The baby name Peregrine belongs to a bird of prey and a man of prayer, but the overall image is a well-traveled gentleman.
Thanks to Cat for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
The baby name Peregrine comes from the Late Latin Peregrinus.
It’s usually interpreted as traveler or wanderer.
Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that peregre originally referred to outside the Roman world, from ager – land – and per – across or beyond. It suggests a foreigner, or maybe a stranger.
In fact, in the early Roman Empire, a peregrinus was a freeman and a provincial subject, but not a citizen of Rome.
The peregrine falcon is found virtually everywhere on Earth, save for the extreme Arctic, the rain forests and the highest mountains.
It’s a smooth name for a bird of prey, given because of their wide range of habitats.
Easily trained, they’ve been popular in falconry for thousands of years. Many cultures have associated the birds with royalty, including Ancient Egypt. More recently, the birds are found near urban settings, and the peregrine falcon is the official city bird of Chicago.
A HOBBIT NAMED PEREGRIN
Speaking of wanderers, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy sent a Hobbit ranging across much of Middle Earth on a quest. Frodo was accompanied by two friends: Merry and Pippin.
Hobbit Pippin Took’s formal name is Peregrin.
Where did Tolkien find the name?
There’s a long history of the first name Peregrine across the centuries.
Emperor Commodus sent the first Saint Peregrine to his death sometime in the late 100s. Believe it or not, his relics now reside in St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota.
In the late 200s, another Peregrine set out for Gaul, converted the locals to Christianity and built a cathedral in Auxerre, before meeting his fate during the Diocletian persecutions.
The sixth century Italian bishop Saint Cetteus is also known as Peregrinus. That’s because Cetteus was executed by warring factions in his city. They threw his body off a bridge, and it floated to Pescara, Italy. Fishermen discovered him, and called him Peregrino – traveler. They eventually learned his real name, and the Cathedral of Saint Cetteo stands in Pescara today.
The thirteenth century Saint Peregrine Laziosi gave up his wild youthful ways following a vision, became a monk, and is now considered the patron saint for cancer and AIDS patients.
The ancient world also gives us first century philosopher Peregrinus Proteus, who was raised a Christian but ended his life a Cynic.
ARISTOCRATIC ENGLISH NAME
By the sixteenth century, the baby name Peregrine was in use amongst English aristocrats.
One possible reason: it’s tempting to tie the name’s revival to the 1486 publication of the wildly popular Book of St. Albans, which included an essay on the ancient sport of falconry. (That’s hunting using a trained raptor to bring down your prey.)
At least a dozen titled or well-born Peregrines appear in the historical record from 1550 through the present day. The 12th Duke of Devonshire is named Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish.
THE NEW WORLD
In 1620, Peregrine White became the first English child born in the New World.
His parents, Pilgrims William and Susanna White, named their firstborn Resolved, so it seems likely that they understood how very appropriate a choice they made. Peregrine was actually born aboard the Mayflower while it was harbored in Provincetown. (His story is told in the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.)
However, the boy’s name Peregrine has never registered in the US Top 1000 names, at least dating back to 1880, the first year for which data is available.
MORE MODERN PEREGRINES
Fast forward to the twentieth century.
DC Comics introduced a character called Alain Racine. When Racine dons his winged superhero-suit, he becomes Le Peregrine – the flying falcon.
And on ITV’s series Primeval, Sir James Peregrine Lester is a ruthless British government official charged with keeping the team’s work containing supernatural occurrences from becoming public knowledge.
Fans of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries know all about Phryne Fisher, the wildly successful Australian television series based on Kerry Greenwood’s early twentieth century lady detective. More recently, a spin-off titled Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries introduced Peregrine Fisher – Miss Fisher’s niece, who follows in her footsteps in 1960s Melbourne.
BY the NUMBERS
That’s right – Peregrine is, at least sometimes, used as a girl’s name.
Perhaps that’s partly because it’s truly unusual.
Not only has the baby name Peregrine never appeared in the US Top 1000, but it was given to fewer than five boys (or five girls) for most years during the twentieth century. It debuted in the US popularity charts in 1998, the first year the name was given to five boys.
Peregrin, without the final E, didn’t reach that milestone until 2011.
That makes this name quite rare, indeed.
And yet, the baby name Peregrine comes with rich nickname options. There’s the obvious Perry, which is actually a Welsh form of Henry; Pip and Pippin, likely borrowed from Philip. Pepin has roots as an independent name, but it might also work with Peregrine. After all, Pepin is sometimes a nickname for forms of Giuseppe, too. It could make this rather grand name more wearable.
