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Interesting Name Facts with Julie Hackett

Currently Fascinated by the Name... Archie

Currently Fascinated by the Name... Archie - Name Stories

The most anticipated name of 2019 has finally arrived... news swirling on both sides of the pond...the Anglo-American baby of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry has been born. Can I get a drum roll, please…

Archie. Wait. Archie? Really? But it seems so, well, so… informal, right?

Of course, Charles, William and Henry are taken. George and Louis. Taken. Taken. Still, when I dig in the pile of historic English blueblood names, I can still find some scraps… what about Alfred, Edward or Richard?

Nope, Archie it is. How bourgeois.

Truth be told, you can’t swing a cat in a British playground right now without hitting at least five Archies. You’ll also hit a few Charlies, Alfies, Freddies, Teddys and Reggies. England’s current Top 100 list of boy names is full of diminutives.

Archie is a diminutive of Archibald. And Archibald is a name of Anglo-Saxon origin. In its original Olde English form it looked something like this: Eorcanbeald. It existed in England prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066, a moment in history that completely upset the English personal-naming patterns. Only a few names of Anglo-Saxon origin managed to survive beyond the 11th century and good’ole Eorcanbeald defeated the odds.

The name originated from Old High German Ercanbald and it means True and Brave, composed of the Ancient Germanic elements erchan “genuine, true, precious” and bald “bold, brave; stout-hearted, confident, strong.”

The name was common on the Continent in the Middle Ages, bestowed metaphorically to signify the strength and solidity of one’s Christian faith (“true and brave”). The Norman-French were already using it and merely reinforced its survival in England. Eorcanbeald eventually morphed into Archibald as the English language went from Olde to Middle to Modern. Then Archie arose as a diminutive form, probably around the 15th century.

Archie is an example of a hypocorism. A pet name. The English language employed suffixes “-ie” or “-y” to names (Robby, Willie); they were used affectionately and informally mostly. The baptismal records would say Archibald, but the everyday name, the colloquial name, was probably Archie. Such diminutives came into formal and independent use as given names in their own right by the 19th century.  While Archibald remains an English classic, Archie has far surpassed it in popularity. 

It's not so popular on our side of the pond. In 2017, Archie was ranked #1,182 (Archibald #2,554). The only time Archie made America's Top 100 list was over 100 years ago in 1906 and 1907. It fell off the Top 1000 list in 1989; meaning it's no longer on the general radar. 

Ranked #18 in England, I suspect it will climb even higher post-May 6th.

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