About Names: Dr. Evans on the name “Brandon”

An engraving from an early copy of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility: Marianne greets Colonel Brandon on his arrival (Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 8th column, he discusses the name “Brandon”.

Are you reading Brandon’s “Nightmare” yet?

“Yumi and the Nightmare Painter,” latest novel by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, was released last week. Sanderson, born in 1975 in Lincoln and a graduate of Lincoln East High School, in March 2022 revealed he’d written four “secret” novels during the pandemic, promoting them to fans in a Kickstarter campaign which raised a record $41 million. “Yumi” is the third of these to get a standard publishing release.

Brandon’s an English surname from a place name meaning “hill with broom shrubs.” In County Kerry, Ireland, it’s also from “Mac Breandáin,” “son of Brendan.”

Charles Brandon (1484-1545), Henry VIII’s best childhood friend, was created Duke of Suffolk in 1514. In 1515 he married Mary Tudor, Henry’s sister. Their daughter Frances Brandon (1517-1559) was mother of tragic Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554), briefly proclaimed Queen after Edward VI’s 1553 death until his sister Mary successfully claimed the throne.

Despite the royal connection, Brandon remained rare as a first name. Even in 1950, the United States census found only 760 men named Brandon, though 14,005 Americans had Brandon as a last name.

The first three celebrities whose fame affected Brandon’s use were all born with Brandon as a middle name. In 1914, the first year more than five American boys were named Brandon, songs by lyricist J. Brandon Walsh (1882-1935) sold well as sheet music. The chorus of his “Harmony Bay” (1914) proclaims “While the moon shines above, we can spoon and make love, on Harmony Bay.”