We’ve been talking a lot about nicknames lately, looking at some of the choices for classic and popular names like William, Margaret, and Elizabeth.
Nicknames are a way of life for some people, and it’s true that they were almost a necessity hundreds of years ago when the pool of names to choose from was much smaller. But not everybody is a nickname person, and not every name is easily shortened.
Classic names that are only one syllable are more likely to be lengthened in to a nickname, but even those don’t always come easily. For example, off the top of your head can you think of any popular nicknames for George? Aside from changing the ending to Georgie, it’s tough!
History of the Name
Like many of the classic names we’ve been looking at recently, George’s roots go way, way back. It’s derived from the Greek word for farmer, and its use as a name has been documented for almost two thousand years.
Saint George was a Roman soldier from Palestine in the third century. While it’s highly doubtful he actually fought a dragon, the legend has nevertheless become extremely popular.
Interestingly, although St George became the patron saint of England in medieval times, the name itself didn’t become common there until several hundred years later when King George, born in Germany, came to the throne in the eighteenth century.
That was enough to make the name take off. King George’s son became King George II, and to date there have been six King Georges in England, with another one (little Prince George, the oldest son of Prince William) in line to be king one day. It’s been a popular name in the United Kingdom ever since.
Decline and Resurgence in Popularity
The name came over to the US with the English colonies, and when the colonies rebelled against the King, it was George vs George with Washington leading the troops against George III. George Washington is a hero and symbol of independence to thousands of Americans, and he likely played a huge role in the popularity of the name.
It was a top name for many years according to the Social Security Administration, remaining in the top ten until the outbreak of World War II. Although still well-used, it began a gradual decline through the next eighty years.
George reached a low position of 166 in 2012, but has slowly seen a bit of a boost in popularity, possibly due to the birth of Prince George in 2013. In 2017 it was number 123.
It’s also worth noting that other names more commonly seen as ‘old man’ names in the US, such as Arthur, Theodore, and Henry, have seen a similar pattern in popularity.
George both fits in with the current trend toward more vintage names that were popular in the early twentieth century, and has a huge boost in visibility after being chosen for the young prince.
For Americans more accustomed to thinking of it as an older man’s name, seeing a baby and toddler named George all over magazine covers could make them realize that this is a name that could have real potential for a modern child.
UK vs US
It’s always interesting to see how the popularity of a name is different from country to country. While George fell somewhat out of favor in the US for the second half of the twentieth century, that wasn’t the case in the UK.
British parents tend to be slightly less adventurous with naming than their American counterparts, which can be clearly seen when you look at the top baby names in England & Wales. George is currently sitting at #3!
A Multitude of Georges
With all of those Georges, you would think that a number of nicknames would have developed around it, but that isn’t the case. The only two that have a history of regular use are Georgie and Geordie.
Interestingly, Geordie itself has come to be known as a nickname for people from the area surrounding the city of Newcastle, in north-east England. While there are a few theories surrounding the history of that nickname, it is very plausible that it came to be as a result of the name’s huge popularity in the region.
At one time, it was the most region’s most popular name to be given to the eldest son in the family, and so it stands to reason that due to the huge number of Georges in the area, the nickname for George actually became the nickname for an entire region.
If you’re looking for a strong name that’s well-known and recognized by everyone, but at the same time not overly common, George may be the perfect fit.
While George doesn’t have a lot of easy nicknames, that can actually be a plus for some people. If this is the name you choose for your baby, he will definitely be following in some very mighty footsteps!