Kit, Kierstan & Crispin: Chris Names

Chris Names

From Columbus who sailed the ocean blue to Fifty Shades of Gray, plenty of men have answered to some form of a Chris name.  And, thanks to Kris Kringle, it’s a name associated with the Christmas season, too.

Chris names aren’t just for boys – never have been.  And the twentieth century was huge for all things Christopher and company.

Thanks to Lisa for suggesting our Christmas week-friendly feature for today: Chris names.

Chris Names: The Enduring Classic

In Greek, khristos means anointed.  It’s the equivalent of the Hebrew word messiah.  Both are titles given to Jesus of Nazareth.

Most of us would probably consider Christopher a classic, and a popular saint’s name, too.  The original St. Christopher story is probably more legend than fact, but the meaning has appealed to people of faith for generations: Christ-bearer.

Christopher has ranked in the US Top 100 every year since 1949, and was a Top Ten choice from 1967 through 2009, reaching as high as #2 in the 1970s and 80s.  As of 2013, the name ranked #26.

K spellings – Kristopher, Kristofer, and Kristoffer – all fared well during the height of our affection for Christopher.

That translates to an awful lot of boys answering to Chris.

Chris Names: Christian

As Christopher rose, another of the Chris names caught on: Christian.

Originally gender neutral, Christian is solidly a boys’ name today.  And while Christian might seem overtly religious, it isn’t perceived that way.  Now that it’s the name of Fifty Shades bad boy Christian Gray, it seems even less connected to the spiritual meaning.

Christian has never quite caught up with Christopher – and both names slipped slightly in 2013 – but somehow, Christian feels like slightly more current in 2015.

Chris Names: For the Girls

If boys are pretty much limited to Christian and Christopher, there are many more Chris names for girls:

  • Christine – Christine entered the US Top 100 back in 1942, Christopher’s heyday.  In the late 1960s, Christine ranked #14 for a few years.
  • Christina – The ‘a’ ending form of the name caught on later, entering the US Top 100 in 1964.  This became the most popular form of the name, reaching #12 in 1975 and again in 1985.  The name was a Top 20 choice for more than a decade.  Kristine and Kristina are the preferred spellings in some languages, and both have seen use in the US, too.
  • Cristina – The preferred spelling in Spanish and Italian, Cristina reached the US Top 200 at the height of the Christine/Christina craze, but has always been a less common form.
  • Kristen, Kristin – In some Scandinavian languages, Kristen is a masculine form of Christian, while the -tin ending is feminine.  In English, they’re both almost always used for girls.  Kristen was a Top 40 name in the 1980s, while Kristin reached #31 in 1981.  This was a popular choice for respellings like Christen, Krysten, and use-your-imagination, too.
  • Christa, Krista – Another feminine form, big in the 1980s.  The K spelling was favored.
  • Christie, Kristi – Christie has some history as a surname name, and also a masculine nickname for Christopher in Scotland.  But here in the US, Christie is all girl, and more frequently spelled with a K.
  • Crystal – Crystal ultimately comes from the Greek word for ice.  But for ages, crystal has referred to either a gemstone or a type of cut glass.  It was a huge hit in the 1980s, reaching #9 in 1982. Dynasty’s nice girl spelled her name Krystle.  Cristal is yet another possible form – and also a brand of champagne.

Chris Names: Rarities

All of the Chris names covered so far have been pretty common – names that you wouldn’t be surprised to see on a business card or birth certificate.  But how ’bout some rare Chris names?

  • Crispin – Originally from a  Latin family name meaning curly haired, Crispin was a third century martyr.  We remember his name mostly because of the famous speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V.  On the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, Henry tells his men that they will fight as a “band of brothers” on Saint Crispin’s Day.  Quirky actor Crispin Glover makes the name familiar, but it’s seldom heard.  Another form of the name is Crispus – as in Crispus Attucks, a freed slave working on the docks in Boston, and one of the first casualties of the American Revolution.
  • Cristobal – We can him Christopher Columbus, but the explorer would have answered to Cristobal in Spanish, Cristovao in Portuguese, and Cristoforo in Italian.  Cristobal hugged the edges of the US Top 1000 from the 1970s until recently.
  • Christiane – Add an ‘e’ to Christian, and you’ll have a French feminine form. CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour brought the name into the mainstream.  In English, it also reads like an elaboration of Christine, a smoosh with Anne.
  • Christabel – Samuel Coleridge used Christabel for a poem in 1800.  The fictional Christabel LaMotte was one of the fictional Victorian age poets at the center of the mystery-romance Possession, the 1990 bestseller by A.S. Byatt.  Christabel could have been a smash in our time, too – except the Christa- names had faded before the -bel names caught on.  It remains an intriguing rarity.
  • Christmas – I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Christmas.  It sounds a little daffy now, but just as children were often named for Saint’s Day, Easter and Christmas were sometimes used for children born on the holiday.  In 70s sitcom Three’s Company, Chrissy Snow’s full name was Christmas.  And in 1999’s The World is Not Enough, Denise Richards played Bond girl – and nuclear physicist – Dr. Christmas Jones.

Christopher: Hold the Chris

Along the way, many Chris names have shed their Chris sound.

  • Kirsten, Kiersten – Kirsten Dunst may be the best known bearer of this form of the name, but she’s far from alone.
  • Kiki – An unexpected nickname for Kristine, but perhaps too flimsy to be used as a given name.  Then again, if Coco is a possibility
  • Kit, Kitty – Legendary American mountain man Kit Carson was actually Christopher.  Christopher Marlowe was sometimes known as Kit.  And Kitty has been used as a nickname for Katherine and Christina, too.
  • Topher – Christopher Grace used the nickname Topher, and when That 70s Show became a hit, a handful of boys were also named Topher.  But unlike Xander or Liam, Topher has yet to take off.

What’s your favorite Chris name?

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4 Comments

I’d never use it, but my abiding affection for the singer makes me consider Kristofferson usable for a boy.

I think Christabel or Christiana are attractive on someone else’s daughters.

I love Kit/Kitty for one of my own but without the Chris- names and with husband vetoing Katharine, it’d have to be short from Katia/Katrina or Ketzia or something.

I’m a fan of Christopher when it isn’t shortened to Chris. And we have Kit on our short list for a girl (possibly as a nickname for Katherine).