Fox (Photo credit: this is for the birds)

He’s a little bit preppy, a little bit surfer boy.

Thanks to Sophie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: the surprisingly exotic Todd.

For every name clearly boosted by a single figure, real or fictional, there are those that seem to catch on because they’re in the air.  Count Todd among the latter group.

He’s a surname derived from the Middle English todde – fox.  Either you adopted the surname because you resembled a fox – you were sly and cunning, or maybe just red-headed.  Or possibly you lived near a roadside inn named after the fox, with a fox on its sign.  This makes Todd something of a place name, too, though the exact locations are lost to time.

Todd made a brief cameo in the US Top 1000 in 1881 and 1882, then slipped away.  He returned in 1936 and climbed steadily, peaking in the 1960s and 70s.

But what prompted parents to embrace the name?  There was no single figure I could find, but the name seemed to be in the air.

  • Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, was created in the Victorian era, and his gristly tale has remained popular ever since.
  • In 1925, English actor Norman Slaughter adopted the stage name Tod Slaughter.  One of his better known roles was – wait for it – the big screen adaptation of Sweeney Todd.
  • Tod Robbins was born Clarence, and made his name writing horror stories and novels, several of which were adapted for the screen.
  • One of Robbins’ more famous creations was Freaks.  The 1932 movie version starred Tod Browning – born Charles.
  • Future Hollywood producer – and husband of Liz Taylor Mike Todd was born Avrom Goldbogen, but changed his name in 1931.  Todd was said to be related to a childhood nickname.
  • In 1933, actor Fred McCarthy scored the role of a lifetime – Tonto on The Lone Ranger radio show.  He’d play the famous sidekick until the series’ end in 1954.  McCarthy’s stage name was John Todd.

The cluster of men who wore this as a nickname make me wonder: was Todd the Tripp of his day, a name that many men wore as a nickname until it slowly caught on as a given name?

Maybe.  It was the era when names like Troy and Brad and Brent were on the rise, so parents were doubtless listening for similar possibilities.  And Thomas was in the Top Ten in the 1930s, suggesting an easy leap from Tom to Tod to Todd.

Two more events took place that pushed the name into the headlines in the mid-1930s:

  • Hollywood’s Thelma Todd, veteran of many a comedic short, Laurel and Hardy, and Marx Brothers movie, died in a tragic accident in 1935.
  • And then there’s El-Tod.  In 1936, archeologists digging at the Egyptian site discovered a treasure, mostly silver.  It would’ve have been quite the story.

In any case, Todd caught on, and plenty of accomplished men have answered to the name, from athletes to rock Todd Rundgren to designer Todd Oldham.

Today, odds are that Todd is the dad on the birth announcement.  But who knows?  This generation of Jaydens may grown up to embrace “classic names, like Todd.”

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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. On StarGate: Atlantis there is a wraith (a race of bad guys in their universe) that was on sorta good terms with the heroes. He never told them his name so the main character randomly named him Todd. The others gave the namer an odd look, but he just shrugged like ‘why not?’.

    So yeah, Todd is one of those nice but out of nowhere names.

  2. Todd is my dad’s name (he’s 42, I’m 15) which is why I suggested it. I really love the name, it sounds very classic and I love that it doesn’t have a nickname. I think it goes well with my other favorite names: Nell, Frances, and Warren.

    1. Yes! I immediately thought of The Fox & the Hound when I saw today’s TotD. I never realized the name Todd meant fox or that the fox in the movie was so aptly named! 🙂

  3. I and a couple of the other neighborhood kids used to call a younger child “Toddy Toad”. Why? I have no idea, other than kids can be cruel. Todd is the type of name I usually like, but the guilt of childhood indiscretions make it unusable. Well that and the former Representative from Missouri, Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin.