English: Francis Xavier, fragment of St Gregor...

This post was originally published on September 21, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on January 26, 2015.

Today’s choice is originally a place name, but most famous bearer is best known for wandering far from home.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Xavier.

Xavier: Francisco de

XavierFrancisco de Xavier was born in 1506, an aristocrat with an aristocratic moniker. de Xavier refers to his place of birth, the family castle in the Kingdom of Navarre.

The area was originally Basque, and Xavier comes from that language: exte berri – new house.

As a younger son, Francisco was destined for the priesthood. He met Ignatius Loyola at the University of Paris. The two are co-founders of the religious order commonly known as the Jesuits.

At a time when travel was rare, Francisco went globe trotting in service to his faith, converting new adherents as far away as India, China, and Japan.  He’s the patron saint of missionaries, and his final resting place in the Basilica of the Born Jesus in Goa, India.

Given his influence, it’s not surprising that plenty of children were named in his honor. The name is translated into virtually every European language – Saverio, Ksawery, Javier, and has a long history of use in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries.

Xavier: From the Fringes

Xavier may be popular internationally, but this name was rare in the US until the middle of the twentieth century.  The name did not consistently appear in the US Top 1000 until 1948.

Or maybe it was just tucked in the  middle spot, like Francis Xavier Atencio.  Known professionally as X Atencio, he’s known for writing the lyrics to Disney’s “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).”

English: Patrick Stewart. Legend

In 1963, Stan Leen and Jack Kirby gave the name to Professor X – Charles Xavier, powerful telepath, headmaster of a school for his fellow X-Men mutants, and a tireless advocate of mutant rights.  Thanks to a family fortune and a brilliant mind, Professor X is able to recruit and train others like him from across the world, and creates the group of superheroes.  The role was famously played by Patrick Stewart in all of the film adaptation to date.

Another association for the name comes fro the world of toys.  In the 1980s, folk artist turned entrepreneur Xavier Roberts introduced Cabbage Patch Kids to the world, complete with birth certificates and daffy, deliciously unusual given names.

Xavier would have qualified as one of those unusual possibilities.  Back in 1963, the name ranked #586.  By 1982 – the year the Cabbage Patch Kids were introduced – it was still a chilly #400.

Xavier: Big Time

But the 1980s would see the name rise over 280 places, ranking #186 by 1990.  Credit that stylish X, shared by Alexander and Alex, Maxwell and Max – also names on the rise in the 80s.

The first X-Men movie came in the year 2000, when Xavier ranked 103.  By 2001, Xavier was a Top 100 name, reaching #68 in 2007.

Today, Xavier has fallen slightly, to #83 in 2013.  It’s a name so mainstream that plenty of families use the name without any sense of the religious associations.

And while the name is slightly less popular in the last few years, Xavier could have staying power. In a sea of invented names like Zayden and Axton, openly spiritual ones like Zion, and emerging possibilities like Cortez and Hendrix, Xavier feels solid.  Between the letter X and the ‘r’ ending, Xavier is a name that remains completely of the moment – and is popular enough to prove it, too.

What do you think of Xavier?  Does this name qualify as a modern classic?  Or do you think this name is fading?  Please vote below!

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. I have so much trouble with pronunciation of this name. I know it’s supposed to be pronounced za-ve-air but the X-Men have ruined it for me. All I ever want to say is
    X- zavier now every time I see it. I do love it though when people pronounce it correctly.

  2. I was looking for a girl name and I liked Xavier but everyone kept telling me that ,that is a boys name ,until I came upon Xaviere ,So i decided to call her xaviere if my wife has a girl.

  3. Would Cecily be too much trouble for a NotD? She’s been mentioned in passing a few times but nothing on her own. Maybe as a variant of Cecilia? She’s rapidly approaching the top of my list for the one I suspect and Cecilia was my Grandmother, hence Cecily for honoring (Cecilia’s already been done in my generation). I know you’ve got your plate rather full to bursting right now, but thought I’d add it for consideration sometime, she’s a pretty thing, but oh so strong!

  4. I love Xavier, although I’d save it for a middle name because it is so popular. I used to work in a daycare and one of the kids there was named Xavier and he was one of the sweetest little baby boys I’ve ever met. My boyfriend and I are still considering this name, but not sure it works well with his surname.

  5. Lola, I love Miles Xavier – and Xavier Miles, too! It is a toss-up, but I agree – some of your other combos go better with your trio.

    Harmony, I’m amazed that you met a female Xavier, but I did stumble across the French feminization of the name – and it is Xaviere, along with Xaverine and Xaviera. Xavier was big in the 70s in France, and it appears that Xaviere peaked a few years later – but today neither is common. I wonder if that inspired her parents? There also Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American Catholic saint. She was born Maria Francesca; Frances Xavier was the name she took along with her vows. So I suppose that’s a second possible rationale.

    I’d love to know what parents think, especially when they choose strikingly unusual names. I find that even the daffiest choice is sometimes charming when you just know why!

  6. The only Xavier I’ve ever met was actually a girl – she must be about 20 by now. She used the three-syllable pronunciation, too, though she was forever having to teach people how to say it!

  7. Xavier’s a love. Only pronounce ZAY-vyer, please. Ex-ZAY-vyer is how I learned the surname verion (ala Professor X) should be said. In fact, Had my Josephine been a boy, she would have been Miles Xavier (or Xavier Miles, we hadn’t finalised it). I find him snazzy, happy, snappy and incredibly masculine. I really do love him. He’s a bit too popular (#68) & he sounds a bit out of place with my other kids though.. Leo, Simon, Josephine & Xavier? Nah, I think I’ll leave him as a middle, this time. I find Xavier incredibly appealing. Just don’t let me see an Xzavier, it makes me weep copiously.

    1. Xavier is the catalan version of the Spanish name Javier. Xavier is pronounced: sha-bee-air in catalan, not zay-vyer. Just FYI 🙂

  8. Laney, I’m a huge fan of Xavier, too – but my husband’s last name starts with an S, so it sort of sounds hissy.

    Should Clio turn out to be a boy, I’m thinking he’ll be Henry Xavier Clark or Henry Xavier Clare … it’s a toss-up. I’d still prefer Giacomo, but Arthur has veto’d it because of the racehorse associations. Of course, should Clio turn out to be a boy, he’ll still have to wear all the pink clothing we’ve been receiving as gifts for the first granddaughter in our generation – yikes!