Français : statue de saint lucienEditor’s note: This post was originally published on November 3, 2009.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on October 14, 2013.

Lucas is classic. Luke is cool, and Luca is hot. Today’s choice offers a different spin on those popular picks.

Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Lucian as Name of the Day – and to Jennifer for suggesting we revisit this one!

It’s tempting to associate Lucas with the Latin lux – light.  But his origins are likely geographic.  The Greek Loukas was used to describe someone from Lucania, a moutanous district of Italy settled way back in the 5th century BC. The Lucani may have taken their name from their word for wolf – or not.

But Lucius, Lucianus and yes, Lucian, do come from the Latin. Lucius was a Roman given name related to lux. Plenty of ancient notables answered to Lucius, and over time the family name Lucianus developed.  Harry Potter fans, of course, think first of blonde-haired baddie Lucius Malfoy, which might explain why the name hasn’t caught on.

Lop off the -us, and you have Lucian, a form of the name in use for ages.

The ancient world gives us some notable bearers:

  • Back in the second century, Lucian of Samosata wrote in Greek.  He wrote novels – even early science fiction – at a moment when most writers were busy with history and philosophy.
  • Two third century saints answered to the name: St. Lucian of Antioch and St. Lucian of Beauvais.  A tower built in Malta in the 1600s bears the name Fort St. Lucian.

Add an -o, and it’s the Italian Luciano.  Respell it, and you have the French Lucien – he was big in the 1920s in France.

You might hear Lucian pronounced LOO shan or maybe with three syllables – LOO see en.  The -ian spelling has made a modest comeback in recent years, ranking #586 in 2012, up from obscurity just a few years ago.  The -ien version remains relatively underused in the US, though 160 boys were given the name last year.

Besides the ancients, others have worn the name, including:

  • Napoleon’s baby brother, Lucien Bonaparte.
  • A character in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
  • More recently, add a British painter, an American Army General from World War II, and a Romanian poet to the list, plus Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

But if Lucian is back in the public eye, it has little to do with princes or poets, and more to do with werewolves.

2003’s Underworld kicked off a successful film franchise about the war between vampires and werewolves. The second movie debuted in 2006. In 2009, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans filled in more history, followed by Underworld: Evolution in 2012.  The werewolf Lucian in the films is part of tragic romance along the lines of Romeo and Juliet.

There’s yet another werewolf Lucian in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Steve Buscemi picked it for his son, but he’s all grown up now – and today’s Hollywood parents overwhelmingly favor Luca and Luka.

Lucian would fit right in with Top 100 favorites like Julian and Sebastian.  Plus, he’d have the nickname option of Luc or Luke, making him a versatile pick.  Lucian could wear well on an athlete or an artist. It’s a flexible, underused choice that stays on the right side of unusual.

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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 just named my baby boy Lucian and we pronounce it “Loo-see-ahn”, but we’ve found that here in the southern US “Loo-shun” comes more naturally and I’m ok with that.

    I picked it because it’s a very romantic, elegant name, has an old-southern feel to it too.

    I would expect a nickname to be “Lou”. I don’t love “Luc”(Luke) as a nickname as there is no hard K sound in the original name.

  2. I have a gorgeous blonde haired son called Lucian (pronounced Loo-shan) but a lot of folks call him loo-ci-en/an. I get a lot of comments saying “oh what an unusual name”

  3. My grandson’s name is Lucien. It’s been a long time favorite of mine and is a combination of my name Lucia and my daughter’s name Adrienne. Also my mother Luz Maria. We call him Loo shan or Loo see un or Luciano a la Pavorati! It’s my favorite name on the world !