Happy Halloween!

Today’s pick is a Slavic classic that just screams spooky. Our Name of the Day is Boris.

Perhaps the best known Boris did indeed choose his name for its exotic flair. Actor Boris Karloff was born into a privileged English family back in the 1880s. While his siblings went into public service and led distinguished, proper lives, the black sheep caught the acting bug. He’s immortalized as Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 film. As for his name? He adopted Boris because it was exotic and claimed that he found Karloff hanging on the ol’ family tree. Besides better suiting a monster movie star, Boris Karloff allowed him to attain fame without embarrassing the Pratt clan. That said, they were reportedly all quite proud of their little brother.

The roots of Boris are most likely Turkish, and he’s been a hit among Slavs since the early Middle Ages. While his etymology is debated, most agree that the original name was probably Bogoris. You’ll also find Boris used as a diminutive for Boruslaw or other elaborations.

Boris I ruled Bulgaria back in the 800s. Two more rulers of that nation wore the name. A steady trickle of notables have been Boris ever since:

  • Saint Boris lived in the 1000s;
  • Boris Gudonov was Emperor of Russia in the 1500s, though he’s probably better known as the subject of the Pushkin drama and the Mussorgsky opera;
  • An animated Boris spied for Pottsylvania’s Fearless Leader and Mr. Big as part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle universe;
  • The Who sang about Boris the Spider – if you’re downloading last minute playlists for a party, consider adding this to Ghostbusters and the Monster Mash;
  • Boris Yeltsin served as president of Russia in the 90s;

While he’s flirted with the edges of US Top 1000, charting at the upper reachers in 1923 and again from 1961 to 1970, he’s about as rare as they come.

We’re not quite sure how to evaluate Boris. Would your kiddo be called Frankenstein from kindergarten through college? Or would it be easy to spin it as an authentic Slavic heritage choice? We’re leaning towards the latter.

Oops … that’s the doorbell. See you on All Saint’s Day.

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 don’t like Boris at all. I love Russian/Slavic names but this name screams “Old man” to me. Nothing against old men, but I just can’t picture a little kid or teenager named Boris.

  2. Count me odd chick out, then. I adore Boris when said properly: bah-REES. it hangs all over my family tree (Crazy Russians we once were) and I’ve loved it since I was little. Boris Badenov was the second place I heard it (after a handful of cousins). Ol’ Bullwinkle was a favorite of mine from the tender age of three, when I discovered him in re-runs on then WPIX. Fractured Fairytales are my favorites but Boris & Natasha live on in my heart as well.

    I think he’s handsome. Strong, deft and suave. Of course, Boris Vallejo has a fan in me as well. And Boris the Spider s hands down my favorite Who song (and one of the few I know ALL the words to) and, Horror buffs that we are, Boris Karloff remains dear. Doesn”t hurt the name at all in my eyes. Has anyone ever noticed Karloff is the narrator for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas? And Thurl Ravenscroft (You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch” Was the voice of Tony the Tiger when I was a kid! (Gods, I love that special).

    So I’m odd. I know I am and revel in that. Bring on the Oddballs! 😀

  3. There are lots of Slavic names I like better than Boris. one. So even if I lived in a Slavic country, I’d pick something else.

  4. Growing up in Brooklyn among many, many Russians, I ran into more than one Boris. The one I remember most was – Borislava (bo-riss-LAH-va) a girl I went to HS with. She was an immigrant, came over when she was about 8 years old. Boris is not a name I would ever saddle a child with. No way. No how. You get the picture. That said, I think it is a great name for someone planning to go into the business of horror movies. Good call, William Henry Pratt, although I really liked his original name better!