Sunday, December 11, 2011


I wonder if Robin is going to come back anytime soon. My guess is no, but that's due to no fault of its own.

Originally, Robin was simply a diminutive form of Robert. The prefix Rob- is Old Germanic for "fame," and -in is an Old French diminutive. Nowadays the name is not often used as a nickname for Robert, but is used independently. This French invention was brought to England by the Normans. Before the bird was called a robin, it was called a ruddock, a word related to "red."

There are two different types of robins: European Robins and American Robins. They do look slightly different even though they both bear red breasts. In Europe, Robins are featured prominently in British folklore and not much anywhere else. They were associated with storm clouds and sacred to Thor. Do you remember what else is sacred to Thor? Oak trees. I've mentioned that the robin often symbolized the Oak King while the wren symbolized the Holly King, and wrens were ritually stoned during the Winter Solstice. I've seen no mention of a similar stoning of robins during the Summer Solstice. That hardly seems fair. In Christian folklore, a robin sang to comfort Jesus while he was dying on the cross, and that's how it's breast became stained with blood.

On the other side of the globe, the American robin features prominently in Native American mythology. In many stories, the robin got it's red breast by getting burned. A robin fanned the flames of a campfire in order to save a man and his son. In the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit people believe that the Robin is a gift from the Raven. He was sent down to please mankind with his singing. And just to clarify, it's the American robins that have the light blue eggs. The term "robin's egg blue" would make little sense in Britain, where robins eggs are brown.

The robin has been a symbol for the Christmas season for years. This may be because of the battle between the wren and the robin, but a source listed another explanation. In Victorian England, the postmen wore red uniforms and were nicknamed "robins." The bird was often depicted on cards in order to represent the postman.

Robin has been a popular name since the Middle Ages. Two of the earliest fictional bearers are Robin Goodfellow (another name for Puck) and Robin Hood. Other well known characters include Batman's sidekick and Kermit the Frog's nephew. There are countless real life namesakes like actor/comedian Robin Williams, actress Robin Wright Penn, and pop singer Robyn Rihanna Fenty (who, as we all know, simply goes by Rihanna).

To American namers, this name may remind them too much of their parent's generation. This traditionally masculine name peaked in the 1950s at #182. It's use as a girls name is relatively recent. It peaked in the 1960s at #34. Neither of them are in the top 1,000 today. It doesn't stop it from being a lovely name, but it is a dated one.

If that doesn't bother you, then this would be a lovely name to use for either a girl or a boy. It's a name that everyone is familiar with, but not one given to the current generation of babies very often. In the meantime, I think it's more likely to reappear on the charts when our children are naming their children, when it is fresh and new again.


Image Credit:
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  1. I have a soft spot for Robin. I'd love to see it come back for boys next time around.

  2. We have robins as well - they're not true robins, but then neither is the American robin, which is a thrush.

    They are still really cute though,and look quite robin-y.

  3. My name is Robin. I don't recommend naming any child Robin. If you can imagine growing up in the 80's with this name (Batman) I got a lot of teasing.

    It's an OK name, if your looking for something easily spoken but not popular it's perfect. But just prepare for your kids to be on the receiving end of a few jokes.

  4. Just wanted to add that you'll forever be asked, "IS that spelled with an I or a Y". I've always felt Robyn was more feminine than Robin. Evidently in 1979 they hadn't started using Y or maybe my mother just hadn't got the memo. But in school there was another Robyn in my class and I was forever jealous of her more feminine spelling.

  5. Your picture for Robin is actually a Fairy named Twig :)


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