He’s a once-neglected classic now embraced by parents everywhere.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Julian as Name of the Day.
In the late 90s, a friend named her son Julian hoping for something just a little different. She knew women named Julie and Julia, but Julian seemed distinctive for a son.
As it happens, lots of parents had the same idea.
From #355 in 1968, Julian gained steadily in the 70s, 80s and 90s. He entered the US Top 100 for the first time in 2000, and now stands at #61. Julian is even more popular in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Norway, while the French Julien finds favor in the Top 100 of both Quebec and Belgium.
The truly old school – and slightly less common – appellation is Julius, the name of an important patrician family in Ancient Rome. There are three possible sources for their name:
- The Latin ioulos literally means downy-bearded and implies youth;
- The name may also relate to the god Jupiter via the term Jovilios;
- Lastly, the Julii considered themselves descendants of Julus, a legendary figure and the son of Trojan war hero Aeneas.
The best known member of the family was Gaius Julius Caesar. When he wasn’t inventing salads, Caesar expanded Rome’s territory dramatically. He remains widely acknowledged as one of history’s greatest military strategists.
More famous Romans followed, then a handful of early saints, starting with the seventh century Saint Julian of Toledo. There’s also Saint Julian the Hospitaller, an Oedipus figure who became the patron saint of innkeepers – but odds are that his story is pure fiction.
Over the years, the name has been worn by:
- UNESCO founder and founding member of the World Wildlife Fund, scientist Julian Huxley;
- Civil rights activist Julian Bond;
- Alt rock pioneer Julian Cope;
- British actor Julian Glover, known for playing some legendary bad guys;
- John Lennon’s firstborn;
- World-famous cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, brother to Broadway’s Andrew Lloyd Webber;
- Julien Temple is a British director of rock docs and music videos including 1980’s kinda-sorta story of the Sex Pistols, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.
Fictional characters abound. Anne Rice’s series about a family of witches includes Julien Mayfair, the lone warlock in the family.
John Galsworthy revived the medieval variant Jolyon for four characters in The Forsyte Saga. One was called Jo, another Jolly. The youngest answered to Jon. If Julian is current and Julius is slightly more unusual, Jolyon is truly daring.
Julian fits right in with Sebastian, Elijah and Nathaniel – all fellow Top 100 choices. And therein lies the challenge. Many parents probably arrive at Julian hoping for something just a little different – so many, in fact, that if you’re hoping for a truly distinctive choice, you might have to keep looking.
Or not. After all, with his deep historical roots and quite current style, Julian has charm to spare – and share with others, too.