The baby name Felix brings to mind a saint and an animated cat. With that stylish X ending, this classic choice is back in favor.
Thanks to Miranda for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
NEW TESTAMENT NAME
The New Testament gives us a Felix. He’s the governor of Judea who imprisoned Paul. History tells us that his full name was probably Marcus Antonius Felix, and while details are slim, it sounds like he was probably corrupt.
Despite that inauspicious start, the name caught on among early Christians. Several saints, along with three popes, have answered to the name.
Felix’s Latin origins tie it to a word meaning lucky or successful. Roman general Sulla took Felix as an extra name, in recognition of his victories in battle.
The name appears in use in England during the Middle Ages, but it was long more popular in continental Europe.
Nineteenth century German composer Felix Mendelssohn ranks among the most famous. He’s considered one of the greats of the Romantic era.
A handful of European princes and nobles wore the name, too, in Denmark and Austria and elsewhere. Count Felix Yusupov took part in the plot to murder Rasputin on the eve of the Russian Revolution.
That takes us right into the 1900s, when the baby name Felix picks up some really interesting associations.
TWENTIETH CENTURY FELIX
European parents continued to name their baby boys Felix, at least in some countries at some moments. There’s a Nobel Prize-winning Swiss physicist, a Dutch scientist who discovered how to measure gravity at sea, a French art critic, and more.
But the US offers the most intriguing assortment of Felixes.
Way before Walt Disney ever sketched a mouse (or a rabbit), Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer created Felix the Cat. After a 1919 debut, the feline became a star in the 1920s, during the silent movie heyday. They chose the name for two reasons: first, it sounds like feline; second, the meaning of the name Felix is so auspicious. Even though Felix the Cat retired decades ago, he remains a widely-known icon.
Author Ian Fleming’s immortal super-spy James Bond is known across the world. But fans of the franchise might also think of Felix Leiter. IMDb lists eight actors who have played the part across ten films and counting. Leiter is a CIA operative who often collaborates with Bond on missions. Fleming borrowed both of the character’s names from friends.
Then came Neil Simon’s 1965 play, The Odd Couple. Later adapted as a smash hit television series, it paired slovenly sports reporter Oscar Madison with neat freak photographer Felix Ungar. Following their divorces, the two newly single men shared an apartment. While the original sitcom left the air in 1975, reboots and adaptations have followed ever since.
While usage of the name popped in fiction across the twentieth century, it fell in real life.
By the year 1990, the boy’s name Felix ranked just #368. In 2000, it had barely budged, coming in at #376.
HOW POPULAR IS FELIX?
The popularity of the name Felix had tumbled by the year 2000.
After all, in the US, in the year 1900, the baby name Felix ranked #170 – familiar, but not a chart-topper.
From the 1940s into the 1970s, it typically ranked in upper 200s, sliding into the 300s.
That made the baby name Felix feel edgy, even daring. Or just quirky and cool. After all, the cat feels sort of indie and retro.
But lately, the name has enjoyed a revival.
As of 2020, the baby name Felix reached #225. What helped drive the name’s rediscovery?
Credit goes, in part, to popular culture.
High-profile celebrities including Gillian Anderson and Hugh Grant chose the name for their children. So did Elizabeth Banks.
A generation of future parents discovered the name’s association with good luck thanks to the Harry Potter series. Wizards rely on the potion Felix Felicis when they need a little extra good fortune. (And yes, it’s banned in international Quidditch competition.)
We met Fix-It Felix, the fictional video game character, in 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. He returned for the 2018 sequel.
Sci fi series Orphan Black gave us Felix Dawkins. The original series ran from 2013 to 2017, featuring some amazing character names. A sequel is expected to debut on AMC in 2023.
There’s also a Felix in the new Battlestar Galactica universe, and another in Jenny Nimmo’s Children of the Red King series.
Even without the pop culture push, the baby name Felix would likely be seeing renewed interest.
Not only has a solid century passed, making the name feel fresh once more, it offers lots of appealing qualities:
- We love the letter X. Just ask Alex and Jaxon.
- It’s gently vintage without ever really falling out of use.
- And oh, that meaning! It’s one of the reasons why fortunate Felix has risen while similar boy names like Fox have remained less successful.
The baby name Felix has all the makings of popular boys name. But for now, it remains just under the radar.
If you’re after a name that is just slightly different, the baby name Felix has the potential to stand out while fitting in.
Would you consider Felix for a son?
This post was originally published on May 7, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on January 20, 2014, and again on April 16, 2022.
While I know about the name Felix for years, only recently I heard it. I was watching some variaty shows and there was a K-pop band participating called Stray Kids. Their Felix is a wonderful guy! And it’s so funny how the other members stretch his name: Feeeeeeelix.
Oh that IS fun!
My nephew is a Felix. I think they chose it simply because they “liked it”, but there is a German series of picture books starring Felix the Rabbit. http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Felix-Little-Rabbit-Envelope/dp/1593840349 I’m pretty sure that series’ popularity (and later TV show) has a lot to do with the name’s popularity in Europe.
Anyways, I really like Felix, it has such a great meaning and it’s would be an excellent name for a mulch-cultural family.
Oh, how funny – we have that book! I didn’t realize it was so popular – and a TV show, too. Thanks for sharing, Julie!
Felix is much more popular in Australia than the US, but I still love it. It just seems to have everything you’d want in a name.
Zena Eve says
What about the guy who jumped from space, Felix Baumgartner? He’s an awesome addition to people who carry the name Felix.
Good point, Zena Eve – that does lend a sense of daring and adventure to Felix!
While Felix does consistently rank high on Quebec’s list, the naming trends in that province are so incredibly different from the rest of the country that common names there still often sound obscure everywhere else in Canada.
Charlotte, thanks! And you’re absolutely right. I hadn’t been to Quebec when I wrote this. I’ve since corrected that oversight, and I must say, it really is far more like Europe than North America.
Lola, I would use Felix in a heartbeat – especially with Leo and Simon. It has the same feel, but they’d all have two syllable given names with very different sounds. To me, it’s the perfect balance between matching and still sounding distinct – a tricky task!
I’ve gotta ask you folks, even if it is a bit late to be doing so.
If you had boys Leo & Simon and a daughter, Josephine, would you use Felix for another boy? Or is it a bit too much? I like Felix very much (and adore his meaning) but wonder. Can anyone help? Thanks!
I love Felix! It’s super cool and hip. Still, though, it’d be a lot harder to pull off in some areas of the country than others. I really like Dexter, too, because “Dex” is so appealing. I’m partial to names with great nickname potential.
Ha! No, not reading your mind – just must be great minds thinking alike. 🙂
I quite like Dexter, too – do you know the Philadelphia Story? I always think of Cary Grant playing C.K. Dexter “Dex” Haven opposite Katharine Hepburn’s Tracy Samantha Lord.
And I will have to borrow a few of these for Names of the Day – it’s quite difficult to narrow them down!
Good lord women, do you read my mind? Felix is on our kinda short list. For us, it goes:
In case you run out of names of the day. 😉
Anywho, Felix is one of my favorite X names, aside from Dexter. I think it’s punchy and quirky and fun. I love the meaning, and it’s just freaking cute. Both of our families unanimously hate it, of course, which makes my husband shy away from it. It’s why Dexter is number two, over Felix.