This post was originally published on October 16, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on November 2, 2015.
Looking for a classic name less common than William or James?
Thanks to Another for suggesting one that fits – and to Brittany for suggesting the update! Our Baby Name of the Day is Vincent.
Back in the 1970s, Vinnie Barbarino was the character played by a young John Travolta, whose career was launched on ABC sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. Vinnie was one of the “Sweathogs,” the remedial students at a Brooklyn high school, taught by veteran teacher Gabe Kotter.
Barbarino fit the stereotype of a Vinnie: Italian, and maybe a little too smooth. The image persisted through 1992, when My Cousin Vinny gave us another Brooklyn-accented Italian with the name.
But then came a very different Vincent, also played by Travolta: Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega. The 1994 movie marked a return to stardom for Travolta, a major box office hit, and a pop culture phenomenon.
Since then, actor Vince Vaughn has also helped to change the image of this name from Brooklyn-bound to something very different.
Vincent: Classic Roots
You’ve probably heard Julius Ceasar’s vini, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered. Vincentius was an early name from the Latin vincere – to conquer.
Several early saints bore the name, with at least four on the record between the fourth and seventh centuries.
The most famous saint by the name comes later: Saint Vincent de Paul, born in the 1500s, who dedicated his life to serving the poor, mainly in his native France. He also founded several religious orders.
Vincent: van Gogh
de Paul makes this name saintly, but another famous Vincent makes it powerfully creative. Vincent van Gogh, the nineteenth century artist responsible for works like Irises and Sunflowers and dozens more, makes this name an artistic possibility.
Born in the Netherlands, but living most of his adult life in France, van Gogh is considered one of the forerunners of Expressionism and, indeed, all of modern art. His many paintings are among the most instantly recognized and most valued by collectors.
Vincent: Beyond the Church and the Museum
Noble Vincents can be found in several European families, including a Duke of Mantua in the early seventeenth century.
But the modern Vincents are plentiful, too, including:
- Actors D’Onofrio and Kartheiser, as well as Vin Diesel – born Mark Sinclair Vincent. Adrian Grenier wore the name as a fictional movie star on HBO’s original series Entourage. It’s said that the character was named for a legendary acting teacher with the same name. And what would horror movies be without the legendary Vincent Price?
- I’m a sucker for the underdog tale of former Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale, whose story made into the 2006 movie Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg.
- Vince Guaraldi is the composer behind the Peanuts music, and other musical Vinces range from Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil to Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill.
The name has appeared in the US Top 100 more years than not, ranking from 1910 to 1933, for most of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and again from 1983 to 1992.
That puts Vincent just outside of the most classic and enduring names for boys, and as of 2014, the name stood at #104.
All of this makes Vincent an appealing possibility for parents who want a strong name for a son that isn’t trendy, isn’t too common, and will travel well.
If you’re after an underused classic for a boy, Vincent is one to consider.
What do you think of Vincent? Does the nickname Vinny concern you?
Just checking in 12 years later, lol. Vincent is 14 now, and we have added Henry (11) and Guinevere (1.5) to our brood.
Love this name! My top runner for a boys name! I think it will go well with my daughters name Arianna. My hubby is Portuguese/German and I’m Italian/German.
very happy mama says
Our little boy is a Vincenzo (after his grandfather) and I’m happy to report that we frequently hear compliments on his name. (He is already saying, “My name is VINCENZO!” – no being called “Vinny” or anything else!) 😉
I can see how the mafioso impression of Vincent has taken root, but my main impression of Vincent is the sensitive artist–it’s Van Gogh and that syllable it shares with “innocent,” I think. But then you get the nicknames Vince and Vin (I’d prefer to sweep Vinny off the table, too) and the name does this personality switch into this iron-jawed, wisecracking warrior. It’s the amazing reversible name!
Yup. I’ve now completely conVINCEd myself I need to use it someday. 😉
My husband and I chose Vincent (Vince) for our son for many of the reasons mentioned in the article. Classic, familiar but not common. In our state it is not common at all. My husband and I debated a long time about names. He wanted a traditional name that could have a one syllable nickname. All the men in both of our families have these type of names, Mike, Steve, Mark, Dan, Jim, Jeff, Rob, and many more. I wanted something “different”. I didn’t want my child to go to school and be Jack B., I hope and pray that there will not be another Vince in Kindergarten. It was a bonus that this name continues the family “V” tradition, he is the 5th that I know of. My husband and I have zero Italian heritage, but we love this classic LATIN name anyway. We are considering a second child and need a name that compliments Vincent but is not too similar. Any suggestions?
The name that springs to mind for a son is Calvin, nicknamed Cal. The only drawback is that Calvincent can be smooshed together. But he meets most of your criteria, I think. There’s also Henry, nicknamed Hank, or Jeremy, nicknamed Jem. But Jem might not meet the one-syllable nickname test quite as well.
