Even an Oscar-winning film couldn’t revive this former favorite. After hibernating for decades, is it time for his reappearance?
Thanks to Emma for suggesting Wallace as Baby Name of the Day.
Thirteenth-century resistance leader William Wallace has long been a national hero in Scotland. His surname migrated to the first spot in his honor.
Some suggest that Wallace’s family came to Scotland from Wales. That tracks with his surname. The Old English wealh meant foreign, and was often applied to those who spoke Welsh. In Anglo-Norman French, the name became waleis.
In September 1297, William Wallace and Andrew Moray led the Scottish forces against the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. They were outnumbered, and yet they scored a dramatic victory.
Moray died of injuries, but Wallace went on to serve as Guardian of Scotland – a position similar to king. His reign didn’t last long. Defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298, he resigned his position, but continued to work for Scottish independence. In 1305, he was captured by the English, tried for treason, and executed in a gory fashion. Among other insults, his head ended up on a pike on London Bridge.
Fiction kicked in soon after. In the late 1400s, the poet known as Blind Harry penned The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace. It may have had some basis in fact, but it is generally considered a heavily imagined account. An early eighteenth century version was published in England, attracting the attention of a new generation of writers.
Until 1927, he was a Top 100 pick in the US, peaking at #69 in 1923. And then he reversed course, falling until he left the rankings after 1993. I can’t find any one figure that inspired Wallace’s rise in the 1920s. Walter was even more popular at the time. Wil- names were huge, too: William, Willie, Willard, Wilbur, Willis, Wilbert, and Wilfred all appeared in the US Top 200 for the decade.Wally would peak as an indpendent given name in 1945 at #602.
Notable figures wearing Wallace as a surname are plentiful, and one of them is Braveheart screenwriter and director Randall Wallace.
It could have been enough to push Wallace back into favor, but Wallace remains in limbo. Maybe it because nickname Wally still feels unwearable, or perhaps claymation characters Wallace and Gromit put parents off.
But Wallace was best friend to Veronica Mars, and a teenaged drug dealer-turned-informant on HBO’s The Wire. There’s also Western novelist Wallace Stegner, lending the name a bit of Western flair.
Wallis is a variant spelling, often considered the feminine variant ever since Bessie Wallis Warfield Simpson won the heart of a king and became the Duchess of Windsor in 1937. Actor Anthony Edwards gave the name to one of his daughters.
If he loves Wyatt and you prefer William, Wallace just might serve as a compromise. If you’re looking for a Scottish heritage pick, he’s as good a choice as Angus.