Name Spotlight: Emmet

Name Spotlight - Emmet

This name is connected to a feminine name, yet for the last few centuries, it is masculine and is linked to Ireland in some way, even though its origins lie in England.


The name is, according to Mike of Behind the Name, a variant of Emmett, which is derived from a diminutive of the name Emma (the Emma that we all know)¹.

Links to Irish nationalism

Why the link? Well, let’s take a look at one of the men who held the surname Emmet. That man was Irish nationalist and rebel leader Robert Emmet who led an uprising against British rule in Ireland in 1803, only to be aborted when a dragoon was pulled from his horse and piked to death and led to Emmet’s capture, trial and eventual hanging². His brother, Thomas Addis Emmet, emigrated to the United States after the failed uprising and later became the New York State Attorney General from 1812 to 1813 and one of the most respected attorneys in the nation².

How is it faring in Ireland?

Looking at results from FamilySearch³ and statistics from the Central Statistics Office³, it appears as if Emmet was only sporadically used, beginning from the mid 19th centuy up until the mid-1960s. Looking at the graph, which is based on data from the Central Statistics Office³:

Emmet Ireland

From that point, Emmet began to inch his way into the top 100 and he succeeded in doing just that in 1978 when 67 boys were given this name. After an absence of 6 years bar a re-entry in 1981 (75 boys were given this name in that year, a peak), Emmet re-joined the top 100 in 1986 and peaked again in 1991 with the same number of boys as the one in ’81. In 2014, the name was in 302nd place with 15 boys being named Emmet.

An interesting bit I want to mention is that in February 1968, Emmet Spiceland (which formed from two groups, the Spiceland Folk Group and the Emmet Folk Group merged) released “Mary from Dungloe” which reached number one at the time³. I’m not sure if their success (or rather, their successes just before the merger) had played a role in increasing the birth count for Emmet since it only jumped by a tad bit in 1968 but made a bigger jump a year later.

Popularity for the rest of the world

In the United States, the (masculine) name began to be used in the 1810s (it was and still is relatively rare when used as a feminine name), as shown in this graph, based on data from the 1880 United States Census⁴:

Period Number %age Total*
1801-10 0 0.000% 390,775
1811-20 10 0.001% 971,768
1821-30 26 0.002% 1,649,941
1831-40 63 0.003% 2,338,161
1841-50 209 0.006% 3,293,872
1851-60 616 0.013% 4,687,997
1861-70 1,077 0.020% 5,409,768
1871-80 1,820 0.027% 6,813,590

*= total number of records (there may be duplicates and a fair few may be born in Ireland or other places)

Seeing as if the Emmet family received recognition there for their support of the Revolutionary War, I wouldn’t be surprised if children born during the 19th century were named in honour of the family, especially Robert and/or Thomas.
Moving onto the latter 19th century and into the 20th century, according to data from the Social Security Administration⁴, Emmet decreased in popularity and left the top 1000 in the late 1920s and early 30s and it wouldn’t be until 2014 where Emmet came back into the top 1000 (Emmett is rising as well, ranking at 139th place).

In England and Wales, Emmet wasn’t and still isn’t at all common (I’m pretty sure you can guess what the most likely reason is). Most of the Emmets in the Birth Index⁵ were/are men/boys, though I do find a couple of female Emmets from early in the index (19th and early 20th centuries). Regarding his current status in England & Wales, according to data from the ONS⁵, it’s currently given to an average of 4 baby boys a year, but in 2014, it was given to 10 with Emmett also rising.

That’s the whole lot done. If you have any comments about this name or this post in general, feel free to do so below.

Meaning of Emmet –¹
FamilySearch (includes 1880 US census, Civil Registration Indexes from Ireland etc.) –³⁴
Central Statistics Office (Ireland) –³
FreeBMD (for birth, marriage and burial records dating back to 1837) –⁵
Social Security Administration on baby names –⁴
Office for National Statistics (data going back to 1996) ––england-and-wales/index.html⁵
Wikipedia article about Robert Emmet –²
Wikipedia article about Thomas Addis Emmet –²
Wikipedia article about Emmet Spiceland –³


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