born in Vietnam all had traditional Vietnamese names). I live in Vancouver, smack in the middle of a cultural hodgepodge, and I wouldn't live anywhere else (well except Newfoundland!)
Catherine: Doubly love Catherine Elizabeth! Kudos to your parents. My daughter is Catherine Rebecca (two family names); another daughter has Elizabeth as her mn, as does her daughter, and as does one of Catherine’s daughters. And we too are delighted that Prince William is married to CATHERINE, Duchess of Cambridge. (Very forward thinking of “Kate” Middleton’s parents to give each of their children a regal name…)
Lucky you to live in Vancouver in a cultural hodgepodge. Wonderfully diverse city. I’ve been there once and plan to visit again sometime when we’re visiting our daughter and family in Seattle.
My ex-husband is Bobby, but at work he always wants to be called Robert. It’s also the name of an ex-uncle, and my maternal grandfather’s middle name, but he went by Pee-Wee.
Honestly, Robert and Bob are my least favorite names, but I do like Rob–makes me think of Dick Van Dyke’s character, Rob Petrie, as well as Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons.
We named our third son Robert — “Robbie” when he was small; “Rob” as a teenager; and after he grew up, the full Robert. As a physician, Robert suits him very well. I’ve always regarded Robert as a great name with a fine history, and with Scottish heritage in my family, that includes Robert (“Robbie” — or “Rabbie”) Burns, regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and King Robert I of Scotland aka “Robert the Bruce”.( I had an uncle named for him — Robert Bruce, who was always called Bruce.) In Scotland in 2010 Robert ranked 60 and Robbie, 61, among all names given to boys born in that country, so it’s still a popular name there. I think that Robert will rise again in the US because it’s a classic name, yet currently not so overly popular like William.
I have to say that I love your son’s name story! I have to say that I think Robert and William (Robin and Wills) would go really well together and have a literary tie. I would swoon over a doctor named Robert 😉
I live in a metro area in Canada that is predominantly Asian and they as a community seem to be early revivers of dusty names. Agnes, Eunice, Gladys, Iris, James, Irene, Robert, David, Edward (I am Caucasian of German/Dutch heritage and I speak fluent French as well as English). I periodically flip through the baby announcements of the local newspapers with some amusement and of course the odd “WTF name” pops out as well as “Oh yea I forgot about Millicent, I do kind of like it…”
Charlotte Vera says
I’m also from Canada and love the unexpectedness of a lot of Chinese Canadian names. Granted, most of the more interesting ones I know are older (my daughter’s young Chinese friends are the relatively boring Ethan, Jacob, Hayden, Bethany, Samantha, etc.). Those my own age and older are Bernadette, Chester, Elbert, Dorothy, Etta, etc.
Catherine, _I_ have to say that I love YOUR name: our first daughter is Catherine. And I found your reply very interesting. 1) Yes, Robert and William do go very well together, even in a single name as in the name of our 5 year old grandson William Robert “Will” (blond-haired boy). 2) Our son Robert is of Asian ethnicity; we adopted him from Vietnam as an infant. Our other Vietnamese son is named James (on your list above). (Such a darling twosome they were as little boys called Robbie and Jamie, less than a year apart in age and so close to each other. They remain so as adults who now go by Robert and James.) 3) What fun to have access to birth announcements from Asian families. I’ve observed too that those families tend to favor classic and sometimes not currently in style names. I think sometimes that’s because those who have sponsored them as immigrants or have been befriended them are older adults who have such names. This is true with the Korean American community too. My (adopted) Korean son, John, and his Korean wife, Woolim, named their three sons David, Jonathan and Henry. 4) I love Canada! My husband and I lived in Saint John for a year, where our second child Edward (Teddy/Ted) was born, and I’ve since discovered that many of my ancestors — from France and later, from Scotland — lived in Qu
Charlotte Vera, I think Asian immigrants to the USA or Canada often choose names that they think will help their children ‘blend in’ with the majority European-American/Canadian children. Having “unique” or, heaven forbid, ‘yooneeke’ English language (or sort of, in the case of ‘yooneeke’) names is not what they want for their children. Our sponsorship ‘daughter’ and her husband, who both immigrated (separately) from Vietnam as university students, named their children Megan and Thomas/Tommy. They chose names that begin with the same first letters as their own names — Mom, M; Dad, T — and consulted me about any possibilities before making their final decision, not wanting to give their children odd names. Like our full Korean grandsons and many other children of immigrant Asian parents, Megan and Tommy have second/middle names from their Asian language that they’re called when they visit relatives in Vietnamese. Likewise, David, Jonathan and Henry are known by their Korean second/middle names when they’re in Korea.
