It is a name which has been in use for centuries in its more familiar form Adrian.
Adrian is currently on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic; in the US it was 56th in 2010. It was down in 190th in the UK, but that’s not bad given that it reached the top 30 in the 1960s — most names in favor in the UK back then are still dwindling.
Hadrian, on the other hand, has always been very rare, which is strange, as not only is it so similar to its offspring Adrian, but it also starts with the popular Hay- sound of Hayden and Hailey.
Perhaps it just needs a spot-light.
Hadrian is the English form of the Latin Hadrianus, a Roman cognomen (sort of like a surname), which was famously borne by the early 2nd Century CE Roman Emperor, who ordered the building of a wall across the north of England.
Hadrian’s Wall, as it is known, is one of the most significant Roman archaeological sites in Europe.
Hadrian’s full name — before he became emperor — was Publius Aelius Hadrianus. His family took their cognomen from Adria, a sea-port in Northern Italy.
The origin of the town’s name is uncertain, but the most likely source is an ancient Illyrian word, adur meaning ‘water’ — a word cognate with both the Greek hudôr and Old Teutonic: watar.
Generally, Hadrian is reserved exclusively for the Pagan emperor, while Adrian is used for the numerous Christian saints and popes, including the only English pope, a man whose birth name was Nicholas Breakspear.
One exception is St Adrian of Canterbury, who is sometimes called Hadrian. He was an early 8th Century scholar of Canterbury, reputedly of North African origin.
Another is the fictional Hadrian VII, hero (of sorts) of Frederick Rolfe’s 1904 novel of the same name.
But apart from a few minor characters scattered here and there, Hadrian hasn’t actually seen much use in fiction except in novels about the Emperor.
Hadrian first started to be used as a given name in its full form in the 17th Century, no doubt in honor of the Emperor.
It offers the short forms Hay, Hady, Hadie and Hade — which does have a certain ring to it.
So, if you like the sound of Hayden and/or Adrian, but fancy something just a bit different and with a more Pagan feel, why not add Hadrian to your list?