Is he jolly well due for a comeback, or is this stormin’ Norman over and out?

Thanks to Caroline for suggesting Roger as Baby Name of the Day.

Roger had his heyday in the US in the 1940s, leading some to believe that he’s as fleeting as Troy or Jayden.

But Roger has more history than many a recent discovery. The hero of the epic poem Beowulf came to the aid of Hrothgar, King of the Danes. The poem’s exact dates are debated, but could be as early as the eighth century. And Hrothgar could be an early form of Roger.

The Normans imported Roger to England in the eleventh century. He comes from German elements hrod – fame and ger – spear, a good name for a warrior.

One of those Norman knights made it all the way to Sicily, where he established himself as Roger I. He passed his name – and his realm – on to a son. The Sicilian rulers weren’t the first to wear it, though – Roger’s older half-sister Beatrix married a Roger, too.

Two notable scientific pioneers answered to the name: in the twelfth century, Salerno’s leading physician was Roger or Rogerius. His writings on surgery were widely influential. A century later, Roger Bacon’s writings helped established the scientific method.

By the seventeenth century, Roger had changed. Just as parents hesitate to call their sons Dick today, so it was with Roger in the 1600s and 1700s. He spent centuries as unpleasant slang, also referring to clouds of toxic gas in England’s factories; nickname Hodge was a derisive term for a country bumpkin; and somehow by the eighteenth century, he became associated with the skull and crossbones flag used by pirate ships.

Resilient Roger never faded entirely, and several America notables wore the name, including:

  • Roger Sherman, one of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence, and also a signer of the Constitution;
  • His descendant, Roger Nash Baldwin, director of the American Civil Liberties Union during several famous trials, including the murder trial of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Scopes monkey trial;
  • Roger Taney was the Chief Justice of Supreme Court who administered oath of office to Abraham Lincoln.

Famous Rogers from the twentieth century include:

  • Rock legend Roger Daltrey of The Who, plus Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett was born Roger;
  • Athletes like tennis’ Roger Federer and baseball’s Roger Clemens and Roger Maris;
  • Hollywood gives us Roger Moore, who played James Bond in the 1970s, as well as famed critic Roger Ebert and director/producer Roger Corman.

Fictional Rogers range from The Scarlet Letter’s Chillingworth to Mad Men’s Roger Sterling to the animated headliner in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

After spending 1921 through 1975 in the US Top 100, today Roger is more like to be worn by a grandpa than a grandson. If you’re trying to honor a Roger, you might consider the more current Garrett. Or, take a cue from the phonetic alphabet. Through the 1940s, radio operators used “roger” for the letter R. (Hence Roger meant Received.) When NATO adopted their standard alphabet, they opted to represent the letter R with Romeo.

While his #496 ranking in 2009 was his lowest since, that’s far from obscurity. In fact, more than 500 baby Rogers were born last year – just a few paces behind vampire surname Cullen.

Here’s betting Roger will be back.

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. My 5yo is named Roger and we absolutely love it. We wanted a name that was familiar but uncommon, and I was watching Season 3 of Mad Men the summer before I gave birth and was in love with Roger Sterling. I only recently learned the slang meaning from a British friend. Oh well. Day late and a dollar short!

  2. For some reason, Roger is the guy who fix your car, the guy who reminds you of Chris Farley. Don’t know why I have that impression.

  3. Ah, way to rope in a lurker! I’m married to a Roger, I think the associations with his name make it even more appealing to him. I think he quite likes the “rogering” slang of the British and finds it amusing – also, that he is one of the few Rogers of his generation. My son, who is into pirates, likes that his father’s name is associated with outlaws. Roger to me is what he is: funny, masculine, and sexy. Kind of like Roger Sterling…except without the money.

  4. My dad is Rodger. Roger has always looked “wrong” to me and I want to pronounce it roe-ger or roe-jer instead of rod-jer. Rodger is on my perpetual list for boy middle names.

  5. I loved that name when I was 10 or 12. It’s not a favorite anymore, but I do have a small soft spot for it.