SidneyToday’s post was originally published on October 28, 2008. At the suggestion of Bertram Bergamot, it was substantially revised and reposted on April 20, 2015.

This surname name had gone girl towards the end of twentieth century. Is it time to bring it back for the boys?

Our Baby Name of the Day is Sidney.

Sidney: Surname Name

Whether it’s spelled Sidney or Sydney, this name started out as a surname. There are two competing theories as to the name’s origins.

It could come from the Old English elements sid – wide – and eg – island, or possibly meadow.

Or maybe it’s a Norman contracted form of Saint Dennis. In French, Dennis sounds more like den EE and saint rhymes with can’t. Say santdenEE five times fast, and you’ll get to Sidney.

And, of course, it could also be both.

The Australian city gets its name from Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, who was instrumental in establishing the settlement.

There’s a story there: Townshend was descended from Algernon Sidney. Algernon was a politician, one who helped bring down King Charles I, but also opposed the rule of Oliver Cromwell. When Thomas was created a Baron in 1783, Sidney was his first choice. But would other descendants of Algernon object? The spelling Sydney came from a village near Townshend’s home in Kent. Similar, but not the same.

Sidney: Gone Girl

From the 1880s through the 1940s or so, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to meet someone with this name. This someone would probably have been a he, and he would’ve spelled it Sidney. By the 1950s, this name had left the US Top 200 and continued to fall.

Around the 1930s, Sydney – previously sometimes heard for men – picked up steam for girls.

Why? The Sydney Harbor Bridge opened in 1932. There had been a silent film star by the name a few decades prior. And maybe the popularity of Shirley had parents looking for something similar, but not the same.

There have always been a minority of women with this name, and if you think about Shirley and Cindy, as well as more recent favorites like Lindsay and Ashley, it’s not a huge leap to Sidney.

But Sydney peaked at #23 from 1999 to 2002. The name remains in the US Top 100 for girls as of 2013.

Some credit goes to Alias’ Sydney Bristow, spy extraordinaire on ABC from 2001 to 2006. But Neve Campbell first answered to Sidney in 1996’s Scream, and continued to outwit Ghostface into the new millennium.

Sidney: Back for Boys?

Sidney Crosby

There’s never been a shortage of men by the name, including:

  • Fictional Sydney Carton, from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Actor and director Sydney Pollack.
  • Current Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain and ice hockey sensation Sidney Crosby.
  • Oscar-winning director Sidney Lumet.
  • Former NBA player Sidney Moncrief, nicknamed El Sid.
  • Actor Sidney Poitier, the first African American to win the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • Novelist Sidney Sheldon.
  • Sid Wilson of Slipknot.
  • Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols – though he was born John Simon Ritchie.

Now Jason Biggs has named his son Sid – just Sid. And if you’re a fan of mysteries, doubtless you’ll think of Anglican vicar and crime solver Sidney Chambers of television series Grantchester, based on the novels by James Runcie.

Sidney: 2015 & Beyond

Both spellings of the name have faded for girls and boys alike in recent years. But if you look at the numbers, Sidney was given to 279 girls and 206 boys in 2013 – not a staggering difference.

Sid feels like a logical successor to Max and Gus, so maybe, just maybe, this nickname will help bring back Sidney for the boys.

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. The French ‘saint’ is pronounced “sɛ̃”, approximately a very nasal “suh”. The British pronunciation of ‘can’t’ [kɑːnt, almost rhyming with font] might be a touch closer to that “sɛ̃/suh”, but it’s nowhere near the American pronunciation of ‘can’t’ [kʰænt, rhyming with pant].

  2. I like Sidney for boys (and Sydney for girls). I would totally use this name just for the nickname Sid. Love that!

  3. I love the name Sid (or Cid) for a boy! My grandfather’s name is Sidney. I realized it has been dragged over to the girls’ camp (and I do love it on girls as well)–but what about Sid? Just plain Sid. Would Sid or Cid work for a boy these days? Just re-watched the movie Looper last night and there is the most adorable little boy character in it named Cid. It seems like it could make a comeback for boys–it’s part old man name (Sidney) and part edgy/rock and roll (Sid Vicious). So maybe not Sidney on a boy…but, Sid. It fits in with the old man name trend and the nicknames as official names (e.g. Alfie). Thoughts?

  4. My daughters name is Sydney Elise. I have always loved the name, and actually wanted to name my oldest son Sidney, but my husband thought it sounded too feminine. We went with Rory for him. I think it’s funny that all of us have names that could potentially be male or female: Micah(my husband), Kelsey, Rory, and Sydney. But Sydney is definitely a great name, boy or girl! We do call her Syd, even though when we picked the name for her, I swore up and down I would never call my daughter Syd. it just sounded too masculine, but it just somehow comes naturally.

  5. This is my first son’s name, and we love it! One problem we run into is that many people assume his name is a girls name. It drives me crazy!

    Bridy- I’m a fan of FF VII and wanted to spell it Cidney but my husband threw a fit.

    A funny little fact about the name- Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster’s real name is Sid!

  6. Cid is my top name for a future son, I like the shortened boys name Sid and dislike boys losing good names to girls but further inspired by old fashioned names like Cedric and Cecil and my husbands influence of a favourite character of his in Final Fantasy.(not creative spelling but a legit name from spanish/arabic origin for lord)

  7. Bless you, Lola! Someone needs to be the voice of reason. If one more boys’ name crosses over to the girls’ side I’m going to have an aneurysm. When I was pregnant and people asked me what names I was considering, Spencer was a favorite (and my eventual choice). I actually had several people tell me, “I like Spencer for a girl.” How in the name of good taste does this happen?!?

  8. Syd! I’d adore Sydney on a girl, but she just doesn’t fit with my other names.

    I’ll admit, I first heard it as a name on Alias, for some reason I’d never heard Sydney on anyone else (boy or girl) up in Seattle.

    I once nannied for Sidney Josefa and Reid Archibald. Forgot about those two. They’d be in their preteens now. God I’m getting old.

    Either way, I adore Sydney!

  9. Add me to the Sidney for Boys preservation group! It was his G. Grandad’s name! I say Sidney/Sydney should be more like Francis/Frances, don’t you think? Two spellings, one decidely male, one decidely female. The idea delights me! (Sidney’s also one of the middle names of my favorite Hollywood guy: Alan Rickman). Funny, I was actully thinking Sidney the other night, came up with Sidney Edward Porfirio. I’d definitely call him Sid or maybe Iggy, just because I can! 😀

    I know a girl Sydney (must’ve mentioned her before…) She hates her name, the kids can’t say it (she works with under 3’s) and she sounds like Lauren Bacall, so gets mistaken for a guy on the phone too. She really hates it. Says when she gets married she’s changing her name completely and going with her feminine middles : Elizabeth Therese.

    Yep, I’m firmly in the Sidney’s a guy’s name, Sydney’s for girls (It’s the way the city spells it too). Just like Francis/Frances. In fact, my next blinky’s gonna be blue with Sidney/Francis on it, and then pink, with Sydney/Frances. Yeah. I like that. 😉