GertrudeToday’s post was originally published on February 22, 2010. It was substantially revised and re-posted on April 13, 2015.

Once worn by queens and saints, today this name is often cited as the name you’d never give your girl.

Thanks to Jillian for suggesting Gertrude as our Baby Name of the Day.

Gertrude: Fiercely Royal

Gertrude’s meaning is fierce. Ger means spear, as in Garrett and Roger.  The second bit means strength.  She’s a stalwart Germanic appellation, more warrior queen than fairy princess.

Many a Gertrude was born royal, including the seventh century Saint Gertrude of Nivelles.

There’s also Gertrude of Hackeborn, the abbess of a convent in Helfta in the 1200s. The future Saint Gertrude the Great studied under Gertrude of Hackeborn at Helfta, and went on to become a famous mystic.

Between the 1000s and 1400s, there were Gertrudes aplenty amongst the ruling houses of Austria and all of the other states of the Holy Roman Empire. Denmark and Hungary had queens by the name. It was also the name of the devious queen in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Let’s say this: if you were penning a work of historical fiction set in Germanic Europe circa 1200, Gertrude is a solid choice for an aristocratic, accomplished woman.

Gertrude: The Ava of the Early 1900s

English: Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 1916, by...

By the nineteenth century, Gertrude was all the rage.

And in the early twentieth? Gertrude ranked in the US Top 30 from the 1880s into the 1910s, and stayed in the Top 100 through 1930.

Okay, so that’s not quite as popular as Ava. Maybe she’s more like Andrea in the 1980s or Jasmine in more recent years.

Still, there were plenty of women, real and fictional, answering to the name in the era.

  • Herman Hesse’s fictional tortured artist, at the center of his novel Gertrud.
  • Gertrude Chandler Warner, the author of the Boxcar Children series.
  • Socialite, sculptor, and patron of the arts, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney – that’s her in the portrait.
  • English archeologist and travel writer Gertrude Lowthian Bell worked with T.E. Lawrence to develop the modern Middle East.
  • Gertrude Stein, perhaps the best known of the bunch, was a writer and leading figure in modern literature.

Here’s a quirky one: the name Gertruda apparently found favor with Russian revolutionaries. Why?  The phrase geroinya truda means Hero of Labor – and can be contracted to form Gertruda.

Gertrude: Ready for Revival?

By 1966, Gertrude had exited the US Top 1000 entirely.

And yet, every member of Generation X knows the name, thanks to 1982 blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. A young Drew Barrymore played adorable, five year old Gertie.

There’s also Trudie, as in Styler, wife of Sting. Trudy could be a sister for Hattie, or a substitute for Lucy. Of course, like Sadie and company, it’s easy to imagine parents forgoing the formal name.

Another possible short form: Tru or True, both current in 2015.

But what about Gertrude?

The 2013 numbers look like this:

  • 18 girls named Gertrude
  • Another 16 named Trudy
  • 40 girls (and 49 boys) named True, plus another 36 girls (and 65 boys) called Tru

None of the numbers are enough to declare a trend, and yet I think the true sound is on the upswing.

If you love Beatrice and Eleanor, but worry that they’re too common, Gertrude might be just the thing – a serious name with stylish short forms, a classic seldom heard today.

What do you think – is Gertrude ready for revival?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My great grandmother’s name was Lucy. She hated it and went by her middle name Gertrude instead. Still, I’d have a hard time with this as a first name for any of my girls. Maybe it will come back someday.

    How about Greta for name of the day? I love it! So short and sweet and old fashioned.

  2. I have a Gertrude!!! She is currently 4 1/2 years old (born 11/11). We call her Gertie, Gert or Squirt. She is STRONG of will and fits her name WELL! She loves her name and I frequently remind her that it means ‘strength of a spear’ which we use when she needs to do something she doesn’t want or is scared.
    People who have met her absolutely love it and say it fits.
    Her older brother is Elliott and both were named for the movie I grew up loving!

  3. I’ve always loved Gertrude, and Mabel and all the other revived Grandma names, but I like her even more now I know her feisty meaning. Either Trudy or Gertie are sweet nicknames. I would love to see this used more around my way – it looks like there have only been 15 Gertrudes born in England and Wales since 1996.

  4. I love Ermintrude/Ermentrude/Ermenthrudis, so I’m fine hearing and seeing Gertrude. My grandmother had a friend name Gertrude, and her other friends were Ethel, Mabel, Belinda, and Delores. Gertrude is a family name and my mother went to public school and modeling school with two different women named Gertrude. My mother was born in the 1960’s. Gertrude feels like a name that is everywhere and for every decade.