The antique Atticus is hot. Little wonder parents are searching history for more choices from way back.
Thanks to Alicia for suggesting Cyril as Name of the Day.
Cyril comes from the Greek kyrios – lord. You might recognize it from church – kyrie eleison translates to “lord have mercy.” Or if you’re a child of the 80s, there’s two-hit wonder Mr. Mister’s 1986 chart-topper “Kyrie.”
The Greek name would’ve been closer to Kyrillos, with a hard k. But as the Greek was translated into Latin, Kyrillos became Cyrillos. (Ks are rare in Latin.) That’s when Cyril started to sound more like cereal.
Back in the ancient world, Cyril and company must’ve been fairly common. It was worn by a number of notables, including:
- The scholarly Saint Cyril of Alexandria lived in the fourth century;
- His contemporary, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, is considered a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church;
- In the fifth century, Cyrillus taught legal theory in what is now modern-day Beirut;
- The ninth century Saint Cyril and his brother Saint Methodius are remembered for creating the Cyrillic alphabet, allowing them to translate the Bible into Slavic languages.
Cyril might mean lordly, but he sounds brainy, and the early bearers of the name back this up.
Until recent centuries, most Cyrils were Slavic, though English playwright Cyril Tourneur penned The Revenger’s Tragedy back in 1607.
The English speaking world overlooked Cyril until the nineteenth century. While he was never wildly popular, you can find Cyrils in many fields of achievement, including:
- Cyril Cusack, an Irish actor successful on stage and screen in the 20th century;
- British military officers like World War I’s Sir Cyril Deverell;
- Cyril King was elected governor of the US Virgin Islands in the 1970s;
- Cyril Power was a modern artist and co-founder of the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London in 1925;
- The quips of 20th century literary critic Cyril Connolly are oft-quoted.
Toss in scientists and athletes, and there are Cyrils aplenty. In the US, Cyril charted right through 1966, so American Cyrils are among the list, too. But to many, Cyril feels British, not unlike Basil.
He enjoyed a spike in usage in 1970s France, and as you cruise through a list of Cyrils, you’ll find plenty of them throughout the French-speaking world, too.
Today his prospects for a comeback seem slim. Fictional Cyril O’Reily is a character on HBO’s gritty prison drama, Oz. He’s not likely to inspire many parents.
Slavic variants Kiril and Kirill fit right in with current trends. Neither have charted in the US Top 1000, but they track with hyper-masculine picks like Cannon and Slade, as well as all those kreative-with-a-K picks.
The Italian Ciro is another variant, but he sounds just a smidge too much like zero.
Instead, the related name poised for a comeback is probably the regal Cyrus. While he shares Cyril’s soft C, he’s not nearly as gentle. Between the bookish Cyril and the commando Kiril, Cyrus seems to inhabit a perfectly masculine middle ground.
Cyril has some saintly appeal, but he’s probably not quite ready to be rediscovered.