Cash is cool – we wouldn’t dare deny it, not in these crazy times. But as a formal name for a child, it’s a bit lacking, unless he grows up to be a cowboy. Or maybe a reality TV star.

But today’s choice has an ancient elegance that will appeal to many parents – and still gets you to that appealing nickname.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Name of the Day: Cassius.

Ask most people about Cassius and they’ll say he means prizefighter. Cassius Clay was, of course, the given name of Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer of all time. He’s a three-time World Heavyweight champ and an Olympic gold medalist. Little wonder that Sports Illustrated called him the 20th century’s greatest athlete. While he’s known to history by the name he adopted on his conversion to Islam, most of us recall that he began life as Cassius.

What’s less widely known is that Clay was a junior, and that his father was named after one of the 19th century’s more notable figures – the wealthy, privileged Kentucky politician who became a leading figure in the emancipation movement in the 1830s and 40s.

It’s a hero name indeed. When we unpack Cassius’ meaning and discover that he stems from the Latin cassus for empty or vain, it’s almost irrelevant.

As you’d expect from his -us ending, Cassius started out as a Roman family name and was worn by a string of ancient notables. We’ll mention three:

  • Cassius Chaerea was a Roman soldier, remembered by history for assassinating mad emperor Caligula;
  • Cassius Dio was a Roman public servant and noted historian. He managed to sum up the story of Rome in a mere 80 volumes;
  • Gaius Cassius Longinus served as a senator and participated in the conspiracy against Julius Caesar.

If this lot seems a bit too heavy on the assassins, rest assured that several early bearers of the name were also saints. The best known Saint Cassius was bishop of Narni in Umbria in the 500s. He was widely known for his good works and charitable endeavors.

Thanks to Muhammad Ali, Cassius feels tougher than other popular ends-in-us names. We can see a father dismissing Atticus or Ignatius, but considering this one. His easy nickname is another point in his favor.

Interestingly, Cassius has rarely ranked in the US Top 1000, appearing occasionally in the late 19th century at the upper limits and then charting once in 1964, doubtless in homage to the boxer.

Cash, on the other hand, appeared in the rankings in 2003 at #972 and has leapt up the charts to #328 last year. It’s undeniably a hot pick for this decade.

But we can’t help think that Cassius seems like the far more appealing choice for a formal name. He has a lot of history and style of his own. And unlike the fleeting Cash, we think this one can endure.

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. Cassia… great name and uncommon. I’d say Cass-ee-a. I also like Cassandra (familiar but I don’t think it’s overpopular). And I like the nn Cassie for either. Cassandra is one of the names I’d consider for a girl if I ever had one.