The name means small – but the best known bearer scrapes the ceilings at 6’5.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Vaughn.

Vaughn comes to us from the Welsh bychan or fychan, both of which mean little. The originals would’ve had a two-syllable pronunciation, but both of the Anglicized versions – Vaughan and Vaughn – are single-syllable stars. Depending on regional accents, they’re usually said vawn or von.

Vaughn may have sometimes referred to diminutive stature, but was commonly used more like the modern concept of “junior.” David Fychan was Little David, David’s son. Even if he grew taller than his dad, he would still be younger.

Indeed, Vaughns can be quite tall. The best known bearer of the name is probably actor Vince Vaughn. Since he comes in an at impressive 6’5, we figure he’s never been called shrimp.

Speaking of the actor, we suspect that his visibility is a big part of the name’s rise. Despite Vaughn’s long history of use as a surname, it first appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2000 at #916. That’s shortly after Vaughn’s breakout performance as the fast-talking Trent in the 1996 indie hit Swingers. A few years later, the actor appeared in the 2003 box office smash Old School, and has been much in the public eye ever since.

The other Vaughn attracting attention around the same time was Michael Vartan’s character on Alias. As Sidney Bristow’s colleague and crush from 2001 to 2006, Michael Vaughn probably inspired a few baby names himself.

While Vaughn is definitely attracting more attention, his slow climb up the charts is far from marking him as the next Jayden. In 2007, he came in a comfortably obscure #737 – that’s about 300 baby Vaughns. More boys were called Lamar or Giancarlo.

Variant spelling Vaughan has never ranked in the US Top 1000, though both are used as surnames. As a first name, we think Vaughn is the more straightforward spelling.

Vaughn can’t be considered hot, but he’s undeniably part of a bigger trend. Ever since the 70s explosion of Jason, Brian and Kevin, many popular choices have followed the two-syllable, ends-in-n pattern. Today, with so many boys receiving a variant of Aidan, even the least used choices in this category can feel almost oppressively dull.

Parents are breaking new ground by choosing ends-in-us ancient appellations (think Julius and Atticus), sprightly ends-in-o alternatives (Marco, Matteo, Diego) and three-syllable classics (Sebastian, Julian, Nathaniel).

But some are also turning to single-syllable options, ranging from nicknames you’ll hear as often in nursing homes as on playgrounds (Gus, Max, Jack) to modern discoveries (Finn, Kai, Sage) to names best suited for baby cowpokes (Gage, Colt, Bo) or even brutishly masculine monikers (Rex, Blaze, Kane).

Among this group, Vaughn sounds like a strong choice. He’s got more history and versatility than many of the options. Writers, artists, politicians and athletes have worn it as a surname.

We think Vaughn makes for a strong, distinctive choice – even if your baby boy turns out to be a towering tall center on his basketball team.

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. Hi, DanDan. *Waves.*

    It’s always fascinating to hear how parents arrive at a child’s name – I know a Connor named after the Highlander character. (And since his dad is a fairly buttoned-down lawyer, you would never even *think* that he’d be the type to go for a sci fi influenced baby name.) Personally, I’m a sucker for a hero name, but think they’re best when they’re subtle – Vaughn fits the bill! (And Connor suits my friend’s teenager pretty well, too.)

  2. Wow – if you were sent over here from the Michael Vartan fan site, thank you for visiting! You’re responsible for 2/3 of the hits to this post in the past few hours.

    This also makes me think that there will be more baby Vaughns in the future than I initially thought … if any of you see this message and are considering it as a baby name, please post – I’d love to hear from you!

  3. I really like Vaughn. It somehow manages to come across as very rugged and manly to me while having kind of soft sounds. It seems a much more dignified choice for the cowboy name lover than Cody or Buck or Colt. My one reservation would be the spelling . . . I don’t like that it’s not intuitive and that there are two equally obscure ways to spell it. But it sounds heavenly!

  4. You’ve got it – Vincent is October 16! It’s a family name we would use for a boy in a heartbeat, save that the most recent bearer of the name is a bit remote.

  5. To me, this name slips into a tricky category. In my head, it belongs with Lance, Vance, Thaddeus, etc. What I mean is, and I’m sorry if I offend anyone, the name sounds gay. I’m sorry – and also it doesn’t mean that anyone with the name is gay, but to me that’s how it reads. So, Lance sounds gay to me, to – well I knew a Lance that was very much the opposite of gay, yet the name still has that vibe for me. So does Vaughn. It wouldn’t be one that I considered for more than an instant – and even then, I’m more interested in Vince than Vaughn.

    Verity- how about VIncent?

  6. I find Vaughn rather charming. I’m not normally one for surnames as first names but Vaughn really doesn’t bother me that way. Odd, but true. Maybe because I’ve known Vaughns of many ages, and haven’t known anyone personally with Vaughn as a surname.

    He’s strong, handsome, suave and one syllable. I toy with him as a middle just because I like his breezy style (but again, not as a first name : Leo, Simon & Vaughn just feels mismatched to me). But I’d happily use him in the middle if I found the right pair for him and Vaughn is one of the few ‘n enders these days that never fails to charm me when I meet one!

  7. Vaughn Gregory – what a great combo! And I agree, I can see Vaughn as a roofer (comes to mind because there’s a rather devilishly handsome fellow fixing our roof at the moment) or a corporate attorney (as in my rather devilishly handsome husband who is installed in his office downtown as I type) or almost anything else under the sun.

    And Corinne, I know what you mean – I’d never use Van, but add in a few more letters, and nearly the same *sound* seems more substantial.

  8. Ooh, ooh, I have a Vaughn! He just turned 2 this week as a matter of fact! What good timing you have.

    Strangely, Vince Vaughn never even entered our minds when considering this name. We WERE big Alias fans at the time and actually knew two Vaughns in real life. One was (is) an 80-ish year old man. He’s a pillar of our community and just an all around great guy. Around the same time we moved to a new house and met a 12 year old boy with the name. He was an amazing child whom we just adored. Soon after, his family moved away and we found ourselves in love with the name and conveniently pregnant!

    Its a name that you either love or you hate. We’ve gotten very mixed reactions to it but we actually love it now more than ever. I feel like its a name that can suit a blue or white collar worker, and is darling on a boy or a man. Ours is a Vaughn Gregory.

  9. Vaughn is currently my top name for a boy, I heard it first on Alias, with the whole Sydney and Vaughn thing, and fell in love. I love that it’s one syllable, but is longer, so it looks like it could be two. I prefer Vaughn to Vaughan, because I always seem to pronounce the second one something like Vaw-ann.