One of the interesting things about given names is that they’re often amalgamations of several similar appellations, merged and meshed through the years until we arrive at a wearable version that works in our native tongue.
Thanks to Friend of a Friend for suggesting one such moniker, today’s Name of the Day: Corbin.
Corbin could be a legitimate heritage choice representing perhaps three cultural backgrounds, as well as a seventh-century saints’ name and a place in legend. Here are the contenders:
- We’ve known Corbin as a Scandinavian name of uncertain meaning; indeed, the name was popularized by blonde-haired, blue-eyed actor Corbin Bernsen, who rose to fame on the 80s legal drama LA Law. While Bernsen is of Scandinavian descent, that appears to be the name’s primary link to Northern Europe. That said, Albin and Robin are Top 100 Swedish choices for boys, so it is not an outrageous idea.
- The most common attribution is French, based on the surname Corbeau. The Latin corvus means raven; in French, the word became corb. While surnames were in their infancy, some individuals possessed of dark hair and a poetic streak apparently became known as Corbeau, in reference to their raven-dark tresses. Corbin would also be a legitimate diminutive form in Middle English and Old French.
- While it is most often Anglicized as Corban, the Gaelic surname Ó Corbáin also became Corbin, Corben and Corbett. The translation is lost to time, but some sources suggest that corb meant chariot.
- In Arthurian legend, the Holy Grail is found at the Castle of Corbenic or Corbin. Thomas Malory favored Corbin in Le Morte d’Arthur. It was the birthplace of Sir Galahad and the site of many strange and wondrous marvels, including the requisite dragon.
- Perhaps the most intriguing of the name’s origins, it may simply be a short form of the 7th century Frankish Saint Corbinian. A teacher and evangelist, Corbinian was en route to Rome when a bear mauled his mule. Undaunted, Corbinian tamed and saddled the bear and simply rode his new beast of burden to his destination. On arrival, he humanely returned his ursine captive to the wild.
Regardless of which backstory you favor, Corbin appears in US census records from the late 19th century on. Odds are it was a family choice bestowed as a given name. Back in 1891, there were even enough Corbins for the name to peek into the popularity rankings – at #1001.
The name surfaced again a few times in the 1970s, but it was after LA Law debuted in 1986 that Corbin began his rise, entering at #590 in 1987. While the show left the air in 1994, the name has continued to gain, reaching a new high of #244 in 2007.
Besides Bernsen, the next generation of mothers may be thinking of High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu. And Fifth Element fans will remember that Bruce Willis’ character was called Korben Dallas.
In fact, while Korben doesn’t chart in the US rankings, Korbin does – at #636. We wouldn’t be surprised to meet a Korbyn, Kohrben or Corbhin.
Depending on your perspective, Corbin is either a frustrating name with elusive roots likely to be creatively re-spelled for Jaydin’s little brother, or an intriguing and mysterious choice that fits well with current trends but points to a range of possible derivations.