Name of the Day: Peregrine

He’s a bird of prey and a man of prayer, with a surprising aristocratic streak.

Thanks to Cat for suggesting Peregrine as Name of the Day.

As a given name circa 2009, Peregrine is quite rare – in fact, he’s never ranked in the US Top 1000. But there are Peregrines aplenty in the historical record.

The name derives from the Late Latin Peregrinus. It’s usually interpreted as traveller or wanderer. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that peregre originally meant outside the Roman world, from ager – land – and per – across or beyond.

The peregrine falcon is found virtually everywhere on Earth, save for the extreme Arctic, the rain forests and the highest mountains. If the link to a bird of prey puts you off, consider this: Talon – a falcon’s claw – ranked #437 for a boy’s name in the US in 2007. Variant spellings Talan and Talen also charted.

There’s one other place that peregrine falcons don’t live, and that’s New Zealand. But the name has a link to the land nonetheless. JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was famously adapted for the big screen in the country. Hobbit Pippin Took’s formal name is Peregrin.

Regardless of spelling, Peregrine is pronounced PER eh grin.

Besides birds and a Hobbit, many early Peregrines became saints, including:

  • 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;
  • 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.

By the sixteenth century, Peregrine was in use amongst English aristocrats. I can’t confirm the link, but it is tempting to tie the name’s revival to the 1486 publication of the wildly popular Book of St. Albans, which included an essay on falconry. (That’s hunting using a trained raptor to bring down your prey.) In any case, I stopped counting when I hit twelve titled or well-born Peregrines from 1550 through the present day. It’s safe to say that any Eton reunion would probably include at least one Peregrine.

In 1620, Pilgrims William and Susanna White chose the name Peregrine for their son – the first English child born in the New World. The Whites 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. (Visit the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts and you can still see his cradle!)

There are also a few sci fi references to Peregrine. 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 occurences from becoming public knowledge.

It’s a startlingly unusual name, but it does offer the friendly nickname option Perry. With choices like Julian and Sebastian in the Top 100, Peregrine almost fits in.

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22 Comments

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’.

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”

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)

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. 🙂

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…..

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)

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!

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.

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!

Thanks Verity! 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.