He’s a seventh century monk, but his name sounds surprisingly modern.

Thanks to Bewildertrix for suggesting Bede as Name of the Day.

If Bede didn’t exist, someone would invent him. In recent years, boys’ names are trending towards the short. Nameberry calls them brisk. They range from classics, like Luke and Jack, to newer choices like Cole, Kai and Cade, as well as surnames like Blake.

Finish European History 101 and you’ll probably associate this name with “the Venerable.” The Venerable Bede was born around 670, and almost certainly came from a well-to-do, well-connected family.

His name comes from the Old English Baeda. It literally translates to bed, but scholars tell us that it implied prayer. Perhaps Bede was a younger son destined for the monastery.

By the age of seven, Bede had entered a monastery at Monkwearmouth, in Northumbria, and by his late teens, he was writing histories and other works. He’d complete sixty volumes over the following decades, of which the best known is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It’s a careful account of the development of the Christian church in England and also one of the most important historical records of Anglo-Saxon England.

Bede has long been considered a saint, and in the late nineteenth century was made a doctor of the Roman Catholic church – a designation that places his works among those of particular theological significance.

Some saints’ names were popular in their day. Others have been fashionable since. Neither is true of Bede. He was rare in the 600s and has remained so. Dredging the historical record turns up only a few other bearers, most notably King Beda of a minor Anglo-Saxon kingdom known as Lindsey.

US Census records list a few dozen Bedes. Some are women in religious life – Sister Mary Bede appears more than once in the nineteenth century. Others appear to be women. Bede could be a non-standard spelling of Betty, or perhaps a pet form of Bedelia.

Among the records, there are certainly some men called Bede. Some may be wearing a family surname promoted to the first spot. Besides a handful of real Mr. Bedes, George Eliot wrote her love triangle tale Adam Bede in 1859.

Other men probably were named after the historian and saint. With popular nineteenth century choices like Homer and Virgil honoring great thinkers, Bede sounds perfectly possible. And yet Bede has never appeared in the US Top 1000.

All of this could make for an unwearable antique of a name. But Bede seems surprisingly fresh.

Call your child Renesmee and the Twilight reference is unavoidable, even uncomfortable. Ditto Tiger (Woods) or Barack or Obama. But something happens when the history is a century or more in the past. Lincoln has long been a legitimate hero name, and his presidency was relatively recent compared to Bede.

With other ancient saints’ names becoming current possibilities, and his short, crisp style, Bede could wear well in 2010.

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. I thought it looked like BEE-dee. I can’t say I’m impressed by or overly curious about it. If I met a Bede, I’d probably just assume it was someone’s last name in his way-back WASPy family.

  2. It has an absolutely fascinating history!I wasn’t sure how to say it at first, but apparently it’s said BEED? While I love the twist on this name & it’s history, it’s not a name I’d use. I’d prefer something like Keane before I went for Bede.It’d be fabulous to meet a Bede, though.The way it looks reminds me too much of BB guns; I wasn’t sure if it was said bee-dee

    1. I’m saying it BEED, one syllable. I’ve never heard it rhymed with bed – though I suppose it might be in British or Australian English pronunciations. (Except that if Bewildertrix has rhymed it with peed, then no.)

      This is one that’s growing on me … though I just asked Arthur and he replied, “I wouldn’t.” Maybe in the middle.

  3. Lovely, lovely although massive over thinking on this name business while pregnant has caused me to find “faults” with names that I didn’t so much see (or bother with) before. It’s silly but I wonder if anyone would assume I’d said “peed” when saying the name. I also dislike the similarity to current trendy (and perhaps slightly boganey) favs here e.g Bodhi and Beau.

    It is a bit ambitious too given the namesake but that is something I did get over.

    I’ve seen the odd one pop up in Kiwi and Aussie announcements but it represents slightly better in the UK (although there were only 5 born for England in 2008).