Name Spotlight: Alaric

alaric

A name with a history spanning nearly 2 millennia, now in the spotlight thanks to a vampire hunter from a popular fantasy-drama series.

MEANING, ORIGIN AND PRONUNCIATION

Various sources say that it comes from the Gothic name Alareiks¹ ², via its latinised form Alaricus² ³. The name Alareiks is made up of elements ‘ala’ meaning “all, entire” and ‘reiks’ meaning “ruler, chief(tain).”² ⁴ In English, it is normally pronounced as AL-ə-rik (ə as in ‘about’)¹.

THE NAME OF THE KINGS

There are three known kings whose name is Alaric. The first two are Visigothic kings and the last one is a legendary one:

  • Alaric I reigned from 395 to 410 and was most famous for his sacking of Rome in 410, marking it as a decisive event for the Roman Empire decline⁵.
  • One of his descendants, Alaric II reigned from 485 to 507 and was most famous for ordering the compilation of the Breviary of Alaric, a collection of Roman law imposed on his Roman subjects⁶.
  • Alaric (Alrekr in Old Norse) is a legendary king of Sweden, sharing that role with his brother Eric/Eiríkr. They have some things in common including being mighty in war and sport & being especially skillful horsemen⁷.

POPULARITY

As Eleanor Nickerson of British Baby Names points out in her ‘Name of the Week’ post about Alaric², this name was never common and that it had, pretty much, died out in the 14th century throughout most of Europe. In a way, it seems true as there are only 3 citations (one of them from England) on the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, all dating before that time.

In England and Wales, Alaric only began to become more often used (though still rarely used) from the late 19th century onwards, as shown in this set of graphs using data from FreeBMD⁸ and the Office for National Statistics⁹:

alaric-graph

Notice this jump in the number of Alarics in 1971. This coincides with the release of the well-known historical fantasy novel Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz the previous year (the novel features a character going by this name, Duke Alaric Morgan).
Another name in the novel, Charissa, saw increased usage, unlike Alaric, after the release of the book.

Moving onto the United States and, like England & Wales, Alaric was rarely to uncommonly used throughout its history. The 1940 census, accessible from FamilySearch, has only 59 records of Alaric and it first entered the SSA list in 1949¹⁰.
Alaric became more commonly used through 1990s and 2000s, but take a look at this table below and you would notice the upsurge in that name, beginning in 2010¹⁰:

Year Number Rank
2006 37 2,978th
2007 36 3,134th
2008 35 3,218th
2009 27 3,831st
2010 40 2,911st
2011 50 2,474th
2012 88 1,710th
2013 116 1,420th
2014 153 1,195th
2015 181 1,077th

Why this upsurge? It’s all down to the fantasy-drama TV series The Vampire Diaries where there is a character, a history teacher and vampire hunter, going by this name (his name: Alaric Saltzman).
BabyCenter data currently puts Alaric in the mid-800s in ranking for this year and, judging from my early analysis, despite the slight differences in numbers and slight swinging on the BC data, it does look as if Alaric could actually enter the top 1000 this year.
In a poll conducted on Behind the Name, as of the time of this writing, 61% of the 28 respondents say that Alaric would be the only one of the 3 names entering the top 1000 this year compared to 25% for Harlem and 14% for Wesson (these 2 other names are chosen based, like Alaric, on early analysis).

Finally, let’s look at how Alaric is shaping up in other parts of the world:

France¹¹ It first entered the INSEE list in 1975 with 4 Alarics born in the country. In 2010, when The Vampire Diaries first started airing there, it was given to 10 boys, compared to the pre-VD peak of 20 back in 1997. In 2013, it rose to its new peak of 42.
Scotland¹² It first appeared in the National Records of Scotland list in 2006 with only 1 boy named Alaric. It then appeared two more times, in 2012 and 2013 with 1 boy each given this name.
South Australia¹³ 9 Alarics were born in that part of Australia from 1944 to 2015 with its first appearance in the official list in 1952. 2012 was the only year where it was given to 2 boys.
Switzerland¹⁴ There are 15 Alarics still alive in this country, 12 of whom live in the French-speaking region. The only year it was given to more than 3 males was 2014 (4 to be exact, all in the French-speaking region).

That’s this post done. As usual, if you have any thoughts on this name or this post in general, leave it on the comments section below the sources.

Sources:
Behind the Name on Alaric – http://www.behindthename.com/name/alaric¹
Eleanor Nickerson’s post on Alaric – http://www.britishbabynames.com/blog/2014/02/alaric.html²
Wikipedia on Alaric as a name – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaric_(name)³
Nordic Names on elements ALA and RIK – https://www.nordicnames.de/wiki/ALA and https://www.nordicnames.de/wiki/RIK⁴
Wikipedia articles on:

FreeBMD – http://www.freebmd.org.uk/⁸
Office for National Statistics – http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/baby-names–england-and-wales/index.html⁹
Social Security Administration – http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html¹⁰
Journal Des Femmes – http://www.journaldesfemmes.com/prenoms/alaric/prenom-1258¹¹
National Records of Scotland – http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/vital-events/names/babies-first-names¹²
Government of South Australia – http://www.data.sa.gov.au/dataset/popular-baby-names¹³
Statistique Suisse – http://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/portal/fr/index/themen/01/02/blank/dos/prenoms/02.html¹⁴ (using Wayback Machine)

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