He’s Roman, regal and creative, too, but choose this one for your son and others might think of The Joker.

Thanks to Susan for suggesting Maurice as Name of the Day.

The Steve Miller Band released The Joker in 1973, and the hit single of the same name followed a few months later. It’s been covered by others in the years since, including Fatboy Slim and Jason Mraz. But the original is still in heavy rotation. The lyrics are:

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice (wolf whistle)
Cause I speak of the pompatus of love

It’s that whistle that makes the name Maurice stand out. Steve Miller had actually used Maurice earlier, too, as yet another of his musical alter-egos.

Maurice might bring to mind the sounds of the 70s, but he’s actually Latin. Maurus, Mauricius or Mauritius was a given name derived from the place Mauritania – Northwest Africa. It’s also the origin of the term Moor, and you’ll often find Maurice’s meaning listed as dark. But it isn’t clear if maurus meant dark, or if Mauritania inspired the meaning.

In any case, by the third century, a soldier from Egypt was martyred when he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. He became Saint Maurice. Famous bearers throughout history have included:

  • A Byzantine emperor from the 500s;
  • A Bishop of London from the early 1100s;
  • Maurice of Nassau, a prince who helped overthrow the Spanish to create the Dutch Republic in the 1600s.

The Normans were fans of the name, and brought it along to England. Only their Maurice probably sounded more like Morris. The main character of E.M. Forster’s 1913 novel Maurice – unpublished because tales of same-sex love were verboten at the time – would’ve pronounced his name Morris, too.

Other more recent bearers of the name have leaned French, including:

  • Composer Maurice Ravel, best known for Boléro;
  • Actor Maurice Chevalier;
  • Ice hockey legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard – though he’s French Canadian;
  • And Maurice Maeterlinck, the Belgian Nobel Prize winning playwright and poet.

There’s also Bee-Gee Maurice Gibb and Where the Wild Things author and illustrator Maurice Sendak.

While Maurice has never been a smash hit, he has quietly been used over the generations. As of 2008, he ranked #405 in the US. (Morris, on the other hand, has not charted since 1994 and now sounds more like a spokescat or a quirky vintage car than a child’s name.)

The Spanish, Italian and Portueguese variants Mauricio or Mauro might be more fashionable at the moment. Or even surname – and rock legend – spin Morrison. But Maurice remains steady – not current or cool, but certainly not quite extinct, either.

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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  1. i am well aware that this post is over a year old, but i couldn’t stumble on it and not comment.

    my name is maurice and it’s a great name. it was a bit annoying as a kid because everyone was always calling me ‘morris’ when they first read my name on the class roster or whatever. and then it was a little annoying in high school when a coach couldn’t ever see me without singing the Steve Miller Band line (complete with the whistle).

    those instances aside, i have loved this name my whole life. it is unique and very memorable. i have only ever met one other maurice. for what it’s worth (a year after the fact) you should feel free to use this one on your kids-to-be they won’t be mad, i promise.

  2. Funny, I loved “The Joker” when I was 11! but my first bunch of associations are Ravel & Sendak. I like Maurice, and toy with him in the middle slot, where I think he’s still got style but I *love* Morris. So starchy but friendly. I know, odd. Reminds me of William Morris too, my favorite “renaissance man” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris) For thos unfamiliar. 🙂 I admit, the car is not something I thought of until you mentioned it!

    Mauro is a surname to me (It was the name attached to a local car dealer growing up), Morrison is also surnamey (makes me think of Jim Morrison) and Mauricio feels affected to me. Yep, of the forms, Morris is easily my favorite. Breezy, a little starchy and warm & friendly. Maurice is singable, but Morris has the style, for me! 😀

  3. Maurice isn’t for me. I do not like it more-EESE or MAWR-iss (which my hubby maintains is different from Morris, which he claims is MORE-iss). My first thought is of Hugh Grant’s portrayal of E. M. Forster’s character in the film by the same name. Strangely, the Steve Miller Band hadn’t popped to mind immediately, despite having listened to the album a lot when I was younger. I almost like the character that gives the name, because otherwise it’s pretty drab and snobby for me.

    Now, Morris…. that’s a different story – I still wouldn’t use it, but it does have the super-cool cat and the Morris Minor to its credit, so that gets the upper hand for me. The fact is, like the masses, sadly, I prefer Mauro, Mauricio, and Morrison to Maurice and Morris.

  4. I loved Morris!

    I have Maurice hanging from my family tree, so I really, really, really want to like him.

  5. I wouldn’t use it. I do like your use of the word, ‘spokescat’, though. Cute. I remember 9 Lives’ cute kitty. I had one just like him.