It’s a culture-spanning O name that feels both current and classic.
Our Baby Name of the Day is Oscar.
Let’s start in Ireland.
In myth, Oscar is the son of the fairy Niamh and the warrior-poet Oisin. This makes him the grandson of Finn MacCool. He’s a warrior, and a noble figure, too.
Two theories explain the name’s origins:
- It means “deer friend,” from the Gaelic elements os – deer – and cara – love.
- It’s from an Old English or Norse name, Osgar or Asgar, meaning god and spear.
The legendary figure was popularized by eighteenth century Scottish poet James Macpherson. He claimed to have translated a series of epic poems written by a third century Gaelic poet, Ossian.
Macpherson most likely wrote every syllable himself.
Oscar appears in these works, and the works were widely read. Napoleon himself was a huge fan.
Oscar: Across Europe
In the middle of the 1800s, the Swedish royal family had run out of male heirs. French-born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a capable military commander under Napoleon, became King Charles XIV John of Sweden.
The king’s Paris-born son, Joseph François Oscar Bernadotte, became King Oscar I of Sweden in 1844 – from a work of historical fiction to the throne, in less than a century.
Literary giant Oscar Wilde was also named for the character.
Oscar: Twentieth Century
By the late nineteenth century, Oscar was well-established as a given name in the US. It remained in the Top 100 through 1925. By the 1960s, Oscar had fallen into the 200s.
Pop culture brought this name back to us:
- Neil Simon’s 1965 play gave us roommates Oscar and Felix. They were plausible names for men at the time. ABC created a beloved television series from the play in 1970. By the time the show ended its run in 1975, this was less true.
- Sesame Street debuted in 1969. Five years later, when the show was solidly established, Oscar stood at #190 – a increase in use.
- German immigrant Oscar Mayer founded his empire of processed meat back in late nineteenth century Chicago. In 1974, the first commercial declaring, “My balogna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R,” debuted in the US.
In recent decades, Oscar has gone from pan-European possibility to Latino favorite. Why? The name was already rising when Mexican-American boxer Oscar De La Hoya won gold at Barcelona in 1992, but De La Hoya must have helped.
There’s also Oskar Schindler, of Schindler’s List. The 1993 movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
And that brings us to another notable use of the name.
Oscar: The Award
The Academy Awards were first presented back in 1929. The award itself is a golden statuette. There’s much debate about how the award got it’s name. Some credit Bette Davis. Walt Disney referred to the award as Oscar as early as 1932. Others credit a gossip columnist or a long-time employee of the Academy.
What’s certain is that the name was formally adopted in 1939, and has been synonymous with the awards ever since.
Oscar has fallen slightly, to #178 in 2013. And yet, there are lots of reasons to think this name would wear well. It has that vintage, ready-for-revival vibe. The ‘r’ ending is quite stylish. And Oscar strikes the right note for parents after a stands-out/fits-in name.
If you’re after a choice with a rich story and an on-trend sound that isn’t leaping up the popularity charts, Oscar is one to consider.