W by Too Far North via Flickr

He brings to mind a widely-admired statesman, but is it too much name for a child?

Thanks to Sara for suggesting Winston as our Baby Name of the Day.

Prior to the Norman invasion, the elements wyn – friend or joy and stan – stone combined to form a personal name: Wynstan.

It might have been lost to time, but it made it to the map. Villages called Winston still exist in England. The surname, also spelled Winstone, endured, and migrated back to the first spot over time. It was sparingly used in nineteenth century America; in 1900, Winston ranked #699.

The same happened in England, at least in one aristocratic family.

Back in the early seventeenth century, John Churchill married Sarah Winston. Their son, Winston Churchill, was born in 1620. This Winston Churchill had a son, John, who would become the 1st Duke of Marlborough in 1702.

Fast-forward a century or so, and the same names are in heavy rotation. John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Dukc of Marlborough, was born in 1822. The Duke of Marlborough had eleven children. Third son Lord Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill passed the name on his second son: Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

There’s more written about Winston Churchill than I could hope to summarize here. Let’s just say this: he led Britain through World War II, and remains widely admired today. In 1941, Winston was the 233rd most popular name given to boys born in the US.

All of this means that there have been other memorable Winstons, like:

  • John Lennon’s middle name was Winston, in honor of the Prime Minister;
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four’s main character was records clerk Winston Smith. George Orwell is said to have named Smith after – you guessed it – the Prime Minister;
  • 1994’s Pulp Fiction featured Harvey Keitel in a small role as Winston Wolf, who helps contract killers Vincent and Jules clean up a hit;
  • Legendary jeweler Harry Winston was the one who donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian.

You might also think of Winston-Salem, as well as Winston cigarettes and their decades-long sponsorship of NASCAR and the Winston Cup. The North Carolina legacy started with Joseph Winston, who served with distinction in the American Revolutionary War, and went on to represent North Carolina in Congress. After his death, Winston, North Carolina, was named in his honor; a few years later, it would join with nearby Salem to become Winston-Salem.

For American parents, it leaves Winston the tiniest bit tobacco-stained, split between a Southern gentleman and a British aristocrat.

But Winston also has an appealing characteristic: the nickname Win. It’s too much to put on a child as a given name – what happens when he comes in second? As a short form, it could be quite appealing.

Only, of course, if you don’t Winston too old-school for a newborn. With the name ranked #823 in 2009, it is pretty clear that parents haven’t been embracing Win in recent years. That either opens the door for you to use a name rich with history, confident your son won’t meet another – or sends you back to the drawing board.

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. We named my son Winston John (Husbands name is John Winston after John Lennon). LOVE the name and do not regret it. My husband is called Winston or J Dubs. I usually call Winston by his name but we do use Win or Dubs (for W). My husbands nickname is J. Dubs.

  2. Too funny, this was posted on my baby Winston’s birth day! (Space intended.)

    It does look very formal on his records, but we are getting used to it 🙂 Win is a good nickname, but the drawback is Winnie. As in, The Pooh. My kids did that to him right away, after they told us it was the worst name ever. But most people we tell say they like it. Funny thing is, someone had given us some hand-me-downs with Winnie The Pooh pj’s in it, so it was unavoidable I guess.

    Interestingly, I saw someone say above that Winston made them think of the name Colton as well…our oldest son is Colton (the one who said Winston was the worst name ever…but he’s used to it now, so don’t bring up what he formerly thought, or you’ll be in trouble ;-)). Kids!

    I’d heard of zero Winstons except Churchill and Orwell’s (and WInston-Salem and the cigarettes of course) before we had him, now I’ve heard of 2 for sure and supposedly someone famous (newscaster?) recently named their kid Winston? Anyone know who? Also, introduced him to someone the other day who said funny, my husband was saying the other day he likes the name Winston. For some reason, it seems to be in the collective consciousness right now, more that I ever expected.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Congrats on your new son!

      Funny thing about Winnie is that I love it on a girl … but I can see where it might be a bit troublesome. My 6 y.o. son would have a field day with baby Pooh. Oh well – sounds like you’ve laid down the law! 🙂

      Never would I have thought of Colton and Winston as brother names – but they really, really go together nicely.

  3. Winston feels a little bit stiff to me, but it has this cute feel to it, too. Probably because it makes me think of puppies. Love this for an English bulldog – they pull of even the heaviest of names with ease! My neighbor had an English bulldog named Norton…

    “Win” as a nickname sounds like a cheer to me, to be honest. “Win. Win!” See, if I were calling my child like that, I’d feel like a crazy parent at a soccer game. Ha! It also is a tad delicate for my taste, perhaps better suited toward a whimsical name like Winsome, for a girl.