Name of the Day: Griffin

Part-mythical beast, part-Welsh heritage choice, today’s name fits in perfectly with current trends.

Thanks to Corinne for suggesting Griffin as Name of the Day.

Griffin peaked back in 1998, when he reached as high as #215 in the US. He’s held steady since then, ranking #242 in 2008.

He’s a Welsh heritage name – a brother for Rhys. The original Griffin was the eleventh century ruler Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. You might also see him called Gruffudd – both variants are Anglicized as Griffith, too.

There are two possible origins:

  • He could relate to the Welsh grippiud – prince;
  • Other suggest that the Welsh translated Rufus as Gruffydd, which was then Anglicized as Griffin – in which case, Griffin means red.

There’s a third meaning that is even more interesting. A gryphon is a mythical beast found in heraldry. He has the body of a lion plus the wings and beak of an eagle. John Milton referenced one in Paradise Lost; the Persian poet Rumi employed gryphons, too. In Dungeons & Dragons, a griffon is a magical creature. Gryphons guard the entrance to the City of London and serve as symbols of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You’ll find them on many a building.

They’re widely considered noble beasts, as powerful as the mash-up of a lion and an eagle suggests. Often charged with guarding treasure, they’re trustworthy – a positive attribute, if you can overlook the whole mythical beast angle.

The creature shares no etymologic roots with the given name. Instead, he traces back to the Greek grypos, or hooked – as in his prominent beak.

But the beast and the appellation have been linked for centuries. During the twelfth century, the Dukes of Pomerania were known as the Griffins or Greifen Dynasty. Sure enough, they used a gryphon as their symbol.

Griffin is common in the last name spot:

  • Television’s late Merv Griffin;
  • Comedienne Kathy Griffin of My Life on the D-List;
  • Novelist W.E.B. Griffin;
  • HG Wells’ Invisible Man – sometimes given a first name in film adaptations, but referred to simply as Griffin in the novel;
  • The Family Guy clan wear the surname;
  • Lorne Greene played P.I. Wade “Griff” Griffin on a short-lived television series in the 1970s.

The name has been in occasional use as a first name for years, too. Georgia-born Griffin Bell served as US Attorney General during the Jimmy Carter administration. But Griffin was a rarity until the 1980s, when he started to gain more attention. It was the era of Kevin and Justin, so Griffin fit. And he rose steadily as parents flocked to two-syllable, ends-in-n boys’ names.

Today, Griffin could get a boost from two sources:

  • First, there’s the rise of Finn. Phinneas, Finbar and Finnegan strike some as unwieldy, while Griffin seems an accessible formal version of the popular single-syllable name;
  • Second, there’s the Harry Potter effect. Just like Luna has been boosted by the books, Harry’s Hogwarts House – Gryffindor – could serve to reinforce the appeal of the sound. That said, Gryffindor’s mascot is a beak-free, garden-variety lion.

Lastly, Griffin also appeals because he sounds solidly masculine. It’s tough to imagine a girl called Griffin. And yet, he doesn’t go as far as Gunnar or Cannon, either. He’s all boy, but he’s not a mini-Marine.

If you’re after the familiar-but-not-common, Griffin is one to consider.

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17 Comments

We named our son, Griffin with the middle name James. He is now 11 years old. For us it blends his British and Irish ancestry (from both sides) with his Spanish last name, Perez. He is tall, blond, kind, and does not share his name with anyone else at school or in sports. In particular, our male friends and coaches seem to really like his name, calling him “Griff.” I like the fact that it is not too cute as I see too many moms name their boys “cute” names which eventually become girls’ names ( Bailey, Riley, Cody, Hayden, Jayden…) As a teacher of 30 plus years I can tell you that boys HATE having names that they share with girls. Remember, baby boys grow into teens!
By the way, he loves his name and the fact that he does not have to sit in class with the same name as so many other boys.

Ha my wife is due in a few days. we have struggled the whole pregnancy to find a name we both liked. I suggested Griffin today and she loved it. Looks like we Are having a Griffin James also.

I also really dislike all the “yden” names.

My hubby is Gryphon. It’s a nickname he was bestowed in Jr. High that he adopted when he left for college as a way of breaking from his family (and legal name). I love that its etymology roots are Greek since both of our kids ended up with Greek names. 🙂

While I admire Griffin as a last name, the first time I heard a parents calling her young tot by it in a bookstore I grimaced slightly — to me it’s irrevocably tied to the mythical beast. Also, it seems to be becoming extremely popular. So while I don’t hate it, and do acknowledge that it has some appeal, I couldn’t ever see myself using Griffin for any of my offspring.

This is my last name! And I love having it as a last name, but I don’t think I’d ever give it as a first name. I’ve thought about using it as a middle name, but it’s so strongly “last name” for me that I don’t know.

I really like Griffin but think its seriously on the upswing. With the new school year upon us we suddenly know 3 Griffins. Only one of which is a baby but still — I think this one is bound for top 50.

My husband has a cousin named Griffin. I always thought it was a horrible name. It has that harsh GR sound and isn’t particularly pleasant to look at either. I think it should keep its last name status only.

I really love Griffin. I can completely see myself using it, hubby isn’t so sure. Love the nickname Finn and like Griff quite a bit, too. I like what you said about how it’s solidly masculine, but not over the top. That’s hard to find in a boys’ name if you don’t want something too popular. I think this is a really strong choice.

I like the name Griffin quite a bit. I just wouldn’t use it because I don’t think it suits my culture. I think of Griffin as a very Scottish name, and I can’t really picture on a child who doesn’t at least have some Scottish heritage. I know, that sounds weird.

My son’s name is Griffin and our last name is Perez. He does have some Celtic ancestry but we chose the name for many of the same reasons given in the article and it has turned out to be a wonderful choice. Unique but not unheard of, masculine and never used by girls, it is a name that is also no too trendy. He is now 12 and the name is aging perfectly. As a school teacher of almost 30 years I can tell you that I have seen so many name trends come and go. So many of the boys names ending in “y” or are “soft” sounding names become girls names over time. Be very leary of “cute” boys names; they do not age well.
Griffin loves his name. So it seems do most of the kids and adults he comes in contact with. It is certainly a name that works as the child matures, and will work into adulthood . He won’t have too many Griffin’s in his classes, no girls with that name, it won’t be mispronounced, and the nicknames are cool ( Griffi when young, Griff or Finn when older.) No regrets on this choice!

I know a young Griffin (nn Griff) and I always think of gryphons when I hear the name. It’s an extremely Welshy name and was on a long list some time ago for us (back when we were having our first and did not yet know the gender)… mostly for the fact that it is Welsh like our last name… and it was quickly struck off the list. I like it, but don’t love it. It seems a better name for a dog than a child to me, somehow. But it’s not bad on humans.

As my brother in law has officially gotten me hooked on Family Guy, I only think of the Griffin clan when I here the name. On the upside, it reminds me of the adorably evil Stewie!