Today’s choice is either a neglected classic begging for revival or a hopelessly stodgy moniker best left in the past.
Thanks to Cat for suggesting our Name of the Day: Frederick.
Frederick has a regal sound, and indeed his meaning matches up. The Germanic elements frid – peace – and ric – ruler – combined into Fridurih and eventually Friedrich. It caught on among the Germans, Austrians and Scandinavians and you can find plenty of kings and aristocrats wearing the name.
Frederick the Great – King Frederick II of Prussia – is remembered as an enlightened despot; one of those 18th century rulers influenced by Voltaire and determined to modernize his lands. During his rule, he transformed Prussia both economically and administratively, and practiced a policy of religious tolerance. He’s not without controversy – but then few kings are.
You’ll find far fewer Fredericks in English history. In French he’s Frédéric, and the Normans brought him along on their invasion, but he was used sparingly.
It took the arrival of the German-speaking House of Hanover in the 1700s to establish Frederick as a good English name. (If you’re forgetting your English Monarchs 101, here’s the Cliff Notes: religious conflict brought the Protestant William and Mary to the English throne. Because they never had children, Mary’s sister, Anne, inherited. When Anne outlived her children, an act of Parliament decreed that the throne would pass to the House of Hanover – German cousins.)
Famous non-royal bearers of the name include:
- The composer Frederic Chopin;
- Abolitionist Frederick Douglass;
- Queen’s legendary frontman Freddie Mercury – though he was born Farrokh;
- Pint-sized actor Freddie Highmore – though he was born Alfred;
- Fictional red-headed Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter series;
- Long running television character Frasier Crane chose the name for his son.
In the US, Frederick was firmly rooted in the Top 50 through 1893, and stayed in the Top 100 until 1957. Doubtless we’ve overlooked many a notable Fred.
But something interesting happened to this name in the 20th century. While other late 19th century staples like Charles and Samuel are back in a big way, Frederick has failed to experience a revival.
In fact, he’s fallen steadily since 1957 and stands at a nearly obscure #531 today.
In cycling, Fred is synonymous with nerd – or perhaps “poser” is a closer fit. We all know Fred Flinstone, though few of us would name a son in his honor. Vince Vaughn played Santa Claus’ troublesome younger brother in the movie Fred Claus. The name was so beat down at one point that Fred Daniel formed the FRED Society dedicated to, as they say in their credo “preserving and upholding the honorable name of Fred for all posterity.”
In this case, we must say that we’re on the side of the FRED Society. Frederick is a classic, and certainly fits with choices like Alexander and Theodore. Freddie is a darling nickname for a child, and Fred is perfectly reasonable for a grown man. Should Fred feel too brief, however, the full name is easily used instead.
We also can’t help note that popular choices like Derek and Eric are buried in this name – and could easily be used as nicknames, too. Alternately, if you’re looking to honor a Derek or an Eric, you might still use Frederick as an elaboration.
It’s our opinion that Frederick is long overdue for a comeback.