Celeb stylist Rachel Zoe gave this name to her new son. Is it the hottest of the ancients currently in revival?
Thanks to Shannon for suggesting Caius as our Baby Name of the Day.
Rachel Zoe actually went with Kaius for her baby boy, probably the better to get to nickname Kai. We can argue whether the C or K spelling is preferable, but neither of them are completely accurate. The name was originally spelled with a G – Gaius.
Or not. While consonant-swapping is frowned on today, there was a certainty fluidity to those letters in Latin.
The exact origins of Gaius are open to debate. Most agree that he’s Etruscan, that mysterious tongue. Evidence suggests that it was a widely literate society, and surviving inscriptions are plentiful. But while Etruscan is likely the source of many words – arena, market, serve, – we only know a few hundred for certain, and it is only related to a few equally ancient and even rarer languages – if any.
Gaius was probably Cae or Cai in Etruscan. And here’s where it gets tricky. For centuries, we’ve linked Gaius with the Latin gaudere, to rejoice. So the meaning you’ll find listed for Caius and company is happy. I can’t tell if that’s accurate – or folk etymology, passed down through the generations until it sounds like fact.
In any case, he is probably the root for Sir Kay, as in the knight from Arthurian legend, and at least some modern usages of Kai.
Plenty of ancients wore the name. Julius Caesar was born Gaius. Gaius Octavius grew up to be Augustus, the first Roman emperor. That’s his likeness in the picture above.
The name remained in use. A third century Bishop of Milan called Caio became a saint. There’s also Pope Caius, from around the same time.
Shakespeare wrote Coriolanus about the historical figure Caius Martius. He also used Caius as a character name in The Merry Wives of Windsor, as well as other works.
Spell it with a C, K, or G, and it is clear the name has history aplenty. But he’s been little used in the US until recently.
- Caius was first given to more than five boys back in 1994. 73 newborns were named Caius in 2012, making him currently the favored spelling.
- Kaius arrived in 2005. 34 babies were given the name last year, but Rachel Zoe’s high profile birth announcement paired with the popularity of Kai could push Kaius past his cousin.
- Gaius is the grandpa – he goes all the way back to 1920, but at just 24 newborns in 2012, he’s the least popular today.
While my money would be on the K spelling to catch on, the C version has some appealing ties. Dr. John Caius may have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Merry Wives character, and his name lives on in a college at Cambridge University.
Back in 1348, Gonville Hall was founded at Cambridge. It was struggling when Dr. Caius came along in 1559. He served as master of the college, and left it much expanded, with quite a bit of cash.
That’s one of the school’s grand edifices pictured to the left. It’s now known as Gonville and Caius College and could lend the given name some luster, but the good doctor’s surname is pronounced like keys.
Overall, Caius feels like a solid pick for a son in 2014. As ancient as Atticus, as storied as many a name, and with short form Cai available. The K spelling seems likely to catch on, but either way, Caius and Kaius are wearable names to watch.