"Rob Roy in the Crypt of Glasgow Cathedra...

We know kids called Kingston and Princess and Duke, but is this homespun name the noblest of them all?

Thanks to Sarah for suggesting Roy as our Baby Name of the Day.

Roy is a study in contradictions.  He’s the kind of name that you might expect to find on an older fellow.  After all, Roy ranked in the US Top 100 from the nineteenth century into the 1960s.  He’s the kind of name we expect to see stitched on a work shirt, the name of a foreman, the owner of the garage – responsible, capable, never flashy.

And yet there’s something cool, even edgy, about Roy, too.

Blame it on Robert Roy MacGregor – that’s Raibeart Ruadh in his native tongue.  He was an outlaw, a folk hero, the Scottish equivalent of Robin Hood, and Ruadh was a nickname, a reference to his red hair.  It’s the same root that gives us Rory.

Young Robert was part of an uprising in support of King James II.  It was the 1600s, a time of much conflict, over religion and the rights of Parliament versus the monarchy.  The uprising failed, and Robert’s father was imprisoned.  Some years later, Robert was wounded in another rebellion.

He might have ended his days leading a quiet life and been mostly forgotten, but in 1723 an account of his exploits was published.  The Highland Rogue made him famous – so famous that King George I pardoned him for his crimes before he could be deported to the colonies.

Then came:

  • Sir Walter Scott’s 1817 story, Rob Roy.  Strictly speaking, the Scotsman is not the main character in Scott’s tale – but he’s a larger-than-life figure.  The illustration in this post is from an early edition of the work.
  • Hector Berlioz’s overture.
  • William Wordsworth’s poem.
  • A cocktail, created in 1894 at New York City’s Waldorf Hotel, to coincide with the debut of an operetta based on Rob Roy’s life.
  • Countless film adaptations, from Disney’s 1953 production to the 1995 movie starring Liam Neeson.

No wonder Roy was a Top 100 staple from 1880 through 1968.  Besides the Scottish folk hero, famous Roys include Disney – brother to Walt, music’s Orbison and Acuff, famous cowboy Rogers, artist Lichtenstein, and plenty more.

Another reason some parents might have embraced the name?  In French, roi means king.  It’s the source of the name Leroy – le roi, the king.

Choose Roy today, and you’re a candidate for a feature on My Name is Pabst.  He feels like a hipster, or maybe a hickster choice.  Roy made my list of Dukes of Hazzard baby names, and just like Milo, Bo, Rafe, Otis, Jude, Cash, and Jack, lots of the character names from the 1980s television staple now seem like cool choices for a baby boy. Plus, Ray was once on the outs, and now he feels like a very current choice for a son.  Ditto other short picks, from Gus to Max.  Manga Full Metal Alchemist includes a character called Roy Mustang.

Still, Roy is more of a risk than many of those names.  He ranked just #560 in 2012, and he’s been on a steady decline for decades.  Just 461 boys received the name in 2012.

But if you’re interested in staying ahead of the curve, there’s reason to think that Roy would wear well in 2014.  With ties to a heroic rebel, and a regal undertone, too, Roy could be the kind of short, complete name that works well for a son.

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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. My husband’s favorite “baby name book” is the Baseball Hall of Fame guidebook, so Roy is one of his favorites thanks to ball players like Roy Campanella, Roy Smalley, Jr. and more recently Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. (Not to forget Robert Redford’s character Roy Hobbs from the movie The Natural.) If we ever have another son (unlikely as it is,) I’m pretty sure he’ll be named Roy or Roland with the nickname Roy.

  2. An old name on my family tree, I wouldn’t mind seeing again. I don’t think we’re cool enough but I still kind of like it.

  3. Roy is a wonderful name! I hope I meet a little Roy soon! It’s also a nice nickname for Royce!