It’s a hero name, and it fits the emerging trend of one-syllable choices for boys perfectly. And yet, we have our hesitations.

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting our Name of the Day: Lance.

Lance didn’t start out as a spear. Instead, he developed from the Germanic Lanzo, meaning land. By the 1300s, the Latin lancea – spear – entered common usage and the two words have been linked ever since.

We find Lanzo well represented in the Middle Ages, along with possibly related names like Lando and Landobert. Plenty of surnames appear to trace back to the root, too, including the Italian Lanzo and the English Lancey.

There’s also Lancelot. He was King Arthur’s most trusted knight until he ran off with Guinevere. It’s a fanciful name for a boy, and one that very few parents have dared bestow on their sons. The only bearer that springs to mind is 18th century landscape designer Lancelot Brown – and he’s best known by his nickname, Capability.

Today, it’s tough to divorce the name Lance from the weapon. Spears are among the oldest tools known to man, so it’s impossible to link it to a specific culture or historical era. Still, Lance has legitimate history as a given name, so this isn’t quite as violent as calling your boy Pike or Uzi.

If anything, Lance might be a shade closer to names like Deacon and Duke. Lance Corporal is a common military rank. A relative newcomer to DC Comics’ Justice Society is known as Lance. The character – David Reid – earned his alter ego because of his military achievements in Iraq.

We first find men named Lance in the US in the early 20th century. In fact, he dipped a toe in the Top 1000 in 1900, 1901 and 1902. But he gained steamed in the 1940s, the same era that incubated names like Scott, Brad and Chad. His peak of popularity came in 1970, when he reached #76.

Today you don’t have to look far to find a famous Lance, including:

  • Record-breaking cyclist Lance Armstrong, who made all of America pay attention to the Tour de France as he won the race seven times after beating cancer;
  • Baseball’s Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros;
  • The New Orleans Saints’ Lance Moore;
  • ‘N Sync alum and recent Dancing with the Stars contestant Lance Bass.

To our ear, Lance sounds both hyper-masculine and surprisingly lightweight. It’s an unusual combination, but one that might be his fatal flaw. After all, one-syllable names for boys are big, and Lance should fit with Top 200 choices like Luke, Cole, Gage, Jace, Zane and Jude. Perhaps it is his vowel sound. Is the softer a out of fashion?
Lance ranked #376 last year. After Armstrong’s first Tour de France win, the name briefly gained in popularity, but has been sliding for the past five years. We think that trend is likely to continue. He’s just not tough enough to satisfy parents leaning towards rough’n’tumble choices like Cade, Cruz and Mack, nor is he a throwback like Max, Gus and Jack.

We won’t go so far as to say “don’t go there” regarding Lance, but he’s far from fashionable. If anything, his medieval predecessor Lanzo sounds intriguing circa 2008.

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 a 1-year-old cousin named Lance so I have given it some thought lately. I was a little surprised when I learned what his parents named him. Not a name I ever would have thought of using. Not awful, but kind of “blah” and yes, a bit weak sounding to me. A name that was certainly more popular a generation or two ago but not one you’d be shocked to hear today either. Just think there are better names out there. But I’m glad he’s just Lance and not Lancelot.

  2. i would never have connected the name Lance to the weapon. I don’t considerer it very masculine at all, really. I guess I connect it mostly to Lance Bass, who I like, but certainly doesn’t make me think “hyper-masculine”.

  3. Thanks Allison! That’s Josie the day before Halloween.

    As for Lance = Hunter in my head, I spent years in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and in my head, Lance equals weapon (of sorts) and Hunter is someone who uses them. More elegant than downright bloody but still, the weapn thought is there.

  4. Funny how perceptions are so different, no? To me Lance is a very appealing name, 100% masculine, polished and chivalrous. A guy you’d like to meet. And it would never, ever strike me as having any similarities to a bloodsport name like Hunter. But Lola, and I think you and I can both agree that your new avatar is maybe the cutest picture ever!

  5. Hm, hyper-masculine? Not to me. I find this name stereotypically…ahem…gay. It’s like Thaddeus and Val. It just seems a good name for a gay man. I can’t explain it. Of course I’ve known two Lances and have the proof that at least one of them was definitely not gay, and yet still, the name itself…
    Anyway, interesting background for sure, but this name is not one I plan on ever using.

  6. Though I wouldn’t use it, I actually like Lance. But it could just be the result of an addiction to cycling (the Tour de France is a great place to name-watch by the way, full of interesting athletic-sounding foreign names!). And Armstrong’s story is an inspiring one. One reason I wouldn’t use it is because more than a few friends, relatives, and neighbors here in the south have a drawl that turns this one into a two-syllable name: Lay-ance.

  7. He’s middle aged to me, not stale, exactly but far from refreshing to hear, still. I grew up with a host of Lance’s and a Lancelot (surname Curry) [yes, all his siblings had round table names]. I was 3 in 1970. Lancelot’s neat but his story bothers me. I much prefer Arthur!

    I don’t mind his sound, overmuch but he does strike mes also fitting in the “Hunter/Slasher/Cutter/Bomber” category of boys names as well. I’d be willing to even say he’s the most charming of that group. I like him but not enough to want to use him myself. I would even venture to guess that Lance’s day will come again, about the time my grandkids are having kids of their own!

    His sound while pleasing, is a bit weak. But then, Hunter et al. doesn’t strike me as particularly strong either and Hunter’s definitely a “try too hard” name in my book.

    And Lanzo’s got a neat sound and looks great too. Now if I could only *not* think “Mario Lanzo” when I see it! Funnily, He was Mario Lanza, a superb tenor. Died before I was born but if you can get your hands on one of his recordings, you are so in for a treat! So Lonzo’s got a neat assocation for me, at least. Aces!