With Tristan gone mainstream, how would this similar choice wear on a boy today?

Thanks to Mneme for suggesting Tarquin as Name of the Day.

He’s an authentic name borrowed from history, but uses of Tarquin are exceedingly rare.

Perhaps that’s because the best known bearer was a spectacular villain.

Before the days of Empire, Rome was ruled by a series of seven Kings. The fifth was Tarquin I, who came from Tarquinii at the urging of his clever wife Tanaquil. He rose up the ranks and by 616 BC made it to the throne itself. He ruled until his 579 BC assassination.

But the throne stayed in the Tarquin family. Tarquin had sons, as well as at least two daughters. (Both called, as custom dictated, Tarquinia.) One of this boys became Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh -and last – King of Rome.

Tarquin II took the throne in 535 BC and ruled until 496 BC – quite a run. He spent much of his rule at war, annexing neighboring territories. But his kingdom came crashing down in 496 thanks to his son, Sextus Tarquinius.

The Roman prince is known not for noble deeds, but for his rape of Lucretia.

In the aftermath of the attack, the aristocratic Lucretia took her own life, and Tarquin II’s enemies seized the opportunity to overthrow not just the king, but the monarchy. The Roman Republic was born and the Tarquin family fled Rome in disgrace.

Artists and writers have been inspired by the story for generations. William Shakespeare penned The “Rape of Lucrece” in 1594 and mentioned the incident briefly in Macbeth. Rembrandt and Titian pained her sufferings, as did Dürer, Boticelli and many more. There’s an opera, too.

Two pronunciations are possible – tar KWIN and tar KIN. The first is a little bit awkward in American English, but leads to the nickname Quinn. The second sounds quite current, but leaves you calling your kid Tarkie.

Sir Laurence Olivier named his son Simon Tarquin back in 1936, and called him by his middle name. Fictional Tarquins include:

  • Anne Rice named one of her vampires Tarquin Blackwood. He answered to Quinn. But he’s later in the vampire series, and not nearly as well known as, say, Lestat;
  • In the Shopaholic series, Sophie Kinsella’s Becky Bloomwood’s BFF Suze ultimately marries the fabulously wealthy Tarquin. In the books, it’s a logical name for an aristocratic Englishman. The movie recasts them all as Americans, and I always wondered why they didn’t rename him Tim.

For better and for worse, we don’t know our ancient history as well as we once did. And it is possible that your son could make it well into his 20s before realizing that his given name is closely connected to a famous rapist.

But if you’re looking for a formal name for Quinn, it is probably one of the more interesting choices. And you could always insist that you’d name your son after the first royal Tarquin, the ambitious one, not his dastardly grandson.

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. There’s a cool elderly Tarquin in the books Gone Away Lake and Return to Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Bright.

    His sister is Minnehah, but he usually calls her ‘Minnie’… a nickname she finds undignified.

    There’s also a Julian, Foster, and Portia… It’s a naming gold mine!
    Wonderful story, too!

  2. I love the name Tarquin. I always pronounce it Tar-Kwin in my head. I really like Quinn as a NN, but I always thought TQ would be a cool NN for it! What do y’all think?

  3. It’s nice but the archetypal toff name for me and someone using it as an example of OTT pretentious naming in a popular parenting show here hasn’t helped.

    Regardless, I’ve seen a few examples on a local board and it seems the “trendees” like it too given the -quinn ending. I’m pretty sure one has a brother Jayden or Brayden.

  4. Interesting for sure! Yesterday was Delilah the woman who used her ‘affections’ & today is Tarquin the rapist lol.
    I had only ever heard of the name because of the Shopaholic books.(Which I’m glad they kept Tarquin and didn’t change it to Tim because the books were British lol ) The name always sounded more Indian to me; but it now makes sense that it is British if I look at old British names. The name isn’t one that particularly grabs me. I tend to avoid -tar names because of pronunciation issues example Tara is TAR-ah or TAIR-ah depending on accent etc
    I think I could get away with using the name here in South Africa, but it doesn’t appeal to me to use. I can’t help but think it would have gone well as a sibling name with a guy I knew named Zolton. His name actually worked out brilliantly for him. I never got his business confused with others of the similar type. It does sound sci-fish, though
    Overall, it’s not me. Perfect for someone else, though

      1. Yeah, I have & have it 🙂 I know there was a bit of an outcry amongst the fans that they made the movie ‘American’ so to say. I’d love another book in the series, though I don’t know what would be next for Miss Bloomwood nee Brandon 🙂

  5. Tarquin is very upper-crusty sounding to me. I’ve heard it pronounced TAR-kwin. I believe that is the “standard” way it’s said in England. Tar-kin sounds weirdly sci-fi or fantasy to me, but I don’t know why. This is one of those names that is just not for me, even without the ‘rapist’ angle.

    1. Yes, I’d say it TAR-kwin and it has a very snobby, posh, pretentious British vibe to me.

      I’d stick with Quin(n) alone.

  6. thanks for this, I find these so interesting!!! An awesome read every morning while expecting and looking for a new name! I’m not sure if you got my comment on the welcome page about the name Hera… thought it might be an interesting one to do from Greek mythology, we are contemplating it and would love to hear your take on it! Thanks again!

      1. Thanks, ALL my family hates it tho, other than my husband and I of course… I am concerned at how it sounds with our last name tho… Rogers, a little too much rrrrrrr:P

        1. I’m not sure it is too much r, Emily. Plus, with a name like Rogers, you do want a more distinctive first name. I always feel bad for Bill Smith, Jennifer Jones, Anne Johnson, Mike Edwards …

    1. I think Hera is fine, Emily. Everyone has different likes & dislikes. I think if you and your husband like it it – then use it! The name will probably grow on others after you use it .
      At the end of the day, everyone is different & has different tastes. So, as long as you & your husband love it – go for it!

    2. Hera will be NotD on 3/19, Emily!

      I think she’s quite wearable, but then, I saddled my kid with Clio, so maybe I’m not the one to ask. Then again, Juno is quite the fashionable choice these days … can’t wait to write about her.