He’s been called the Celtic Cupid, and so he’s a fitting choice for Valentine’s Day.
This one is for Nessa. Our Name of the Day is Angus.
It is always tempting to draw parallels between the gods and mythic figures of vastly different cultures, and Aengus is often listed as Cupid’s counterpart. But Aengus had no wings, no bow and arrow. He was the son of the Dagda, a powerful father-figure king in Irish myth, and Boand, a goddess associated with rivers. Depending on the source, Aengus is associated with youth, music, poetry and yes, love. He was also said to be quite handsome – something of a mash-up between Cupid and Apollo.
He’s also long been a popular pick for a given name. Óenghus, Aenghus and Aonghus are all variants Anglicized as Angus. The name has been worn by:
- Three ancient, possibly legendary High Kings of Ireland, each ruling centuries before the birth of Christ;
- A fifth century King of Munster;
- Two Pictish kings from the 700s and 800s;
- Ninth century Saint Angus the Culdee – Servant of God. He tried to live as a hermit, but when the faithful kept seeking him out, he retired to a monastery where he co-wrote one of the earliest accounts of the Irish martyrs.
It’s an impressive list. And then there’s the livestock.
With all those famous bearers of the name, little wonder we find Angus on the map. The cattle associated with County Angus is now known as Angus cattle, and so you can probably find certified Angus beef in your grocery store. It’s not the best association for a child’s name, but I don’t think it rules him out, either.
His meaning is appealing. From Celtic roots oino or óen – one – and guss – choice, or possibly strength – we arrive at something like “the one choice” or “the one strength.” It’s a bit vague, but seems promising.
Speaking of the bits that make up Angus, one of his best attributes is that parents of Angus can nickname their son Gus.
Anguses of more recent note include:
- AC/DC schoolboy guitarist Angus Young;
- Clever fictional problem-solver Angus MacGyver from television’s MacGyver;
- Angus Purden has hosted BBC’s Cash in the Attic;
- Angus T. Jones plays Jake Harper, the slacker son and “half” on CBS’ Two and a Half Men.
While Angus is familiar to most as a given name, he’s appealingly rare – at least in the US. He ranked in the Top 1000 most years from 1880 to 1928, and last charted in 1948.
In Australia, he’s a Top 50 pick and ranks in Scotland’s Top 100. If you’re reading from overseas, there might already be a small Angus on every block.
But for those of us in the US, Angus could be the perfect pick – historic, strong but still quirky, with that great nickname option and good odds that you’ll never meet another.