A dashing British leading man has taken this one-syllable name from obscurity to possibility.
Thanks to Alicia for suggesting Clive as Name of the Day.
Clive’s origins are straightforward. Cleove was a Middle English variant of cliff, making him yet another name once bestowed on people living in a specific geographic area.
Up until Clive Owen hit Hollywood around 2001, this name was most associated with horror writer Clive Barker, or possibly real life adventurer turned adventure novelist Clive Cussler. (Or, depending on your background, any one of dozens of British notables.)
While Owen isn’t as much a romantic hero as, say Cary Grant or even Brad Pitt, he’s won his fair share of attention, co-starring opposite leading ladies like Julia Roberts.
Back in the eighteenth century, Robert Clive was a British soldier and part of the East India Company. If that doesn’t ring any bells, suffice to say that he was a major force in creating British India. By the time he died in 1774, he was known as Major General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive – or simply Clive of India.
British families with a connection to the colony occasionally bestowed Clive as a given name for their sons, just as they sometimes called their daughters India. But the name really caught on a few decades later when William Makepeace Thackery used the name Clive for the son in his multi-generational masterpiece The Newcomes. Thackery’s artistic character made the name even more mainstream, at least in England.
In the US, Clive has never been a popular choice. The name charted in the Top 1000 a few times between 1885 and 1935, but has been headed for obscurity ever since. Meet a Clive today, and he’s probably British – and almost certainly middle-aged.
Clive’s last hurrah in the US, in 1935, is probably tied to the 1935 release of the big screen Clive of India, a film based on the Major General’s life. The biopic starred Ronald Colman in the lead role. If that name isn’t familiar, the English actor boasted four Oscar nominations, including one win. Once upon a time, he was at least as well known as Clive Owen.
There’s also C.S. Lewis. While he’s a well known writer and theologian of sorts, few know that C.S. stood for Clive Staples. And, as it happened, among friends and family, C.S. answered mainly to the nickname Jack.
Today, Clive is cooler than the related Clifford – thanks to his v, and his Hollywood cred. He’s the kind of interesting single-syllable choice somewhere between stodgy and tweedy and edgy and cool. If Rufus and Barney are way too out there for you, certainly Clive is unthinkable.
But if you’re worried that Rufus and Barney are just a little too popular? Clive might be one fresh direction to consider.