Can we discuss Clarence?

Why isn't the name Clarence coming back like other "old fashioned" names like Henry and Arthur?  The SS baby name site shows that it is decreasing in popularity steadily yet I think it fits the same profile as other "old fashioned" names making a comeback.  It also shows that it was as high as #226 in 1978, which means I should know some Clarences around my age (32) but I don't know any.  What's the deal?  Would you name a baby Clarence?  What is your impression of this name?


March 29, 2015 11:17 AM

To be honest, my first thought about Clarence was "that's really musty, kind of harsh sounding."  When I thought about it some more, I remembered Claire & Clara are both on the upswing.  So it's probably not just the sound of Clarence that is turning people off.

I think the problem with Clarence is that it hasn't been gone long enough to be revived.  If you look at Clarence on the SSI baby name site, it's popularity was steady for a really long time.  It's only relatively recently that it has started to really drop. Looking at sound-alike Claire, I notice that it's had more peaks & valleys in popularity.

Clarence also doesn't have the same soft/fluid type sounds or romantic imagery of Henry & Arthur-which is what many parents who like revival names seem to prefer.  It lacks nickname potential and it don't really fit with any current boy name trends.  

Nothing is wrong with Clarence, this just isn't the right time for the name to be really popular.  I don't think I would use it (though I would seriously consider Claire & Clara and Henry & Arthur both made the list for my youngest).  However, I wouldn't find it horrible if someone else used it.  

FWIW, I've known a handful of Clarences in my life. A couple of older Black men & the younger brother of a boyfriend I had in high school (who went only by a nickname based on his initials).

March 29, 2015 12:42 PM

I think it isn't ripe for revival yet. 

It also has a bit of a twangy sound in the middle-kind of a whine? 

I could imagine it coming back in in another x number of years. 

Arthur, btw, is still pretty edgy out here in greater suburbia, while Henry becomes more and more popular (we have one ourselves), which is just to say that there is also a style and, "Age," element. It isn't as if Every old fashioned name is back in style. I do think there are some that never will be! 

I did see Clement recently somewhere trendy-not the Pottery Barn catalog, but somewhere similar. 


March 29, 2015 5:23 PM

We discussed Clarence for our now 1-year-old (DH's suggestion, a family name).  I don't mind it, and I agree with you that it's not far off trend.  In the end, it didn't meet all our criteria so we ended up choosing something else.

So, to answer your questions:  Yes, I would name a baby Clarence.  I think it's cute for a small child, and would wear well as an adult.  FWIW, my naming style tends to run toward the old-fashioned and rare, so it depends what you're looking for.

March 29, 2015 6:05 PM

Disclaimer: I'm a fan of many "porch-sitter" names (as classified in the BNW book) so I might not be the most representative opinion... but I think Clarence is perfectly usable.

You're right that the popularity profile of Clarence IS similar to Arthur and Henry, except perhaps shifted over ever so slightly... only Clarence hasn't made a comeback yet. I think it's just one celebrity baby away from being ready for revival, though -- much like Arthur was not-all-so-recently. In any case, I think it's a name that, while it would perhaps be met with confusion or raised eyebrows at first, would quickly become fresh and charming to everyone who knows your baby.

I suspect that it's related to your question about where the Clarences are, that most of my Clarence associations are nonwhite. I have known Asian- and African-American Clarences, and Clarence Thomas is another major association. The only associations to the contrary are from movies - e.g. the angel from "It's a Wonderful Life".

March 29, 2015 7:40 PM

Clarence is not like Arthur and Henry. There is no King Clarence that I can recall. There are no well-known nicknames for Clarence, either. Note that the same fate (falling off the chart) for other once-popular -ence names, Lawrence and Terence. (BTW, Terence and Clarence are also Af-Am names for me, including my kindergarten boyfriend, where the boys were named after family members.) Like Germanic female names that are not coming back despite it being "their time" for a revival, Clarence does not have today's preferred sounds for male names. I mean, it doesn't even end in "-n"! ;-)

Using Name Finder to check out the other -ence names, the only sorta surging or resurging names are ones bestowed girls, like Cadence and Florence.

March 29, 2015 8:30 PM

You're right that it's not a king name, being a surname innovation from the 1800s... but there is, however, a nice historical bit about Clarence here:

I do think Ren is a reasonable nickname, though, and Clare if you don't mind a bit of gender-bending.

