Today’s choice is ancient, Biblical, literary, and now a high-profile celebrity baby name, too! Is it any wonder that this name is on plenty of parents’ shortlists?
Thanks to SG for suggesting Silas as our Baby Name of the Day.
Silas: Ancient Days
There are two possible origins for the name:
- It could be a contracted form of Silvanus, a Latin name derived from silva – woods, the roots of Sylvester and Sylvia.
- Or it might come from another ancient name. Virgil mentions an Etruscan leader called Asilas. The Hebrew Saul – asked for – would have been Saulos in Greek.
The original Silas was an early Christian convert, and accompanied the future Saint Paul on his mission trips throughout to Antioch, Syria, and Macedonia. He is a saint, and there are two more saints Silvanus recorded over the next few centuries.
Silas: Literary Name
We’re not sure why poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge left Cambridge in 1793 and joined the British Army Royal Dragoons under an alias, but the name he chose was great: Silas Tomkyn Comberbache. (That’s the poet in the portrait.)
The better known reference comes from George Eliot’s 1861 work, Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe. When the story opens, Marner is a weaver, facing a false accusation of stealing from his church. Marner loses everything, and then he’s the victim of a robbery. But despite ill fortune, he slowly rebuilds his life, eventually taking in an orphaned child and raising her as his own.
If you’re looking for a name that perfectly demonstrates the 100-year rule, Silas is it.
The name was a Top 200 choice in the US during the nineteenth century. He’s in the history books, too:
- Along with the better known Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane was an early American ambassador to France.
- Captain Silas Talbot once commanded the USS Constitution.
- The fourteenth governor of New York wore the name.
- So did the Union Army’s Major General Silas Casey during the Civil War.
The name was fading by the 1920s, and teetered on the edge of the US Top 1000 through the 1990s.
And then Silas started a comeback. In 1990, the name ranked #962. By 2000, it was up to #602.
Silas: 21st Century Favorite
What explains the name’s return?
There’s the general rule that a name feels fresh again after one hundred year’s hibernation. Silas also picked up on our affection for obscure Biblical and ancient names for boys. And the ‘s’ ending felt different, too.
Pop culture gave us:
- A creepy monk in The Da Vinci Code.
- A character on Showtime’s Weeds.
- Neil Gaiman gave the name to a vampire-esque character in The Graveyard Book.
- HBO’s Deadwood also gave us a Silas, played by an actor named Titus.
- A serious bad guy on The CW’s The Vampire Diaries.
By 2008, Silas ranked #310. In 2013, Silas ranked #116. That’s quite the rise. And all of that happened before Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel gave the name to their new son, Silas Randall Timberlake, in April 2015.
All of this means that Silas is poised to crack the US Top 100 – even before the Timberbaby made his debut.
It’s a great name with plenty of history and a stylish sound. But Silas is set to become quite the familiar choice.