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.
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.