Today’s choice is a masculine rarity with ancient roots.
Thanks to Claire for suggesting her son’s name, Siebrand, as our Baby Name of the Day.
Deciphering Siebrand isn’t too difficult. His Germanic roots show through – sigu, as in victory, and brand – sword. He’s another of the very many warlike Germanic and Old Norse appellations that filtered down through the ages. Medieval history gives us lots of names sharing those elements, and many appear in the history books: Siegfried, Sigbjörn, Sigmund. Surnames Brando and Branson are linked to the second element; Rembrandt, as in the legendary Dutch master, Rembrandt van Rijn, is another.
Given how widespread the names were, it is surprising that fewer of them have filtered into general use in English. Siebrand suffers from two challenges: first, he’s composed of elements that are out of favor and have been fading from use for well over a century; second, there’s more than one possible spelling, making it tough to assemble him into a single, recognized name. There’s Sigebrand and Siburn and Sibrant, and that’s just the beginning.
The first Siebrand that pops up in the record is an early leader of what would become the Teutonic Knights, the order behind many of the Crusades. Master Siebrand was part of the organization’s early days, establishing the order’s first hospital for pilgrims, at Akkon in Galilee.
He was far from the last. Others to wear the name include:
- A thirteenth century abbot in Mariengaarde.
- A sixteenth century historian known as Leo Sibrand or Sibrandus.
- A sixteenth/seventeenth century theologian, Sibrand Lubbert.
- He was among the more popular given names in seventeenth century Gronigen.
In 1911, a Siebrand Koning earned his pilot’s license in France, though the records list him as a native of the Netherlands. Fast forward to this moment in time and there’s a very active Wikimedia contributor called Siebrand Mazeland.
It appears that Siebrand has remained in sparing use in the Netherlands, long after it has faded nearly everywhere else. There were two Siebrands born in 2011, plus a Sijbrand and seven boys called Siebren – so the name still has some use. The most popular Dutch names are given to hundreds of kids – #1 name Daan was bestowed on 875 boys. And the most popular picks are almost all short – 11/20 are single-syllable names. Siebrand must look old-fashioned, even in Dutch.
Could it be not just the Netherlands, but even a smaller slice of the population? Looking at this map, Siebrand appears to be favored in the northern part of the country, roughly corresponding to Frisia. This gets tricky – Friesland is a province in the Netherlands, where West Frisian is still spoken, but the larger historical region of Frisia extends from the Netherlands through Germany to the border with Denmark. Leeuwarden – pictured above – is capital of the Dutch province, and it was the birthplace of Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia.
Overall, Siebrand is exactly what he appears to be – a name out of time and fading from use. He’s more medieval than modern. And yet, in an era when we’re all respelling Jayden to stand out, there’s nothing more daring than reviving a heritage choice.