This name has been worn by popes and heartthrobs alike – but it isn’t Leo.
Thanks to Sophie for suggesting Adrian as Name of the Day.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, the name Adrian skewed female. That was thanks to Rocky Balboa, boxing hero of the Rocky franchise, also responsible for turning the Philadelphia Museum of Art into the one of the world’s most famous staircases.
On the big screen, Adrian was actually short for Adrianna. Most parents who chose the name for their daughters went with the French-fried Adrienne – or even Mrs. Balboa’s formal name.
Adrian comes from Hadrian, or Hadrianus – a place name. With the H, he’s quite rare. Without it, Adrian has been in steady use throughout the 20th century. In fact, you’ll find Adrians in the historical record from the Middle Ages until the present time.
But the 21st century is Adrian’s moment. As of 2007, he ranked #61. Variant Adrien came in at #843. Perhaps Adrian feels like a more substantial version of Aidan; perhaps he is simply one of the more accessible ancient names experiencing a revival.
There have been six popes Adrian, the first in the 770s and the most recent in the 1500s. Toss in a handful of saints and a Nobel prize winner, and this name has quite a bit of substance.
Medieval Christians on pilgrimage to Compostela travelled the Way of St. James – supposedly the apostle’s remains are buried at the Galician cathedral. They passed through the San Adrian tunnel en route. Even today, hikers can travel through the ancient passageway.
But most modern parents probably hear Hollywood with this name. HBO’s Entourage features Adrian Grenier as Vincent Chase. One of NBC’s Heroes is played by Adrian Pasdar. (He flies!) Adrian Paul played Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. Then there’s Adrien Brody, the youngest actor to ever a Best Actor Oscar. Toss in No Doubt drummer Adrian Young, a bunch of football players and King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, and the name sounds thoroughly modern.
He’s also nicely pan-European. Adrian ranks in Spain’s Top Ten, charted at #12 in Norway in 2007 and ranked #59 in Sweden that same year. Thanks to the saints, Adrian is recognizable in nearly any European language.
With so much to recommend him, it is little wonder he’s caught on. And perhaps that’s the only trouble with Adrian. Despite his distinctive sound, don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of him.