With his mix of indie cool and athletic can-do, why isn’t this name faring better?

Thanks to Liliane for suggesting Rudy as Baby Name of the Day.

It would takes guts for modern parents to revive the classic Germanic Rudolph for a son today, knowing that he’d hear about Santa’s sleigh on a daily basis from kindergarten through college.

But Rudolph is a classic, worn the world over, by artists, scientists and royalty. Plus, the name actually refers to wolves, from the final element – wulf – not deer.

Rudolph was once a Top 200 staple in the US. As an independent name, Rudy was rare until singer/actor/bandleader Rudy Vallée became a star in the late 1920s. Born Hubert, he’s considered the first crooner, paving the way for Sinatra and company. He was also a huge star and by 1929, he was also appearing on the big screen. “As Times Goes By,” later made famous by Casablanca, was his last hit.

The singer’s fame propelled the name into wider use, though it was already gaining. In 1925, Rudy ranked #416. By 1926, he’d climbed to #299.

The 1993 biopic Rudy told the real life tale of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, an ordinary Joe who made it all the way to the University of Notre Dame’s football team on nothing but sheer determination. Sean Astin – before he was a Hobbit – portrayed the too-small Rudy who plays just one game for the Fightin’ Irish – but manages to sack the quarterback and get carried off the field by his teammates. It’s considered one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

Rudy Guiliani was born Rudolph, and it didn’t stop him from serving as Mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001. Neither Guiliani’s popularity nor the sports legend upped the use of Rudy. He’s been fading since the 1940s.

Could it be blamed on slang? By the time The Clash released “Rudie Can’t Fail” and The Specials released “A Message to You, Rudy” in 1979, the term rudeboy had been in use for two decades. Initially used to refer to juvenile delinquents in Jamaica, it evolved to refer to followers of ska music. It lends Rudy an indie edge, but maybe it’s tough to overlook the similarity to the word rude – and the implied affection for pork pie hats.

The most famous Rudy in the late 1980s was television’s Rudy Huxtable, the youngest child of Cliff and Clair on smash hit The Cosby Show. Her given name was Rudith. Rumor has it that Rudy was supposed to be a boy, but Keshia Knight Pullman’s audition changed everything, and the role was rewritten.

Ruby is popular for girls and Jude is climbing for boys, but Rudy ranked just #728 in 2009, and seems headed for obscurity. Jude Law’s youngest son answers to Rudy, and names like Cody, Colby, and Jacoby have been current for boys.

Rudy makes for an intriguing option – offbeat, somewhere between the classic Robert and the fleeting Rogue, and falling out of use at a time when similar names are soaring.

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 have no idea why this name is so rare, it is adorable and screams innocence. The girls name The name Ruby has become so popular and Rudy is very similar. BUT I don’t like the name Rudolph, just because the ending reminds me of Hitler and I think kids might become mean because of the Reindeer song. The name Ruettiger is very adorable too. If anyone is on the fence for picking this name – don’t be, it is perfect!!

  2. My dog is named Rudy — full name Rudolph for his deer-like looks. And I think it’s a great name: energetic, charming and retro. Baby boy Rudy would for sure sport a tiny fedora.

    For an even more indie twist, we sing to him “Rudy Rudy Rudy Rudy! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!” to the tune of the Kaiser Chiefs’ “Ruby” all the time.

  3. Rudy is nice, much better than Rudolph the deer…
    And no, Rudy on a girl is crap and tacky. Nothing wrong with boy names ending in y, in fact, they sound much better on boys than girls, who end up as strippers…