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

An individual cosplaying as “Daryl Dixon”, a popular character from the TV Series “The Walking Dead” (Photo by Marnie Joyce, CC-BY-2.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 10th column, he discusses the name “Daryl”.

‘The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” debuts on AMC this evening. This spinoff of “The Walking Dead” (2010-2022) finds popular character Daryl (played by Norman Reedus) stranded on a French beach without knowing how he got there. He’ll trek across France trying to find his way back home.

Daryl’s a respelling of Darel and Darrell, surnames brought to England in 1066 by knights from Airel, a town in Normandy whose name meant “open courtyard”.

Darrells were prominent among Tudor nobility. Elizabeth Darrell (1513-1556) was maid of honor to Catherine of Aragon. Sir Marmaduke Darrel (1559-1631) was a jailer of Mary Queen of Scots, and later escorted Anne of Denmark from Scotland to London when her husband James I succeeded to the throne.

Anglican clergyman John Darrell (1562-1603) made a name for himself as an exorcist. Though he claimed he proved Puritans could cast out devils as successfully as Catholics, he was imprisoned as a fraud.

The 1850 United States census found 99 persons with last name Darrell and 14 Darrels. There were 10 men with first name Darell and 12 Darrells.

Best-selling English novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon published “Darrell Markham” in 1853. There Darrell’s true love Millicent is forced to marry George Duke. When George is murdered, Darrell gathers evidence proving Millicent innocent. They marry on the last page.

In 1867 English judge Sir Douglas Straight (1844-1914) began publishing memoirs and fiction under pen name “Sidney Daryl”, one of the first examples of that spelling.

All spellings stayed rare until the 20th century. Darrell first shows up among the top 1000 boy’s names in 1891, Darrel in 1905, Daryl in 1920, and Darryl in 1932.

Daryl was occasionally given to girls by 1900. In 1921, silent film “Love, Hate and a Woman” featured heroine Daryl Sutherland (Grace Davison) pretending to be a society belle to catch a husband. However, Daryl only made it into the top thousand names for girls between 1945 and 1957. Surprisingly, the 1980s fame of actress Daryl Hannah (born 1960) didn’t popularize it.

Nebraska-born movie producer Darryl Zanuck (1902-1979) helped found 20th Century Fox in 1935. His name being featured in film credits, along with the 1940s fame of child star Darryl Hickman (born 1931) propelled their formerly rare spelling upward. After Hickman was featured on brother Dwayne’s “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” in 1959, Darryl became the most common spelling for seven years, peaking at 68th in 1965.