Saturday, January 31, 2015


Photo Courtesy of Mali Workman Photography
Like your literary heroes a little rough around the edges yet still with a refined sound? Perhaps you should consider Crusoe.

Crusoe comes to us from the pages of Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel 'Robinson Crusoe', the tale of a man who braves the wilds seas in the pursuit of improving his situation in life. He doesn't have a lot of luck at sea though, and one particular misadventure sees him end up shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted island. He manages to make the best of a bad situation, and even rescues a prisoner of the native cannibals, teaching him English and naming him Friday for the day of the week he met him. They eventually make it back to Crusoe's homeland in London and reclaim the wealth he built while in Brazil.

The book was quite revolutionary at the time. It's a fictional autobiography that was first published crediting Robinson Crusoe (pronounced KROO-soh) as the author, leading people to think it was a true tale. While this was not the case, it is often said to be the beginning of the literary genre realistic fiction. It remains one of the most widely published books in history, adapted many times into movies and TV shows.

This popularity means that Robinson Crusoe is widely recognised and used as a generic term for an isolated survivor. The character of Crusoe is also popularly thought to represent a person who has strength and resourcefulness and can thrive despite isolation. That's not too say he's a hero, just that he is an ordinary man able to make the best of bad situations.

But where the name Crusoe comes from is the subject of much conjecture. In the novel, Robinson himself says that:

"....he had married my mother whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in England we are called, nay, we call ourselves, and write our name "Crusoe,".... "

And so Crusoe is thought to come from a German surname Kreutznaer. But general consensus is that Kreutznaer isn't actually a German name. It's thought that possibly:

  • Kreutznaer is invented (as it comes from a fictional story anyway);
  • Kreutznaer is derived from the similar German surname Kreuznach, meaning 'crossing of the River Nahe'; or
  • The name Crusoe was actually inspired by a friend of the author named Timothy Cruso, who wrote guide books, and the German "origin" Kreutznaer was purely fictional. 

The last option is supported by the fact that Cruso and Crusoe were both surnames already in use in England when 'Robinson Crusoe' was written. While it's meaning is hard to track down, the Crusoe motto is reportedly 'Virtus Nobilitat', meaning 'Virtue ennobles'. Maybe this was in fact the definition that inspired the use of Crusoe for this character, as it seems to describe well his personal and spiritual journey throughout the book.

So if true, this seems to reinforce Crusoe as a virtue name of sorts.

Photo Courtesy of
Beth Wade Photography
Despite being inspired by a literary tale that is almost 300 years old, Crusoe has a style that feels at home on a modern child. Likely nicknames Cru and Cruz are both strong, cool and short names that don't feel overused and have been gaining in popularity. Crusoe itself blends well with quirky literary picks like Atticus, Dorian or Beatrix; or equally as well with popular surname choices such as Sullivan, Wyatt and Jackson (as a side thought, wouldn't brothers Crusoe and Jackson nicknamed Cruz and Jax be adorable!). Speaking of sibling choices, mix both literary and surname origins and Bronte, Huxley, Salinger and Twain also make great possibilities.

While all of the names mentioned above have charted in the U.S, I was a bit surprised to find that Crusoe has never been given to more than 5 babies in one year. Maybe people find it is too tied to the character, even if he is most often viewed positively. Or maybe Crusoe "the celebrity dachshund" has too much of a presence? (although I'd never heard of him until today).

But I think the time is right for Crusoe. He has the literary and surname origins that have made so many other names winning options. He has a cool sound with even cooler nickname options. His namesake is a symbol of the virtues of strength and tenacity, his motto representing the virtue of spiritual growth. Why have we been resisting his charms for so long?


  1. Great and very detailed info on the name Crusoe, I'm glad to learn of the virtuous origins of it as an English surname. I'm considering it as long form for the contracted 'Cruz' for our bub due in the next 8ish weeks. We have an Asher and a Suvi Breeze

    1. I've got a 5 yo boy named Crusoe. Our other two kids are Sawyer (Tom Sawyer) and Cordelia (King Lear).
      Love the name Asher! Is that from My Name is Asher Lev?