The baby name Adrian counts as a classic, something just slightly different from Charles and James.

Thanks to Sophie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


In Latin, the name Hadrianus meant “from Hadria” – one of two settlements, both located in modern Italy.

Hadrianus became a Roman family name, as in the second century emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus, better known as Hadrian.

We remember him mostly because in the year 122, he ordered the construction of a defensive barrier of stone, marking the limits of Roman-controlled Britain. We know it as Hadrian’s Wall.

The wall remains intact in places, as do some of the forts and other installations from the second century. 

At 73 miles, it’s the largest Roman archeological feature remaining in Britain from the Roman occupation. Tourists visit it and it often appears in popular culture. 

Even if you don’t know anything about Hadrian’s Wall, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “Hadrian’s Wall.”


To find the exact meaning of the name Adrian, then, we have to backtrack to Hadrian, and then to Hadria and Adria.

Since the original settlement pre-dates the Romans, the name does, too. It might come from an older language, Illyrian, which is mostly to lost to time. But the former empire was located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, and it’s believed that the Illyrian word adur meant sea. 

Which, in a roundabout way, connects Adrian’s meaning to the coast and the oceans beyond. 


While plenty of ancient names fade away, Adrian endured.

Six popes bear the name, the first in the eighth century; the most recent in the sixteenth. Pope Adrian IV, elected in 1159, is the only English pope – ever.

That might help explain the name’s enduring use, as well as its long familiarity in English. 

Another factor, also drawn from religion: the martyered Saint Adrian, who died in 306.

While he’s not exactly a household name, pilgrims traveling the Way of St. James – the Camino de Santiago – may pass through the San Adrian tunnel in Spain. It’s been a landmark for centuries, carved by natural water erosion.

Hikers still travel through the ancient passageway today. 


The baby name Adrian appears in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880, when the data is first available.

But it remained uncommon, hovering around the 300s, well into the middle of the twentieth century.

Exactly what pushed Adrian up the popularity charts?

It’s not clear, but similar names, like Adriana for girls, were also gaining circa 1960. 

In fact, Adriana debuted in the US Top 1000 most popular names in the year 1960, as did Adrianne.

In fact, the girls’ name was going to be an even bigger factor in a few more years.

In 1985, first Adrian ranked in the US Top 100. It’s been there every year since 1989, and as of 2022, stands at a steady, respectable #63.

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Back to the girl’s name for a minute.

In 1976, the world met Rocky Balboa, an underdog aspiring boxer who seemed like he didn’t have much going for him.

But he turns it around, and wins the love of fair Adrian in the process.

Adrian is actually Adrianna Pennino, a young Italian-American woman working at the pet store Rocky frequents. Because, believe it or not, the aspiring boxer keeps pet turtles. 

At the movie’s end, Rocky shouts “Yo Adrian, I did it!” It’s one of those enduring cinematic moments we recognize even if we’ve never seen the film.

Talia Shire played Adrian, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

She continues to appear in the movies, and while her character isn’t present in the Creed sequels, Balboa now runs a restaurtant named in her honor – Adrian’s.

If all this sounds a bit like a diversion, well, it is – but worth nothing: Adrian routinely ranked in teh US Top 1000 as a girl’s name from the 1940s into the 1990s. 

Today, Adriana and Adrianna are more popular, and the French Adrienne is probably more likely to seem feminine.


By the 1990s, the baby name Adrian had found its stride.

Names like Brian and Ryan opened the door for lots of longer boys’ names ending with IAN. The twenty-first century has been an especially good moment for Julian, Sebastian, and yes, Adrian. 

Famous figures include:

  • Actor Adrian Grenier, best known as Entourage’s Vincent Chase
  • Other actors include Adrian Pasdar, Adrian Paul, and Adrien Brody, the younget actor to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor, at the age of 29
  • Musicians include No Doubt’s drummer, Adrian Young and King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew
  • Athletes include the NFL’s Adrian Peterson
  • Fictional characters include Marvel’s Adrian Corbo and Adrian Toomes, Vampire Academy’s Adrian Ivashkov, Watchmen’s Adrian Veidt – also known as Ozymandias
  • Perfect the most famous fictional Adrian, comes from long-running television series Monk, as the neurotic police detective-turned-private investigator Adrian Monk 


While Adrian isn’t a chart-topping name anywhere on the map, it’s broadly used through the English-speaking world, and across Europe, too, charting in Spain and France, Sweden and Norway, Czechia and Hungary in recent years.

Adrian sounds timeless and sophisticated, but still warm and approachable. It works for a baby boy as well as for a man of accomplishment. 

If you’re looking for a name that’s immediately familiar, and popular without being a chart-topping name you’ll hear everywhere, Adrian might deserve a spot on your list. 

What do you think of the baby name Adrian?

