The baby name Sage combines a virtuous meaning with ties to the natural world.
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day, and to Sage for suggesting an update.
PAIGE and GAGE
Sage just plain sounds like a given name. It falls midway between late 1990s favorites like Paige and Gage.
But none of them claim much history.
Sage debuted in the US baby name data in 1963, when it was first given to five girls. By 1968, it appeared on the charts for boys, too.
The baby name Sage’s 1960s debut suggests that it might be part of the counterculture’s embrace of all things green and growing. Sunshine fared well in the late 1960s. So did Rain and Misty.
But names borrowed from herbs have plenty of history. Basil and Rosemary feel more like vintage charmers than modern innovations.
The herb sage takes its name from the Latin salvus – healthy – via the Old French sauge and Old English sawge.
It’s been said to remedy a host of ailments, and was once common in kitchen gardens for both cooking and for use in home remedies. An old saying went like this: Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto? In English: Why should a man die while sage grows in his garden?
The baby name Sage’s other meaning – wise – comes from a completely separate source: the Latin sapere.
It isn’t just about book smarts, but about taste and judgment, too. The Latin sapere originally meant “to taste.” Sap – liquid from a plant – shares the same root. This put the baby name Sage in the same category as modern virtue names like True.
It’s both a adjective and a noun. A smart person can be described as sage; but the Seven Sages of the ancient world were a group of Greek philosophers.
Their names aren’t terribly wearable today: Cleobulus, Thales, Pitticus, Bias, Solon, Chilon anyone? – but the baby name Sage has been gaining use for decades.
BY THE NUMBERS
The 1970s gave us Sage Stallone, son of actor Sylvester, former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels, and ESPN correspondent Sage Steele. They were among the first wave of Sages born in the US.
While the early numbers gave this one to the girls, by 1990 they pulled even.
And in 1991, the baby name Sage debuted in the US Top 1000 for boys. In 1993, Sage debuted for girls, too.
It’s risen steadily since then. As of 2019, it reached #280 for girls, with Paige-inspired spelling Saige at #651.
But it also ranks a respectable #449 for boys, making this a truly unisex option.
Overall, the baby name Sage is a shapeshifter. It’s a humble nature name with intellectual overtones, a single-syllable, twentieth-century discovery with complex, ancient roots. There’s much to love about Sage.
What do you think of the baby name Sage?
First published on December 22, 2010, this post was revised substantially and re-published on May 4, 2021.
I don’t know I kind of like Thales, still on the fence with Sage. I’d probably never use it, though Basil is a favorite.
I adore the name Sage! It’s a great name with multiple meanings and I love that it’s gender neutral! I actually picked Sage for my chosen name when I figured out that I identify as Non-binary! 🙂
Sage a lovely lady’s name.
ADORE Sage for a girl. I’ve known men named Basil (multiple) for instance, and they were so far from being hippy or perceived as hippy, that Sage is more in the same category as Violet for me than a hippy-esque meadow.
Crazily enough, Pink did use Sage for her baby, in the middle. Except it was for her daughter!!
Sage is team blue all the way. And I think I should mention Paige used to be team blue too, one of the many names to switch teams over the years.
I like Sage for a girl, not at all for a boy. For me, Sage is a more interesting Jane.
Oooh, for me I would find a baby Jane much more interesting than a baby Sage at this stage.
My son is called sage and he suits it so much 🙂
Charlotte Vera says
Back when I was first getting into names, I imagined having children with somewhat expected first names and then rather-less-expected middles like Sage and Rhaen. At the time I actually thought I was being original. Now I’m a fan of classic middle names (Roseanna’s are Ruth Adeline after all), and prefer more established herb names such as Rosemary and Basil.
I have a friend with a four-old named Sage. When her name was announced I was shocked, since their older kids have timeless, classic names. I’m not sure I like Sage, but I since it feels rather masculine, I like it better as a boy’s name.
I really Sage for a boy. I find it too masculine for a girl. Though I feel the same way about Page. Though I suppose it wouldn’t work for me as I already have a Rosemary.
Whitney Gigandet says
Oh, I love Sage. Slightly more for a boy, I think, since they are so shorthanded when it comes to my beloved nature names, but its one of those rare monikers I feel works well on a girl, too. I love how simplistic, mysterious, intelligent, and handsome it is all at once.
In slightly unrelated news, I am happy to announce that there has been a new addition in our close circle of family and friends! My husband’s best friend and his wife welcomed a little boy named Lennox James 🙂
Oh, how nice Whitney – just in time for Christmas! And Lennox James is a nice combination of the current and the classic. Congrats to them!
Less comical than Basil (which I want to love given I OD on the herb in my cooking. Well, attempt at cooking) but, it’s not my thing. Still, perfectly acceptable name for either sex.
Also, given the wise connotation/connection I find it weightier than other common, garden variety names such as Daisy, Lily and Poppy.
My cousin picked Sage for her baby. She picked it before she knew that she was having a girl & wanted it either way. I think it’s perfect for a girl, differnt but not so much so for a boy.
It’s too hippy dippy for me. I have a hard time taking it seriously. I would much rather see it on a boy than a girl… I think. It could be kind of appealing on a teenage boy or young man, but I can’t imagine the name on anyone over 29. Imagine an elderly Sage! In the middle, it seems harmless, and it’s still miles better than Gage.