Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Rufus

Rufus is a Latin name that dates waaaaay back to Roman times. It began as a cognomen in Ancient Rome’s three-part naming system known as the Tria Nomina: the praenomen (personal name), the nomen (family name), and the cognomen (nickname). The cognomen was the last element of a full name to appear (around 300 BC) and was at first (for many centuries) restricted only to the aristocracy. The cognomen was basically a personal nickname usually related to individual attributes, both moral and physical. Rufus is an example of a cognomen representing a physical characteristic: in this case, given to men with red hair or a ruddy complexion, from the Latin rufus meaning, quite simply, “red, red-haired, ruddy.”  By the later Republic, the Roman cognomen would emerge as the most common piece of a person’s name, eventually becoming interchangeable as a personal name and family name. 
 
Rufus’s endurance beyond Roman times is largely owed to several early saints who bore this name, most notably one who appears in the Bible as a devoted disciple of the Apostles to whom St. Paul sent a salutation: “Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord…” (Romans 16:13).  According to the gospel of St. Mark (15:21), Rufus is also called out as the son of Simon of Cyrene, the man compelled to carry the cross of Jesus on the date of crucifixion.  Another memorable St. Rufus was an early 2nd century citizen of Antioch who was martyred for his Christian beliefs during the persecutions of Emperor Trajan; he was ceremoniously thrown into a Roman arena as an appetizer for some hungry wild beasts much to the perverse pleasure of the pagan Roman audience. Rufus was also a common sobriquet in medieval times, as exemplified by King William II of England, better known as William Rufus (c. 1056-1100), a nickname given to him for his red-faced appearance.    
 
Though the name Rufus has been around for more than 2,000 years, its popularity in the English speaking world as a given name was not cemented until the 16th century when the Puritans adopted it after the Protestant Reformation in a nod to the relatively obscure Rufus mentioned in the Bible.
 

All About the Baby Name – Rufus

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME RUFUS

The Master Number Twenty-Two combines the traits of Twos and Fours into a powerful force. The references to The Master Builder and "large undertakings" serve to underscore the massive potential of this personality. They are extremely capable and therefore almost always successful. Twenty-Twos are courageous leaders, innovative thinkers, extremely wise and highly organized. As such, they are able to manifest something of major importance that will have a lasting impact on this world. Master Numbers carry with them a great sense of responsibility, so it can be a burden. However, Twenty-Twos are executors and action-takers. Further, this personality exhibits traits of the Twos, which brings sensitivity, spirituality and harmony, so their endeavors are likely to benefit mankind in some capacity.

Popularity

OF THE BOY NAME RUFUS

As mentioned above, the name Rufus was first embraced among the Puritans who brought it over to the New World during the period of colonization (in fact, this is the name of a Revolutionary War general, Rufus Putnam). Available naming data suggests that Rufus saw his heyday in terms of popular use at the turn of the 20th century, having achieved an impressively high position of #126 on the naming charts in 1902. Throughout the 20th century, however, Old Rufus would experience a slow and steady decline until hitting obscurity by the end of the 1980s. In fact, only 20 baby boys out of nearly two million were given this name in 2014.  Apparently the British still adore it – it’s ranked #260 over the pond today. American parents, however, have collectively rejected this name in the 21st century, save for the gutsy few willing to buck the trends. A lot of people think of Rufus as a dog’s name, while others worry about the schoolyard “doofus” jokes. Regardless, Rufus is both ancient and unique. Its sheer endurance over two millennia is testament to its strength. Red is the color that attracts attention, after all, and we believe this old geezer will one day rise again. 

Quick Facts

ON RUFUS

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

Latin

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

N/A

PRONUNCIATION:

ROO-fəs

SIMPLE MEANING:

Red, ruddy

Characteristics

OF RUFUS

The Master Builder

Leader

Large Undertakings

Confidence

Discipline

Organization

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Rufus

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME RUFUS

We cannot find any significant literary characters by the name of Rufus

Popular Songs

ON RUFUS

Song to Rufus
a song by Bob Seger

Rufus Wants a Hug
a song by Kid Dynamite

Rufus
a song by Eddy Antonini

Rags to Rufus
a song by Chaka Khan

Famous People

NAMED RUFUS

Rufus Putnam (general in the American Revolutionary War)
Rufus Wilmot Griswold (writer, editor, critic)
Rufus King (lawyer, politician)
Rufus Choate (lawyer, orator, politician)
Rufus Reid (jazz musician)
Rufus Wainwright (singer-songwriter)
Rufus Sewell (actor)
Rufus Thomas, Jr. (soul singer)

Children of Famous People

NAMED RUFUS

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

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME RUFUS

We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Rufus