There’s Xavier and Zane and Zander, too.  With the z sound finding favor, why has this one been overlooked?

Thanks to Urban Angel for suggesting Zoltan as Baby Name of the Day.

If his zippy z isn’t reason enough to consider Zoltan, there’s his meaning.  Derived from the Turkish title sultan, he’s as regal as Kingston – but think Budapest, not Jamaica.  Zoltan may have never appeared in the US Top 1000, but he’s a traditional name and a Top 20 pick in Hungary.  Short form Zsolt is just a dozen places behind, similar to Jack and Jackson in the US.

Zoltan has history aplenty.  He was first worn by a tenth century Hungarian ruler whose title was Grand Prince of the Magyars.  The title didn’t last long – before the 900s, the Magyars were ruled by chieftains.  By the eleventh century, their rulers were called kings.  And we don’t know much about Zoltan, except that his dad was the illustrious Árpád, generally considered the founder of the nation.

There may have been Zoltans throughout Hungary over the centuries, but the first notable bearers pop up late in the nineteenth century.  Throughout the twentieth century, plenty of notable Zoltans can be found, from actors and athletes to a few names you might recognize:

  • Zoltan Kodaly was a composer – and a philosopher, too;
  • Scientist Zoltan Bay pioneered microwave technology and was among the first to record radar echoes from the Moon;
  • The name traveled to Brazil via Zoltan Paulinyi, a composer and violinist;
  • The equally musical – though in a very different genre – Zoltan Teglas has been frontman of Pennywise.

Zoltan sounds bold, but so do Chase and Colton, Ryder and Gage.  Could it be that parents remember 1978’s Zoltan, Hound of Dracula?  The devil dog movie predates Cujo.  Vlad Tepes remains off screen, but his possessed pooch and a henchman come to America is search of Drac’s last descendant.  The pair create a fleet of hell hounds before the good guys win.

There’s also the fortune teller machine, sometimes called the Prophetron and often named Zoltan.  You can hear an audio track from a Zoltan fortune teller machine here.

But the wacky Zoltan reference that probably stays with many a parent is Hal Sparks’ bubble wrap-wearing, UFO-awaiting cult leader in 2000’s Dude, Where’s My Car? The movie was a name fan’s delight – Ashton Kutcher played Jesse, Seann William Scott answered to Chester and their twin girlfriends were Wilma and Wanda.

At least one parent wasn’t troubled by the various bizarre references – but that distinction belongs to Penn Jillette, father of Moxie CrimeFighter and Zolten Penn.  Jilette referenced Drac’s doggie when he announced the name, but also revealed that Zolten was his wife’s maiden name.  Compared to his sister’s appellation, Zolten is downright ordinary.

Overall, Zoltan makes for an authentic Hungarian heritage choice that should wear well in the US, but manages to lean just a little bit – dare I say it? – zany.  If you can overlook it – and you’re confident your son can, too – Zoltan is an interesting option.

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. I wrote when Sebastiane covered this name a couple of weeks ago:
    I went to school with a boy named Zoltan, and his best friend was Nikolai. Quite the Hungarian pair, they were. I

  2. I know of a Zolton here in Dallas…the colleague of friends. Definitely has a freaky, sci-fi, comic-book feel to me.

  3. I actually sort of know a Zoltan. He owns a computer shop called Zoltan’s 🙂 I always thought that fit because it did always seem a bit Polish and Sci-Fi ish to me. You also can’t miss him, as he was 6.5 ft tall!

    Overall, the name isn’t one for me, though it is very interesting.It’s just a bit too trekkie ish , personally. I find this name very bold, but don’t really find Chase, Ryder or the others you mentioned bold,though. Fabulous history,however it does seem like it’s ‘a lot of name’ to carry. But, if you can rock it, that’d be pretty awesome. While it’s not my vibe, I do find it refreshing a I’ve recently come across a couple of Xavier/Zander/Xander’s.

    Thanks for doing this for NOTD!

  4. I’m not familiar with all the mentioned references. It made me think of superheros and the cartoon Voltron.

    It is pretty cool that the name sounds so unusual, but is a traditional popular name in Hungary. It would be fun to have someone be like “Did you make that up?” and be able to tell them “No!” and tell them some history. Still not one that I’d personally use though.

  5. no offense but it really sounds like the name of a superman or batman villain’s name to me, i think i’ll be boring and stick to zak 🙂