Lady Gwyn says
Well, my Great-Grandma (whose still kicking at 103 and counting), is a Barbara called Bobbie, she had a daughter (my great-aunt who has passed on) also named Barbara called Bobbie. I have a second cousin named Bobby, and my maternal uncle is named Robby (called Rob, or Bear, because of his favorite football team). Because of all this Robert is not anywhere on my list. There are too many Bobbies/Robbys in the family already. I don’t dislike the name, but I prefer boomer favorites like Gregory and Grant.
I adore Barbara called Bobbie. HUGE guilty pleasure of mine.
I have a wonderful Uncle Bob and an early crush was a peer named Robert. My hubs also has a very handsome (single if any of you know somebody nice! Ha!) friend named Robert. For all these positive associations, I quite like the name, although not enough to personally use it.
I like Robert but I think I’d almost rather go for Roberta for a girl (after iconic video game designer Roberta Williams of Kings Quest etc).
Charlotte Vera says
I like Roberta (nn Bobbie) because when I hear the name I think of the heroine of The Railway Children, one of my favourite children’s novels!
British American says
My husband picked Robert for our first son’s middle name – before we’d decided on a first name. It’s to honor his grandpa, who was named H. Robert and was known as Bob. (I don’t remember what the H. stood for, but I know he went by his middle name instead.
So we have a Henry Robert. A couple of nights ago at dinner, we asked Henry if he knew what his middle name is. He didn’t.
(We’re not one of those families that calls the kid by first-middle when they’re in trouble.) So we were telling him that it’s Robert and then him and his sister (they’re 3 1/2 and almost 6) started joking about how it sounded like Rob-BUTT – which they found hilarious. :/ So that actually made me like the name a little less. (I never got to meet the grandpa who we named after, so I don’t have the warm fuzzies to go with that.)
I knew a teenage Robbie when I was growing up and it makes me think of Robbie Williams – which both make it kind of unexciting as a first name for me. Not ‘old man’ enough I guess. In college, 10 years ago, I knew a “Bob” my age, which seemed unusual at the time. I guess he must have been a Robert.
I used it as a middle name for my 7 year old (Samuel Robert). It’s my father’s name, my brother’s name and my father-in-law’s name, so we got to honor a lot of family members in one fell swoop! I wouldn’t have used it as a first name – it’s feels dated to me – but it fit nicely in the middle spot.
I have a Samuel Robert too! My husband’s middle name is Robert, which is his father’s first name. My son was the first grandson on that side so I wanted to continue the Robert chain.
Uncles on both sides, a cousin, my ex-FIL, old bosses and old classmates… all named Robert. Unlike Gilbert and Rupert, I know too many Bobs for it too feel fresh and exciting, plus it doesn’t help that I don’t know a single Robert under 35.
However the more I consider Robert, I realize it “ticks” all of the boxes. Classic, easy to spell, familiar/not trendy, with lots of nicknames. (Maybe Hobbes or Hobey instead of Rob/Bobby?) While It’s not a name I’d pick for my own son, it’s a great name and it would be fun to met a little one.
Sorry but I’ve always hated Robert. Its so plain and overused that it’s nowhere near refreshing to use it as a middle name: same goes to John, Michael, William, Jonathan, James, Daniel… They were all used so much and are all still super high in the charts, everyone knows several people with these names. I just find them all really boring and kinda eye-rolling inducing.
Each to their own, but if I was gonna pick and oldfashioned name, I would choose something less common from that time.
Oops I meant first name.
Haha! I think you just named everyone of my dad’s brothers…John, Robert “Bob”, William “Bill”, Michael “Mike” … you just left off Steven “Steve” and Richard! 😀
Sarah A says
SkyeRhyly – my thoughts exactly 🙂 I have a good friend named Robert and he goes mostly by Rob to differentiate from his father since he’s a junior.
Rob, Mike, Will, Dan, etc. are names that sound very tired to me despite their full forms being classics. But people think my name is boring too, haha. I’d rather meet a little Robert than a Jayden though!
