He’s handsome, continental and far fresher than Gregory. But can he overcome his Kafkaesque cockroach vibe?

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Gregor as Name of the Day.

Circa 2009, Greg is more likely to be the father – or even the grandfather – than the newborn baby boy. Ranked in the Top 100 from 1945 through 1996, Gregory peaked at #21 in the early 60s. He was still going strong when The Brady Bunch debuted in 1969. Short forms Greg and Gregg fared well as independent names, too; even Greggory charted in the 60s.

Today, Gregory is no longer fashionable, but he remains an evergreen classic. More than 1,500 boys born in the US were given the name last year.

Gregor seems like a promising variant. His -or ending puts him in a league with popular boys’ names like Connor and Tyler, as well as stylish up-and-comers like Archer and Miller. Gregor has never charted in the US Top 1000, but he’s perfectly common in parts of Europe, from Scotland to Slovenia.

Just like Gregory, Gregor derives from the Greek Gregorios, which traces back to the verb egeirein – to awaken. Add in the unrelated but similar-sounding grex – flock or herd – and the name conjures up a watchful shepherd. Plenty of Saints Gregory, as well as more than a dozen popes, have kept the name in steady use over the centuries, though he wasn’t heard in English until after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Scientist and priest Gregor Mendel is among the best known bearers of the name. His nineteenth century experiments with pea plants became the basis of modern genetics in the twentieth century.

But then there’s Franz Kafka’s unforgettable literary character. The first line, as it appeared in German in the 1915 edition, is as follows:

Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.

If you’ve read The Metamorphosis in lit class, you’ve probably discussed the translation of “Ungeziefer” as “insect” or “cockroach.” Kafka never made that link, and the German term “Ungeziefer” is far less specific. Instead, the story is one of isolation. Still, the name Gregor might give you the creepy-crawlies.

Kafka may have borrowed the character’s name from a 1900 novel by Jakob Wasserman – The Story of Young Renate Fuchs. I’m not quite clear on the story’s plot or the reason Kafka would’ve borrowed the name. (Anyone read German? I’m in over my head.) Then there’s the Gregor from 1870’s Venus in Furs, the best known of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novels. But if you thought a cockroach was an uninspiring image for a child’s name, Sacher-Masoch offers no improvements. His surname is the basis for the word masochism.

So while Gregor’s literary pedigree is undeniable, you might want to completely forget all references should you choose the name for a son.

That leaves parents with a current sound and an appealing meaning. That might be enough for Gregor to catch on. But odds are he’ll remain an underused gem – more accessible that the Russian Grigori, comfortable on the playground with Hunter and Cooper and yet far from common.

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. I have known a Gregor and a Gregory, and I have to say that I prefer Gregory. Simply because the little Gregory I knew went by Rory and I love Rory. I think Gregory has more of an element of fun. I don’t associate Gregor with creepy-crawlies, but more with the henchman from Frankenstein (I know that it was Igor, but Gregor gives me the same visual)

  2. I knew a Gregor that went by GREG-er…. I also strongly disliked him, but that didn’t have much to do with the name.

    Also, in terms of pronunciation of the name, I can’t stop pronouncing Greg (and also egg and leg and beg etc.) with an AY sound, as do many Californians (and lots of people in the upper midwest). Depending on where you live (which is CT for me, so I get made fun of occasionally by snooty new englanders), that might be another consideration. If I named my kid Gregor he would definitely get confused being called GREH-ger and GRAY-ger.

  3. The name is a bit neutral to me. Gregory is on my Wildcard list, but I do like the Russian/German sound of Gregor, especially considering both of my paternal grandparents were born and raised in German, giving me a substantial amount of German heritage to use up. (So far, this put me at a liking for Adelheid/Adelaide, Anneliese, Carolina, Gisela, Hannelore, Isolde/Iseult, Lorelei, and Liesl/Liesel.) By the way, I pronounce like you do, Abby — Greh-GOR.

  4. I like this name quite a bit. I actually prefer to Gregory. I say both (Greg-ger) and (greg-OR). I can’t decided which I like better.

  5. I’m with Wrenn and Kat on pronunciation. I think the name sounds a little pretentious to me. I didn’t know about the literary connection, but when I picture an adult Gregor, it’s definitely a man with an affected European accent, and a pretentious way of leaning against walls at parties. Also, he gets manicures twice a month. LOL

  6. I just read Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander books, but never thought about the Kafka reference. (Gregor is a NYC boy who falls through a grate and ends up in an underworld with strange creatures that include … giant cockroaches.) Ah ha! Thanks for the connection.

  7. Oh, I like this one. I think it’s sexy and appealing on all levels. And truthfully, I don’t think of Kafka when I hear it. I think that reference might be too obscure for most unless they are philosophy or lit majors. 🙂

    Wren, I was also pronouncing it the way you did. But I don’t think it sounds incomplete – just European.

  8. Hmm…I was pronouncing it Greg-orr, with the emphasis on the Greg part. Kind of like Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore! And I do think it sounds a bit incomplete (at least the way I was pronouncing it). I would imagine people thinking, “Why didn’t you just use Gregory?”

  9. Y’know, I’m saying greh GOR. But I didn’t wrestle with the pronunciation. I think of Grigor as gree GOR. And I’ll have to try to filter out my husband’s Polish-influenced pronunciation of this one …

    You’re right, Allison. That could be a headache. I’ll be curious to hear how others would pronounce it.

  10. I can’t decide if I find Gregor appealing or incomplete. Would you pronounce it with an eastern European accent, like Gree-GOR? That’d be a bit affected, right? But then when I say it to blend in with Tyler and Conner, I want to spell it Gregger, which is patently ridiculous. I just don’t know about this one.