For girls: Veronica, Claudia, Lucia … and I just ran across an Antonella. It’s awfully frilly, but I kind of love it. Are there other criteria for a daughter’s name?
C in DC says
One of our neighborhood kids is named Vincent. It still feels a little dated to me. And Vincent/Vinny still say Italian to me too. But Vince/Vin I think are fresh and less culturally specific. There’s also Vince Gill. (All the Vince’s I know are Southern. Hmmm….)
Charlotte Vera says
Besides the Vincents already mentioned, there’s also Vincent Freeman, Ethan Hawke’s charactyer from Gattaca, and Vincent the dog who outlasts most of the other characters on Lost.
I’ve known quite a few Vincents — most of them Chinese Canadians whose parents chose their name because of Vincent’s similarity to the word “win”, believed to bring good fortune to its bearer.
Nicolette Sari says
I really like Vincent, just wish it worked my hubby’s last name…
It got a cool modern vibe, but of course it also has history and substance. I’m surprised it’s such a popular baby name. (#86 in my state!) Even with the girls going to Catholic school, most of the Vincents I know of are 65+.
Laney McDonald says
lol. Yep, Vynsynt makes me shudder too. I asked her at least a thousand times why she spelled it that way and no answer. She just has weird taste in names I guess. She plans on giving her new baby a messed up name too. She’s got a long list of odd names going already and it keeps getting longer. I feel so bad for the kids cuz they’ll be correcting people forever and they’re not gonna be taken seriously.
AGH! I forgot to mention Vincent Price. You’re right, Lola, I need to go hang my head in shame now.
Okay, I’m back. 🙂 Vincent was a tough one for me, because it dominates the Italian-American side of my family tree. We’re not mafioso, but a few of the Vincents on my mother’s side look like they *could* be.
But Vince really does seem like he could make a comeback – better Vince than Lance, Chance, Chase or some of those other names that I always think of as better suited to a soap opera character than a real live human being.
And I forgot one more Vince – Entourage’s Vincent Chase, played by Adrian Grenier. I’m Netflixing my way through the series while trapped in the house with a babe in arms.
Laney, I forgot about your friend’s Vynsynt. Shudder. Again.
Kayt, I’m (tragically) overdue to update the calendar – I’ll work Daria into it, promise. Thanks for the suggestion.
I think both Vince Vega in Pulp Fiction and the British ex- football turned actor hard man Vinnie Jones as well as various other Vinnies and Vince’s along the way have all aided my impression of Vincent as a hard nosed Italian -American gangster type. It’s not my thing but Vincent is a pretty cool name and very unusual in the UK – I would be delighted to meeet a young Vincent!
Laney McDonald says
I love Vincent. My cousin has a friend named Vincent and we call him Vinny. He’s a nice guy who always used to give me money just for the hell of it. My friend also decided to name her son Vincent but the way she spelled it is awful (Vynsynt).
It’s a great name. I would save it for the middle spot though since it is so popular for a first name. I don’t want my kids sharing their names with other kids in their classes. lol
I would like to meet one, but I couldn’t bring myself to use him. I grew up on the East coast, and the nasally sound of a Rhode Islander saying Vinny makes me cringe. Personally, Vincent is in the same category as Raymond and Bruce. I would like to hear a child named that, but I couldn’t do it!
Verity, we were sitting around last night, and Kevin brought up a name I’m both intruiged and amused by: Daria. I know it’s decently rare, but I would like to hear your take on it.
Sorry.. Vin Diesel’s surname is Vincent! Still cool.
What, no mention of Vincent Price? For shame, Verity! 😀 And Vin Diesel is a Vincent as well. Now, Vincent Price makes me love Vincent but Vin Diesel put the cool back into Vincent, if you ask me.
As a former Jersey girl, Vincent says one thing to me: Mobster. It just does. So while I love him for one reason, I could never use him for the other. But gods, he is the most dashing, debonair, suave dude! I know my other half loves him (because he’s a horror buff and Price rules) but I can’t get past the “Sopranos” feel of him. And Vinny? Oh, I hear him in a Brooklyn accent every time! I’d still think about him in the middle, if nothing but to please the other half, but really.. ___ ___ Vincent MacKenzie ? or ___ Vincent __ Mackenzie? Kind of culture – clashy, methinks.
He’d have to go to someone else. So sad. I think he’s wicked cool.
I’m Italian-American and have an Aunt Vinnie, short for Vincenza, and would rather use that than Vincent.
To me, Vince or Vinny or Vincent is horrible. I also have an Uncle Vinny, on the other side of my mom’s family, who’s irritating and annoying and makes me hate the name.
The other Vincent I know is called Michael Vincent, the entire Michael Vincent. He’s 15 and still Michael Vincent. I don’t like it either.