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.