It’s the distinctive first name of a famous fictional detective and a famous ship, too.
Thanks to Charlotte for suggesting Endeavour as our Baby Name of the Day.
It’s nearly de rigeur for a famous fictional detective to have an off-beat name. There’s Sherlock, of course. But there’s also Hercule (Poirot), Kinsey (Milhone) and Auguste (Dupin).
Inspector Morse, star of novels and television series, definitely fits this mold. While the character’s name was initially uncertain – he sometimes joked that it was “Inspector” – a prequel series is now on ITV, simply titled Endeavour.
Colin Dexter penned the series about the Oxford dropout turned sharp-witted police detective. Thirteen novels, plus a short-story collection were originally written. The Inspector Morse television series ran 33 episodes from 1987 through 2000, plus a spin-off series for Morse’s sidekick, Robbie Lewis, and the prequel series.
There are two explanations for his unusual appellation:
- His mother – who died while Morse was still a boy – was a Quaker, and appreciated virtue names.
- Morse’s father was a fan of Captain James Cook, who sailed the HMS Endeavour to Australia and New Zealand in 1769.
Endeavour: At Sea
If you don’t think of the detective, the famous ship might be your first thought, too.
Cook wasn’t the first European to visit Australia. That distinction belongs to Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, while Abel Tasman was the first to reach New Zealand. But Cook was the one who was the first to land on the eastern coast and his recommended colonization of Botany Bay would eventually lead to the founding of Sydney.
Cook’s three-year journey was quite historic, with many a near-miss between his departure and triumphant return in July of 1771.
NASA used the name at least twice – for a space shuttle in the 1980s, as well as the control module of the 1970s’ Apollo 15.
The original ship remained in service and eventually sank, but a replica was built and sailed in the 1990s – that’s the second Endeavour pictured above.
Endeavour: A Virtue
Ages before the ship or the spacecraft or the detective, this name was a word. A virtuous word.
It’s a noun and a verb, and there’s something slightly poetic – or maybe British – about saying, “I shall endeavour to …”
Speaking of British, American English drops the u – endeavor.
Either way, it comes from an Old French phrase: mettre en deveir. Roughly translated, it means to prepare to take on, to proceed to. Dever comes from the Latin debere – to owe, the root of the English word debt. There’s a sense of duty and responsibility baked into the word.
If you endeavor, you are making an effort.
It’s an active virtue, and maybe a modern one, too. Prudence and Temperance are about restriction. Endeavour suggests striving to achieve – a bold name, more like Valor.
Endeavour: Wearable Rarity?
Neither spelling has ever registered as a given name in the US, though I found at least one person with the middle name Endeavour in Australia.
You might find the name in an old phone book, but it almost certainly would’ve belonged to Christian Endeavor – an early youth ministry group found throughout the US.
On balance, Endeavour makes for a fabulous middle if you’re after something meaningful and strong.
It’s an awful lot to live up to as a given name. Still, in our age of King and Messiah, that’s the direction some parents prefer. And the sound: the potential for the nickname Dev, the ‘r’ ending – adds up to a rather appealing rarity.