He might be your accountant. Maybe your dentist. And unless you grew up on Mars, the name almost certainly reminds you of a cartoon duck.
Is he best left in the past, or should we reconsider this Scottish heritage choice?
Thanks to Kate for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Donald.
Donald has had a good run. He’s enjoyed long use in Scotland. In the US, Donald ranked in the Top Ten from 1923 through 1942, and remained in the Top 100 until 1990. You probably know a handful of Donalds, most of them grown.
In Gaelic, he’s Dòmhnall. Between the 600s and 1300s, plenty of nobles answered to this name, including three kings of Scotland. They probably said DOV nahl. Medieval variants include Dofnald and Dufenald, but eventually the preferred Anglicization became Donal or Donall. Both sound exactly as you’d imagine – DON ahl – and probably better with a brogue.
The pieces of the name translate roughly as “ruler of the world.” Val or valos is related to the word for ruler. (And valor and valiant, too.) Dumno or dubno mean world, or more precisely, depths. In the first century BC, a Celtic tribe in Gaul was ruled by Dumnorix or Dubnoreix. The name contains the same elements, substituting the Latin rix for the Celtic val.
The name was worn by an eighth century saint, best known for fathering nine daughters. When his wife died, he and his girls formed a sort of religious community, remembered today as St. Donald and the Nine Holy Maidens.
The thirteenth century Domnhall Mac Raghnuill is considered the founder of the Scottish Clan Donald, and the ancestor shared by all of the MacDonalds and McDonalds worldwide. We assume this includes the brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald, who sold their innovative restaurant concept to Ray Kroc. But no, the clan’s tartan is not red and gold.
Fast forward to our times, and notable Donalds include:
- Actor Donald O’Connor, best known as Gene Kelly’s sidekick in Singin’ in the Rain.
- Business tycoon turned reality TV star, Donald Trump.
- Actor Donald Sutherland, currently part of the cast of TV’s Dirty Sexy Money.
- Walt Disney’s hot-tempered Donald Fauntleroy Duck is, of course, famous the world over.
- Donald Rumsfeld is former US Secretary of Defense.
- Handsome Eddie Cahill plays Detective Donald Flack, Jr. on CSI: NY.
Today, Donald stands at #322 and continues to fall. Some parents might opt to refresh this one by favoring the unrelated Donovan for a child’s name – that choice ranked #198 in 2007.
Overall, Donald is a solid, respectable name. He’s not trendy, but that’s his strength. Call your son Donald and he’ll stand out from his classmates, but not too far.