The baby name Reeve combines a current sound with history to spare.

Thanks to Jess for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


There’s more than one possible meaning of Reeve, but most signs point to a Middle English origin.

Reeve, Reeves, and Reever are all heard as a last name, derived from a Middle English word meaning bailiff or steward, likely from the Old English ge refa – king’s officer. More on that in a minute.

It might also refer to a place of residence, from the phrase atter eves – at the edge, perhaps of a forest.

And Reever might mean robber or raider – as in a thief – or it could be a cousin to Rudolf.  Cult favorite sci fi series Firefly called a group of villains Reavers; Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Reiver’s Wedding” was written in 1771.


But mostly we think of Reeve as an occupational name of the more law-abiding type.

Before the Norman Conquest, the term applied to an official in charge of a town (or similar district) on behalf of the king. Post-Norman Conquest, a reeve managed a manor, a sort of early estate agent. He supervised the peasants and managed some administrative tasks.

The role evolved and changed from place to place. Some records tell us that a reeve could
witness sales. In the 900s and 1000s there were men called the High Reeve, a role specifically mentioned in EdmundI of England’s codes. Our word sheriff comes from the phrase “shire reeve.”

So call it a name for a local official, and put Reeve in the same category as other names with a similar meaning, like Clark (from clerk) and Parker (keeper of parklands).


In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, “The Reeve’s Tale” is told by one such official. His name is Oswald, and he’s grown wealthy managing an estate.

It’s perhaps the most enduring reference to the job title.


Let’s consider two more possible origins.

First, rêve is the French word for dream. But it rhymes with lev in levitate.

There’s also reave, a word referring a long, stone boundary wall, dating to the Bronze Age. They’re still visible in Dartmoor in Devon, England. 


Just like many surnames, it’s been occasionally used for children of either gender. The author Reeve Lindbergh is the daughter, and youngest child, of aviator Charles Lindbergh and author Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Born in 1945, she was named after her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Reeve Cutter Morrow.


Another famous figure: Christopher Reeve, the handsome actor who played the Man of Steel in the 1978 blockbuster Superman. 

He’s no relation to GeorgeReeves, the actor who played Superman on television in the 1950s. 

Besides his star turn as a superhero, Reeve became a real life inspiration when an accident left him a quadriplegic, and Reeve established himself as an advocate for research into spinal cord injuries.

There’s also Keanu Reeves, known for everything from action movies like The Matrix to comedies like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure to animated hits like playing Duke Kaboom in the Toy Story franchise.

The baby name Reeve could catch on. After all, similar sounding names like Eve and Reese and Reid all rank in the US Top 1000. Reeve fits right in with plenty of popular names.

And Reeve has been in sparing use for years:

  • In 2011, 33 baby boys received the name. That dropped to 29 births in 2012, and then climbed again to 35 boys in 2022.
  • Looking at baby girl names, Reeve is rarer, but not unknown. Seven girls were named Reeve in 2022, down from 23 in 2017, but still in steady use.

So Reeve is more likely to be used for a baby boy today, but it can be safely considered unisex. (After all, rhyming names include traditionally feminine Eve and classically masculine Steve.)

While the name is not gaining in popularity, it’s familiar.

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So how did an occupational name appear in the first name spot?

Chances are that most stories are similar to Reeve Lindbergh’s – a family name used as a first.

Parents might have also heard the name in use in a few places. 

In 1990, Caroline S. Cooney published young adult novel The Face on the Milk Carton. In the story, a teenage girl named Janie discovers that she was kidnapped as child when she sees here face on a milk carton. In the story, Janie’s boyfriend Reeve helps her figure out her past. The book became a television movie a few years later; but it doesn’t look like the story moved the needle on children named Reeve.

Video game Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997,gave us Reeve Tuesti.

Actor Reeve Carney is the great-nephew of legendary Oscar- and Emmy-winning Honeymooners actor ArtCarney. 

Carney played Peter Parker on Broadway in the Spider-Man musical, before graduating to Tony Award-winning Hadestown. He was part of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful and played Tom Ford in House of Gucci. 

One big break-out role for Carney, and the name Reeve could catch on.


There’s also Lawmen: Bass Reeves, a 2023 miniseries from Taylor Sheridan, creator of Yellowstone. It’s based on the true story of the first African American Deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi River.

David Oyelowo played the title role. A surname meaning sheriff was the perfect name for the character, but it also happened to be Reeves’ real name. He made more than 3,000 arrests during his career,  and was known for mastering several languages – including Cherokee and Creek.


Reeve fits with unisex baby names, slightly more common for boys but perfectly reasonable for girls, too.

As with Eve and Reid, Reeve offers a certain amount of restraint and sophistication. There’s a strength to the sound. If you’re after baby names both brief and distinctive, with a little bit of edge, Reeve is one to consider.

Would you consider the name Reeve?




A strong surname with plenty of use, Reeve could substitute for choices like Reed and Reese.


unranked in the US


holding steady


from an Old English occupational name

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. Just found this article today…. it posted

    I gave birth to a gorgeous little boy

    Named him Reeve…….

  2. We named our daughter Reeve. It’s my maiden name, so it was almost a given. I love the idea of using family names, but I’ve never understood why you’d give a child a family name if there wasn’t any relation. I’m also from a line of Hudsons and Jetts which are almost over used these days, but have literally been used in my family from the beginning. I guess we all have our own ideas when we select a name.

  3. We named our gorgeous girl Reeve six weeks ago. I want to thank you for being the best name website in the world! Almost everyday, several times a day, when I introduce Reeve, I hear how smart her name is. Thank you for giving me this sophisticated yet elegant name! She wears it so well and I am just so grateful to you for giving her such a great start in life!

  4. What a gorgeous girl’s name. Reeve. I love it so much! It is sweet and delicate and traditional all at the same time. It is extraordinary. I cannot wait to name our new baby girl, Reeve. Wow, that is genius and very respectable. Thank you so much! Reeve is perfect.

  5. Reeve makes an awesome girl’s name! It’s Reece refreshed without the celebrity association but with the smart playful connotation. The more we consider it, the more we think it is an ideal girl’s name.

    1. It’s also close to Eve, and makes me think of Reverie and Everly … so yes, I can see it catching on for a girl.

  6. I like Reeve! It was on our long list for our son. It sounds a lot like Reed, though, which does not work with our surname.

  7. Aviator Charles Lindbergh’s youngest daughter with Anne Morrow Lindbergh is children’s author Reeve Lindbergh. I’ve always liked how spare it sounds on a girl, it’s in the same vein as Claire or Brooke, but much more unexpected.

    1. Julie, thanks – I didn’t know that! It looks like it is a family name with lots of history … and suddenly I feel like my things-to-read-about and books-I-can’t-believe-I-haven’t-read lists just got a lot longer.