Sir Everard Digby, Gunpowder plotter
Sir Everard Digby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s another surname possibility, this time with a distinctive sound sure to stand out from Carter and Mason.

Thanks to Christina for suggesting Digby as our Baby Name of the Day.

Digby is a surname, borrowed from the map like many an English name.

He comes from the Old Norse dik referred to a ditch, and býr – a farm.  So Digby was, once upon a time, a farm near a ditch.  The -by ending is not as common as -ley and -ly, but there are others:

  • Rigby, a farm near a ridge
  • Crosby, a farm near a cross
  • Ashby – farm near an ash tree

Add in Darby, Kirby, Shelby, Catesby, Whitby, and Willoughby, and suddenly -by isn’t so unusual after all.

There are two Dibgys on the map in England – one in Lincolnshire, and another in Devon.  Plenty of Australian and Canadian towns have been named after the originals.

The Digby family was a big deal in English politics.  Sir Everard Digby was a Catholic, and part of the plotting to overthrow James I, the Protestant monarch back in 1605.  Their scheme failed, and Digby and company met their deaths on charges of treason.

Everard’s son, Kenelm, was also a Catholic, and a philosopher and alchemist.  He managed to live out his days peacefully, even if his religion made him an outsider.

Now get this:  there was a second Everard Digby, and he named his son Kenelm, too, and they lived around the same time.  This Kenelm served in Parliament.

The Peerage of Ireland includes Baron Digby, a title created in the early seventeenth century.

The Baron Digby clan includes nineteenth century Jane Digby, Lady Ellenborough.  Lady Jane racked up a quartet of husbands and even more romances, including two kings and a sheik.  Jane was called Jenny, or sometimes Aurora, a testament to her good looks.

I couldn’t find a direct connection between the earlier families and the present day Digbys, but here’s a hint: the current Baron Digby’s full name is Edward Henry Kenelm.  His son is Henry Noel Kenlem, and his son is Edward St. Vincent Kenelm.

There’s also Digby Wentworth Bayard Willougby, the 9th Baron Middleton, born in 1844.

As a given name, Dibgy feels quite bold.  He’s got something of an eccentric English vibe, a brother for Archibald or Godfrey.

But then there’s Digby Fairweather, a jazz musician active since the 1970s.  And my personal favorite, Digby Pearson.  In the 1980s he founded Earache Records, a British heavy metal label, repping some of the genre’s most infamous acts.  (Anyone still have a Napalm Death LP?)  Pearson answered to less genteel nickname Dig.

When I started writing, I was positive there had been an indie flick starring Kieran Culkin called Digby Goes Down.  Wrong.  The 2002 movie was Igby Goes Down.  Doesn’t Digby feel a smidge more wearable than Igby?

Digby is downright rare in the US – he was given to fewer than five boys in 2011 and 2010, and exactly 5 in 2009.  But with Crosby headed straight up, and Rigby and Ashby getting more attention, Digby starts to feel current.  If you’re heartbroken that Sebastian and Xavier are in the Top 100, maybe Digby is the direction you should look.


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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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  1. Awesome. I too recently submitted this name via email so delighted to read your take on it 🙂 Not sure that it would work with a sibling Dexter, it might be odd 2 having the same initial and a third with a different letter but I’m still intrigued by the name.

  2. I’ve loved this name since I was a little girl. I may have had a crush on Sir Everard Digby, who was said to be the handsomest man of his day. According to legend, when he was executed for treason, the executioner pulled out his heart and shouted, “Here is the heart of a traitor”, and Digby said, “Thou liest”.

    I’m so glad it’s ultra-hip now.

    (The Digby family seem to have produced quite a number of men and women famed for their good looks or attractive personalities; I wonder if this was an influence on the name?)

  3. Thanks for the write-up Abby! I was intrigued when I saw this in a recent birth announcement paired with a very traditional middle name.

  4. You were convinced the movie was called Digby Goes Down because in the movie the provenance of the name is explained. There was a teddy bear called Digby, and as a child he always said it wrong (Igby) and blamed all his trouble making adventures on his bear. So everyone called him Igby since “Igby did it.”