American Names · Analysis · Modern names


Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 10.17.18 PMGrayson is what I think of as a balanced name; it sounds both rugged and refined, modern and old.  One of the trendiest boys’ names of this decade, Grayson has been in the American top 1000 since 1984.  Maybe you knew a Grayson in high school (I did), and until now it was the only time you’ve heard this common last name used as a first name.  Over 20-odd years Grayson trickled upwards, slowly permeating the American consciousness until an accelerating spark sent him shooting towards the top.  This ‘spark’ ignited in 2009, and in 2011 he breached the top 100.  In 2015, he reached the top 50, landing at #47.  He’s also brought a variation with him; Greyson ranks #111 and will likely enter the top 100 in the 2016 set.  Other existing spellings include Greysen and the unisex Gracen.

Interestingly, there is precedence for Grayson as a women’s name.  Actress Grayson Hall (1922-1985) played Dr. Julia Hoffman on Dark Shadows in the late 60s and early 70s.  Her real name was Shirley, which was once considered a men’s name.  I’m not suggesting that Grayson will be the next Madison or Ashley; merely, that our gendered perceptions of names can and sometimes do change.  Will parents appropriate Grayson for their daughters?  168 female Graysons were born in 2015, though I won’t personally call it unisex until it hits the top 1000 or 10% of all Graysons born in a year (whichever comes first).

Besides Grayson Hall, there are many other namesakes for a baby Grayson (real and fictional, first-name and surnames).  Here are a few of them: 

  • Sen. William Grayson (1740-1790), an Anti-Federalist from Virginia.  He was the first U.S. Congressman to die in office.
  • Frances Wilson Grayson (1892-1927), an early aviatrix and relative of President Woodrow Wilson.
  • Amanda Grayson, Spock’s mother in Star Trek. 
  • Grayson, a character in a Highlander episode from 1993.  The name Grayson noticeably jumped almost 100 places between 1993 and 1994, though I don’t know if a single episode can affect the charts that strongly.
  • Grayson Kent, a character on the show Drop Dead Diva.  The series began in 2009.
  • Grayson Ellis, a character on the show Cougar Town.  This series also began in 2009.
  • The Grayson family, characters in the ABC series Revenge (2011-2015)

From what I can see, Grayson has a lot of TV connections.  Grayson Kent and Grayson Ellis are leads that may explain why over 1,000 more boys were named Grayson in 2010 than in 2009 (and most years since).  Ultimately, I think Grayson would have grown more popular on its own, but pop culture and timing mean a lot in the baby-naming sphere.

I predict that we’ll find Grayson somewhere in the #30-40 range in the 2016 set.  These days, raw usage for names doesn’t just go up 1,000 babies in a year only to drop that same amount the next year!  Grayson boasts a strong upwards trajectory and if it continues he might soon land in the top 20.  I don’t think Grayson will enter the top 1000 for girls, but you never know!  

Fun fact: In 2015, Grayson appeared on the top 100 list for every state and the District of Columbia except California!  California is one of only two or three states where the population is so large that landing in their top 100 automatically secures a spot in the U.S. top 1000.  What does that tell you?  Anyhow, Grayson ranked highest in Kentucky (where there’s a Grayson County, named after Sen. Grayson) and lowest in New Mexico.

What do you think of Grayson?  Is there another spelling you like more?  And finally, what do you think about Grayson as a girls’ name: does it work either way, or should Grayson stay a men’s name?

*P.S. I’m honestly worried that part of Grayson‘s growing popularity has to do with sounding close to “Fifty Shades of Gray.”  Grayson is subtle enough to provide an alibi…

5 thoughts on “Grayson

  1. All I can think of is Dick Grayson, who became Nightwing. Trying to imagine it as a first name is interesting. Maybe if I have a boy, whatever name I think of, I’ll add that ‘-son’ to the end to be a bit more original and get that rugged feeling.

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