Thanks to Bella for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
A handful of early saints – male and female – answered to Columba. It comes from a Late Latin word meaning dove, but it’s not quite in the same category as Leo or Wren.
Instead, the dove signifies the Holy Spirit, making Columba a deeply spiritual choice.
It became Colum and Colm in Irish and Calum and Callum in Scottish, along with a few other variations. At least occasionally, the names were Anglicized as Colin.
While there’s more than one saint, the best-remembered lived in the sixth century. Irish by birth, he led a mission to evangelize the people living in Scotland. It’s said he was successful in his efforts to spread his faith; it’s also said he wrestled the Loch Ness monster.
In any case, a popular saint tends to boost a name’s use, and that’s certainly true for the baby name Callum.
PEACEFUL NATURE NAME
Even parents who aren’t particularly religious will appreciate the baby name Callum’s rich symbolism and meaning.
The night sky includes a faint constellation known as Columba, because it resembles a dove. It’s only been named since the sixteenth century – which helps explain why it references Christianity rather than ancient myth.
Some sources called it Noah’s Dove, which makes it a symbol of hope. In the Old Testament story, the dove returns bearing an olive branch, signalling that the flood waters are receding. That makes it a powerful symbol of hope.
Doves, of course, are richly significant outside of a Christian context, too.
Most often, the bird represents peace. They’re depicted on Christmas and holiday cards, and Pablo Piccaso’s Dove of Peace is among the artist’s most famous works. (Fun fact: Picasso named his daughter Paloma, the Spanish word for dove.)
That lends the baby name Callum a powerful and compelling meaning.
CALLAHAN, CALVIN …
Another reason to think the baby name Callum might wear well on a son today?
We’re wild for Cal names. There’s Caleb and Calvin, of course, but also Callahan and Callan/Callen. Charles could easily shorten to Cal, too.
BY THE NUMBERS
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the baby name Callum ranked in England’s Top 25. It reached the Scottish Top Ten in the same era. And it enjoyed Top 100 popularity in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, too.
So if you meet a Callum today in the UK? He’s probably a teenager or a young adult.
But it too much longer for the baby name Callum to catch on with American parents.
The name first debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2008 – after it had reached its peak across the Atlantic. (As well as in New Zealand and Australia.)
Despite getting a late start, there’s no question that the name has caught on. In 2008, the baby name Callum came in at just #972. As of 2020, it rose to #335 – an all-time high. That’s not Liam or even Carter, but it’s a respectable rank, firmly in the familiar-not-overused category.
The single-L Calum entered the US Top 1000 in 2019, too. Though at #922 as of 2020, it’s clearly the less popular spelling.
While plenty of borrowings from across the Atlantic now feel thoroughly American – Liam, I’m looking at you! – the baby name Callum still feels like a bit of an import. It’s more of a Mini Cooper than a Ford Mustang – polished, familiar, but some of the name’s appeal is that Scottish heritage.
The baby name Callum also feels easy-going. It’s a relaxed name. On a playground of Mavericks and Wilders, Callum is far more understated. It’s a brother for Arlo, an alternative to Dylan.
And the meaning? It’s a total bonus.
If you’re after something that’s just slightly different, with modern appeal and deep roots, the baby name Callum is one to consider.
What do you think of the baby name Callum?
Originally published on July 13, 2008, this post was substantially revised and updated on June 30, 2021.