About Names: Leonard prospered even before Nimoy on “Star Trek”

Leonard Nimoy / Associated Press

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 26th column, he looks at the history of the name Leonard.

Live long and prosper!

That Vulcan greeting was popularized by actor Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) as the “Star Trek” character Spock. Nimoy was born 88 years ago on March 26.

Leonard is a Germanic name combining words for “lion” and “hardy, brave.” It’s not as ancient as the similar Bernard (“bear-brave”) and Everard (boar-brave), because “lion” is from Latin. Lions aren’t native to northern Europe, so Germanic tribes learned about them as a symbol of power and bravery from the Romans. In medieval England, 177 churches were dedicated to St. Leonard. Families called Leonard had medieval ancestors named after him. In Ireland, Leonard was an English form of Leannán, “lover.” In the 1540s, the first decade all baptisms were recorded, Leonard ranked 24th for English boys. It remained among the top 50 until 1620.

In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby names lists started, Leonard ranked 78th. It rose in the early 20th century, partly due to immigrants. Leonardo was well-used in Italy because of artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), and Lev (Yiddish “lion”) was a common Russian Jewish name. Leonard was an American equivalent for both.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Leonards in history!