I know what you’re thinking – Wolfgang? Sheer madness!
Or is it?
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting our controversial Name of the Day.
Wolfgang is aggressively German, and it is no secret that the first bit means wolf. The second bit – gang – means traveler or path. So rather than “horde o’ wolves,” Wolfgang’s meaning is more like “lupine beast on the go.”
Thanks to the most famous Wolfgang, he also means “child prodigy,” “world famous composer” and, assuming you’ve seen the Oscar-winning movie Amadeus, toss in “with a penchant for fart jokes and a crazy laugh.”
But long before there was the musical genius, there was the tenth century Saint Wolfgang. The Bishop of Regensburg, Wolfgang built monasteries, promoted education and supported charity. Along with Ulrich and Conrad, he’s considered one of great German saints of the era. The Wolfgangsee, a lake in Austria now popular with tourists, is named after him. It’s said that he founded the first church in the area and spent his last days there as a hermit.
So Wolfgang has religious cred, at least if you’re Catholic. He also has literary flair, thanks to Mozart’s contemporary, German novelist and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His telling of the traditional German story of bargaining with the devil, Faust, is an enduring classic.
There are also plenty of notable 20th century Wolfgangs:
- Austrian celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is best known for his L.A. restaurant Spago – and for slapping his name on everything from frying pans to frozen pizzas;
- Oscar-nominated German film director Wolfgang Petersen is known for action-adventure flicks like Air Force One, The Perfect Storm and Troy;
- Austrian scientist Wolfgang Pauli made key discoveries in chemistry;
- German physicist and M.I.T. prof Wolfgang Ketterle nabbed a Nobel Prize in 2001;
- Early Disney director Wolfgang Reitherman helmed classics like 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmations and 1967’s The Jungle Book.
Back in 1991, Valerie Bertinelli caused a stir when she named her starbaby son Wolfgang. She and his rocker daddy, Eddie Van Halen, chose the name in honor of Mozart. Wolfgang has followed his father into the family business, and became Van Halen’s bassist while still in his teens.
Despite the success of Amadeus and the celeb connection, Wolfgang has never charted in the US Top 1000. He is found in the US cenus records, of course, usually paired with a decidedly German surname.
It is hard to imagine Wolfgang on a modern playground. But then again, hyper-masculine boys’ names are scattered throughout the US Top 1000, including:
- Gunner (#501) and Gunnar (#550)
- Maverick (#559)
- Colt (#596)
- Slade (#850)
- Blaze (#876)
Next to Slade, Wolfgang starts to feel like a classic choice. Still, the limited nickname options remains an issue.
Perhaps Wolfgang is best reserved as a surprising middle name – making your son the rare James W. or Atticus W. who isn’t middle-named William.