Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Franklin

Franklin is the transferred use of an English surname originating from the Middle English “frankelin” which was borrowed from the French “franc” meaning “free”. The first recorded spelling was rendered Frankelein dating back to the late 12th century when the feudal system was alive and well in medieval Europe. This particular surname identified a “free man” or holder of land as opposed to the laborers who worked the land. They were gentlemen of society but ranked below the nobility. Probably the most notable surname bearer was American statesman and man of many talents, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), whose father had immigrated to Boston from England in the 1680s. Adding additional currency to the name was Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd President of the United States.

All About the Baby Name – Franklin



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Given the current trendiness of surnames as first names, we were surprised to see that Franklin has actually been on the decline. From the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, Franklin was always a moderately popular choice. Not surprisingly, the height of the name’s usage came in the 1930s and early 40s as Franklin D. Roosevelt decisively guided this nation through its greatest economic crisis only to be followed by World War II. Winston Churchill said of FDR: “Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it.” It’s no wonder American parents would want to pay homage to Roosevelt by naming their sons after him. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, the name Franklin saw a slow and steady decline on the male naming charts. Now that we’ve crossed the threshold into the 21st century, Franklin is experiencing his lowest point on the graphs right now (which is low-moderate popularity). Surnames like Franklin have been replaced with the trendier Connor, Logan and Mason type surnames. Yet Franklin (like Jackson) has a more dignified and old fashioned sensibility than these others. And Franklin still feels modern and cool without sounding pretentious. Plus, between Ben Franklin and Franklin Roosevelt, the name carries major historical value in the United States. In an interesting pop-culture reference, Franklin is the name of the first African-American character in the “Peanuts” comic strip first introduced in 1968 by Charles M. Schulz. His appearance in the popular comic is notable for its time, a period of racial and civil unrest, and the same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Even some southern newspaper editors demanded that Franklin was not to be shown in the same classroom as the other white characters. Of course Schulz sat Franklin squarely behind Peppermint Patty at school in his own act of defiance! Let’s be “frank” here; Franklin is a cool name.

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Cultural References to the Baby Name – Franklin

Literary Characters


The Franklin is the narrator of his own “The Franklin’s Tale” in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. As he describes himself in his prologue, he is a simple man, a plain speaker, a man for whom, as they say, “what you see is what you get”. He excuses himself for his “vulgar speech”, and then goes on to tell a tale elegant in its very simplicity of presentation and theme. The tale he tells is that of the happy and equitable marriage of the knight Arviragus and his lady, Dorigen, a state of happiness which is tested by Arviragus’ absence and Dorigen’s wooing by another, Aurelius. Dorigen makes a foolish promise to Aurelius based upon a test she believes he can never pass. Aurelius enlists the help of a magician for an enormous fee, performs the deed, and restates his case to Dorigen. In horror, she confesses her misstep to Arviragus, whose own noble response causes Aurelius to forgive the promise he had extracted from Dorigen. When Aurelius offers to pay the magician anyway, that fine fellow erases the debt, impressed as he is with Aurelius’ own nobility. This is a case of generosity begetting generosity, and speaks to the ethereal quality of the highest nature of good intentions. This is a tale of the shining possibilities of life as it could be lived, were we all to adhere to such lofty behavior. As the Franklin himself poses it at the end of his tale: “This question would I ask you now: which was most generous, do you think, and how (?)” The very choice of subject that the Franklin took inclines us to think of him as a modest practitioner of that of which he tells.

Subtitled: A Magnificent Saga of Courage, Betrayal, Devotion, and Destiny. The rightful-born queen of Lyrnessos, Briseis watched helplessly from the battlements as her husband and brothers were crushed by the invincible army of King Agamemnon. Taken into slavery, the proud, beautiful seer became the prize of Prince Achilles, the conquering Greeks' mightiest hero. But passion forged chains stronger than any iron, binding the hearts of captive and captor with a love that knew no equal, and when Troy fell, great Achilles promised his beloved Briseis would reign at his side as queen of Thessaly. Yet the jealousy of a ruthless king and the whims of the capricious deities would deny the lovers their happiness. As the flames of war rose higher around them, the prophetess vowed to save the beloved warrior for whom her dark gift foretold doom -- even if it meant defying the gods themselves.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Franklin

