Cathedral of Prince St. Vladimir
Cathedral of Prince St. Vladimir; Image by Oleg Mirabo via Flickr

If boys are answering to Kannon and Slade, maybe this Slavic classic can overcome his bloodthirsty Gothic vibe.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Vladimir.

If your family tree branches back to Eastern Europe, odds are you’ve got an ancestor wearing some variant of this name in your past. In Old Church Slavonic, vlasti or volod means rule or ruler, while miru means peace – think of Mir, the Soviet space station. Others suggest that the final element is related to mer for famous or miru for world.

Plenty of Vladimirs have been rulers, but peaceful ones? Not always.

The first famous Vladimir attained sainthood after converting to Christianity and bringing most of Kiev with him, in the late tenth century into the eleventh. While he founded schools, this Vladimir also spent plenty of his later years at war with his neighbors – and his sons. He remains a patron saint of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia, as well as a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church, so little wonder his name has endured.

The Vladimirs that follow him are notorious:

  • There’s Vlad II, Duke of Wallachia, better known as Vlad Dracul. While he was a successful general, defending his lands from the Ottoman Empire, he’s best known for fathering Vlad III;
  • Vlad III is better known as Vlad the Impaler. Junior had a tough road of it, being sent as a hostage to the Ottoman rulers and having to scrap for power. In Wallachia – Southern Romania – he’s remembered as a defender of the homeland, if a ruthless one. In Western Europe, reports paint him as a tyrant who enjoyed torture and never hesitated to kill in furtherance of his goals. Lest you think this is merely history, Bram Stoker based his 1897 Dracula on the historical Vlad III;
  • Communist and Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin cemented the name’s ruthless flavor.

Of course, not every Henry, William, or Edward was noble and just, and plenty of Slavic princes and ordinary folks wore the name without incident. Today, Vladimir might just conjure up ice hockey players and vodka. He’s popular in the Ukraine and the Czech Republic; variants include:

  • The German Waldemar, worn by a grandson of Queen Victoria;
  • The Scandinavian Valdemar, popular in Denmark where it was worn by four kings;
  • Short form Waldo, in steady use in the US through the 1940s, but out of vogue for everyone except certain cartoon characters since.

Waldemar appeared in the Top 1000 a few times near the turn of the twentieth century, but Vladimir has yet to chart.

For a literary reference free of vampire bats, here’s one that some might enjoy – along with Estragon, Vladimir is Waiting for Godot in Samuel Beckett’s play.

In the middle spot Vladimir offers the perfect combination of heritage, history and unexpected charm. As a given name, Vladimir is a tough sell. He lacks an easy nickname, and sounds terribly aggressive. Then again, Gunner and Cannon are headed to kindergarten in a few years, so why not a little Vlad?

Note: This post was originally published on September 23, 2008, and was revised and reposted on April 28, 2011.

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 brother in law is from Russia and he and my sister are seriously considering Vladimir for a future boy. My sis loves the dark romance aspect of Vladimir and he likes that it’s a very strong, masculine, Slavic name.

    I like Vladimir, but I do think he’s a little too much vampire (and Voldmort, thanks Claire!) for the first spot. But my sis and her hubby aren’t considering it in the middle spot because they plan to follow the Russian middle name tradition (in their case it would be Romanovich for boys, Romanovna for girls). I’ll let you know in a couple of years if they ever have the guts to seriously put this on the b.c. 🙂

  2. I have known 2 Vlads, neither of which left good impressions on me, so along with the history baggage and the current people I have met, the name is ruined for me. It does have some dark romance appeal, sort of a vampire type draw, but sadly the two people I knew just completely turned me off. I would much rather use Bram for the dark vampire romance draw than Vlad

  3. I’m from the Atlanta, Georgia area, so hockey is not as much on people’s radar as is baseball! Although the Atlanta Thrashers do have a very loyal fan base, even if it is smaller than most NHL teams. On the baseball side, the Braves made the playoffs 14 years in a row, starting in 1991, so they were generally the talk of the town. But I digress.

    Solange and Brian is an interesting combination! Vladimir and Wilton are from a large family – 9 children, I believe – and I’m curious to know the rest of the names… But I’m most curious about how Vladimir came about in the Dominican Republic!

  4. SKS, Vladimir Guerrero popped up in my Google search. Sadly, I know so little about baseball that I didn’t investigate. (We’re a hockey family. My husband is from Michigan, and Alexei is insisting that he’s going to be a Red Wing for Halloween – the second year in a row.)

    I don’t know anyone from the Dominican Republic to ask about baby naming traditions there, but my Venezuelan (hopefully) SiL-to-be tells me that anything goes in many Spanish speaking countries. (She’s Solange and has a brother named Brian!) But Vladimir apparently has an older brother called Wilton, so there’s gotta be a story there!

  5. There is a Latin-American baseball player named Vladimir Guerrero… I’ve always thought the combination of his first and last names is quite culturally interesting. Anyway, he’s been in the major leagues for over a decade now and won MVP a few years ago, so he’s well-known among baseball fans.

  6. Lola, I feel your pain! My husband has a fabulous Uncle Zbigniew. But really, some of these Slavic names just don’t translate well into American use. Compared to Zbigniew (and Wladyslaw, another relative), I always think of Vladimir as relatively accessible. I agree – great style, and a nice combo of the historic and the unusual. But oh, the vampire vibe!

    Still, we toyed around with Vladimir. My husband liked it better than Giacomo, if only because it matches Alexei so well. But he decided his (Polish) parents would have a heart attack if we used something so Russian. Really, if Clio’s not a girl, I don’t know what we’re going to do – there’s simply NO masculine moniker that satisfies!

  7. Yeah, Vlad’s got a ton of baggage and Lenin stinks as an assocation! Sadly, it’s one of my many Great Uncles although I barely knew this one. All I remember of Miros (Mir-osh was his nickname) is a big, black haired, loud guy. Always laughing and joking. I was 7 when he died. But I’ve always liked the memory of the G. Uncle (I always called my Great Uncles, simply Uncle, so much simpler, no?) 😀 and have toyed with it as a hypothetical middle. Hypothetical because he’s the one Uncle my other half never met. I’ve known my other half since we were kids (I was 4, he was 6 when we met) so the other Uncles (the ones he met) are generally the ones he prefers. That and the fact that we’re huge “Dracula” buffs so it feels a bit sterotypical for us to use. I know of someone online who did use Vladimir for her boy and I must say I love it on him. But Vladimir really clashes with the Scottish surname (Oh to be cursed so… Scottish surname with hugely Slavic roots)!

    I think Vladimir’s wonderfully strong and oh so handsome. If I had a surname to match, I’d use it myself but would be happy seeing him used by others! Vladimir rocks! 😀