Name of the Day: Hadrian

He’s a widely admired Roman emperor, but somewhere between antiquity and 2009, he shed his H.

Thanks to Emmy Jo for suggesting the Name of the Day: Hadrian.

Hadrian is the ancient equivalent of Brooklyn – a place name. The Roman Hadrianus referred to the Etruscan port city of Atria. Dig a little deeper, and the city’s name comes from either the Latin adjective atra – black, dark – or the Illyrian adur – water. Atria, in turn, gave its name to the Adriatic sea.

Publius Aelius Hadrianus became Roman Emperor in the second century. While the imperial line was often handed from father to son, Hadrian was the third of the “Five Good Emperors” – a succession of men of aristocratic birth, but chosen for their leadership qualities.

The British Museum recently mounted an exhibit about his accomplishments. An adept military strategist, Hadrian preferred to avoid conflict. You can still see the remains of Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England. Not only did wall-building help control the empire’s vast borders, it allowed the Romans to collect tax.

Hadrian was a Renaissance man – centuries before the concept existed. He wrote poetry, studied architecture and even set style trends – he brought beards into vogue.

Given his success, it isn’t surprising that his name survived. But early on, Hadrian dropped his H – and became Adrian. As Adrian, he was in use through the Middle Ages. Six Popes have worn the name.

In fact, Adrian is currently at his most popular worldwide. In the US, he comes in at #61. Internationally, Adrian is a Top Ten pick in Spain, Top Twenty in Norway and Top 100 in Sweden. He’s also a traditional favorite in Romania.

Hadrian has never cracked the US Top 1000. Combing the historical record for Hadrians turns up very few bearers of the name. James I of England tapped theologian Hadrian Saravia to edit the King James Version of the Bible.

However, some Hadrians have become Adrians over time. A Catholic saint from the 300s is recorded as both – though he’s officially Adrian in the church records.

Proving that even manufacturers of the mundane have a sense of humor, the Hadrian corporation produces partition walls for public restrooms.

On balance, Hadrian seems like an appealing choice for a child’s name. The only hazard is that you may find yourself correcting others constantly. With more than 7,500 Adrians born in the US alone last year, odds are that you’ll have to insist on the H.

But with Adriana, Adrianna and Adrienne all in the Top 1000 for girls, Hadrian sounds a smidge more distinctive. Plus, it’s easy to imagine a girl called Adrian – along with her sisters Ryan and Dylan. Hadrian is clearly a name for a boy.

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21 Comments

I have a question on the pronunciation of this name, do you say it with a hard a or a soft one? I’ve been to Hadrian’s wall in England and the locals pronounced it with a soft a, but I am curious how it would be widely pronounced in the US?

In my experience, Hadrian rhymes with Adrian – long a, as in Aidan. But I promise to sit my British brother-in-law down next week and get some feedback on this one.

Thank you so much for checking into it! We just found out we’re having a boy (our first) and I’m trying to get my husband on board. So far I love this, Felix, and Julian. But we live in the South and my husband has some concerns that he’d get mocked with those.

Hadrian,successful?.The chap diminished the Roman Empire.Trajan(Optimus Princeps),had conquered Parthia and Dacia and had gotten to the Persian Gulf.
Hadrian gave up Parthia because he could not defend it.Hadrian’s wall became a defensive wall built to keep out the barbarians from overrunning the boundaries of Scotland into England.
Hadrian was a psychopath who butchered half of the senate because he feared plots from everywhere.When he died ,the Roman Senate thought of withholding the honors due to him as an Emperor.
His Pantheon is the only legacy he bestowed on History.The chap who designed it(Apollodorus),he had put to death on contrived offenses.
Hadrian?.May he rot in hell!.

CharleyJK4, you may well be right. I’m not a historian, and my knowledge of Roman Emperors is far from extensive, and too much of it is based on I, Claudius. Hadrian may not have been good in the moral and upstanding sense, but he was successful. Especially compared to, say, Caligula. Or Nero.

Hadrian a widely admired Emperor?.This was a chap who suffered from bouts of depression and might have had his wife,Sabina poisoned in her old age.
She never loved him and there is an anecdote of her carrying out an abortion when she found out that she was pregnant.She allegedly said that she did not want to bring in another monster into the world. Hadrian was bi-sexual.He mourned Antinous who had been his lover and had him deified.
Hadrian also put to death Apollodorus of Damascus to death because he had criticised his design of the Temple of Roma and Venus.
Hadrian was an extremely bad chap.