ADVENTUROUS GENTLEMAN NAME
It all makes Peregrine a study in contrasts. The name’s meaning suggests a world traveler. But it’s status as an old school antique takes it back in time. Peregrine departs for his journeys dressed in a suit, with well-made leather trunks holding his essential gear.
Still, this is the age of Sebastian and Julian. And River and Bear. Peregrine sounds less surprising than it might’ve have in the 1980s – or even the early 2000s.
As of 2021, 21 boys and 9 girls received the baby name Peregrine. That makes this rare, but still on the right side of known.
Would you consider the baby name Peregrine?
Originally published on March 14, 2009, this post was substantially revised and re-posted on October 5, 2022.
I never thought of Peregrine as having possibilities for a girl’s name, but now that I’m seeing how little it really is used, I’m in love with the idea! Especially with how cute the nicknames can be. It feels like a rare, unisex, nature name version of Josephine and Elizabeth and Charlotte in how substantial it is.
C in DC says
I love that this is a unisex option. I love Pippin as a nn option for either, and would also consider Reg or Reggie for a boy from the middle. For a girl, Peggy would be another option (and more connected than Peggy for Margaret!).
Great post. We do actually have peregrine falcons in New Zealand though!
Ha, thanks! This post is definitely due for some updates … adding it to the list!
I like Perrin, simpler than Peregrine but still distinguished sounding, and you could still use Perry as a nn if you were considering that variation. It’s the name of a character in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time fantasy series. A very good and upright character, if anyone is thinking of using this 🙂
We considered Peregrin for our son. It ended up a middle name, but the nn we were going to use was ‘Rin’.
LOVE Rin for Peregrin. Quite clever!
There’s a very well-known and very posh bearer of this name in Britain, the journalist and broadcaster Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, who’s nearly 90 now. His mn is Gerard.
I read LotR in fifth grade, and I remember walking into class the first day of seventh grade and meeting a girl named Pippin (Peregrine)! I was surprised at the time, but now that I think about it, the name works just fine for a girl or boy. I love Peregrine, especially the nn Pippin. 😀
By the way, I have a suggestion for Name of the Day: Michael
Thanks for this blog entry! We’re seriously considering Peregrine for our third son due in six weeks and I’m trying to decide how “wearable” this name is. I found you thanks to a search on “nicknames for Peregrine.” Great article and helpful comments too!
I am actually not that fond of the nn “Perry”, but I have another idea. I would like to use “Peregrinne” for a girl and call her “Pippa”
Mystical Pippin says
I think that’s a great idea Kaye. I’m not particularly fond of Perry either as a nickname for Peregrine
Mystical Pippin says
Geez Another OOPS! I was just reading your blog at the top of this page. And it’s not the century that I got wrong it was the wrong Pippin! I was referring to the “St. Peregrine” that lived in or around 100 AD. (that’s the 1st century right?) I mistakenly put down Pepin the Great but I meant the other guy because I knew the one I was thinking of lived sometime during the first century. I had read about him right after the first time I posted here. I just didn’t remember the right Pippin (or Pepin in this case)
Mystical Pippin says
OOPS! I was relying on my memory in regards to the century for Pepin the Great. I guess I need to start taking some Ginko Biloba! Thanks for the kind words AppellationMountain. BTW – what made you choose that user name? Is it a place close to your heart?
I’m sorry to hear of your loss. And Pepin I was father to Charlemagne – which makes him the 8th century. 🙂
Mystical Pippin says
THANKS AM! Believe it or not this is the first times I’ve seen your response. I just came across it while managing my subscriptions. I think your right about them Perigrine/Pippin/Pepin integration. I don’t think it connected until much later after the name came about. And I also agree, in fact I’m almost sure that the nickname came about BEFORE – Tolkien made it a character’s nickname. I did find out that as far back as the original name goes it comes from Pepin the Great. Who was a ruler in the 10th century. I’m wondering now, if it’s really connected to the name Perigrine. I don’t think it is. And it’s still a mystery to me how Pippin became a nickname for Peregrine.
On a sad note, I lost my darling girl Pippin to heart disease last August. She gave me 13 years of fun, entertainment, companionship, furballs and most importantly unconditional love. I miss her everyday. There will never be another like her and out connection was so special. I have one left – her son who is 12. He is a comfort somewhat…..
Mystical Pippin says
correction to the above statement about Pepin the Great. It was the 1st century I believe and not the tenth. The years of this ruler were somewhere around 700 AD to 1100 AD. (I think)
mystical pippin says
One mystery, I would LOVE to clear up. I cannot find anywhere on the net or in history books how did the nickname of Pippin come about. I know that there are comments here about “Perry” being a nickname for Peregrine but that has only been around since the 20th century. My research has taught me that the name Pippin dates back as far as the 1st century but had no connection with Peregrine. the farthest back I could find it as a nickname was 1600’s – during that time Falconry was very popular among aristocrats and royal families. What I would really like to know is how & when exactly it became pippin.
