The baby name Alaric combines familiar sounds and old school roots for a name that’s surprisingly at-home in the twenty-first century.
Thanks to Charlotte Vera for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day, and Nicole for requesting the update.
KING OF THE VISIGOTHS
The baby name Alaric is Goth.
Not the dark eyeliner, Siouxie Sioux Goth. Nope, we’re talking the havoc-making, Rome-sacking Visigoths.
Alaric I ruled the Visigoths early in the fifth century, establishing a new royal line and invading the Eternal City of Rome in the year 410.
He was a big deal back then, and you’ll find references to King Alaric in art and literature through the ages.
Alaric II came along a few decades later, in 485. In between the two Alarics, Gesalec, Sigarec, Wallia and Thorismund held the throne, among others.
Very few Visigoth names have stood the test of time.
ALARIC and ERIC
There’s a separate Old Norse legend about brothers named Alaric – or Alrek, Alarick, Alarik, Alrekr, or Alrik – and Eric.
The Ynglinga saga, written around 1225, tells the brothers’ story. Their father left his kingdom to them jointly. They were forever competing, particularly on horseback. One day they rode off, never to return. Their bodies were later discovered. It looked as if they’d quarreled and taken their sparring too far – but it remained a mystery.
Alaric’s sons succeeded their father and uncle as co-rulers, presumably with more success.
Other versions of the tale have Eric surviving.
It’s worth noting that stories about brothers competing are a tale as old as time. So were real world rivalries, and it’s possible that this tale was based on historical events.
Plenty of Swedish monarchs have been named Eric, as have some in both Norway and Denmark.
ALARIC NAME MEANINGS
Despite many variants of Alaric, they all seems to lead back to the same roots: Alareiks. That includes not just the various Scandi respellings, but similar names like the German Alarich.
While the meaning is sometimes given as “noble ruler,” the first half probably means “all,” from ala. A handful of other names share this origin, too. Assuming that’s the case, the baby name Alaric means “ruler of all.” (The –ric ending, meaning ruler is undisputed.)
But Alaric is the exception. He sounds like a three-syllable combo platter made up of Eric and Alan, but he’s actually from the Germanic elements ala – all and ric – ruler, or something like “king of all.” It’s a fitting name for the founder of a dynasty.
ALAN MEETS DEREK
The baby name Alaric sounds like a mash-up of first names formerly popular for boys, like Alan and Derek.
It’s easy to imagine parents inventing Alaric.
Except it’s clear that the name has remained in sparing use across the centuries.
The British Navy used Alaric for a submarine late in World War II, and at least one Alaric has served the US military with distinction – back during the Civil War, Union Army officer Alaric Chapin was awarded the medal of honor.
But most modern parents probably discover Alaric in the pages of a book. If not history, then fiction:
- Katherine Kountz gave the name Alaric to a character in her long-running Deryni fantasy series – he’s a duke, and a loyal figure.
- Stephen King used it for Roland‘s grandfather in his Dark Towers series.
- There’s an Alaric Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire, but the character never appeared in the HBO adaptation.
- One of Anthony Trollope’s Three Clerks was Alaric Tudor.
- PG Wodehouse, best known for his Jeeves & Wooster series, also wrote about the inhabitants of Blandings Castle. The elderly, grouchy Duke of Dunstable is a frequent visitor – and wears the name Alaric.
But all of these were mere ripples compared to a more recent use of the name.
Television series The Vampire Diaries has popularized many a name. There’s Elena, of course, as well as Amara and Enzo and Atticus.
The series debuted on The CW in 2009. It ran through 2017, followed by spin-offs The Originals and Legacies. While Legacies recently ended after four seasons, vampires live forever.
And Alaric Saltzman has been part of the story from the beginning, appearing in all three of the series, as well as the original novels on which they are based.
He’s a teacher at Mystic Falls High School. Well, except he’s really a monster hunter.
And he’s supposed to kill one of the vampires at the heart of the series.
Keeping this spoiler-free, let’s just say that Mr. Saltzman has many an adventure across the years, mostly – but not exclusively – supernatural.
