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.