This post was originally published on October 22, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on July 14, 2014.
Take a sensational television series and a pair of football heroes, add some Irish style, and no wonder today’s choice has become a huge hit.
Thanks to Another for suggesting Payton as our Baby Name of the Day.
Payton is popular. Wait, should that be Peyton? And is this name meant for a son or a daughter?
Let’s start with the name’s origins. Both the ‘a’ and ‘e’ spellings appear as surnames as early as the 1200s. They could be place names, in which case the -ton means town, and the first syllable probably comes from an old Anglo-Saxon name. This puts Payton in the same category as Boston, and lots of other possibilities.
Or maybe Payton is an Anglicized form of Irish surnames like Ó Peatáin, son of Patrick. If that seems like a stretch, remember than -an is a favorite diminutive form in Irish names – think Aidan and Ronan. Paetan was the equivalent of Patty.
In the late 1800s, both Peyton and Payton appeared on the fringes of the US boys’ Top 1000, along with lots of surname names.
But it took some twentieth century exposure to boost Payton to the mainstream.
Peyton Place debuted on US television in 1964. It was a sensation, and ran for five seasons. Based on a 1956 novel, the series was the first successful prime time soap opera in the US.
There’s the tiniest uptick in girls given the name during the series’ run, but for the most part, Peyton remained a location and surname, sometimes heard on boys.
Factor in some good ‘ol gridiron influence, and Payton sounds masculine indeed:
- Running back Walter Payton was part of the dominating 1980s Chicago Bears.
- Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning, brother to fellow QB Eli and son of coach Archie, has been playing in the NFL since 2008.
The influence of well known sports figures helps the name remain a masculine possibility, just like Jordan.
The first major female Peyton was Rebecca DeMornay’s scary nanny character in 1992’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. That year, Peyton entered the US Top 1000 for girls at #583 – quite the debut – with Payton also charting at #704.
Television series like One Tree Hill and CSI: NY have used the name for female characters, too.
For years, both spellings were gaining for both genders. In 2007, Peyton ranked #121 for girls and #125 for boys, while Payton was #152 for girls and #278 for boys. In numbers, that translated to around 5,000 girls and just over 4,600 boys – nearly even.
Today the story has changed. As of 2013, Payton charted at #525 for boys and #122 for girls, while Peyton was #208 for boys and #51 for girls. Give this one to the girls – more than three times as many girls were named Payton or Peyton in 2013, over 7,100 girls to just about 2,300 boys.
While Payton is going strong for girls, the name has petered out for boys. And yet, enough boys received the name in its heyday that it would be tough to call this one exclusively feminine. There are more interesting surname names and Irish heritage picks out there, but this one remains a possible way to honor a Patrick – or a Patricia.
Which spelling do you prefer: Payton or Peyton? And does this feel like a modern staple, or a trendy name destined to fade?