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Heptune's Baby Names for February, 2001

Names of the Presidents, Part VIII: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon

by Brenna Lorenz





    A lot of babies are named after United States presidents, especially today, where we see girls called Madison, Kennedy, Taylor and Tyler. So we thought we'd go through the whole list of presidential names, and see how (and if) they are used as baby names. We started in April with Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, continued in May with Presidents Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, and Harrison, in June with Tyler, Polk, Taylor, and Fillmore, in October with Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln and Johnson, in November with Grant, Hayes, Garfield and Arthur, and in December with Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft, and in January with Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

          In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in his bid for reelection. The name Roosevelt has already been covered in Baby Names for December 2000. Roosevelt was elected to office an unprecedented four times, and died in office in 1945. His vice president, Harry S Truman, succeeded him in office and was elected to serve a term of his own in 1948. It was an election that no one expected him to win. His surname is derived from Middle English and means "true, faithful man." Records of usage show that the name enjoyed a certain popularity as a given name for boys during the nineteen-teens and nineteen-twenties, long before Truman became famous. One baby born in 1945 was probably named after the president. Although used primarily for boys, the name has been recorded for girls as well.
 

            In 1952, Republican General Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to his first of two terms in office. His opponent in both elections was Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson's loss was attributed partly to television, where he came across as being too intelligent for the tastes of Americans. Eisenhower is a German surname meaning "iron worker." I have found only one instance of Eisenhower as a given name for a boy, the name of a Filipino almost certainly named for Dwight Eisenhower in his capacity as general or president.
 

            In 1960, Democrat John F. Kennedy was elected to the presidency, narrowly defeating Eisenhower's vice president, Richard Nixon. Kennedy was the youngest man ever to be elected president (although Theodore Roosevelt was younger when he became president through the death of William McKinley). The surname is Anglo-Irish and means "armored head," and was originally used as a nickname for a person with a deformed or ugly head. Usage of the name for boys starts in 1963, the year Kennedy was assassinated. It has been used sporadically since. In the mid-1990s, the name came into use for girls.
 

            Lyndon Johnson became president upon the death of John Kennedy. His name was discussed in Baby Names for October 2000.
 

            Following Johnson's surprise decision not to run for reelection in 1968, his vice president, Hubert Humphrey, ran an unsuccessful campaign against Richard Nixon. Nixon was forced to resign from the presidency during his second term in office due to his involvement in the Watergate affair. He is the only president to have resigned from office. The surname Nixon means "son of Nicholas" and has been used very sporadically as a given name for boys since 1850. A boy named Nixon born in Guam in 1970 was probably named after the president.
 

Truman:

          Variation: Trumaine
 

Kennedy:

          Variation: (f) Khenady

Nixon:

          Variations: Nickolson, Nickson, Nix, Nyx


Go back to January's names: Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover.
Go to March names: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton.
Return to Heptune's Journal of Lore and Levity!
Return to Heptune's Baby Names Central.
Check out Names from the Ocean!
Read about A Tragedy Told in Names.
Check out Names in Early Jazz and Blues.


Published 2/1/01.
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