We’re just days away from Halloween, and so this week’s names are drawn from everybody’s favorite monster movies.

Today’s moniker is inspired by one of the scariest horror films we’ve ever watched with our hands over our eyes. From 1973’s The Exorcist, our Name of the Day is Regan.

Fictional Regan MacNeil seems an unlikely inspiration for a daughter’s name. After all, the poor dear is possessed by a demon and spends much of her screen time spewing profanity and split pea soup. But the tormented character did indeed spark the name’s popularity. Up until the movie’s December 1973 release, Regan was virtually unknown. Afterwards? Regan entered the girls’ US Top 1000 the following year. She debuted at #752 in 1974 and remained in the rankings until 1981.

Just like movie, this name returned for a sequel, re-entering the Top 1000 in 1991. As of last year, Regan remained uncommon, but not unheard, at #547.

If that seems unusual, consider this: in 1973, Regan didn’t fit the trends for most girls’ names. By 1991, surnames and gender neutral choices were very much in vogue. Regan sounds just right with current picks like Taylor and Madison.

Most agree that the name should be pronounced REE gan. We’ve also heard RAY gen, just like the fortieth president of the United States. And others favor REH gen. Regional accents are a factor, but we also suspect that many simply rhyme Regan with the far more common Megan.

As it happens, Regan was bad news centuries before The Exorcist. She was one of the disloyal daughters in Shakespeare’s King Lear.

The Bard borrowed the tale from earlier British myth, and so the three girls came pre-named: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Because King Lear had no sons, he planned to divide his lands among his daughters. Regan and Goneril got their hands on their treasure, then turned on dear old dad. Cordelia was disowned, but stayed loyal anyhow. The play has been adapted for the screen more than a dozen times, and a star-studded version is in the works for 2009.

Between a tortured tween and opportunistic offspring, it would be nice if we could come up with an uplifting meaning for the name. But no such luck. It’s almost impossible to pin down a meaning for the moniker. One possibility is to view it as a variant of Reagan, which is Irish in origin, from Ó Ríagáin. Riagán’s meaning is tough to confirm, too, but it might mean “impulsive.” Still, given Regan’s British roots, it seems a bit forced to connect her to the Irish name.

Speaking of Reagan, she’s currently the most popular spelling. As of 2007, she ranked #156. Variant Raegan came in at #397.

If you love gender neutral names, Regan isn’t a bad choice. She’s seldom-used and Shakespearean. But we can’t help note that her literary character was not noble, and she’ll still make many think of things that go bump in the night – probably not what you imagine for your darling daughter.

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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What do you think?


  1. I’m a Regan, pronounced Ree-gan and I love my name. I love that it’s unisex and unique although it’s tough because it’s almost always mispronounced. I’m looking for a name for my little girl now and trying to find something unique and unisex but easier to pronounce. Most people don’t mention King Lear and those that do feel they’re let in on a little secret and can share their literary prowess. And hardly anyone mentions the Exorcist. I was called President Reagan as a kid all the time but it never really bothered me.

    Funny enough, the only place where nobody mispronounced my name is Spain. It was wonderful living there!