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.