Been to the movies lately? If so, maybe you’ve seen Christian Bale as Batman in the box-office-record- shattering release The Dark Knight. Bale shares something in common with the seldom seen star of the movie considered summer’s first ever blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

Stumped? Thanks to Lola for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Bruce.

That’s right. We all know Bruce Wayne is Batman’s billionaire-by-day alter ego. But did you know that the trio of mechanical sharks in 1975’s Jaws were also nicknamed Bruce? Apparently, they were named in honor of Steven Spielberg’s attorney. If you’ve seen the fish tale Finding Nemo, you may have noted that the head vegetarian shark is known as Bruce – we assume the wits at Pixar were paying tribute.

Bruce came to Scotland with the Normans. Chances are it was originally a place name, referring to Le Brix or Brieux. Both were once considered part of Normandy. Six of Robert the Bruce’s ancestors were known as Robert le Brus and a seventh was William le Brus, the Lords of Annandale. The best known Robert became King of the Scots in the 1300s. Contemporary records also refer to him as Briuis and Bruys.

It became a surname for descendants of the legendary ruler, and around the 19th century, a common first name. So common, in fact, that it would be impossible to list all the notable bearers of the name. In the US, it was a Top 50 name for two decades – from 1945 to 1965. We’ll include a few Bruces here, but doubtless we’ve overlooked many:

  • Born in the USA legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen;
  • Actor, martial artist and icon Bruce Lee;
  • 1976 Olympic gold medalist turned reality star Bruce Jenner;
  • Actor and intrepid baby namer Bruce Willis;
  • And, of course, comic crimefighter Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne.

There’s even a Bruce Museum, but no it doesn’t pay homage to all of the above – it’s simply a Greenwich, Connecticut cultural institution that started life as the residence of Robert Moffat Bruce.

For a modern parent, the question probably is this: Has Bruce been out of favor long enough that’s he due for a comeback?

In 1952 – the peak of Bruce’s popularity at #25 – other chart-topping names for boys included Gary (#10), Larry (#14), Ronald (#15), Jerry (#26) and Roger (#30). Along with Bruce, most of them still sound not-quite-ready for revival.

Except that names popular in the same era are starting to be adopted by that baby naming vanguard – celebrities. The Office’s Rainn Wilson and his wife Holiday Reinhorn are parents to Walter; Elvis Costello and Diana Krall have twin sons Dexter and Frank; Jack Nicholson has a son called Raymond.

We’ll take Bruce over late 90s sensation Bryce any day. And it strikes us that plenty of 20-something mamas-to-be are likely to rediscover Roger and Kenneth, Douglas and Wayne. After all, when once-moldy relics like Henry and Oscar sound positively mainstream, the simplest way to assure a familiar, but not overused choice, is to look at a neglected decade.

When the 40s and 50s come back, expect to hear Bruce as part of the trend.

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. My youngest is Bruce, it started as a bit of a joke as I said I wanted a proper mans name that was different but not made up. OH said what like bruce! And it just stuck through the pregnancy. People thought we had gone mad and he would come out with love & hate tattooed on his knuckles but totally opposite, hes blonde haired, blue eyed and everyone loves his name now, he couldnt be anything else. Struggling to name our next son due in 5 weeks, thinking bruno or something scottish to match bruce possibly william or robert but I even like axl as axl rose real name is william bruce.

  2. No worries, Kayt, James Kenneth is dashing in his own right. I think you guys did a fine job compromising. 🙂

  3. I love Kenneth! I’ve had a few friends named Kenneth in both my generation and my parents’ generation, so it doesn’t sound too old and stuffy to me.

    I want to like Bruce, especially since it’s Scottish, but I just can’t. It sounds rather brutish to me.

  4. Kenneth is a huge family name for my husband. He’s Kevin Kenneth, his dad and grandfather are Kenneth Ernest, he has an uncle named Kenneth Ray, and a brother in law named Kenneth Charles. I couldn’t do it as a first name, but I’m a total sucker for family names in the middle. I’ve had a lot of people tell me Kenneth James flows better, but I like the presence James Kenneth has, if that makes sense. Kind of like John Henry, you know?

  5. Aww, too bad! James Kenneth is handsome though and I won’t quibble there. My other half is Kenneth James! 😀

  6. I tried some variations, but we’re going with James Kenneth. My husband is very very into traditional names. He took my top fifty name list and narrowed it down to James and William for a first name choice. Garret and Dominic were on my list, and I tried offering them up as variants for his grandpa. Nope!

  7. Oh Kayt, I’d’ve thought Gareth, Garland or Garnet for Gary or Donovan, Donatello or Donal for Don and flown with it. Please my oddball other half and the MIL in one? A definite win-win in my book! Maybe you’d still reconsider? 😉

  8. You’re welcome, Lola! I must say that having a fabulous Uncle Bruce makes me a bit biased towards this one. And my apologies – I meant to snatch up that great list you did and paste it here (with credit to you, of course) but it slipped my mind.

    But it’s also true that whenever we find a cluster of names so far out that they’re impossible to consider, odds are that they’re just waiting for their moment to make a comeback. When I started thinking about Walter, Frank and Raymond, all of a sudden Bruce sounded perfectly plausible.

    That said, Kayt, I *do* know what you mean. I’m still back with Henry, Oscar, George and the other throwbacks. But then, I’m 35 – I know lots of Boomers with those names. When my little cousin – she’s turning 16 this weekend, yikes! – eventually has children, she might look at our family tree and feel totally different about some of those names. (But I’m still not prepared to accept the fact that she’s dating, so let’s assume that it will be decades until she’s pushing a stroller.)

    Now, my real hesitation about Bruce? I have shark fear. Always have. And as it happens, I’m typing from Virginia Beach – I can see the Atlantic from where I’m sitting. So Bruce? Couldn’t do it. I’d hear low strings every time I called my son’s name. 🙂

  9. I just can’t get behind it. My MIL wanted us to consider Gary or Don for our son in honor of my husband’s recently deceased grandfather, but I just find the sound of Gary Don too much for me! It’s too dated and doddery sounding to me just yet, and Bruce is in exactly the same boat, I’m afraid.

  10. Thanks! 🙂 I’m having problems with the laptop but finally managed to get online to see what you dug up on his Uncles name! Way to go, Verity!

    I’m really finding him appealing recently and not just in an honoring sort of way. (also despite this former Jersey girl’s loathing of Springsteen). Bruce is charming in that stuffy way I like and, if you can step back from him a bit, he’s rakish, snappy and concise.

    The Bruces I managed to think of before requesting this NotD:

    Bruce Paltrow, deceased actor father of Gwyneth
    Bruce Hornsby, musician
    Bruce Campbell – Actor (and one of my favorite ones!)
    Bruce Banner – super hero #2.. Hulk.
    Bruce Greenwood – actor (I last saw him in “I, Robot” with Will Smith)
    Bruce Dern – Actor and Actress Laura Dern’s Pop)
    Bruce Boxenleitner -Actor (I think I spelled his last name right!)

    I also came up with the 5 you listed.I mentioned to my other half that today’s name of the day was Bruce because I requested it and you should have seen his surprised face! “You’d really consider Bruce? Wow! How cool of you!” Made me feel like a superhero in his eyes. So again, Verity, Thanks a million. 😀