He’s been worn by a king, a composer, an indie pop darling, and an animated crab.
Thanks to Natalie for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Sebastian.
Sebastian is at his most popular, in the US and beyond. He ranked in the Top 25 in Austria and Norway, Denmark and Chile and Poland. He charted at #64 in the US in 2012 – a new high for the name.
Back in the Day, Sebaste was a common place name, from the Greek, meaning venerable, the equivalent of the Latin Augustus – as in the Roman emperors. The most prominent was in Asia Minor, on the coast of the Black Sea.
In the third century, Saint Sebastian was martyred under Diocletian. According to the gory story he was riddled with dozens of arrows, but survived until he was executed by clubbing. Sebastian had been a captain in the Praetorian guard, and is a patron saint of soldiers.
Then along came:
- The fifth century usurper Sebastianus, who with his brother briefly seized power in Gaul.
- King Sebastian of Portugal was just three years old when he became king, and he would die in battle at the age of 24. His name was unusual for European royals, but the young prince was born on St. Sebastian’s Day. A Portuguese myth suggests that the didn’t die in battle, but was planning a comeback. It inspired a Donizetti opera in the 1830s.
- Shakespeare gave the name to Viola’s twin in Twelfth Night.
- Composer Johann Sebastian Bach. (And 90s hair metal band Skid Row‘s frontman, Sebastian Bach, born Sebastian Bierk.)
- He’s one of the main characters in Brideshead Revisited.
- In 1989, Disney’s The Little Mermaid took us under the sea, the home of animated crustacean Horatio Thelonius Ignatius Crustaceous Sebastian.
- 90s indie band Belle & Sebastian borrowed their name from a French children’s book. Belle et Sebastian also inspired a television show in the 1960s and a Japanese anime show in 1980s.
All of this could make Sebastian a classic, but he’s often been out of favor. He left the Top 1000 in the nineteenth century and again in the 1950s. For years, Sebastian was out of step – more elaborate than most masculine names, the standards like Jim, Bob, Mike, and Gary. As choices like Joshua, Noah, and Gabriel gained, Sebastian started to sound more mainstream.
The name was catching on when the Disney movie debuted, but the crab clearly boosted Sebastian. In 1988, Sebastian stood at #457. Two years later, it had climbed to #320 and by 2000, it had cracked the Top 100.
Other notables include Ryan Phillippe’s character in Cruel Intentions, German-born Formula One race car driver Sebastian Vettel, a character in later seasons of Glee, and a character from The Mortal Instruments series.
Today, Sebastian’s sound fits right in with choices like Elijah and Christian, Josiah and Nathaniel. His long history of use makes him interesting and versatile. Possible nicknames include Ian and Seb. I’ve also heard Bastian and Bash suggested.
Overall, Sebastian is a very popular choice, but also a rather charming one, exactly on trend in 2013.