About Two Names: Weston & Easton

November 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Opposite names are both attracting major attention these days.

Both these names have been on a big rise of late, appealing to various sensibilities among parents. Weston and Easton both carry a whole lot of history, but feel cool and modern, plus they play on our senses of nature since the wind can blow in from the west, or the east, and they can honour a place or a family name.

There’s been a long love affair with directional names as middle names, with West the most common, as it’s the most common surname over North, South, and East. David Duchovny and Téa Leoni’s daughter Madelaine West, born April 1999, actually goes by her middle name. In a fan chat in 2001, Duchovny explained, “I think West is a family name of my wife’s, a surname that she likes as a first name. We called her Madelaine West and knew we’d call her West, my wife being Elizabeth Téa.”

Actress Marley Shelton had a daughter named West in September 2009, and soap actress Maura West used her surname for daughter Birdie West in June of that year. Actor Mischa Collins has already given us the downside of naming his son West Anaximander when he was born last year. He said, “Here’s the problem with naming your son West: you’ve really got to hit the ‘t’ super hard, because everyone thinks it’s ‘Wes.’ So I find myself saying, ‘My son’s name is WesT.’ It just doesn’t feel that smooth anymore, so that’s hard. Fortunately, his middle name is Anaximander, which everybody gets easy!”

Weston (Old English for “western town”) has proved almost more popular, worn on Nicolas Cage’s 20-year-old son son Weston Coppola, called Wes, and actor Corbin Bernsen’s 21-year-old son Weston Cooper (named for his paternal grandmother, The Young and the Restless star Jeanne Cooper). CBS’ The Early Show‘s Erica Hill welcomed son Weston Robert in 2006, and The Office star Jenna Fischer welcomed son Weston Lee with husband Lee Kirk on September 24th.

20th Century film star William Holden welcomed a son named Peter Westfield in 1943, called West, and Grey’s Anatomy and Third Watch star Kim Raver welcomed son Luke West in 2002.

West is a fairly common surname – and root surname, of Old English origin, and can claim primary influence over use as a given name. But the name’s frontier-like qualities (like when North American settlers headed west, in The New World) have given it a cool, cowboy vibe that’s helping bump it up today. That very quality played into actress Chyler Leigh (also of Grey’s Anatomy fame) and husband Nathan West’s son, who was born Noah Wilde West in 2003.

But West (and subsequently Weston) as a surname derives from the pre-7th Century Old English word west, usually taken to describe someone living to the west of a main settlement, but may also describe someone who emigrated from the west. Earliest recordings of the surname West appeared in Essex county in the 12th Century, along the east coast of the island of Britain. Actor Adam West famously portrayed superhero Batman on the 1960s hit TV show, and the Westons (Hilary and Galen, most notably) are a prominent political and eco-friendly business family in Canada.

East may not be much on trend, but Easton is for sure, and is as unisex as West. In 2008, actress Elisabeth Rohm had a daughter named Easton August in April, and Canadian NHLer Dan Boyle had daughter Eastin Sky in November. (The Westin hotel chain may not help this name’s west equivalent.) Meanwhile Easton’s just as popular for boys – Bristol Palin’s son Tripp Easton Mitchell was born in December 2008, Canadian Olympic champion speedskater Catriona Le May Doan’s son Easton Matthew Wade was born in 2007, and Jenna Elfman’s second son (after Story Elias), Easton Quinn Monroe was born in March 2010.

American country musician Easton Corbin (a man) was born in 1982. Last year, he scored two Number One country hits. Easton, too, is inspired as a surname, but also directly as a place name, from pre-7th Century Old English east (“east”) + tune (“settlement”). The phrase be eastan tune meant “place to the east of a settlement,” further modernizing the word, which now is Easton. It first appeared as a surname in England in 1299, as that of John de Eston.

I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with both these names. I remember liking Weston (for a girl) as far back as grade school, and I could easily use both. But then, I’ve always been into geography and nature inspired names as a traveler at heart. And perhaps not ironically, these opposite names are just about equally as popular as the other throughout the English speaking world.

Both names now sit inside the US Top 300 for boys. Weston rose more than 100 places since 2007, where it had hovered around 400th place since 1989. It rose through the Top 1000 after entering the charts for the first time in the early 1960s. Easton’s rise is happening much more rapidly, entering the Top 1000 in the US for boys in 1995 to reach it’s current position (it hit the Top 100 in Canada in 2004). Neither name is in the Top 1000 for girls, but that could change, especially with Easton. These names aren’t showing any signs of slowing down!

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§ One Response to About Two Names: Weston & Easton

  • These seem almost entirely North American names, as West and East have such specific meanings on that continent that they just don’t here.

    For example, on the east coast of Australia, to say something is “western” or from the west means it is lower-class, bordering on criminal.

    Easton reminds me of Brett Easton Ellis.

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