Thanks to Clare for suggesting Graeme as our Baby Name of the Day.
First, let’s be clear – despite the ‘ae’ spelling, Graeme is just another spin on Graham. Same pronunciation.
Graham comes from Grantham. And Grantham’s roots are unclear. The ham is easy enough to explain – it is a familiar element meaning homestead. The first part could come from a personal name, or possibly a word meaning gravel.
Either way, Grantham is a place name, now famous thanks to Downton Abbey. Robert and Cora are the Earl and Countess of Grantham, typically referred to as Lord and Lady Grantham.
As for graham crackers, they owe their name to Sylvester Graham, a nineteenth century health reformer and minister. The good Reverend Graham imagined that eating a diet of unremarkable food would help the faithful control unhealthy urges and embrace clean living. Today they’re more treat than health food – one imagines Sylvester would have frowned on s’mores – but the name endures.
Graham has a long history as a given name in the US, but Graeme made his debut in the Top 1000 in 2012, charting at #215.
This points to a few things:
- First, we’re rather fond of elaborate spellings for single-syllable names, like Claire instead of Clare or Clair.
- Second, Graham is very much in vogue these days, rising rapidly to #215 in 2012. He’s been in the Top 1000 almost every year since 1880, but this he’s currently at his most popular ever. Just as Rhys, Reese, and Reece all co-exist, it is no surprise to see Graeme and Graham both chart.
- Single-syllable names for boys are having a moment, from Finn to Jude to Chase, and we’re always looking for new possibilities, names that are just a little bit different.
- Lastly, some suggest that Graeme may be a more Scottish spelling of the name. Maybe so. If you’re after a heritage choice, Graeme might seem like a way to distinguish your child’s name from all of those other not-as-Scottish Grahams, just like Rhys feels more authentically Welsh than Reece.
But in any spelling, this one is quite definitely Scottish in feel. Clan Graham dates back centuries. Sir William de Graham was one of the knights who accompanied King David I when he claimed the throne and became King of the Scots in 1124. There are Graham (or Graeme) tartans, and an active Clan Graham society.
What’s certain is that there are lots of Grahams and Graemes and even a few Grams and Grahames, including:
- British author Graham Greene.
- Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows.
- In Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, this is the given name of Nash.
- Cecil Ingram Connor III was better known as influential alt country trailblazer Gram Parsons.
- Graham Norton is the British late night talk show equivalent of Jimmy Fallon.
- Then there’s inventor Alexander Graham Bell.
- And let’s not forget Monty Python’s Graham Chapman.
All of this makes Graham feel mainstream – familiar, yes, but not overused. Graeme is his slightly more distinctive cousin, more likely to read as a Scottish heritage choice.
It’s a solid name for a son – strong and distinctive, with plenty of distinguished bearers in every field of endeavor.