Before there was Aidan, there was Brendan.
Thanks to Annelise for suggesting our Name of the Day.
When Mark Wahlberg and Rhea Durham named their third child Brendan, many commented that it was nice to see a celebrity sticking to a classic.
That’s the funny thing about baby names – yesterday’s trendy favorite can become hopelessly dated or it can enter our lexicon of acceptable, enduring choices.
Brendan has transitioned gracefully. It helps that his roots are impeccably Irish. Legend has it that Saint Brendan the Navigator sailed across the Atlantic in the early 500s. He and a ship of believers were seeking the Garden of Eden; some versions of the tale suggest the crew beat Columbus to North America, defeating a sea monster en route.
Odds are that Brendan’s voyage was a mix of folk tradition and religious parable, but his historical existence is unquestioned. He’s one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. The dozen monks all studied at Clonard Abbey and can be verified in historical records. In fact, a second Saint Brendan was among the twelve, Saint Brendan of Birr.
In sixth century Ireland, the men were probably called Bréanainn. There are a handful of meanings out there, but most agree that it comes from a title – “prince.” While I can’t trace the original source for the name, most agree that Brendan has a royal reputation.
Back in 1941, Brendan first appeared in the US Top 1000. He rose steadily, peaking at #96 in 1999. Along the way, he inspired many sound-alike names, including:
- Brandon debuted in the rankings in 1950 and quickly eclipsed the possibly-related Brendan. After Beverly Hills 90210 hit the small screen in 1990 with Jason Priestly playing Brandon Walsh, the already popular name spent six years in the Top Ten;
- Variant spellings Brendon and Brenden, as well as Branden, have all charted in recent years;
- While it remains more common as a surname, Brennan is now attracting attention. He first ranked in 1966 and had risen to #284 by 2007;
- Lastly, a mash-up of Brendan’s Br- and Aidan have generated Braidan, Braeden, Braydon and too many more to list. Like Brennan, they may trace their roots back to an Irish surname – but are undeniably boosted by the popularity of similar picks.
While Brendan isn’t a classic like James or John, he does belong on the list of sensible choices for sons. Brendan is falling slowly, ranking #204 in 2007. (Brandon remains in the Top 50 and more Braedens are born every day.)
Perhaps it is because he was never a chart-topper, or maybe it is because his history lends him some strength, but Brendan feels more like a 20th century classic than a fading favorite.
If you’re looking for an Irish choice that is slightly less traditional than Daniel, far less common than Aidan and yet still current, why not consider Brendan? While the many similar choices could cause confusion, Brendan seems like the one most likely to endure as a strong choice for a son.