Odds are you know a handful of men named John. Ditto Evan and Ian. We even know a pair of brothers called Sean and Jack. But how about this Scottish variant?
Thanks to Katharine for suggesting our Name of the Day: Ewan.
While Ewan is often considered a Scottish version of John, there is actually a second attribution for the name. Ewan may have evolved from the Gaelic Eoghan, pronounced yo en. There are two possible sources. It could mean yew tree, or it could come from êoghunn – youth.
If you’re counting, that’s three separate derivations. Just to confuse things further, Eoghan is sometimes Anglicized as Eugene. And there are alternate spellings for Ewan, including Euan and Ewen.
Putting all that aside, Ewan first grabbed our attention on the big screen, thanks to the charming Scottish actor Ewan MacGregor. His big break was 1996’s cult favorite Trainspotting. Sci fi fans know him as Obi-Wan in the Star Wars franchise, and he won much praise for bursting into song as the love struck Christian in Moulin Rouge.
There’s also actor Ewen Bremner, also known for his turn in Trainspotting. (He played Spud.) Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair called his son Euan. Some might remember folk singer Ewan MacColl. The name isn’t common throughout history, but it’s easy to find, especially during the 20th century and into recent times.
While we occassionally hear OO an, the proper pronunication is YOO an. It’s one of those choices vulnerable to regional accents. We suspect that this one sounds better with, say, a Scottish or Australian accent than a Texas or Wisconsin one.
Through 2006, Ewan was among the Top 100 names in the UK. Given the variant spellings, this suggests that there are a lot of pint-sized Ewans toddling around London right about now.
While he’s never cracked the Top 1000 in the US, it’s worth noting that variants of John – including Jonathan, Jackson, Jack, Juan, Evan, Owen and Ian – were given to more than 90,000 boys in 2007 alone. This doesn’t make Ewan any less distinctive, but he does share roots with what has, in many ways, continued to be the most dominant male name in modern history.
In the UK, we suspect that Ewan remains appealing – not so common as Jack or Oliver, but still familiar. In the US, it’s a bit more of a gamble. While Ewan fits with other Gaelic charmers like Aiden and Ryan, the pronunciation challenges could be a problem, especially in some parts of the country. But with Mr. MacGregor’s career in full swing, parents should be able to point to the actor as a reference.
And hey, if you’re really Star Wars fans, you can always name his brother Luke.