He’s been worn by a handful of Irish saints, but has never caught on in the US.

Thanks to Corinne for suggesting Abbán as Name of the Day.

As it happens, the first Abbán probably didn’t exist at all.

The village of Abingdon lies eight miles south of Oxford, England. The area has been settled since some years BC. Abingdon Abbey dates to the seventh century.

But local legend tells of the fifth century Saint Abbán. A well-born Briton back when the various tribes were at odds, Abbán was among the nobles who assembled for a peace conference. It was not to be. The treacherous Saxons slaughtered most of the defenseless Britons.

Abbán survived the Night of the Long Knives. He retreated to life as a hermit, eventually settling in what would become Abingdon. His example was so inspiring that followers soon gathered, and the abbey was formed. It wasn’t long before Abbán was considered a saint and the place named in his honor.

Historical evidence supporting Abbán’s tale is sketchy, and the Night of the Long Knives might also be fictitious. It’s hard to say if the name was in use, or simply invented to suit the story. Abbán derives from the word abbot, plus the diminutive suffix án.

Abbot is also a good reference for how to pronounce Abbán – A bahn. It’s something like Adam, but with different consonants.

Anglo-Saxon princess-turned-saint Æbbe is a more likely contender to have inspired Abingdon’s name. But no matter. At least two saints Abbán have lived since then:

  • Born a prince, Abbán of Kill-Abban founded monasteries in the 600s;
  • Abbán of New Ross was also recorded as Abhan and Evin. He lived around the same time as his fellow Saint Abbán, and also founded monasteries.

Some parents are enthusiastic about obscure saints’ names and lesser known Celtic choices. But neither force alone seems likely to propel Abbán into greater use.

Something that might work in his favor is his first syllable. The Nameberry gurus have talked about the rise of male-female name equivalents. Beyond the obvious – Daniel/Danielle or Emma/Emmett, they’re talking about how a popular boys’ name can propel a girls’ name into wider use simply because they share sounds. (And vice versa.) Think of Miles and Miley or Isabella and Isaiah.

Abigail has been in the US Top Ten since 2001, but a masculine equivalent is lacking. There’s Abraham or Abram, and possibly Abel, too. But they’re all Biblical boys, a style that won’t appeal to everyone. Abbán combines that popular first syllable with Gaelic roots.

All that said, Abbán has never ranked in the US Top 1000 and is missing from most baby name books, too. He is a rarity and likely to remain so.

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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