This choice has impeccably Irish credentials, but circa 2008, reminds many of us of a Nobel Peace prize winner from the opposite hemisphere.
Thanks to Holey for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Desmond.
Desmond isn’t just Irish in origin, it means “from south Munster” in Ireland. In Gaelic, the original phrase is something like Deas-Mhumhan or Ó Deasmhumhnaigh, depending on your source. Munster, in turn, most likely received its name from an ancient Celtic goddess known as Muma or Mumhan. Until the 1600s, there was even a County Desmond. (It’s since been split between Counties Cork and Kerry.)
Like many a moniker, this one started out as a surname for families from the area, but has been in use as a given name throughout the 20th century in the English-speaking world.
1968’s reggae-influenced Beatles’ hit “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” certainly establishes Desmond’s use. While not as well known as “Hey Jude” or “Dear Prudence,” many of us recall the story of Desmond and Molly Jones, who meet in the marketplace, build a home sweet home, have a couple of kids and live happy ever after.
The song certainly helped Desmond’s popuarlity in the US. He’d occasionally cracked the Top 1000 from 1904 on and charted every year after 1958. But by 1972, he’d become a Top 500 choice, and by 1992 had reached #265.
A second musical influence might be Desmond Dekker, one of the first Jamaican recording artists to gain attention outside of his native country. While he’d be eclipsed by Bob Marley, he remained influential throughout his career. Some speculate that the Beatles chose the name Desmond in his honor.
It’s not all about the music, of course. Ryan, Sean and a few other kelly green appellations were gaining favor from the 1960s onward.
For some parents, Desmond became a hero name inspired by The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, who took a leadership role in ending apartheid. In 1984, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, and after retiring from the church, continues a life of service as a respected activist for social justice issues today. It also brought Desmond into use for African American parents.
Between the musical influences, the growing preference for Irish names and the South African leader, it’s no wonder that Desmond peaked in the 90s.
Today, Desmond has been slowly moving in the opposite direction. In 2007, he ranked #427. But we don’t think he’s headed for obscurity.
Two factors keep this choice current. First, there’s that zippy z sound with the nickname Des or Dez. Second, Desmond Hume appears as a character on the smash ABC hit Lost.
If Desmond has one drawback, it’s that -mond ending, shared by clunky choices like Edmund and Sigmund and not-quite-ready-for-revival Raymond. But we think that the sparky Des can overcome that hurdle.
With plenty of story to tell, we find this 20th century choice has far more depth than many names of recent discovery. Whether you’re Irish, a Beatles fan or eager to choose a name with a notable bearer, Desmond can meet your criteria.