I agree with yoru assessment that it probably hasn't coming back because the -ence sound is just a bit out-of-step with the current fashions for for boys, for all that Enzo and Lorenzo are very stylish. I think Clarence could be a striking choice because of it, though, and think it might be revived soon enough!

March 29, 2015 9:08 PM

Oh, the nickname Ren is lovely.  Just that is enough to make me like the name more.  

I do agree with your previous statement that Clarence could be just one celebrity baby away from at least a small revival.  At least, in some areas it would be enough.  Where I am, Henry & Arthur are still seen as really fusty and not ready for a comeback.  I've only met one little Henry and no Arthurs yet.  

I also agree with comments about the "ence" ending.  I hadn't quite made the connection to other names mentioned previously, but the "ence" names just aren't happening right now.  I would do Claire or Clara in a heartbeat, but that "ence" just adds a harsher sound to my ear.


March 29, 2015 11:35 PM

Clancy, of course!

March 30, 2015 11:43 AM

Yes! I love Clancy! It's so jaunty. 

August 5, 2017 5:28 PM

I'm surprised no one's thought of Clay! 

March 29, 2015 9:31 PM

It is so interesting to read everyone on this site's insight to my question.  I mentioned to a few family members that I liked this name and everyone crinkled their noses at me.  But they crinkle their noses at a lot of my favorites (like Harriet, Bette, Everett, Eleanor, Frederick, Edmund) because I love the "old fashioned" names that are coming back and most "non name aware" people (or at least my family members) haven't figured out that a lot of people are choosing names like this right now and thus they think I'm nuts (because of reactions like this, though, I don't share the few "real contenders").  Regardless, I was still curious to see what other "name aware" people thought of this name because for some reason it misses the mark on the trend but I couldn't see why. 

April 4, 2015 8:45 AM

I wouldn't be surprised to see a slight resurgence in about five years. Clyde made the list for the first time since 1998, coming in at 999. Last year at the Renaissance Fair I overheard a dad call to his son Cletus, so it wouldn't shock me to meet a baby Clarence. But I'd expect to meet him at the Renaissance Fair before spotting him at Cracker Barrell.

April 4, 2015 4:58 PM

Elizabeth, this had me actually laughing.


April 6, 2015 6:44 PM

I know a few Clarrie's in the 50-60 age bracket. They never get Clarence, always Clarrie

August 2, 2017 8:04 AM

It's a  great name. Rare but doesn't sound like you're trying to be all quirky. It's def on my list!

August 2, 2017 8:25 AM

I love love love Clarence, I think it's a fabulous name.  And I am not at all fond of many of the fusty comebacks (Henry, Arthur, Walter....)  But yes to Clarence!  And I would not be surprised to meet one at the playground.

August 2, 2017 9:08 AM

The names about to go extinct apparently.

its a lovely name though and doesn't sound like you're trying to be trendy. It is rare but unpretentious - perfect!

August 3, 2017 9:13 AM

I too love Clarence! I'd use it myself. Yes to Clancy! Adore that. I think it's a bit edgy right now, with sounds that aren't quite on-trend. Ripe for revival I say!

August 10, 2017 12:58 PM

I remember hearing about the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas when I was a child.  I had not heard the name "Clarence," and I assumed it was a title (that he had been a "Clarence" and was now being elevated to being a "Justice.")  I think I had combined "clerk" and "justice" in my mind.  This was something I never asked anyone about, and I later (of course) discovered that it was just his first name, but the sense that "Clarence" doesn't  sound a like a person's name has stayed with me.

August 10, 2017 1:11 PM

That makes perfect sense to me. I would back-form the etymology to relate to clarity of vision/thinking, surely an essential quality for a judge.

August 10, 2017 2:43 PM

Optatus, you must have been too young to follow the details of the Clarence-Anita business. lol

August 10, 2017 4:09 PM

Nedibles, yes, that was my other thought.  That it was a sort of formal/legal synonym for "clarity," or perhaps a title for someone who is supposed to think clearly.

Miriam, I was 6-7 at the time.  I remember hearing very vaguely about all of that controversy.  I wasn't old enough to be allowed to follow it closely, but I remember hearing the names "Clarence Thomas" and "Anita Hill" regularly, and knowing that adults I knew had different opinions on the hearings/ truth of the allegations.