Today’s choice is either the English version of an interesting Gaelic appellation, or a surname option that might fit perfectly with emerging trends. Or both.
Thanks to Austin for suggesting the intriguing Roarke as Name of the Day.
Spell it any way you like, Roarke is very rare. I’ve stumbled on Roarke, Rorke, Rourke and Roark in old census records, but none are common.
The surnames O’Roarke, O’Rorke and O’Rourke, on the other hand, are heard with some frequency. Chances are that the original bearers of the first name might’ve been given a family surname.
Today, as Austin suggests, parents could also be thinking of actor Mickey Rourke. (He was born Philip!) With his recent comeback in The Wrestler earning him accolades, we’re certainly hearing his name more and more.
Before you dismiss Roarke as a long shot, remember that surnames have become first names (and vice versa) throughout history. In recent decades, almost nothing is more powerful than a popular character or celebrity wearing a name to propel it from seldom-heard rarity to every playground in America. And with parents opting for single-syllable choices for sons like Cole and Cade, why not Roarke?
Of course, many of today’s parents grew up watching Mr. Roarke on ABC’s Fantasy Island. Ricardo Montalban’s mysterious host dispensed valuable life lessons in the midst of his tropical paradise, right after the Love Boat.
But don’t consider Roarke a mere pop culture oddity. He may simply be the most common English version of Ruarc, an appealing Irish name with considerable history.
In the ninth century, Ruarc mac Tighernain Uí Briúin Bréifne ruled part of Ireland. A second Ruarc was King of Leinster – another region – at about the same time. Written history is a bit fuzzy on their reigns, and it is difficult to learn much about them.
But his descendants are adamant that they can trace their tree to a royal Ruarc, and suggest that the original spelling of O’Rourke and company would’ve been O’Ruairc.
Besides the kings, the actor and the 70s television character, there are plenty of notables wearing some version of the name, including:
- Soap opera actor Roark Critchlow. More recently, he’s appeared on Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 and Drake and Josh;
- Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer James Roark was actually born James Barnes. He took his professional name from a character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead;
- Rand’s fictional character was Howard Roark;
- Bass guitarist Andy Rourke is best known for his work with The Smiths;
- Journalist P.J. O’Rourke can be read in The Atlantic Monthly.
I won’t hazard a guess as to the name’s meaning. Two are referenced – either storm or ruler – with some frequency, but I can’t trace the evolution of either.
On balance, Roarke is one of those interesting names that might work best if he’s already on your family tree. In another era, I might say he sounds too aggressive – but with boys called Gunnar and Cannon, that seems like a flimsy objection.
And he certainly fits nicely with current trends – so if you’re looking to name Vaughn’s younger brother, Roarke might be one to consider.