Jasper feels vintage and just the tiniest bit unexpected, too. But it belongs with the fast-rising favorites of recent years.
Thanks to Elisabeth for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Jasper: Vintage Favorite
Believe it or not, this name has never left the US Top 1000 – though for many years, it languished underused near the bottom of the charts.
Today, the name is staging a comeback, nearly reaching its former late-nineteenth century heights.
Some credit goes to the hundred year-rule, meaning that Jasper has been out of use so long that it feels fresh and new once more.
But it also fits with more than one current trend:
- Like Hunter and Xavier and Parker, the name ends with -r.
- And of course, nature names are all the rage these days.
And the letter J tends to appeal to parents, with boy names ranging from the evergreen James to the novel Jaxon ranking in the Top 100.
The name comes from the Christmas story. While the three Wise Men are not named in the New Testament, tradition calls them Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar from at least the sixth century.
Gaspar, Caspar, and Jasper are all cousins, along with Jesper, Gaspard, Kacper, and even Gaspalino.
Most agree that the name means treasurer, which tracks with the image of a king bearing gifts from afar.
Here’s a tricky question: which came first, the gemstone or the Biblical figure?
The Greek iaspis referred a precious stone in the Old Testament. (Though we can debate whether they used the word to refer to the same stone we know today.)
In Old French, iaspis became jaspre, and that gives us our word. The gemstone comes in many colors, though we tend to think of it as green. It’s been used since many centuries BC, throughout the ancient world.
Jasper: Tudor, Johns, and Fforde
Famous bearers of the name abound. King Henry VII had a Tudor uncle by the name, the Duke of Bedford. In the twentieth century, there’s author Fforde, as well as artist Johns.
Jasper Johns brings to mind another J name made boosted by an artistic association: Jackson, as in Pollock. It puts an artistic twist on a once underused name.
British designer Terrence Conran has a son by the name; Jasper Conran designed clothing for Princess Diana and won awards for his costume and set designs.
The name’s popularity reaches beyond the English-speaking world. It’s big in Belgium, while Jesper and Caspar make the Top 100 in several Scandinavian countries. Though in many places, it seems to be fading – just as Americans discover it anew.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, the name had a sort of Jethro-Earl vibe. It felt a little bit bumpkin.
Later, Disney used the name for one of Cruella de Vil’s puppy-snatching henchmen in 101 Dalmations. And in romcom The Holiday, Kate Winslet pined for an unfaithful Jasper.
Even if Kate’s beau proved unworthy, The Holiday probably points to this name’s style profile: vaguely British, somewhere between Hugo and Tarquin.
Jasper: By the Numbers
The first version of this post listed Jasper’s 2007 ranking: #465.
Since then, the name has climbed to #209.
It still feels like an artistic, underused name with a strong tie to the natural world and the Biblical tale of the Magi. But it’s quickly becoming a mainstream favorite, too.
Would you consider Jasper for a son? Or do you prefer Caspar, Jesper, or one of the other versions?
Originally published on July 5, 2008, this post was revised and substantially updated on October 18, 2017.