Every once in a while a name manages to straddle two opposite categories. Today’s choice sounds both New England prep and Western cowpoke at once.

Thanks to Bek for suggesting Leland as Name of the Day.

Leland has been in the news lately – it was the middle name of legendary broadcaster Walter Cronkite.

The two Lelands recognized by most modern parents are quite a pair.

On one hand, there’s Stanford. Back in the nineteenth century, Leland Stanford amassed a fortune and served as the eighth governor of California. Tragedy struck when his only child, son Leland Jr., fell ill whilst on a grand tour of Europe and died just months shy of his sixteenth birthday. Without an heir, pop turned philanthropic, and established Stanford University in memory of his son.

This lends Leland a privileged air – he’d be right at home in an Edith Wharton novel. The image persisted, and on 1980s television, L.A. Law’s fictional firm was headed by the very proper Leland McKenzie.

But then there’s Leland’s other side, again featured on the small screen.

A&E’s Dog: The Bounty Hunter has made stars out of bail bondsmen Duane Chapman and his sons, Tim and Leland. If you haven’t seen the series, let’s just say that L.A. Law’s Leland and Dog’s Leland wouldn’t have much in common.

The reality show led Leland out of obscurity. (After falling for decades, he had left the Top 1000 by 1999.) Dog debuted in the Fall of 2004. By 2005, Leland ranked #608. By 2007, he was #316.

Today, Leland has faltered slightly, coming in at #407. But don’t count him out. After all, in 1925, he reached as high as #173. That’s about as common as Miles or Peter today.

Leland is an appealing formal name to put on the birth certificate of your son Leo. It’s a strong longer name for Lee. And he’s actually a smidge less dramatic than other options like Leopold or Leonidas, while remaining a bit more dashing that Leonard.

Leland also boasts starbaby cachet – Brendan Fraser and wife Afton Smith chose the name for their third son. (Griffin Arthur, Holden Fletcher and Leland Francis are the trio.)

Other notable Lelands include:

  • Broadway powerhouse Leland Hayward, producer of South Pacific and The Sound of Music;
  • Journalist Leland Stowe – an early critic of Adolf Hitler;
  • Monk‘s Captain Leland Stottemeyer.

It’s also a place name in at least seven American states, plus a river in Michigan.

The name’s meaning, however, is fairly bland. It’s an English place name that means something like “fallow land.” Leland may also be related to Irish surnames McLelland or McClellan. One notable bearer of the surname was Charles Leland, a nineteenth century American writer, known for dabbling in everything from design to folklore to humor.

Overall, Leland sounds most like Wyatt’s little brother – he’s Western, but not unwearable by, say, an accountant or scientist. He could offer a nice compromise when one parent wants to call their son Isaiah and the other is pushing for Gunnar.

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 love the name Leland but some of the information in this article is wrong, Dog the bounty hunter does have a son named Leland but his other son is not Tim,Tim is no blood relation to Dog,dogs Children are Leland Blaine,Duane Lee,Tucker Dee,Wesley,Zebediah Duane,Nicholas,Christopher Michael,James Robert,Dominic Davis,Garry,Lyssa Rae,Barbara Katie,Cecily and Bonnie, Leland,Lyssa and Duane Lee have all worked together on A&E