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.

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. 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..

  2. 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. 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?

  4. 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!)

  5. 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.