I spoke with a lady on the phone in the early 90’s. Her family were patients at my employer’s practise. Her young sons name was Peregrine. I asked her if she used the nickname Pippin. She said yes sometimes but she preferred using his full name… She told me he was named after a deceased relative on her husbands side and that he had served in the service of the Royal family when he was alive. (this was sometime during the 1800’s she said) I believe Tolkien was born in the 1800’s… He began writting LOTR during WWI not finishing it until after WWII. He wrote the Hobbit after that but published it first.
I think – and this really is a guess – that, as you suggest, Peregrine and Pippin don’t share the same roots, but became linked at some later point. There are many words meaning seed or small that are linked to pip (pepita in Spanish, pippolo in Italian, the Old French pepin) and, of course, Pip is sometimes used as a short form for Philip, too. If the word meant small, well, Pip/Pippin is a logical nickname for your kiddo with the long name.
There were early Medieval kings Pepin and Pippin, and Pepin persists as a surname. (Think chef Jacques Pepin.) Some link Pepin to the word for small; others connect it to an Old French word for trembling; some just list the origins as unknown.
It’s possible that Pergerin/Pippin were first linked by Tolkien, but I suspect that’s not the case. My best bet is that Pepin/Pippin was frequently Latinized as Peregrine, once upon a time, creating the link. Or maybe someone prominent in his day – but as yet undiscovered by my research – was known commonly as Pepin/Pippin but answered to Peregrine … I’ll have to keep digging.
I’ll keep my eyes open, and please let me know if you hear anything. I’m sure we’re missing SOMETHING!
mystical pippin says
I LOVE the name Peregrine! I think it sounds very distinguished. I especially love the nickname Pippin. I first read Lord of the Rings in 1968. (The character “Pippin” has a formal name of “Peregrine Took”) and waited many many years and a lot of cats to
give that name to. When I did, I knew it the instant I saw her and she has lived up to the name!My Pippin is now 13 years old. The longest I have ever had a cat!
Oh, I adore Peregrine, but I REALLY love Perry! I just love it so much, it’s fighting with Wynn for first place on my favs list! Peregrine is so cute, and I think Pip is stinking adorable. Not sure if I’d actually be gutsy enough to use Peregrine, but Perrin is a definate possiblility.
Peregrin just seems so cheeky to me 🙂 I love it! To me, has has a HUGE amount of energy and buoyancy hiding amongst that rich history which just makes me smile !!
I don’t think I’d be brave enough to use him up front, but he is endearing indeed. Pip is very cute for a toddler, but I’m so-so on Perry as a ‘nn’, so I don’t know what I’d call him – he mighn’t even have a nn if he were my child!
Perry is just fine and Peregrine sounds good, but comes off terribly posh to me – like if you don’t have a title or a bazillion dollars, then the name wouldn’t fit. Even with the snoot-factor, it’s not a bad name and Perry is a fun nickname.
Cat, funny you should mention school yard beatdowns! Pip is the character on South Park that the other kids torment mercilessly. Pip is too fussy for me, but Perry is cool-sounding and handsome (see: Perry King). Peregrin is distinguished and commanding, and Perry is accessible and friendly. Good way to get the best of both worlds.
Thanks! I must admit, I really like Peregrine because of Lord of the Rings (major dork). I like Perry but prefer Pip as far as nicknames go. That’d probably be sentencing a child to horrendous beatings in the schoolyard, though. You think? I wasn’t aware that it had such a long history as a given name, so that’s a thumbs up for me! Not sure how usable it is, though. Maybe in the middle.
Oh, I’d name a boy Peregrin and call him Perry! I’m toying with it now, in my head. May actually mention Peregrin/Perry to him soon! Cat, I think a baby/toddler Peregrin, nn Pip would be darling! Beats yet another Liam. Which is a shame, I love William, just not Liam. I could transition from a toddler Pip to big boy Perry pretty
easily, especially after practising on Josephine/Posy/Poppy/Effie/Fifi/Josie form birth ’til now! Peregrin Edward George is what comes to mind firstly, then James Peregrin Finn, next. (or if I want him to have to answer “What, were your folks serious fans? All his life, James Peregrin Reuel! To get Pip/Pippin, a less adventurous soul could use Philip/Phillip!
I think Perry’s ready for a comeback, and if he is, why not the flambouyant Peregrin on the birth certificate? I mean, what a first name for a writer, a film star or even President? 😀 Peregrin’s awesome and I’m not afraid to admit I think so!