BY the NUMBERS
In 2009, when The Vampire Diaries first aired, just 27 boys received the name Alaric.
By 2010, that number was already up to 40.
And in 2017, Alaric entered the Top 1000 popular baby boy names list at #996. It ranks #861 as of calendar year 2021.
MEDIEVAL and MODERN
Here’s the challenging thing about Alaric: it sounds a little bit like familiar boys’ names. Alec, for one, or even Asher or Maverick. But it also reads a like a medieval antique, too, more akin to Ulrich than a modern name for a son.
Then again, we’ve embraced choices like Gavin and Tristan, Sebastian and Julian, Romeo and Orlando. A barbarian king doesn’t really seem out of place.
Alaric might be shortened to Al or Ric/Rick or possibly Aric, but most parents would probably use it in full these days.
If choices like Caspian and Horatio dot your list, odds are that the baby name Alaric might appeal to you, too. In this case, the name’s slight uptick in popularity could be a bonus. It could mean fewer awkward misspellings like Allaric and Aleric, while still being seldom repeated or shared.
It could be a great choice for parents seeking a boy’s name that feels distinctive but not invented, and one with centuries of history behind it.
What do you think of the baby name Alaric?
First published on November 20, 2009, this post was revised substantially and re-published on August 23, 2022.
I can’t read the full post? Only the first sentence. Just wondering if it’s going to get revived.
It’s fixed, Cristina. You can read it now.
Charlotte Vera says
we named our son Alaric. We decided to put the emphasis on the middle syllable, but dont get frustrated when people say it wrong. He’s only 3 months old and already it is a lot to explain so i hope that he will not be upset with his name as he grows up. Overall, we’re really happy with this name and usually people that turn their nose up to it initially come around when they hear that it’s not made up and has awesome history.
I really like this. Always have, he is a nice alternative to Eric.
Christina Fonseca says
Alaric rocks! Great name and it’s even better that he won’t bump into another one every time he turns around.
a little too “pass the mead” for me; sounds more emo than marauder to my ear. Atilla, on the other hand, is totally bad ass.
Engloutie, that makes sense – and I’m certainly influenced by having a father and a brother called Eric and a friend named Aric. (As it happens, I work with someone named Arica, too!)
With any rare name, I do think parents get the luxury of choosing – and the burden of explaining. 🙂
PS on pronunciation…
I’m no authority, but my linguistics undergraduate degree suggests to me that AL-ar-ic is the older pronunciation. It’s less likely that the middle syllable would be elided in the alternate forms Alrek & Alrekr if that were the syllable to receive primary emphasis. That would also follow the German pattern of emphasis (think Alderich). Then again, I could be totally wrong!
I’m in love with this name too! The historical connection is so masculine and just plain cool, that I think it balances out his softer sounds. It even sounds good with our crazy Germanic/Scandinavian (different sources claim different lineage) last name, so I’d use it in a heartbeat. Thanks for profiling it today!
You know, since we call our son Aly you would think I’d have thought of that, Charlotte! D’oh. As a boy’s nickname, Aly/Ali rocks.
I went to school with an Aric – fabulous guy!
I looked at the pronunciation for a while before deciding I just didn’t have enough info to say anything intelligent about it – though personally, I put the emphasis on the middle syllable. Which makes me think that Lars could be a nickname, too …
And yes, Bewildertrix – the Barbarian king bit is just beyond cool. You’d think it would appeal to fathers.
Charlotte Vera says
I’m in love with this name — is it any wonder I suggested it? Sadly, my husband doesn’t seem to be feeling the love as much as I am. Personally, I prefer Ali as a nickname.
I’d like to add that I’ve heard this name pronounced two different ways: “AL-uh-rik” and “a-LAHR-ik”. I’m not sure which I prefer.
I read the Dark Tower series and I missed that. D’oh. It’s a lovely name and I really have no explanation as to why it’s no longer an option for me. I haven’t thought about it in a long, long time.
Barbarian king aside (how cool is that?) I also find it endearing as it reminds me of ALAn RICickman *lust*. It’s like a contraction of his name.
As far as Visigoth names are concerned, Reccared was another one I liked.