Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Name in the Spotlight: Rohan

As a masculine name Rowan is steadily gaining popularity, climbing the charts slowly but surely. It started being used as a given name in the 20th century, but as a surname it goes back to Medieval Ireland and the early 1200s. But what about Rohan? The two names share Irish roots, stemming from the same surname. Rohan, meaning 'red' or 'red heaired', is the Anglicised form of the Old Gaelic Ó Rúadháin.

Rohan (and Rowan) also take us to Scotland where it was used as a surname, a variant of Roland, since the 1500s. It can also be found in France as the name of a commune in Brittany. The name of the area was adopted by Alan I, Viscount de Rohan, as a surname when he first acquired the title. The House of Rohan  managed to achieved the status of dukes and princes, and had links to the Dukes of Brittany.

With its connections to Ireland, Scotland and France, it may come as a surprise to see Rohan's history stretch all the way to India. In Hindi the name takes a different meaning, that of 'ascending', making it leave behind its robust appearance and taking on a gentler, more spiritual feel. Furthermore, although perhaps not linked, Rohaan is an Islamic name, meaning 'river of paradise'. 

There are even more places where one can look to find the name in use. In J. R. R. Tolkien's novels, The Lord of the Rings, Rohan is a place name meaning 'horse country' in Sindarin. As literary names go, it is a subtle one, without any obvious connections to the work,  unless, of course, one is a Tolkien fan.

With so much going for it, it is not surprising that Rohan is doing well in the charts. In England and Wales it reached #195 last year with 270 boys being given the name. In the US it was in the respectable spot of #536. It has remained in the 500s since 2002, only once making it outside the top 500, when it reached #480 in 2004. It is a great alternative to Rowan which continues to be a more popular option, both in England and Wales (#142) and in the US (#327).

Rohan is one of those names that finds the balance between being too unusual and too common.