If you’re searching for a name with a certain cowboy cool, but recognize that Buck and Blade are best reserved for the livestock, here’s one to consider.
Thanks to Another for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Garrett.
Back in the Wild West, Pat Garrett was squarely on the side of law and order. Appointed by the New Mexico governor to restore the peace, Garrett tracked down – and shot – the infamous Billy the Kid. While his life didn’t end happily, he’s been immortalized in countless Hollywood movies about the Old West. Doubtless this is why Garrett conjures up images of tumbleweeds, Stetsons and six-shooters.
Garrett’s deeper history is tangled up with familiar monikers Gerald and Gerard, and his use as given name traces back to at least the 15th century. He’s appeared in the US Top 1000 every year since the rankings were established in 1880. So while Garrett is sometimes dismissed as nouveau, he is every bit as legitimate a choice as many monikers currently in use.
The first Garrett of note was the 15th century Gerald Gearóid Mór FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and Lord Deputy of Ireland. Gearóid could be Anglicized as Gerard or Gerald, but in his day, he became known as Garret. (Today the single “t” version is appropriate only for attics, especially those housing Sara Crewe.)
Because the name emerged as a variation on Gerard and Gerald, he shares his meaning with them: the Germanic element ger, or spear and either hart, for hardy, strong or waltan, for ruler. This leads to hyper-masculine attributed meanings like “strength of the spear.” It’s etymologically correct, but feels less than relevant in 2008.
Garrett was originally heard most often as a surname for descendants of a Gerald or a Gerard, but has been used as a given name steadily from at least the 19th century onwards.
The next time you spot a traffic light, you can thank Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. – the early 20th century inventor of the Morgan Traffic Signal. Not only was he a talented tinkerer and extremely successful entrepreneur, he was an engaged leader in the African American community.
There’s also Garrett Weber-Gale, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming at the Beijing Games; Garrett Morris, comedian and original cast member of Saturday Night Live and Friday Night Lights actor Garrett Hedlund, as well as plenty of notable people wearing Garrett as a surname.
But should you greenlight Garrett as a name for your son?
While Garrett has been in steady use in the US, he may be falling from favor. The name peaked at #74 in 2000 and as of last year had fallen to #162. (Today, the fast-rising name with all the cowboy cachet appears to be Wyatt.) Still, Garrett never reached the chart-topping positions of Jason or Joshua, and doesn’t feel worn out, even if he’s on the decline.
Garrett offers parents hoping to honor an ancestral Gerard or Gerald an easy, current option; he retains a certain amount of Old West flair and serves as a legitimate African American hero name. We quite like his spirit, and think he would suit parents seeking something less often heard, but not at all unusual.