The baby name Ryder went from unknown before the 1960s to twenty-first century favorite.

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


We’re in the age of invented surnames – think Jaxton and Kaysten, creations that look like cousins to Jackson, Cason, and Caston but also feel completely new.

But Ryder has roots.

A rider was one who rode a horse into a battle – a knight, though that word wouldn’t enter English until after the Norman invasion.

So Ryder beings as a surname name for a mounted warrior. Or possibly for a messenger who traveled by horse.

A handful of place names also became Rider and Ryder over the years. The German Reiter shares the same roots.

And while the -ider spelling is slightly more common, there are good reasons why the -yder version might feel more familiar.


Even if you’ve never met a child named Ryder, you’ve almost certainly heard the name.

Back in 1927, English businessman Samuel Ryder donated the trophy for a biennial men’s golf competition between the US and Great Britain. The Ryder Cup has become a major international sporting event.

James Ryder started his global shipping company in Miami in the 1930s. Now the trucks can be seen on highways across the world.

Blues legend Ma Rainey recorded “See See Rider” back in the 1920s. Rainey’s song was about an unfaithful lover – an “easy rider.” It’s since evolved into “C.C. Rider” as more artists have covered it, from The Animals to Bruce Springsteen.

Yet another artist to cover “C.C. Rider” was Mitch Ryder – born William Levise, Jr. With his band, the Detroit Wheels, he scored a bunch of hits in the 1960s, like “Devil with a Blue Dress On.”

If you know classic holiday film A Christmas Story, Ralphie was longing for a Red Ryder BB gun. Red Ryder wasn’t fiction. It was a long-running cowboy comic strip, first published in 1938, and lasting 26 years. During the 1940s, there was a radio show, too – the one that Ralphie listens to during the 1983 movie.

Speaking of movies, 1969 counterculture hit Easy Rider cemented this name as perpetually cool. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper played the lead roles; Jack Nicholson was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his part. The soundtrack – especially Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” remains tied to the icon film. Worth noting: no one in the movie is actually named Rider or Ryder.

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It might be a love of cowboy cool that boosted Ryder in the first place. 1960 was the first year Ryder was given to more than five boys. Westerns were huge in the era, from The Lone Ranger to Gunsmoke.

Ryder’s next big jump was in 1994, the first year it was given to more than 100 boys. Could actress Winona Ryder deserve some credit? She was the height of her popularity, starring in Reality Bites the same year.

The name picked up on so many trends:

  • Strong, independent names with a hint of the Wild West have had their day, from Wyatt (another Easy Rider name) to Yellowstone’s Dutton.
  • Ryder echoes well-established twentieth century names like Ryan and Kyle, and rose along with new options like Riley.
  • Ends-in-R names for boys caught on during the 1990s, led by names like Tyler and Hunter.

Ryder first entered the US Top 1000 in 1994. Ten years later, Kate Hudson and Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson gave the name to a son. Ryder went from #653 in 2003 to #341 in 2004.

The baby name Ryder peaked at #95 in 2014.

Since then, Ryder has fallen slightly, ranked #129 as of 2023.

While it’s fallen a bit in use, Ryder feels like what it is – a name with history, just waiting to be discovered for our moment. Independent, strong, and energetic, but with enough backstory to feel like a name that will wear well for life.

What do you think of the baby name Ryder?

First published on May 25, 2015, this post was revised on July 9, 2024.

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. Also, any one who grew up in the ’90s will remember actor Ryder Strong from “Boy Meets World” 🙂

    1. Oops, his name is actually spelled Rider. I think I like this spelling better…not sure why??