Name of the Day: Tryon

He’s a familiar surname that might just substitute for the dated Tyrone, the wildly popular Tyler and maybe a few other popular picks, too.

Thanks to Summer for suggesting Tryon as Name of the Day.

Tryon is just letter removed from Triton, Poseidon’s merman son. And while we’re in the ocean deep, there’s also trident, the pitchfork-like spear wielded by the Greek God of the Sea. But Tryon has nothing to do with water.

Instead, he’s a surname and place name. You’ll find him on the map in North Carolina, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New York.

That last one is probably the most famous. If you’ve ever visited The Cloisters, home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval collection, you’ve been in Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park. Before the park welcomed tourists eager to see unicorn tapestries, it was a minor part of an American Revolutionary War battle and later the site of several elaborate private residences. Sir William Tryon was the very last British Governor of New York.

Plenty of people besides the governor have worn it as a surname, including:

  • An early settler of Kent County, Michigan who went by the given name Friend – an oddity inherited from his father;
  • An aristocratic English family, including Brigadier Charles Tryon, 2nd Baron Tryon, from the early 20th century. He married another well-born Brit named Ethelreda and later served as Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth II;
  • His father, George Tryon, was the 1st Baron Tryon, a title bestowed after he’d served in several royal offices. His wife – Charles’ mom – was named Averil;
  • Dwight Tryon painted landscapes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You can still see his works on display at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art;
  • James Rufus Tryon first served as a medical doctor for the US Navy during the Civil War. He’d later become the Surgeon General of the United States. In commemoration, the Navy has christened at least one of their medical transport ships the Tryon;
  • Stretching back into the seventeenth century, Thomas Tryon was an Englishman generations ahead of his time. The merchant and author was an early student of Buddhism and proponent of vegetarianism in the West. He even inspired Ben Franklin to swear off eating meat. He’s also remembered as an early pacifist;
  • Same name, but very different vibe – Tom Tryon played the title character on Walt Disney’s Texas John Slaughter television show from 1958 through 1961;
  • Another Tryon is remembered for his acting – Glenn Tryon appeared in silent movies starting in the 1920s, before moving on to off-camera work as a screenwriter and director;
  • In sports, Ty Tryon is a professional golfer.

While more than a few men named Tryon appear in old Census records, the name has never charted in the US Top 1000. And while it is almost certainly Dutch or Old Irish in origin, the name’s meaning is lost to time.

And yet Tryon has the sound and feel of many a popular pick for boys. Circa 2009, Tryon might appeal to some as an update to Tyrone, or an alternative to popular surname picks like Tyler and Tyson. And, of course, is Tryon can be found on your family tree, then he might be quite the appealing choice.

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15 Comments

This is my last name and I love it. It does get misspelled more often than not though. At my job my computer is still set up with it spelled Tyron. My name only gets annoying then, and when I am clothes shopping with someone. Other than that, I love my name. It is short, simple, and sounds professional to me. It is unique without being too out there.

Sorry but just had to comment. I grew up with the last name ‘Tryon’. No kidding when I was young and most people were curious about the name since it is uncommon. Only problem is that my simple 5-character last name gets misspelled all the time. My wife regrets ever taking the name. I agree with the person that talked about the syllable emphasis of the name. That’s how I hear it once the person has been told how to pronounce it. LOL

I came across Tryon when I bought the New Dictionary of Thoughts, a book of quotations complied by Tryon Edwards, from a used bookstore. He was a minister in Connecticut in the middle 1800s. It doesn’t sound like “try on” when I say it; I’m emphasizing the first syllable and softening the

Everyone summed it up – Try On…

And I’m with Lola, almost thought it was Tyrion, a favorite character of mine as well! (now if only Dances with Dragons would come out!) 😉

Emma, fair point. And I can’t read Dutch.

William Tryon – the provincial governor of New York – was born in England, but his family traced their roots back to the Netherlands. That’s the reason the name is thought to have Dutch origins. It’s possible that’s a wrong assumption.

My understanding is that surnames were adopted in the Netherlands in the early 19th century. Before that, I believe most people would’ve used a patronymic – meaning the Tryon family would’ve come to England, a culture with surnames, and needed to choose one – or understand one of their names differently.

Again, I’m guessing, but what seems possible is that the Tryon family had a patronymic derived from an uncommon personal name and then Anglicized it. The alternate spelling Trieon appears in some records, and “trie” looks more like modern Dutch. (Given the amount of language reform in the Netherlands, I’m going out on a limb on my assumptions about that last bit. Alternate spellings are sometimes just alternate spellings.)

As for the popularity of faux Dutch names in the US? I could argue that Skyler traces back to Schuyler. Again, Schuyler might not be in use in the Netherlands today, but the Schuylers who came to the US came from the Netherlands. It’s like my family’s use of the spelling Catharine. It wasn’t a deliberate decision to try to come up with something to preserve their Italian roots – just their best approximation of Catarina as an American English name.

Still, it’s hard to defend Tryon (or Skyler or Ryker) as a Dutch *heritage* choice. But there’s at least some reason to believe that the Tryon family traces their roots back to the Netherlands, even if the name has died out since then.

Manages to sound confusing, strange, and overused all at once. This one makes for a lifetime of teasing and corrections. No way.

Tryon? Like “try on” a pair of pants? Yeah, that has playground bully magnet written ALL over it. I like some of the oddball names, but I just can’t get behind this one.

Ha! JNE, it makes me think of Tryon Road too. Maybe we’re in the same neck of the woods… It also makes me think of Ariel’s dad on The Little Mermaid, King Triton. I could see how people like it, but it isn’t for me.

Nope. I’m in agreement with all others. We live where the local traffic reports nearly daily name Tryon Road and numerous collisions and such that occur on it. I have always thought it looked like try on and just do not like it as a name at all. Sorry.

Pne of my favorite stories wa written by the second Thomas Tryon “The Night of the Moonbow” Evocative and sad, with a protagonist named Leo! So yeah, this one’s got a bit of meaning for me. I’m syill not likely to use it, because I too hear “try on” when I say it. I’d be more likely to go with Tyrion, the name of my favorute G.R.R. Martin character. I suppose it’s better than what Emmy Jo mentioned! Trayden? Blergh!

I agree with Christina. It makes me think of dressing rooms.

Yet it’s still better than Trayden (“trade-in”), and I knew a first-grader who went by that name. 🙂

I can’t get behind this one at all. All I can see is “try on” – not what I want from a name.