Thanks to Virginia for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
As a surname, Blair comes from a Scottish word meaning field.
And it’s fairly common, too. Notables include former British prime minister Tony Blair and actor Selma Blair.
Railroad magnate turned philanthropist John Insley Blair has places named in his honor from New Jersey to Wisconsin.
Factor in plenty of athletes, politicians, and others, and odds are you’ve heard the surname in use.
BY THE NUMBERS
Even back in the nineteenth century, the baby name Blair often appeared in the US popularity data – just like many familiar surnames.
Into the 1990s, Blair regularly ranked in the US Top 1000 for boys, but it was never terribly common. Even in the 1950s, at its heights, the name barely cracked the Top 500.
Actor Blair Underwood, one of the best known male bearers of the name, was born in 1964.
But then along came 1979’s surprise sitcom success The Facts of Life.
The first season about a girls’ boarding school included lots of characters. By the second season, it was whittled down to the core four – Jo, Natalie, Tootie, and yes, Blair – plus housemother Mrs. Garrett.
Lisa Whelchel played Blair Warner. She was blonde, beautiful, and very wealthy. While she’s an unapologetic snob in early seasons, Blair matures. There’s even a backstory for her boyish name: it’s all in the family. (Though it turns out that her maternal grandfather, Carlton Blair, has some serious skeletons in his closet.)
The series slowly became a favorite. And the baby name Blair? It skyrocketed in use for girls. In 1980, Blair debuted in the US rankings at #893. By 1981, it stood at #524.
The series’ last year on the air was 1988. Blair ranked #423 for girls. As the show left the air, some might have expected the name to fade away.
And it almost did.
UNDERWOOD AND CRAMER
In 1991, One Life to Live introduced Blair Daimler, better known as Blair Cramer. While a different actor assumed the role in 1993, the character appeared on more than one soap opera for the next two decades.
Beginning in 1987, Blair Underwood achieved fame as part of smash hit legal drama LA Law. It briefly lifted the name for boys.
But mostly Blair fell in use for both genders, leaving the US Top 1000 for boys entirely after 1995; and for girls, after the year 2000.
Another factor explaining the name’s demise? 1999’s The Blair Witch Project dominated headlines. While the movie pretended to be real, everything about it is pure invention – including the faux legend of the Blair Witch. Sequels and spin-offs, including comics and video games, followed.
Already falling in use, the name seemed headed towards obscurity.
Television gave us another fictional heiress just in time.
The Gossip Girl novels featured poor little rich girl Blair Waldorf. Created by Cecily von Ziegesar, the first book debuted in 2002. The CW adapted the novels as a television series beginning in 2007.
Leighton Meester played Waldorf, with her signature headbands and bottomless ambition. We watched her academic and professional struggles, and her romantic entanglements, too. Plus – oh, the clothes!
Suddenly, Blair was back.
The series ran through 2012. It took until 2011 for Blair to return to the US Top 1000 for girls, this time at #977.
CLAIRE + QUINN
As of 2018, the baby Blair ranked #432 for girls. In terms of total births, it’s nearly tripled in use since 2011.
This has more to do with style and sound than any pop culture reference. And that’s why this time might be different.
Blair benefits from similarity to classic girl name Claire. A Top 100 pick since 1998, it helps make the case that Blair is for girls.
Plus, we’re wild for surname style girl names, including single-syllable picks like Top 100 Quinn. There’s also Blake (boosted by Gossip Girl alum Blake Lively), Sloane (originally from another 80s classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and Reese (as in Witherspoon).
All of this makes the baby name Blair a mix of on-trend favorite and just under-the-radar possibility. If you’re looking for a spare, tailored, but still feminine enough choice, Blair belongs on your list.
Would you consider the baby name Blair for a daughter?
First published on July 18, 2013, this post was revised substantially and update on July 17, 2020.