A traditional name for medieval royalty in Poland/Lithuania (including Casimir the Great and St. Casimir), Casimir is relatively unheard of in North America. I interviewed the parents of a Casimir I know about how they chose that name, and I also asked Casimir himself for his opinion.
Name pronunciation: KAZ-ih-meer
Birth year range: 2018-2022
Location: United States (west coast at birth, east coast now)
Name popularity: Casimir first showed up in the US baby name data in 1894. Depending on whether you look at ranking or number of births, it peaked in either 1917 (205 births, #392) or 1919 (220 births, #396). In 2018-2021, there were 29 to 40 Casimirs per year. In the US data, it has only been used for babies whose sex was recorded as male. Kazimierz, the more common spelling in modern Poland, is a popular classic there, ranking #69 in the 2021 data. (1, 2, 3)
Full name: Casimir’s family name is a 3 syllable Indian family name starting with K. His middle name is also an Indian name.
Who named Casimir? What was the process like?
R: My wife came up with a shortlist, and I picked Casimir from the list.
K: The first thing we had discussed was what we were doing with our children’s last names. We didn’t really like our last names together, so the discussion was whether we wanted to give the kids Indian given names with my Americanized Quebecois family name, or European given names with my husband’s Indian last name. My family name comes from the grandparent I was least close with, and my husband likes his family name, plus his name is usually less confusing for people (no one is ever sure how French my name is supposed to be) so we ended up going that way.
We knew from previous big decisions that he likes to just choose the first good option and be done while I like to exhaustively research everything and mull it over for a long time, so we decided I would make a shortlist for him to pick from. That strategy works really well for us because it lets us both work on our preferred speeds and it also lets both of us feel like we mostly made the decision – I looked through thousands of names (literally; my first step was to read through every single name on Nameberry) and narrowed it down to just 16 masculine names and 20 feminine names, so I feel like it was mostly my decision because I eliminated almost all of the names in the world; my husband feels like it was his decision because he made the final choice.
How did the name come up? Who suggested it? Where did you first hear of it?
R: I first heard of it in the context of the Casimir effect, which I guess I learned about in high school? My wife independently decided it was a good name, however.
K: I first heard the name sometime in elementary school when I learned about Casimir Pulaski. I grew up in New England, so there was a lot of American Revolutionary War educational content in my childhood. I think I thought Casimir Pulaski was a lot more famous than he is – I don’t think anyone I’ve talked about my kid’s name with has known who he was (so far). I’m also a pretty big Sufjan Stevens fan, so even though that song isn’t one of my particular favorites, I think it contributed to me thinking other people were familiar with the name.
Did you like the name right away? Were there any hesitations or downsides?
R: Yes, it was by far the best of the options.
K: When I was going through all the names on Nameberry as the first stage of assembling my list, I saw Casimir and thought, “Oh yeah, I’ve always liked the sound of that, throw it on the list.” When I was doing my more serious research to try and cut my list of almost a hundred names down to the shortlist I gave my husband, I did hesitate a little over the meaning. A lot of name websites give the meaning of Casimir as “destroyer of peace,” which obviously is not a very appealing name to give your child, but it just didn’t seem right to me that it could have ended up being this hugely popular royal name in medieval Poland if that meaning was accurate – destroying your peace is not really what you want your king to be doing! – so that made me side with the other sources (like the DMNES) that said the meaning is unclear or unknown.
What other names did you consider?
R: My wife was very excited about the name Morris, which I do not like at all. Casimir was by far the best name out of the ones she shortlisted. Maybe Casimir was also her favorite, and she wanted to make it more prominent by putting some other names she knew I wouldn’t like.
K: Other names I really liked were Morris, Ivor, Leir, and Constantine.
Describe what you like about the name. Are there other names that share the same traits? Do you think your partner liked the name for the same reasons?
R: It’s nice and breezy. Yes, I think my wife thought a lot about the mouthfeel and sound of Casimir.
K: Hmm, I don’t think I would call it breezy… I liked that Casimir has alliteration with the K in the family name when you hear them, but doesn’t share the same initial written down. I also liked the rhythm with the last name (DAH-dah-dah dah-DAH-dah). I was actually really into Constantine for the same reasons, but my husband preferred Casimir.
How do you and your partner feel about your own names? Did this affect what you were looking for in a baby name?
R: My wife probably thinks her name is boring. I have a pretty run-of-the-mill name, but not in the country I live in, so it’s fine.
K: I don’t know if I would say my name is boring, but it’s pretty common. I wasn’t specifically looking for an unusual name, but I really wanted to avoid a trendy name that would end up feeling dated to this decade. In principle, I was open to more of a classic name that’s always been popular and never goes out of style, but those names just didn’t really make it onto my list.
When did you announce the name? What was the initial response from family and friends?
R: When we announced the birth. I think they all liked it.
K: I did sort of a guessing game for some of my relatives, mostly because I thought there was no chance they would guess the name. Everybody was generally positive, but I had to explain the name a lot.
Now that your child is older, what reactions does the name get from strangers?
R: They all think it’s a cool name. A lot of my family in India just call him Kajwa (pronounced KAHZ-wah), which means “firefly,” which I think is a cute nickname.
K: People are usually a little puzzled by it. A lot of people ask me if it’s Indian, I guess because of the family name. No one has ever heard of Casimir Pulaski or the Casimir effect, let alone Casimir the Great.
Did you have any moments of regret or doubt after giving your child the name?
K: I did, yeah. I just called him Baby a lot at first, because Casimir just seemed like too much name for a newborn. I wondered a little bit whether we should have chosen something softer. The whole idea of naming him just sort of seemed temporary and fake at first, like “What do you mean his name is Casimir, that’s just something I made up, it’s not really real.” But then I just made myself use the name more, and now it really fits. He was Baby Cas for a while, and now I probably call him Cas or Casi or Casimir pretty evenly.
Overall, how do you feel about the name now?
R: Pretty much the same as I did.
K: Good! I think it’s sweet but energetic, which matches his personality well.
Bonus Interview: Questions for Casimir
Is Casimir a good name?
Is there another name you like better?
Casimir: A good name would be [little sister’s name].
Wouldn’t it be confusing if you both had the same name?