Delmer And Kermit Martin In Minot, North Dakota
Delmer And Kermit Martin In Minot, North Dakota (Photo credit: Mennonite Church USA Archives)

He’s a little bit modern invention, and a smidge hickster, too.

Thanks to Anna for suggesting Delmer – a family name!as our Baby Name of the Day.

Five boys were named Delmer in 2011.  That’s barely a blip.

But most years from the nineteenth century into the 1950s, Delmer charted in the US Top 1000.  Even if he wasn’t ever very popular, it’s fair to say that Delmer was once more common.  Check out the photo of brothers called Delmer and Kermit.

But he’s faded in recent years.

Where does he come from?

  • Delmer, Delmar, and Delamar are all found as surnames.  They probably trace back to a personal name with Germanic roots.
  • Delmore is another spelling of the surname, worn in the first spot by celebrated poet and short story writer Delmore Schwartz.  Both Saul Bellow and Lou Reed paid homage to Schwartz in their work.
  • Del or Dell comes from an English word for valley – think of the “Farmer in the Dell.”
  • Del mar means “of the sea” or “by the sea.”  It certainly explains how the coastal California town of Del Mar got its name.  As for how we ended up with Delmar, Wisconsin – and West Virginia and Iowa – well, surely there’s a story there.  It is said that Delmar, Iowa got its name from a train conductor.  When the first train reached the intersection, the conductor spelled Delmar from the first initials of the six female passengers on the train.  I couldn’t find the passengers’ names, though …
  • Del does have a history of use in Welsh given names.  Delwyn is a masculine choice from the elements del – pretty – and gwyn fair.  Mer also appears in Welsh names as a reference to the sea – most notably there’s Meredith.

Whether Spanish or Welsh, Delmer leads to the sea.  But this confuses the pronunciation a bit.  While Delmar doesn’t rhyme with Elmer, Delmer almost certainly does.  This makes Delmer read hickster.  After all, we don’t think Elmer Gantry when we hear the name.  We think Elmer Fudd.

But Elmer was a Top 100 choice from 1880 through 1932.  He’s still in use – around 200 newborn boys received the name every year in the twenty-first century.  Whether that’s a family name bestowed by tradition or parents naming a brother for Otis and Pearl, it’s hard to say.  But I can imagine Elmer appealing to the same parents who have embraced names on Nameberry’s hipper-than-hipster list.

It’s also worth noting that the elm sound had a good run in the 1930s.  We named our sons Delmer and Delmar, but also Elmo and Elmore Girls answered to Delma, Thelma, Velma, Selma and Elma.

It was also a moment when the -er ending was in favor.  Walter comes to mind, but parents also used names like Homer, Wilmer, and Mortimer.  If Homer makes our hipster and hickster lists these days, maybe Mortimer and Delmer have a shot, too.

From Connor to Asher, ends-with-r names for boys are very much in vogue.

Plus, Del feels like a great short form for a boy.

Should you find Delmer on your family tree, he’s definitely worth considering!

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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. My great-grandfather, born in 1889, was Delmer Aubrey. I’d never heard of any other Delmers before, and always wondered about the possible “of the sea” meaning. Thanks for this.

  2. I would totally name my daughter Delmarva. 🙂 I am from Delaware and lived in the Eastern Shore too, but I don’t live there now, so it could work. That is an amazing idea.

    I do a little genealogy and way, way back in the family tree was a man with the middle name Delaware (first name James) who may have actually gone by that name. He lived in Georgia though.

  3. Hooray I am so glad you posted this!!! Thank you so much. I always try to find info on the name Delmer, but it is not so easy to find. You did an awesome job. And so far our little Del loves his name. He also has a cousin with the same middle name.:) I have always liked Delmar equally the same. We loved the sea connection when naming our son because we have always been drawn to the sea. Thank you again!!

  4. I make jokes to my family about Stearns County names. So many of the big German/Catholic families in our area seemed to use the same series of names: Norbert, Urban, Roman, Raymond, Sylvester, Jerome… plus lots and lots of variants of Elmer (Helmer/Hjalmar/Delmer.) I don’t lover Delmer, but if it’s a family name it would work great as a middle name.

  5. My husband’s cousin is married to a Delmar Leroy Jr. [called Del].

    My great-great-grandfather was named George Dilmer [called Dilmer; some records have him as Delmer G., but those are wrong], and his son was Elchard Dilmer [called Elch].

  6. My fiance has an uncle named Delmer. (His dad’s brother. His dad was Earl.) I think I’d be more inclined to go with Delmar, Delamar, or Delmore.

    Delmore would probably take the lead there. I like -more names though. I have an alternate (male) online persona named Derrimore. 🙂 That’s not a secret identity or anything, though.