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.