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.

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. Spelled like Corban, this name is also mention in the Biblical book of Mark (Mark 7:11) as meaning “a gift.”

  2. We chose to name our son Corbin, I love it, it is a little different and still a strong name for a boy. I am of Greek background and the Greek meaning of the name can be traced to ‘god’s servant’.

  3. I agree whole-heartedly with coolteamblt. Corbin is a great alternative name without naming your kid something insane like ‘Celery’ or ‘Fido’. As my family tradition dictates names that begin with K, I had Corbin on my list as Korbin, but further down the list simply because it looks better with a C than a K.

  4. I think they are great alternatives, don’t get me wrong. They are good names, and I would love love love to hear them over Brayden, spelling TBD. I think Ronan, Declan, Lachlan, Gavin, etc. are great alternatives to Logan, Evan, Aidan and friends, I just get a bit tired of them. I definitely would be excited as all get out to meet a small Corbin or Declan, but those kind of names have slowly started to slip down and out of my personal short list. I think that’s why Simon has fallen off my short list!

    I would prefer to use something that still fits the familiar but not common bill, like Theodore or Gideon. It’s hard for my husband and I, though. His idea of an adventurous name is to name our dog Roxie. He does get kudos for coming up with Daphne, but he did watch a lot of Scooby Doo as a kid… 😉

    His second choice for a girl is Stephanie, a name I can’t stand. He narrowed my top fifty list of boy’s names down to James and William. Growing up as a Kevin in a family of Kens, Marys, Patricias, and Lisas, I guess I can’t blame him. I have the only common name in my immediate family, so I was always a bit jealous. My sister is Amelia, my mother is Margo, and my dad is Brett. Not names I love, but being one of six Katherines in my English class, I got jealous for sure. Kevin didn’t really seem to care, but I definitely want a name that won’t make our kids James H. in school.

  5. It’s funny – I spent the weekend with friends who are also expecting #2. It was pretty clear they though Clio was a ridiculous name. If their second is a boy, they’re pretty sure they plan to call him Brayden, spelling TBD. I hope I kept a straight face when she said that. 😉

    Kayt, I took your approach … hmmm … how about Ronan, Corbin, Declan? The Dad got very excited about Ronan. But the Mom-to-be dismissed all of those as weird. She honestly likes Top 25 names. Their daughter is Emma.

    As someone who shed a Top Ten moniker as quickly as I could slither out of it, I don’t understand how parents could do that to their child. It seems like choosing something like Corbin would be a nice compromise – a very current feel, but different enough that you’re not one in the crowd.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this, but I need to settle down and gather my thoughts before I say more – but it’s an interesting discussion.

  6. I adore Corbin, but I’m so tired of the two syllable names, I would never use it. I do suggest it as an alternative to Kayden a lot, though.

  7. I’m nodding out with Lola here . . . I hear Corbin and all I hear is “two syllable boy name that ends in ‘n'”. My son plays with a little Corbin (and a Landon, an Evan, a Mason, two Colins) and it never struck me as an interesting choice.

  8. I love Corbin. I added this one to my list too. It’s really cute but not very common. It’s a great name and it has spark unlike Cory/Corey.

  9. I thoroughly like Korben Dalls (That whole movie ranks in my personal top 10) But Corbin/Korben/Korbin/Corben really doesn’t blip on my radar (Hadn’t even thought Corbin Bernsen until you mentioned him, to be honest) . Two syllable boys names ending in ‘n’? I’m so over them for the most part. I don’t mind some but dislike most. I really wouldn’t mind meeting a Korben or two but he’s never going to be one of mine.