Some see Robert as “overused” and not “fresh” (therefore,stale), but others see the name as very strong and manly, with a fine history. It’s all in what image parents want for their son, as a little boy, as a man. The search for a “unique”, “new”, “fresh” name has put some questionable monikers on some of today’s kids. Will these new names endure? Time will tell… And if they do, they too will seem stale and overused to the next generation of parents who are obsessed with giving _their_ child a name that they’ve never known anyone having. I love your name, Sarah; just like Robert, Sarah is an enduring classic.
That’s my husband’s middle name, so it’s 100% going to be either a first or middle for a son for us. Oddly enough, Robert is also the name I gave to my first teddy bear (which I still have!) when I was a baby. Obviously, I’ve always liked the name. 🙂
Charlotte Vera says
You know, I don’t think I have a single relative named Robert. Oh, I suppose there must be one somewhere on the family tree, but no one that I can recollect. The name’s just OK for me. I’d like other parents to use it because it’s a nice, classic name with a clean, streamlined feel, but I wouldn’t use it myself.
Also, not exactly on topic, but I hate how looking at Robert Pattinson makes me feel old even though I’m only two years older than the actor. Perhaps it’s because I don’t find him particularly attractive? I think a younger version of myself might be swooning at the sight of him, but not this ancient edition!
I don’t know…I’m 24 and have never found him particularly attractive either…to me he is all anime character with the square angular jaw and crazy hair (especially in Twilight). :\
I have an Uncle Bob…it wasn’t until I was a teen that I realized his given name was actually Robert. I think Bob is outdated by association… I’ve known several “Robbie”s who are closer to my age so I guess I see Robert is do-able…but for someone else’s kid. I think Robin as a nn is adorable 🙂 though I *do* like Robin as a stand alone first name as well.
Still off topic, I’m 27 and loved him as Cedric in Harry Potter, but I don’t like this shaggy look a lot of the younger guys have these days. I teach high school and I see a lot of shaggy (dirity) teenage boys, so I could never find it attractive.
Back on topic, my cousin’s a Bobby (really John Robert but he’s the 4th John in a row) and we’re all pretty close so it’d be weird to use it. Also my father-in-law and all of his fishing buddies go by “Bob” even though none of them ARE Bob. They’re numbered too, Bob 1, Bob 2, etc (I think they’re up to 10 or so, my husband is #8). But Robert’s definitely a solid classic!
I am something of a fuddy-duddy when it comes to boys’ names. My top favorites? Thomas, George, and Roger. So I can totally appreciate Robert, and I would use Bobby as a nn. I just love these boy names with so much history and so many wonderful namesakes.
My Uncle Robert “Bob” (of course) was born in1928. His twin was named Roger.
Too funny to see Robert today! Josie walked up to me on Tuesday and announced “when I have a boy his name will be Robin”. I talked to her about the differences between Fifi/Josie & Josephine, mentioned Robert, nn Robin would be nice, so he could have options like her. She was sold! So I may end up with a grandson named Robert in 20 years. She already has lists of names *she* likes, I can hope she ends up using something normal like Robert. He’s so handsome & strong!
Charlotte Vera says
I was just watching part of a QI episode online where Stephen Fry informed the panelist that the poet Robert/Rabbie Burns actually prefered to call himself Robin.
This post has made me reassess Robert. I’ve never really thought about him before. I guess because he is just one of those ubiquitous names that is well worn amongst the Baby Boomers generation (like David and Richard for example). I rather like reliable Robert though and a young Robert could go by Bert or Bertie which I love!
I would just like to say thank you for brightening my day. I woke up in the middle of the night with a sick child and checked my email to find this… A picture of my boyfriend 😉
With that said… I can completely see pathetic girls like me changing their minds about this name thanks to a cute boy! Haha!
Here Robert is floating around not-quite on the Top 100. I see a lot more boys called Robbie (as their full name) than Robert, so I think people going for the nickname version might be keeping Robert off the Top 100.
I think while names like Robert, Frederick, Edward, Alfred and Archibald are seen as old-fashioned, Robbie, Freddy, Eddie, Alfie and Archie seem friendly, cute and fresh to many people.
Robert is the name of a brother, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather, so, naturally it is on my list. But, I have it on my list as a middle name.