We can all list foreign versions of John, and plenty of alternatives for James have come up here, too. But how about the equally classic Thomas?
Thanks to Emmy Jo for suggesting a charmingly Scottish choice for Name of the Day: Tavish.
There’s general agreement that Tavish comes from Thomas, but less consensus on how he developed. Tam, Thàmhais and Tàmhas appear in the historical record. Tavish may have his roots in Lowland Scots, a different language than the more familiar Scottish Gaelic.
Others suggest that Tam and company morphed into Tavish as a surname. After Tavish and MacTavish became common, the preferred first name changed, too. That certainly happened with Philip, so it may well be the case here.
In any form, Thomas is a New Testament classic. He’s the apostle best known for questioning Jesus’ resurrection – the original “Doubting Thomas.” Saint Thomas à Becket stood up to a king in the 12th century and lost his life for his troubles, but his name became quite popular. You’ll find a famous Thomas in nearly every field, from science (Edison) to philosophy (Aquinas, Hobbes) and literature (author Hardy, the fictional Sawyer).
But if you’re after a famous Tavish, the search is a far more difficult. Scottish politician Tavish Scott is perhaps the most famous contemporary bearer. A handful of Tavishes pop up here and there. It’s the name of a cozy Chicago neighborhood bar; an episode of television’s Bewitched featured a ghost called McTavish.
It’s surprising that he’s not more often heard. With that popular “ay” vowel sound and the interesting “v” in his name, Tavish seems like one that would appeal. But not only is Tavish seldom heard, but even the expected variants – Tavin and Tavon, for example – are missing. Journalist Tavis Smiley is well known, but has inspired few parents to adopt his name. None of the choices appear in the US Top 1000.
It might be time to discover Tavish. While he’s similar to Hamish, somehow he feels slightly more wearable. Maybe that’s because his first syllable doesn’t bring to mind Canadian bacon. And while he’s definitely Scottish, we’ve met plenty of Aidans and Connors without any ancestral links to the Emerald Isle.
If you’re looking to honor an ancestral Thomas, but worried that the name is a bit too safe, Tavish presents an appealing alternative.
Haha.. I meant to say it sounded like the beginning of Avenue, not Javier. 🙂
Hmm… I love so many things about this name; honoring a Thomas, two syllables, starts with a T, Scottish origin.. however- I have only heard this name spoken aloud once, and it wasn’t with a long a (tave-ish), the beginning sounded a lot like the beginning of Javier. And I liked it that way. I’m just not sold on the other pronunciation..
Linda B. says
Just to let ya’ll know, we’ve named our golden retrievers Angus (chosen one) and Tavish (twin)!!!! Hubby is of scot descent. Love the names and so does everyone at the dog park!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I like Tavish better than Travis (which I dislike), but I prefer Hamish. I just love little Hamish. I would use Hamish with the nickname Mischa, it just makes me smile. The only reason I like Thomas is for the cute little nickname Tam. Maybe Tavish with the nickname Tam would work?
Tavish isn’t my thing. Reminds me of Travis in looks and dervish in sound. Hate to be a downer. =)
I’m glad to see Tavish getting a warm welcome! Thomas *is* a family name in our clan, but like you, Lola, his story is sad. It’s been two generations, so I’ve toyed with reviving him – but it still feels awkward.
Unfortunately, we haven’t got the heritage to put Tavish to work, and my husband is quite firm about these things.
As for whether or not I know anyone here offline? Not really, though as it happens, JNE and I *did* go to the same (very small) high school. You’re right, Emmy Jo – my jaw dropped when I made the connection! (Well – that and I think my husband and sisters lurk here sometimes … but that’s different.)
And Christina, I still find new names that I’ve never heard of, despite a life-long obsession, so I’m happy to be of service. And happy to have you all writing in NotD suggestions – it keeps me on my toes. (Emmy Jo stumped me a few weeks ago!)
Emmy Jo, Go look. Tavish is up. I could not stop thinking about him last night. Got made fun of for making combos in bed! 😀 Despite the -ish ending, i still thoroughly like Tavish. And like Bek, I have the heritage to back it up.
While Tavish does intrigue me, I, too, find the -ish ending a bit too descriptive. (as in the examples given by photoquilty). I actually like Hamish, and my brother, who is a big Braveheart fan has often declared (only half-jokingly) that he’s naming a son Hamish.
We definitely have the heritage to back it up, so I’m always on the lookout for great Scottish names. Right now, though, I’m leaning more towards the likes of Alasdair and Russell than Hamish and Tavish…
Emmy Jo says
Photoquilty — Was that question inspired by me saying I knew Lola’s last name? I don’t know anyone else here except through Y!A or their blogs, but I did accidentally happen across her last name at one point.
I think by some strange coincidence Verity and one her readers figured out they went to the same high school. I’m not sure if anyone else knows each other.
Christina — Glad you like Tavish! I can’t remember where I first came across it, but I really like it too. It’s one of those names that seems like it should be more well-known than it is.
Christina Fonseca says
This is a perfect example of why I love this website! How is it possible to live in the most populous state in the Union and never have come across this name? I feel like I’ve been living in a cave. My initial reaction to Tavish is Wow!
I like coming across a legitimate variant of Thomas that fits a child as well as an adult. With all the dads and grandfathers named Thomas that will have baby boys named after them, I sure hope some of them choose to go with Tavish instead of simply sticking Thomas in the middle name slot.
With its strong consonant initial, Scottish origin, and being a variant of a Biblical name, Tavish has a lot going for it.
Do all of you know each other outside of this arena?
Emmy Jo says
I like Tavish. I’m not a Hamish fan, but I don’t seem to mind the “-ish” ending if the thing it’s attached to isn’t already a word. I’ve certainly heard of ham, but I’ve never heard of a “tave”, so Tavish is more name than adjective to me.
Lola, I’d love to see how you’d use him in one of your combos. He’s charming with your last name.
It’s funny — I’m not one to jump on the Irish bandwagon, but I do love many Scottish names.
Photoquilty said it for me… it’s the ish ending. “Not exactly Tav, but Tav-ish.” It’s not awful though, just definitely, positively not for me. Made me think of the Welsh name Davith – probably because it’s also a twist on a fairly common name with a kind of soft ending. But I could see it working and probably if I heard it rather than read it the -ishiness would be less overwhelming.
I could see it potentially catching on if it became well-known here. I like Tavish a lot better than Hamish… but, common though it is, I’d still stick with Thomas.
I feel about Tavish the way I feel about Hamish. It’s that -ish ending. Jewish, English, hottish, coldish, greenish, Tavish, you know.
You know, this might just work! 🙂 Thomas is verboten in my family. We’ve had 7 of them, every one of them a raging alcoholic. So, handed down, “No more Thomas’!”. Tavish would slide under the radar and work beautifully. And he sounds great with my surname! I have another assocation with Tavish (as MacTavish). Ever read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series? (I got as far as book 4 but am trying to fit the next several into the budget). Beautiful, red headed Jamie goes by Jamie MacTavish when he first runs into Claire. And anything that reminds me of that fictional sexy redhead is a winner for me! *sigh*
While I may in fact be one of Thomas’ biggest fans, I’m not sure how I feel about Tavish. The first half of the name is great- I love the “ay” sound, like you said, and the unusual “v.” But I’m not sure about the -ish suffix. For lack of a better phrase, -ish suffixes are too squishy for me. But that doesn’t mean that I dismiss Tavish completely! The strong Scottish tie is a plus, and there’s something manly about the sound.