Choosing an unusual moniker for a daughter is one thing. But many parents think twice before going out on a limb to name a boy. Surely there’s a sociological explanation for this, but in the meantime, thanks to Natalie for suggesting the intriguing option Quillan.

It’s the rare name that has never appeared in the Top 1000 in the US, but manages to seem like a viable choice for a son today.

Most likely Gaelic in origin, Quillan and Quill appear as surnames throughout the historical record, and as place names in both France and fiction. In the Pendragon series by DJ MacHale, Quillan is one of several large territories, visited in book seven.

Quillan’s origins are obscure. MacQuillan and McQuillan also appear from time to time. It may be an Anglicized version of Mac Uighilín, Mac Cuilin or Mac Coilín. The names Quil and Quillan are said to mean cub, feather or descendent of Coll. Though if the name derives from Mac Uighilín, they’d actually be descendants of Hugh.

Should meaning and origin be of utmost importance, you’ll need to give Quillan a miss. But if you’re willing to live with ambiguity, this name becomes an intriguing choice.

Quillan fits the two-syllable, ends-in-en pattern so popular for boys in recent decades. But unlike many current innovations – Draven, Trayton, Zaiden – it sounds like a perfectly respectable option, not some assembly of sounds fused together in Frankestein’s lab.

The nickname Quil gives this name a subtle literary twist – and brings to mind a werewolf from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.

Lastly, this name is so close to the enduring classic William that it manages to feel perfectly at home when listed alongside other traditional choices for boys: David, James and Quillan could just about be brothers. And it may well share roots with Colin and Collin, another familiar name for boys.

Considering the recent rise of Quinn – now #265 for boys in the US – even the short form Quill seems like a quirky, but not impossible choice.

A quick international search reveals that while Quillan has made appearances in Belgium, Scotland and Canada, it is just as rare globally as in the US.

So if you’re searching for a truly rare boys’ name with Celtic roots and a current feel, Quillan is one to consider.

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 Comment

  1. I have a Son named Quillan! He’s 6 and twin to brother Brandubh (which is a tricky one but so good!) Their older brother is Faelan. We love the traditional Gaelic names!