First published on March 6, 2009, this post was revised and re-published on April 26, 2024.


handsome & traditional

Ancient name with a contemporary vibe, Adrian has become a staple for traditional, but not too common, boy names.


#63 as of 2022


Holding steady


Ancient Roman family name from a place name, possibly originally meaning “sea”

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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What do you think?


  1. I hope you don’t mind that I’m commenting on some of your posts so long after the fact, but I took a peek at this entry and saw that you chose MY name on MY birthday! How cool! 🙂

    I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my name. On one hand, it was neat being the only Adrian in the ’70s and ’80s, in a sea of Jeremys, Jasons, Chads, Amys, and Jessicas. I was always the only Adrian in my school. On the other hand, I get mail addressed to Ms. Adrian Lastname, people constantly butcher the spelling, and if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “Yo Adrian,” I’d me a billionaire!

    One other interesting note … you know how Damian has never been able to shake the association with “The Omen”? Adrian was the son of Satan in “Rosemary’s Baby,” but no one ever seems to make that connection. Thank goodness for small favors, but I always found it interesting how one name got off the hook for its “evil” Hollywood connotations and one didn’t.

    1. What a happy coincidence!

      And no, I never close comments on Name of the Day posts, for just this very reason. I didn’t remember the baby’s name in Rosemary’s baby – which is bizarre, because I’ve read the book and can remember other sections vividly. For your sake, I’m glad Adrian is more of an afterthought in the story, rather than taking center stage as demon spawn. Though did you know Damien actually rose in the rankings after The Omen was released? The world is a strange and wonderful place …

      1. Strange and wonderful indeed! I did know that the name rose in popularity after the movie came out. I’ve been doing a lot of research on Damien, because that’s the name (with an “a” in place of the “e”) my wife has settled on if we have a boy. I told her that she’ll have both Rosemary’s baby and a demon-child living under her roof, but she doesn’t seem to mind. 😉

  2. Adrienne for a girl and Adrian for a boy are both fabulous choices in my opinion for kids- so classic with the slight aura of uncommon-ness. Adrian very much reminds me of Adrian Monk, and that’s not that bad of an association.

  3. 🙂 I like Adrian; well, I prefer Adrien actually. He’s a family name for me – distant in both mine and Dan’s family trees! (except his Irish/Scottish/English family don ‘Adrian’ and my French/Austrian ancestors don’Adrien’)

    I don’t know why I like him – he was my first ‘kiss’ in kindergarten 🙂 I don’t see anything feminine in him at all and I like that he’s sleek and suave and handsome in a somewhat ‘quiet’ way! Plus, I adore Adrien Brody, and Adrian Grenier definitely doesn’t hurt either!

  4. I find Adrian a bit feminine, I’ll admit. And it doesn’t even matter that I know so many pop culture male Adrians (including Adrian Monk, of the TV show Monk, a favorite of mine)… What I find really odd, though, is that if I add that H for Hadrian, it instantly beefs up the name for me. Strange and unexplainable, but there you have it.

    1. I think Adrian and Julian are the kinds of names that most parents think are unusual – and then realize that everyone else chose them for the same reason!

      Photoquilty, how cool about the Adrian/Pandora coincidence. I knew nothing about Mr. Mole!

      And Bek, I didn’t realize that Monk’s first name was Adrian. I agree with you about Hadrian/Adrian – with the H, he is hyper-masculine. And quite soft without it. I couldn’t imagine a girl named Hadrienne. 🙂

  5. Interesting that Adrian followed Pandora. The two were boyfriend and girlfriend in the 1980s young adult novel, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 3/4. If I remember correctly, Pandora asked everyone to call her Box. Adrian was Aidy to some. I don’t love either name, but kind of get a kick out of Aidy. I would probably go with Adrienne for a girl before I’d do Adrian for a boy, but having hated/pitied Adrian Mole, and having known a gross Adrian in grade school, it would never get on my list. Also, it sounds girly.

  6. I thoroughly like Adrian! Adrien Brody (to DIE for!) Adrian Paul (swoon) and Adrian Belew doesn’t hurt the name either. Just don’t get me started on Rocky’s Adrian. As a kid, I thought Rocky was gay and it wasn’t until captioning on the DVD did I realise Adrian was supposed to be the girls name. Adrienne, people! My goodness.

    He’s a bit too mainstream for me, personally but I’d joyfully back anyone else considering him. He’s sleek, debonair & completely handsome. I’d rather hear Adrian/Adrien a thousand times a day than Jacob. Adrian’s got panache! I am thoroughly charmed by him and would LOVE to see him get a good reception. Adrian/Adrien gets a wildly enthusiastic :thumbsup: from me!

  7. I’d never realized Adrian’s similarity to Aidan, it does seem good for parents who like Aidan but want something less trendy. I like Adrian, it’s a good strong name. I went to school with an Adrian, actually, he was my prom date. He was a really nice kid, and I think the name served him well.