Oh gosh, I immediately thought ‘The 3rd of December?! That’s a long time to wait!!’ but of course the American dating system puts the months AFTER! Anyway, thank you very much, I will eagerly anticipate it.

Emma, Dilys will be 3/12. I stumbled across a fictional Dilys a year or so ago – great idea!

Brooke, I love Adrian and Jasper as brothers’ names – what a fabulous combo. My son’s nickname – Alexei – skews feminine, too. It’s funny to see others do a double take, but for the most part, no one says anything.

Love the Fawlty Tours reference, Lachlan! And I’d love to see Hadrian’s Wall. My mother has it on her “places to visit” list, as does my husband. So someday!

Hadrian holds a certain draw for me, but I feel it would be confused with both Hayden and Adrian, which is why we went with Adrian for our first son (2mth old baby brother is Jasper). Hubby is from London (UK, not Canada) and I’m an Aussie, and in both countries, Adrian seems to be used predominantly on boys. Though he was born here in California, we’ve yet to come across another child with his name, either male or female (though we’ve met two adult males)… he’ll be 3 in April. I guess that will likely change once he starts school–I’m curious to know how many Adrians and variants of both genders we will come across. And that said, knowing that Adrian seems to be crossing over to join ranks with many of the other boys’ names, I’m waiting for someone to ask me if he is a boy or a girl.

I love Hadrian. The way I see it, if both Hayden and Adrian are in the top 100 for boys’, why shouldn’t Hadrian work as well? It has the advantage of being unmistakably masculine while still preserving the appeal of soft-sounding Adrian. And, as Paige has mentioned, it does make me think of the windswept moors of northern England. (I’ve been to Hadrian’s Wall — it’s beautiful!)

I promise not to name sons Hadrian and Julius (that would be a bit much), but I’d use one or the other in a heartbeat.

I agree the H makes it more masculine. I very much like the name Adrian for a boy and don’t think it sounds effeminate, but would hesitate to use it because it may be perceived as feminine (in the US). Also, despite the popularity factor, I like Adrienne (despite Rocky), Adrianna, etc. for girls. Actually I have not heard of lot of young Adriennes lately, more Adriannas. As for Hadrian, I could go for it..maybe. Very distinctive and historical.

Hello again!
I know this is slightly off-topic but I would love it if Dilys could be considered for Name of the Day! It is a long-time consistent favourite of mine. Thank you!

I like Hadrian! It “masculizes” the ever-feminine Adrian (not that that is forbidden on a boy, but with all the Adriannas…) and it just sounds so Roman!
It conjurs up windswept moors and crumbling walls (for Hadrian’s wall in England)… for me, at least.

I like Adrian/Adrienne very much, but like the majority here, Adrian just feels a bit too feminine to me. Like Julian, it’s a gorgeous name I just couldn’t quite bring myself to use for a boy. And whoa, Baby Name Brainstorm, nice way to work in a Fawlty Towers reference!

Hadrian is nice but reminds me very much of the Romans for whatever reason. I prefer Adrian but, as you said, it seems to be going to the girls. Grr. Adrienne for girls, Adrian for boys. It’s not that hard! All in all the name isn’t really to my taste but perfectly nice, and I wouldn’t mind seeing some around!

Your last point is rather what I was thinking. Hadrian still skews male wheile Adrian feels feminine. I find that sad, Adrian’s one of my favorite male names and Rocky ruined it for me. When Rocky yells “Yo, Adrianne!” He’s not, check your captioning (or IMDb) His love? she’s Adrian. Makes me want to weep. You’d think between Adrian Paul & Adrien Brody, they could keep Adrian male. But I’m seeing Adrian on a few to many girls to think it coincidence. :`(
Hadrian’s cool, masculine , different and sill familiar. Who would mind beng named for the general? He ranks right up there with all thse -us names strength-wise and I like his general lack of obvious nicknames (Ian comes to mind but it’s a bit of a stretch).

If I can’t have my Adrian (thanks, stupid movie), Hadrian works for me, beautifully! 🙂