Popular Songs


Pride of Franklin County
a song by Tanya Tucker

Lord Franklin
a song by Sinead O'Connor

a song by Paramore

Famous People


Franklin D. Roosevelt (U.S. President)
Franklin Pierce (U.S. President)
Franklin Graves (member of the Donner Party)
Franklin Dixon (author of the Hardy Boys)
Franklin Edwards (basketball player)
Franklin Graham (religion)
Franklin Gutiérrez (baseball player)
Franklin Morales (baseball player)
Franklin Pangborn (actor)
Franklin J. Schaffner (director)
Franklin Stubbs (baseball player)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Franklin

Historic Figures


Aretha Franklin is an extremely gifted African-American singer popularly dubbed “The Queen of Soul”. As with so many of her ilk, she got her start singing gospel in church and made her breakthrough in the late sixties with such monumental hits as “Think” and “Respect”. Aretha is one of the best-selling female vocalists of all time, and has won numerous awards, including 17 Grammys, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She also did a hilarious turn as a singing waitress in the Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi comedy hit movie, “The Blues Brothers”, in 1980. In 2005, Aretha was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but perhaps her crowning accomplishment to date is her singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural ceremony.

One of the most celebrated American figures of all time, Ben Franklin was a jack of all trades. He represented the essence of what it means to be an American. A printer. A publisher. A scientist. An inventor. A postmaster. A legislator. A diplomat. A social activist. A Founding Father. Even with only a 5th grade education, Ben Franklin pulled himself up by the bootstraps and became a celebrated, intelligent, wealthy and important figure even during his own time. The man embodies the American ideals. He led both an ambitious life and a virtuous one. Benjamin Franklin was also one of the earliest abolitionists and a protector of Native American rights. His life alone is one of the most profound statements on what all Americans strive to be.

Franklin Pierce served as the 14th President of the United States between 1853 and 1857. "Handsome Frank" was loved by everyone. So much so, the presidency was practically handed to him on a silver platter. Unfortunately for this charming, out-going and charismatic guy, he was also an indecisive leader and a heavy drinker. Franklin Pierce's big boo-boo was known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, designed to repeal the Missouri Compromise and let Nebraska and Kansas decide for themselves on the slavery issue. In fact, Abraham Lincoln was so outraged, he created the Republican Party in retaliation, bringing himself squarely into the political narrative (phew). Once loved, Pierce ended his term reviled and ruined. He died an alcoholic recluse; a victim of cirrhosis.

FDR served as the 32nd President of the United States and had the longest term in history (1933-1945). Franklin Delano Roosevelt is another one of the "great" presidents. He was a public charmer and a brilliant politician. With his "It'll Be Better Tomorrow" slogan, FDR had the American public at "hello". He was born into wealth, pampered as a child, a Harvard graduate (and C student), and the 5th cousin to the ever-memorable Teddy Roosevelt. FDR was also struck with polio and crippled at the age of 39 (the severity of which he carefully kept hidden from the public). He had a strong personality and an infectious charisma, but he was elusive and hard to know. FDR had a rather unorthodox even chaotic management style but this didn't stop him from effecting so much change in a fast-changing landscape. His "New Deal" was a set of initiatives designed to impart a new degree of security and safety upon the American people. He joined the citizens every week in their living rooms during his "Fireside Chats" (he was a master radio broadcaster). Although ultimately it was the industrial mobilization for the war effort which brought America out of its depressed economy. At first, FDR aided allies but maintained a position of neutrality. Then came December 7, 1941 ("a day which will live in infamy") when Pearl Harbor was attacked thrusting the U.S. into war. Roosevelt and General Eisenhower orchestrated the greatest logistical effort and massive assault on mainland Europe known as "D Day" (June 4, 1944). FDR was easily re-elected to a 4th term, but at this point his health was failing and he would die soon after. FDR is remembered for having the longest and one of the greatest presidencies in history - all future presidents would have to live in the enormity of his shadow. He was challenged with two of the largest crises in American history: the Great Depression and World War II - but as he said once: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!"

One of the most celebrated American figures, Benjamin Franklin was a jack of all trades. He is the essence of what it means to be an American. A printer. A publisher. A scientist. An inventor. A postmaster. A legislator. A diplomat. A social activist. A Founding Father. Even with only a 5th grade education, he pulled himself up by the bootstraps and became a celebrated, intelligent, wealthy and important figure even in his own time. The man embodies the American ideals. He led both an ambitious life and a virtuous one. Benjamin Franklin was also one of the earliest abolitionists and a protector of Native American rights. His life alone is the most profound statement of what an American strives to be.