ReidLooking for a short boys’ name that is still long on style?

Thanks to Amanda for suggesting her son’s name for our Baby Name of the Day: Reid.

There’s something polished and preppy about Reid.  He fits with long-standing choices like Jude and more modern ones like Gray, too.

There’s also Reed, another possible spelling nearly as popular and every bit as valid.  Reid tends to be Scottish, while Reed is more conventionally English.

The ‘ee’ spelling takes the name in other directions, too.  Reeds are the tall, grassy plants that grow near water.  If you’re “thin as a reed,” you resemble the slender plant.  Woodwinds like clarinets and oboes require a flat piece, known as a reed, and originally sourced from the plant.  This lends the name a nature-name vibe, as well as musical note, especially with the double-e spelling.

As with many surnames, there’s more than one possible origin:

  • The Old English read meant red.  If you were red-headed or ruddy-complexioned, this descriptive nickname could become your family’s surname.
  • Then there’s ried, also Old English.  It means clearing – and so became a surname for those living near one.
  • A rabbit trail led me to the Old English ræd – advice or counsel.  It’s never cited as an origin for the surname, but the connection is there.  It’s also spelled rede, and can refer to a decision or plan, and has significance to practitioners of Wicca.

Plenty of spellings have been used as surnames over the centuries, so it is no surprise to find Reid and Reed occasionally promoted to given name status over the years.

But in recently, they’ve gone from sometimes-used to rising stars:

  • Reed charted at #320 in 2013, up from #508 in 2003.
  • Meanwhile, the more popular Reid climbed to #259 in 2003, up from #458 in 2003.

Add them together, and that’s over 2,300 newborn boys – about as popular as Axel or Theodore.

Fictional bearers of the name include:

  • In Marvel Comic’s Fantastic Four, Reed Richards is Mr. Fantastic, leader of the group and a scientific genius.  He has a dark side – part of the group’s backstory is that Richards engineered the spacecraft that took the quartet to space, and into the cosmic radiation that gave them their powers.  With a new reboot of the series headed for the big screen in 2015, Reed could attract a lot of attention.
  • On a different note, Ashton Kutcher played florist Reed Bennett in Valentine’s Day, the 2010 rom-com with a cast of thousands.
  • The name has been used on Grey’s Anatomy, Party of 5, and more recently, Criminal Minds, where Dr. Spencer Reid is an FBI agent – and a super-smart genius.  He’s usually called just Reid.

Reid Hoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn.  And Ron Howard named his son Reed all the way back in 1987.

Add in the surname, and there’s actress Donna Reed, as well as The Brady Bunch’s patriarch, played by Robert Reed.  Music gives us Lou Reed.  US Army doctor Walter Reed gave his name to the medical complex outside of Washington DC.

All of this makes Reid a name with a lot of style in just a single-syllable: smart, but still vibrant.  Preppy, but approachable.  No wonder Reid – and Reed – are on the rise.

Which spelling do you prefer: Reid or Reed?  Do you think we’ll be hearing more of Reid in the years to come?

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. We named our son Reid in 2014! We were the type to never really feel right with a name but it certainly has grown on us and we love it!

    This was interesting, thanks! I’d love to see a name of the day for Brynn. We named our daughter Brynn in 2017. Again, we had a hard time coming up with a name but we’re comfortable on Reid and Brynn going well together.

  2. Our son Reid was born 6/5/14. We love the name for many of the reasons mentioned above. We have had so many people comment on how much they like the name, as it is not common and hard to critique.

    1. Welcome to the world, Reid! Congratulations, Shannon – what a great name, and thank you for sharing. 🙂

  3. We just named our son Reed this past March. I described it (when I wasn’t telling the name before he was born) as being a name you would recognize but not one you hear very often. So, it’s not weird or too u-neek, but also one you hear all the time. We liked the fact that it was a plant, relating to science and a part of a musical instrument. I am a lover of reading and this joy has been passed down from both sides of my family. I hope my son loves to read as much as I do. Finally, we have good family friends whose surname is Reed (so, we had a good connotation for it). We love the name!

  4. Love Reid! I’ve always thought it attractive and brisk without seeming stuck-up or childish. I can picture it on a kid, young adult, or man.

    I don’t mind the spelling Reed, but much prefer Reid, as it says “this is a name” to me rather than “I may be a plant.” Read is an imperative; one that I agree with, but slightly indecorous for a name, I think. (And, being a librarian, my even using this name in general would be pushing it.) Reade is…a bit heavy-handed and nearing on “it’s pronounced Ray-AHD” territory, so that’s right out.

    I also like the somewhat similar Rhys. I do not love Reece/Reese.
    Reeve is another option for those who love Superman or The Face on the Milk Carton. (Read it.)

  5. When I am being objective, it is a nice name. Reed is my last name and I just have a hard time seeing someone use it as a first name. I have never known a Reed or Reid. If I met a baby named Reid I would assume it was a family surname, and would find it a pretty odd choice if it weren’t. I would prefer Rhett or Ross.

    As a last name, I like it but it limits my ability to use some favorites. Anything ending in ra, ree, rey, etc. is out. We love the name Ruby but can’t use it as Ruby Reed sounds a lot like Ruby Red. Also no nature names because Reed (a plant) is very nature-y as is. 🙂

  6. This is my number one name for a boy right now! I wish my husband felt the same. It has a polished, handsome and approachable feel to it. Near perfection!