He’s a little cowboy with an outdoorsy vibe to boot.

Thanks to Alta for suggesting Wade as Baby Name of the Day.

Cade, Slade, Gage and Wyatt are all the rage. If Wade hadn’t been big in the 1960s, doubtless he’d be catching on right about now.

But Wade was big in the 1960s and 70s, and that’s probably why he feels ordinary, even tired, today. In 2009, he ranked #623 – far from obscure, but the least popular he’s ever been. Professional sports gives us plenty of grown men called Wade, from current Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips to former Boston Red Sox star Wade Boggs, but they aren’t buoying up their given name.

Wade has two related origins. First, he started out as a surname for anyone who lived near the shallow part of a river. It lends him a nature name vibe.

But he’s also the name of a mythological figure, usually a giant, but sometimes a dwarf. Wada – or Wate or Waetla or Wade – is always associated with water. Chaucer referenced Wade and his boat. In Northern England, a place was said to be the grave of a dead sea giant called Wadde. A road in North Yorkshire once bore his name, too. His name might be derived from the verb wadan – to go.

A notable family of military men all wore the name:

  • Wade Hampton I fought in the American Revolution as a young man and in the War of 1812 as an experienced soldier. He also served in Congress and amassed a huge fortune;
  • Wade Hampton II was no slacker, either. He fought with dad in the War of 1812;
  • Wade Hampton III became a general in the Confederate Army, and, post Reconstruction, governor and later US Senator from South Carolina.

Plenty of things have been named in honor of the three Hamptons, but there’s one that you might recall if you read Gone With the Wind – Wade Hampton Hamilton, Scarlett O’Hara’s son by her first husband, Charles. (In the film version, Scarlett’s firstborn is Bonnie Butler. In the novel, she has a child by each of her three husbands – Wade, Ella Lorena, and finally Eugenia Victoria – nicknamed Bonnie by her dad.) It’s said that fictional Charles served in Wade Hampton III’s regiment, hence their son’s name. It lends Wade a little bit of Southern charm.

All of this makes Wade the kind of name that might work very well today. Unlike Gage or Slade, his history of use as a given name is long. He sounds right at home with all of those so very current choices. Odds are that if you do meet another Wade on the playground, he’s somebody’s dad.

“I-knew-a-Wade-in-college” tends to be the death knell for many names. But even at his most popular, Wade reached just #183, in 1966. If you’re worried your son will answer to Cade G. his entire school career, choosing the tried-and-true Wade might save the day.

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. hi my 5 yr old is a wade..i got th name fr a film ..th hose of wax lol…very uncommon in u.k as far as i no ,but do love th name

  2. I like Wade fine but it’s pretty common here in the South. Lots of Wades in their mid-20s I’d say but I know at least eight little Wades running around. It’s a little too buttoned-up, old-school Southern for me…(so says the woman who named her son Beau).

  3. I knew a Wade in high school… he was one of the few Wades I’ve ever known. I’m surprised how uncommon the name is, now that I know, it fits perfectly into my favorite category — familiar sounding, but not actually common.

    My only concern is the how much it sounds like Wayne.

  4. We like it, planning on using it if we have two sons. I knew a very genorous and kind man named Wade and so this only has positive associations for me.

  5. Caroline, my grandfather was a Wade Hampton [Last name]!! He was born in Ohio though so it seems weird that he would be named after a Confederate general. I just emailed my grandmother to ask her. Strange!

  6. I’m not personally a fan. The only reference point I have for Wade is the duck in Orson’s Farm (a comic by the creator of Garfield). Wade the duck always wears a rubber flotation ring, not, in fact, because of his love for water but because of his fear of it.

  7. I just don’t love Wade aesthetically, but I don’t have an issue with it. Looking through my family tree a few months ago, I discovered a ‘Wade Hampton’ Lastname ancestor of my own!

  8. How ’bout, “I knew a Wade in middle school?” Yep, you got it – it’s not for me. For some reason, I had a strong negative with this name (not the person who wore it) even way back then. I really didn’t like the sound I guess.

    1. Actually, I know this is incredibly obvious, but I didn’t think about it in this way until just now: Wade is one letter off of my name… maybe I am just so used to hearing a J before ade that a W sounds strange to me and that’s what throws me off…