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Brad is Gone. Brad Lives On.

July 20, 2023 namerology 4 Comments

Brad is Gone. Brad Lives On.

July 20, 2023 Namerology 4 Comments
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The baby name Brad is all but extinct. Yet new Brads keep appearing: adult, fictional Brads. The name has carved out a new niche as an archetype, the All-American Bro Dude.

Brad Beginnings

Brad started life as a nickname for surnames like Bradley and Bradford. It became established as a given name during the 1950s after a Bradley-called-Brad was featured on the sitcom I Married Joan. No passing fad, Brad maintained its popularity for an impressive 30 years. Then it started falling, and kept falling.

Chart showing the popularity of the name Brad shooting up on the 1950s then plummetting in the 1980s

Today Brad is an astonishingly rare choice for babies. It ranks #3,522 among all U.S. boys’ names, in a 70-way tie with names like Othniel, Zadok and Yanky. Yet the name’s All-American-guy image remains.

Brad’s bluntness is unambiguously masculine. Its maybe-nickname style suggests casual ease. The name is familiar but not ubiquitous, and definitely not timeless; it’s neither very young nor very old. It all adds up to a name for a guy. A dude. A bro.

The signs are everywhere. Brad tops lists of the names that British people think of as “typical American names.” LinkedIn once identified Brad as a name most likely to be a salesman. It fits the profile of friendly, one-syllable nicknames that politicians run under to sound relatable—like current candidates Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Chris Christie and Joe Biden.

But today, Brad isn’t quite as cheerfully neutral as Mike, Tim and Chris. Just ask the people who name the most people: fiction writers. When writers hear Brad, they hear a type. In story after story, Brads are confident, masculine…and oblivious.

The New Prototypes

Romance novels, with their reliable structures and common tropes, are a good place to find character types. Searching contemporary romances, I hit a bro-Brad bonanza.

Brad has become the name of choice for a macho, thoughtless ex. In Falling for You, Brad is the hunky but callous ex-boyfriend. In Stolen, Brad is the successful but self-centered ex-boyfriend. In Count Your Lucky Stars, Brad is the philandering, monster truck-driving ex-husband. In Out of the Clear Blue Sky, Brad is the smug ex-husband who…well, you get the idea.

The typecasting isn’t all bad news for Brads. Sometimes, bro-dude is the ideal. Consider the Brad of Keeping Kat, a firefighter “with biceps for days.” Brad is also a go-to name for popular, supposedly straight dream boys in male-male romances. The Brads of books like Mostly Straight and Brad’s Bachelor Party turn out to have been oblivious in a different way.

The Competition

I compared the Brad rate in romantic fiction with the name’s closest one-syllable statistical matches, Kurt and Dwayne, as well as the common nickname Jon to account for Brad as a nickname for Bradley. In contemporary romance novels, I found nearly three times as many loutish exes named Brad as Kurt, Dwayne and Jon put together.

The results were even more skewed for searches like “firefighter Brad.” No other name of comparable real-life popularity comes close. Brad is now poised to enter the realm of names like Sebastian, with a life in fiction that’s breaking away from reality. Whether the bro-dude archetype is fantasy or fiasco, Brad is the man for the job.


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  • NancyF July 21, 2023 at 12:24 am

    This post got me wondering why the massive popularity of Brad Pitt—born William Bradley Pitt, son of William Alvin Pitt—hasn’t translated to a surge in baby Brads. Maybe Brad has had to morph into Brady to fit current naming preferences.

  • cnoocy July 21, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    The two Brads that come most immediately to my mind are country singer Brad Paisley (ne Bradley) and fictional fiancé Brad Majors, both of whom check off many of these boxes.

  • HungarianNameGeek
    HungarianNameGeek July 22, 2023 at 7:20 pm

    I find Brad especially apt when it’s the name of a character with more muscles than brains: in nearly all of the antecedent placenames, it means “broad, wide”. (Bradbury is an exception, because it’s “board fort”, but Bradley is “wide meadow”, Bradford is “broad ford”, Bradden is “broad valley”, etc.)

  • Sabrina July 31, 2023 at 1:56 am

    Since romance isn’t my genre, I first thought of Bradward “Brad” Boimler, the weedy and ambitious ensign on Star Trek: Lower Decks. He is very much not one of *those* Brads. Perhaps the name has different connotations in the 24th century?

    Incidentally, my favorite name on that show is Samanthan “Sam” Rutherford (m). I take it to be a masculine version of Samantha, a subtle nod to futuristic, egalitarian gender politics. Back in the 21st century, I can think of many examples of typically “male” names that have been feminized (ie Erica, Roberta) or have shifted in usage as parents started giving them to little girls (Madison, etc). I can’t think of a real-life example of a female name that has been masculinized. Are there any?

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