Ask the Name Lady

Ask Now

Has This Name Gone to the Dogs?

My husband loves the name Winston. He wants to give it to our fourth son. I'm not sold yet. I have never met anyone named Winston, although I know it is a classic British name. I also know it's a popular dog name, which bugs me. Is it too canine for a baby (or toddler, or teen, or grown man)?

–Not Won Over by Winston

Surprise: Winston is a fast-rising name for boys in the U.S. It's ranked in the top 500, and is probably more likely to make people think of Winston Churchill or stock-car racing than dogs. (The top NASCAR series was called the Winston Cup for decades, after sponsor Winston cigarettes.)

Thanks to that, Winston doesn't scream (or bark) "DOG!" like Rover or Fido. But this kind of question does come up more and more today, not because we're giving kids more dog names—but because we're giving dogs more human names.

Just look at the top names on this list of popular dog names: For male dogs, Bailey, Max, and Charlie top the list; Jake, Jack, and Toby are also in the top 10. (Winston is #23.) And for female dogs, the most popular names sound like the roll call at a preschool: Bella, Lucy, Maggie, Sophie, and Chloe are all in the top 10. Rover and Fido, by the way, don't make the list at all.

Your husband loves Winston. It has a surname vibe and ends with N, which make it sound stylish. These qualities also allow it to complement many other names, from classics like William to more contemporary picks like Nolan. It's familiar and recognizable, yet not ubiquitous. Winston could very well be a winner for your son! 


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

December 4, 2017 12:06 PM
By Sabby (not verified)

My friend had a beautiful big ol' mastiff named Winston. It's popular for british breeds of dogs, like bulldogs. I wouldn't use it, but I wouldn't think it was totally weird if I met a human named Winston.

December 4, 2017 12:27 PM
By Sasha (not verified)

I do know of a boy named Winston and his brother is William!

December 4, 2017 12:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I don't know any dog (or person) named Winston and I don't think having a name that is popular with dogs is a big deal. I know a cat with my name, it's fine.

December 4, 2017 11:28 PM
By Juli (not verified)

I'd be more worried about the cigarette association than the canine use of the name Winston.

December 6, 2017 12:48 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I for one think of Churchill first- which is not a bad associative legacy at all. (Just so you can see how it plays out, one of my daughters' names is Lucy. I was nervous at first partly for this reason but my husband LOVED it! Only when she was a baby did anyone speak of a dog they knew that was also named Lucy. Now that she's going to Kindergarten next year I just haven't heard anyone try to make small talk in that way. No one is immune anyway and in reply I would just say super nicely, "Isn't it a great name?" And then it seemed like they'd realized what just happened. But humans are human... She went to swimming lessons this summer with Sam, Jake, Rose and then Lucy and a few other like named kids and it was all very charming!)

December 6, 2017 10:22 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Dog names and kid names are the same in my extended family & I think for a lot of other people too. We've had dogs (and cats) with names like Sam, Maggie, Sebastian, Lucy, Jack, Emma etc. I also know kids with all of those names and it's never been an issue. If my youngest son had been a girl, his name would have been Margaret/Maggie, despite my grandparents dog being called Maggie. Never even occurred to me that I shouldn't use the name because it was a "dog" name.

For me, the only True Dog Names that I consider not OK for people are things like Fido, Spot or Patches.

December 7, 2017 9:31 AM
By Mary Gertz Hannigan (not verified)

Some friends of ours named their son Winston, and all I could think of was the cigarette commercial, "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should"!

Also, are names ending in "N" the chic thing today?

December 7, 2017 9:35 AM
By Mary Gertz Hannigan (not verified)

Two of our cats have people's names - Crystal and Taylor.

December 7, 2017 12:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Winston isn't an everyday dog name, it's one you'd expect from old British movies--you know the hound dog curled up next to the fire--so I can understand the knee jerk reaction. But no one will be saying oh that's my dog's name (like with Lola) because it's not a name you give a hyperactive puppy, which is what most people are getting when they have a chance to name the dog. And it won't take long for someone who has that knee jerk reaction to think, oh, yeah, it's not a "dog" name. And with advertising restrictions in the US the next generation shouldn't be familiar with the cigarette brand, I'm a millenial and I barely remember the cigarette advertisements. Winston Churchill is too strong of an association (like Bible names) for someone to be mortified and totally miss what you were going for.

December 14, 2017 10:32 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My daughter is Lucy and I worried about this as well. (In fact, my husband had a cat named Lucy growing up—he didn’t mention that while we were discussing names! His siblings brought it up after we’d had our baby.) Here’s my thought about it: when people say “I had a dog named Lucy!” I think that’s a good thing! People generally have positive associations with their pets, positive memories and feelings. If my Lucy gets some of those warm feelings passed to her because of a pet name association, I’m good with that.

December 27, 2017 3:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The New Girl TV series has to charaters named Winston.
Winston L'Andre Bishop
Winston Schmidt

January 10, 2018 4:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I love this perspective! Thanks for sharing it.

January 10, 2018 4:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The above was meant to be a reply to Lucy's mom.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.