Can Percy Jackson breathe new life into this antique appellation?
Thanks to Mary Renee for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Percy: From the Map to the Middle Ages
Like so many names, this one starts out on the map. Perci comes from a Norman town name, which inspired a noble family’s name.
Perci family legend tells that the Romans named it after a legion previously posted to Persia. Others suggest that it may come from a lost Gaulish personal name.
We know that the family came to England with William the Conqueror. They wielded serious power during the Tudor and Stewart eras.
We tend to think of Percy as short for Percival, but it isn’t so. Instead, Percival comes from all of those medieval tales of the Knights of the Round Table.
Geoffrey of Monmouth called one of his knights Peredur, a Welsh hero’s name that appeared in earlier legends. Chretien de Troyes may have been influenced by Peredur when he named his hero Percival. Percival, in turn, may have come from an Old French phrase percer val – to pierce the valley.
As if that’s not enough romance, Percy Bysshe Shelley is considered among the most influential English poets, and a leader of Romanticism.
Of course, there’s an even earlier hero with a Pers- name. Perseus! Because his story was told in Clash of the Titans, it’s among the better known of Greek myths. The son of Zeus and Danae, exiled as a child, he grew into a great hero. Perseus slayed the Gorgon Medusa, and then the Kraken, too, before marrying the princess Andromeda.
Percy: Jackson, Weasley and More
From the ancient world to modern myth-making, Rick Riordan’s series might be the best case for the name’s revival.
The Lightning Thief debuted in 2005, and continued over four more novels. The first two became movies, too.
Perseus “Percy” Jackson starts out as an ordinary enough 12 year old boy. But then strange things happen – he battles a teacher-turned-monster with a pen-turned-sword; a classmate turns out to be a satyr. Eventually, he learns that his dad is the god Poseidon and he’s a demigod.
Harry Potter also gives us a character by the name, but he’s perhaps the least likable of Arthur and Molly Weasley’s children. In fact, he spends several years estranged from his parents – though he eventually fights on the side of right during the Battle of Hogwarts.
- A Thomas the Tank Engine character goes by the name.
- Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant answers to the nickname Percy.
- Readers might recognize Sir Percy Blakeney, rescuer of aristocrats during the French Revolution, from The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Percy: By the Numbers
Everyone recognizes Percy as a given name. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, plenty of Americans answered to it; the name routinely appeared in the US Top 200.
But by the 1990s, Percy verged on extinction. It’s only decreased in use since. 58 boys received the name in 2015. That doesn’t mark a new low, but it also shows no signs of revival.
And yet, name fans seem to look on Percy favorably. With boys’ names ending in -a, and softer sounds increasingly common for our sons, there’s no reason this one should be counted out. It brings to mind traditional favorites like Henry, as well as vintage revivals like Harvey and Otis.
As a generation of Lightning Thief fans grows up, it’s likely we’ll hear more of this neglected gem.
What do you think of Percy? Is it ready for revival?