Taylor was huge in the 1990s.  But how ’bout this similar-sounding, equally-occupational choice?

Thanks to Rebecca for suggesting Sailor as our Baby Name of the Day.

The big difference between Taylor and Sailor?  It could be how often we meet a Mr. Taylor or a Miss Taylor.  It’s among the twenty most common surnames in the US.

Or maybe we all know people who consider themselves sailors: recreational boaters, yes, but also the 300,000-plus active duty members of the US Navy, to say nothing of others who make their living at sea.

Before sailors were sailors, they were called seamen, seafarers, or mariners.  Those might make for more accurate terms in 2014.  After all, relatively few ships rely on sails these days.

But sailor has stuck.

As a noun, the exact origins of ‘sail’ are murky.  It may come from an older word meaning ‘to cut.’  In Old English, segilan meant to travel by ship, and by the thirteenth century, ‘to sail’ meant to travel by sea.  The word sailor comes along after the year 1400.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that this occupational name made the leap to birth certificates.  And while most sailors throughout history have been male, Sailor has been slightly more popular for girls.

Credit two things.

First: Sailor Moon.

The manga-anime empire debuted in the 1990s, and it has been wildly popular ever since.

Sailor Soldiers are schoolgirls charged with saving the world.  By day, they’re ordinary – even uninspiring – children.  But transformed into their alter egos, they’re downright heroic.

Not only is Sailor Moon the group’s leader, she’s also the reincarnation of Princess Serenity.  In English, her given name is Serena Tsukino.  In Japanese, she’s Usagi Tsukino.   The anime influenced the rise of more than one name.

Around the same time that Sailor Moon debuted, supermodel Christie Brinkley and husband Peter Cook welcomed a daughter.  Sailor Lee Brinkley Cook arrived in July of 1998.  Brinkley explained that Cook’s family traces their heritage to Captain James Cook.  Cook was the first European to map much of the Pacific, including Hawaii.

It’s an interesting way to combine family heritage into a child’s name in a completely unexpected fashion.

As a given name, there were fewer than five Sailors born every year until the late 1990s.  There’s a quiet rise in use post-Moon and baby Brinkley.  By 2012, there were 102 girl Sailors, plus 19 boys.  In 2013, those numbers increased to 129 girls and 25 boys.

And then there’s Saylor, which sounds exactly the same – a Sailor-Taylor mash-up.  Except as a surname, Saylor has roots in an archaic word for a dancer.  In Latin, the verb salire means ‘to leap,’ and so thanks to some Old French and Middle English adaptations, Saylor is also a surname for an acrobat.

In 2012, there were 221 newborn girls named Saylor, as well as 19 boys.  In 2013, that number went up to 280 girls and 21 boys – putting Saylor in the girls’ Top 1000 for the first time ever, at #906.

There’s something adventurous and modern about this choice, even though both spellings still feel just outside of the mainstream.  In our age of Harper and Piper, Sailor – or maybe Saylor – seems like a name to watch.

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 baby girl, Sailor Anne Rosalind was born the day this blog was posted. My husband picked her name and I have never really loved it. It is growing on me now.

  2. I love this name…have since Christy Brinkley used it. It is on my girl list. I think I lean more towards the Saylor spelling. I have also seen the surname spelled Sayler which I also like for a girl!

  3. I’m currently writing a book (https://princessofpirates.wordpress.com/) about tall ship sailing, and in my travels have met a number of professional sailors who actually DO sail–there’s something undeniably romantic about it, so I can see why this has a tremendous appeal as a name–especially when compared to more, shall we say, mundane occupational names like Sawyer or Carter. Personally, it’s not high on my list–possibly because it’s too similar to Taylor, a name I’ve never really been a fan of. But I would smile if I heard of someone using it!