Frederick isn’t so different from favorite boy names like Alexander, Sebastian, and Theodore. But it remains relatively underused, even as Freddie flies high in the UK.
Thanks to Cat for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
This name has a regal sound, and the meaning matches up. The Germanic elements frid – peace – and ric – ruler – combined into Fridreich and eventually Friedrich and lots of other forms. It caught on among the Germans, Austrians, and Scandinavians and you can find plenty of kings and aristocrats wearing the name.
The eighteenth century King Frederick II of Prussia – also known as the Great – is remembered as a reform-minded monarch. He read Voltaire and set out to transform Prussia both economically and administratively. He also practiced a policy of religious tolerance. While he’s not without controversy, few kings are.
In French the name is Frédéric today. The Normans brought an earlier form along on their invasion, though the name wasn’t terribly common in England until the 1700s.
Credit the German-speaking House of Hanover, cousins who inherited the throne despite being thoroughly foreign at first, with bringing the name to Britain at last.
Frederick: Famous Bearers
Composer Frederic Chopin is one famous bearer, as is abolitionist Frederick Douglas. It’s the name of television character Frasier Crane’s equally fictional son.
But not every Fred is a Frederick.
- Queen’s legendary frontman Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh.
- Actor Freddie Highmore is actually an Alfred.
- Fictional red-headed Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter series appears to be just plain Fred.
One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson recently named his firstborn Freddie Reign, and Christina Ricci revealed that she also chose the name for her son. (Though Christina was mum on whether it was a nickname or not.)
Frederick: Former Favorite
In the UK, Freddie is riding the wave of nickname names, where it has recently edged into the Top Twenty.
But in the US, all Fred forms are in style limbo. Frederick was a Top 100 go-to through 1957, meaning there’s a good chance you’ve met a man with this name.
But a child? Probably not. Because while we’re reviving other nineteenth century classics like Charles and Samuel, Frederick is still neglected.
I Love Lucy’s Fred Mertz – husband to Lucy’s BFF, Ethel – made it a middle-aged name by the 1950s. And then The Flinstones made it positively prehistoric in the 1960s.
The association has stuck, at least in the US. A few years ago, Vince Vaughn played a troublesome younger brother to Santa in the movie Fred Claus.
So often has the name been used in a negative light that Fred Daniel formed the FRED Society dedicated to, as they say in their credo “preserving and upholding the honorable name of Fred for all posterity.”
Frederick: Comeback Kid
I’m with The FRED Society.
The numbers show the tiniest uptick in use. In 2012, there were 562 new boys given the name, up ever so slightly from 2011’s low of 470. Frederic, hold the K, was given to 44 boys, another tiny uptick.
That puts the name just inside the current US Top 500. You’re more likely to meet a Franklin, a Russell, or a Bruce.
Of course, that’s an opportunity, too. If you love classic baby names, but want some that your son won’t have to share, this name belongs on your shortlist. With nicknames from Freddie to Fritz to Fred to Red to maybe even Eric or Derek, it’s more wearable than you might guess.
Do you think Frederick is ready for a comeback?
This post was originally published on December 8, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on May 2, 2016.
Another positive Fred namesake is Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood fame. Wikipedia says his first name was Fred, not a longer version of the name.
Thanks, RR! I met Fred Rogers IRL many years ago – he seemed EXACTLY like he did on television. Never realized he was just Fred …
C in DC says
I went to grad school with a Frederick nn Rick. I’d probably use Fredric as the spelling if I was going to use this name.
Awesome choice! A solid and regal, English sounding name which I agree with Emmy Jo is very much a forgotten classic. That said, Freddie is certainly picking up speed in the UK in the wake of Harry, Alfie and Archie’s popularity and currently sits pretty at no. 63. Ironically though (again, I’m in agreement with Emmy Jo here) Fred and Freddie are the only real reasons that I’m not sold on Frederick. Something in my gut says that a Fred or Freddie just doesn’t seem like my kind of guy – maybe its a name association thing, I don’t know.
NB: I like Lola’s suggestion of Wilfred, although I would call a Wilfred Wilf rather than Freddie.
Emmy Jo says
Frederick is one of my 19th-century literary crushes. Captain Frederick Wentworth was the love interest in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” and the sweetest of the three love stories in George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” featured dashingly handsome but financially irresponsible Frederick Vincy. I’ve adored the name Frederick ever since reading those books. My husband likes the name, too. The only thing that holds me back, though, is that I’m not sure whether I could stomach Fred and Freddy. I’m beginning to see the appeal of Freddy, but I’m not yet sold on Fred.
I definitely put it in the category of neglected classic. It’s one I may use someday, so I’m hoping it doesn’t catch on quite as much as Henry has.
I am kind of neutral on Frederick and its nicknames. But it certainly is a strong and classic name that is not too stodgy to use.
I love Frederick. I adore him. He is one of my absolute most favorite names. I don’t find him at all stodgy or dusty, and it does amaze me that more parents going the “classic but slightly stodgy” route aren’t going for him.
I actually prefer Frederick without the NNs, though my grandma often calls my grandpa Fred, and this gives it a sweet vibe that I dig with such a strong name.
And you can’t forget fabulous Fred Astaire 😉
One of my best friends in high school was a Frederic, but went only by Fred. For this reason, I’m endeared to the name. However, I watched my friend Fred have to pull out his driver’s license one too many times to prove that was really his name. It seems almost comical to me, not something I’d use for that reason. I’d love it as a middle to honor my friend though!
YAY! Thanks so much! Frederick has been a favorite of mine for the longest time. I think it’s regal, strong and very handsome. Fred isn’t my favorite nickname, though; Like Lola I prefer Fritz, but I prefer Rick/Ricky over all. That’s my boyfriend’s dad’s name (he’s a Richard) and works awesomely in that way. I’d say Frederick needs to make a comeback, but I like it where it is; that way mine will be the only one he knows!
Funny, I like Fritz but not Fred or even Frederick. Maybe because I’ve known a few nasty Fredericks over time that have done nothing to endear me to their name. I, like Lyndsay prefer Alfred as a way to get to Freddie And I will admit to a soft spot for Wilfred, nn Freddie, If I could bring myself to use a nickname only, I’d happily go with Fritz, despite “on the fritz” thinking. I think it’s time for Fritz to make a comeback and if someone’s willing to go the Frederick route, it would be a really awesome choice for a nickname!
Frederick’s nice, in theory. I mean, as you pointed out, there are lots of famous ones, he’s got a nifty sound and a strong presence. I should really like him but can’t. I wouldn’t mind meeting a handful of them though, maybe one of them would be enough for me to get me past my unhappy associations!
Lyndsay Jenness says
This was the first name the husband and I agreed on when we started picking out names. We fully intended to use it, but changed our minds somehwhere along the way. I adore Freddie/Fred, so that’s why I liked it so much, but now with Alfred I’ve still got those options. Frederick is a great name, and if you’re really adventurous you can use the nickname Fritz!