Cade, Slade, Chance and Trey all appear in the US Top 1000. Whatever happened to this single-syllable choice?

Thanks to Christina for suggesting Dirk as Name of the Day.

The short answer is that Dirk appeared in 1947, however in the 300s and 400s up until about 1970, then started to slip. By 1990, he’d left the rankings entirely.

Dirk caught on thanks to handsome British actor Dirk Bogarde. He’s best remembered for playing opposite Julie Christie in 1965’s Darling. His career spanned the 1940s through the 1980s, and probably helped keep Dirk visible.

It’s tempting to dismiss Dirk as a f, even invented, 20th century choice. But that’s not the case. Dirk Bogarde was born Derek. And if you keep tracing the name back, you’ll arrive at the German Dietrich or Dieter and Dutch Diederick and the Germanic Theodoric. Over the years, Theodoric generated plenty of offshoots, including the Welsh name Tudor.

You probably recognize some of the elements. Ric, of course, means ruler. But this theo doesn’t reference God; instead, it comes from þeudo – people. Theodoric means ruler of the people, and he most certainly was. Kings of the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks and Anglo-Saxons bore the name.

You’d be hard pressed to find a Theodoric after the Renaissance, but variant forms have been steadily in use. Dirk Willems was a religious martyr back in the sixteenth century; Derek Keppel was a nineteenth-century born aristocrat in service to King George V.

Besides Dirk and Derek, you’ll come across men named Derrick, Derick, Derik, Dereck, Deric, Deryk and more.

Derek remains a Top 200 pick for boys in the US, but most of the others are out of fashion. Just as Dirk was fading from use for newborns, he exploded in pop culture, thanks to three prominent bearers of the name:

  • Television actor Dirk Benedict made a splash in 1978 as Lieutenant Starbuck on the original Battlestar Galactica and later as part of The A-Team;
  • In 1997, Mark Wahlberg landed his breakout role as Eddie Addams, an ordinary guy who took the stage name Dirk Diggler and found fame and fortune as a porn star;
  • German-born NBA star Dirk Nowitski has played for the Dallas Mavericks since 1998.

Dirk is also a weapon. It’s not quite like calling your son Dagger, but there is something aggressive about the name. There’s debate about the word dirk’s origins. Some point to the Gaelic dearg – knife, while others cite a Germanic source. Regardless, Dirk would definitely sound more at home with a brother called Gunnar than one named Noah.

It is difficult to tell how Dirk would wear on a boy born in 2009. While he’s clearly fallen out of favor, hyper-masculine monikers are in vogue with some parents. Factor in his history and roots, and Dirk might be a more enduring choice than, say, Slade.

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. Don’t forget Dirk Gently, from the books by Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books)! The Dirk in these books has many amusing flaws but is extremely intelligent and had a good heart. He’s an attractive and complex character and the books have terrific plots. They are “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul”, 1987 and 1988. Incidentally, Dirk’s birth name was Svlad Cjelli, but he changed it after an unfortunate brush with the law…

  2. It’s a weapon to me too. But I have to admit, I was a HUGE battlestar Galactica fan as a kid and yeah, Starbuck was “da Man” (what can I say, I was 11)! 🙂

    Funnily enough, I quite like Dieter and Dietrich both, but even then, I probably wouldn’t use Dirk as much more than a nickname, if at all. It does have a short, sharp sound which might appeal to parents looking for something wwith that quality. and yeah, I can also see it appealling to the Hunter, Blade & Cannon folks. I’d actually rather Dirk to Hunter, Blade or Cannon! He’s just so very not for me.

  3. Like Bek, “irk” is what my eyes and aural cues formed initially, and it still lingers in the back of my head, nno matter how many times I repeat it! Whilst I appreciate Dietrich and Dieter, Dirk just brings to mind too many unflattering and cruel nouns and adjectives for my liking!

    I really like Cloelia though 🙂

  4. Yeah, I think of it solely as a weapon, perhaps because of my tendency to read books full of sell-swords and the like. I’m just not a fan of violent sounding/looking/meaning names.

    The sound is also unappealing to me. I can see why it fell off the list. The “irk” part is so glaring and guttural that it reminds me a bit of hacking up a hairball. Sorry 🙁

  5. I had no idea a dirk was a weapon! Being in my 40s I grew up with Dirks and Kirks, to me it’s a name and nothing else.

    I love the connection to history behind Dirk and his connection to Dietrich, Dieter and Diederick. Despite the drawbacks to using it in 2009 for a first name, I still think it’s great as a middle name for today’s boys.

    I will take this opportunity to say that the reason for my Name of the Day suggestions has been to explore less common monikers. It isn’t usually that I love the name, but people reading this blog are probably not as interested in Top 10 names as the general population. Hence my suggestions of Cloelia, Willia, Leandra, and Dirk.


  6. There is a very popular country music artist named Dierks Bentley (pronounced like Dirks). Apparently Dierks was his grandmother’s maiden name. Perhaps he will help bring the name back.

  7. I’m really sorry to say, I have to come out firmly anti-Dirk. I saw this and thought, really!?!? Let me say the name *looks* like Dick, which is a valid name itself, but it would be very difficult to get around it also being a somewhat rude word for men’s dangly parts. Then there’s rhyme: Dirk the jerk. But the very first thing I thought of (which kind of goes with the first thing I mentioned) was Diggler. That reference might escape children, but not your child’s friends’ parents. There are just too many reasons to say, “no” to this name. I don’t particularly like its sound either – it’s more of a strange noise than a name in my ears. A child with name would need to have an extremely thick skin, because he *will* be teased… relentlessly… While I’m not a fan of something like Derrick, it’s a million times more preferable than Dirk.