Today’s choice is as Scottish as the thistle. Thanks to Bek for suggesting our Name of the Day: Gordon.
There are at least six theories about Gordon’s roots. Many are tied to the map: places called Gordon can be found in Spain; there’s a Gourdon in France; and Grodno, Belarus may have also produced some Gordons. There’s a Roman name Gordus and several Gaelic names that might have become Gordon through the years.
But the most common theory is that Gordon comes from the Celtic gor – great, vast – and dun – hill or possibly din – fort. The House of Gordon was among the most powerful Scottish clans. Many members adopted this as their surname, including the Marquess of Huntly, the aristocratic head of Clan Gordon.
And so while Gordon as a surname can reference many different backgrounds, as a given name it is sounds like a Scottish heritage choice.
In popular use, Gordon got a boost from a military hero. The nineteenth century British Major-General Charles George Gordon was a popular figure known for his campaigns in China and Africa. He was also a capable diplomat, negotiating several thorny political situations before meeting his death during the siege of Khartoum in the Sudan.
In the US, Gordon ranked in the Top 100 from 1911 to 1945, peaking in 1935 at #70. Many famous Gordons date from that era, including:
- J. Paul Getty’s son and heir, now on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans;
- G. Gordon Liddy of the Watergate scandal;
- Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot, probably best known for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”;
- Intel co-founder Gordon Moore;
- Ice hockey legend Gordie Howe.
The most prominent Gordon of the moment is probably the foul-mouthed, Michelin star-studded Scottish celeb chef Gordon Ramsay. He’s achieved success in the culinary world and on television, hosting reality series Kitchen Nightmares in both the UK and the US.
Gordon also has comic book cred. There’s Commissioner James Gordon of the Gotham City Police, the man who dials the bat phone in Batman. And we can’t forget Flash Gordon, who stands up to Ming the Merciless in outer space.
For bad guy Gordons, there’s Wall Street’s corporate raider, Gordon Gekko. Michael Douglas nabbed an Academy Award for his role in the 1987 film.
Today the name stands at #989 – teetering on the edge of obscurity. But we wonder if Gordon – like Calvin, Walter, Raymond, Roger and Clarence – could be part of another revival, one in the not-so-distant future. After all, the Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire featured David “Gordo” Gordon, a love interest for the main character. And kids still grow up with Sesame Street’s Gordon Robinson and family.
Overall, Gordon is familiar. There’s a real Scottish charm to him. And while he’s not quite fashionable, neither is he hopelessly clunky. Gordon could work nicely on a modern child – a pleasantly unexpected choice.