What is the meaning of Claude? [2023]

The name Claude has an interesting origin and meaning. In this article, we will explore the history behind the name, its meaning and significance, and some of the famous bearers of this name.

History and Origin

History and Origin

The name Claude traces its roots back to ancient Rome. It originated as a masculine given name Claudius which meant “lame, crippled”. The name Claudius belonged to one of the Roman emperors Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who ruled from 41 to 54 A.D.

Over the centuries, the name Claude emerged as a French variant of the name Claudius. It became popular during the Middle Ages in France because of the influence of the Roman Empire. The spelling was altered to its current form Claude.

The name spread to England from France after the Norman Conquest in 1066 when the Normans introduced several French names. By the 14th century, Claude was in common usage as a given name and surname in England.

Meaning and Significance

The root meaning of Claude refers to someone who limps or is lame/crippled. This meaning comes from its Latin root Claudius which originated from the word claudus meaning “lame, crippled”.

However, today the name Claude evokes a different imagery. It is associated with attributes like creativity, compassion, wisdom, and intellectualism.

Some symbolic meanings associated with the name Claude include:

  • Creative and wise
  • Strong intuition and intelligence
  • Spiritual and philosophical
  • Artistic talents
  • Leadership abilities

So while the original meaning implied a physical limitation, the modern meanings relate to the person’s inner character. A person named Claude is thought to have a brilliant mind and sensitive nature.

Famous Bearers of the Name

Throughout history, many famous personalities have borne the name Claude. Here are some notable bearers of this name:

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) – Claude Monet was one of the most renowned French impressionist painters. His paintings such as his Water Lilies series greatly influenced impressionist and modern art.

Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918) – Claude Debussy was a leading French composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is regarded as the father of musical impressionism.

Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 – 2009) – Levi-Strauss was an influential French anthropologist and ethnologist, noted for his structural analysis of myths and kinship systems.

Claude Shannon (1916 – 2001) – An American mathematician and computer scientist, Claude Shannon is considered the father of information theory and founder of digital communications.

Claude Makelele (1973 – ) – A French former footballer, Makelele perfected the defensive midfielder position leading to the role being known as the “Makelele role”.

Claude Von Riegan (Character) – Claude is a fictional character in the Fire Emblem video game series known for his archery skills, carefree personality, and noble heart.

Usage Over the Years

Usage Over the Years

Claude enjoyed substantial popularity as a given name in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, its usage declined steadily during the latter half of the 20th century.

According to names data, Claude was among the top 200 most popular male names in the United States from 1880 to 1949. It ranked as high as 97th in the early 1920s.

The name’s popularity began to wane in the 1950s and dropped significantly by the 1970s. By the 1990s, it had fallen out of the top 1000 names. In 2018, only 204 baby boys were named Claude in the US which is a marked drop from its heyday.

However, in recent years the name seems to be garnering fresh interest and making a comeback internationally. Modern parents are rediscovering this vintage name and its rich history.

Cultural References

Being an older classical name, Claude appears extensively in books, films, and other cultural works, especially those with a European or historical setting.

For example, in the 1937 film Make Way for Tomorrow, Victor Moore played a character named Claude Cooper. Claude Rains is a famous actor who starred in classic films like Casablanca.

In Bill Watterson’s comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, one of Calvin’s alter egos is named Claude who is sarcastic and indulges in exaggerated French. This reflects the name’s French roots.

Overall, the name Claude carries a sophisticated and intelligent image in pop culture denoting someone creative and outspoken.

Claude as a Last Name

  • The surname Claude is the French variation of the Roman family name Claudius
  • Notable people with the last name Claude include French physicist Georges Claude and American inventor Othon Claude
  • Claude is fairly uncommon as a contemporary surname – the 2010 US Census recorded fewer than 3000 people with the last name
  • As a surname, Claude has aristocratic and intellectual connotations due to its Roman roots

Popularity Across Countries

Popularity Across Countries
  • While Claude has lost popularity in the US, it continues to be moderately common in some European countries
  • In 2020, it was ranked 75th in Switzerland and 90th in Belgium for baby boy names
  • Other European countries where Claude still charts include France, Sweden, and the Netherlands
  • So the name retains reasonable visibility in parts of Europe compared to the US

Claude in the Middle Ages

  • As mentioned before, Claude became widespread in France during the Middle Ages
  • During this era, having a French or Latin name was seen as prestigious
  • Saints and other religious figures named Claude emerged in the medieval period
  • The Latin form Claudius was still commonly used alongside Claude in the Middle Ages

Variants of the Name

  • Clovis is the German form of Claude and was popular among early Frankish kings
  • Claudio is the Spanish and Italian variant widely used in Iberian and Latin cultures
  • Klaudius is the Lithuanian version while Klaudijus is the modern Lithuanian form
  • So Claude has generated a variety of international variants over the centuries

Claude in Women’s Names

  • Though historically a male name, Claude is occasionally used as a feminine name too
  • For instance, American actress Claude Jade who starred in French films like Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses
  • Claude Cahun was the pseudonym of French photographer and writer Lucy Schwob
  • So while uncommon, Claude can have feminine usage, especially in arts and culture


Claude is a storied name with an interesting evolution in meaning and connotation. Originally signifying someone lame or crippled, it now conveys creativity, wisdom, and artistic talent. The name is associated with luminaries like Monet and Debussy.

While not very popular presently, Claude has immense potential for revival. Its vintage European charm, rich history, and modern reinterpretation make it an appealing option for parents seeking a unique but meaningful name for their son.


Q: What are the origins of the name Claude?

A: The name Claude has its roots in ancient Rome as a variant of the Latin name Claudius, which was derived from the word ‘claudus’ meaning lame or crippled. It emerged as the French form of Claudius during the Middle Ages.

Q: What was the significance of the name in medieval France?

A: In medieval France, Claude and other French and Latin names were seen as prestigious. The influence of ancient Rome led to these names becoming popular among nobility and religious figures.

Q: Who are some famous people named Claude throughout history?

A: Some notable bearers of the name Claude include the impressionist painter Claude Monet, composer Claude Debussy, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, mathematician Claude Shannon, and footballer Claude Makelele.

Q: What are some of the positive meanings associated with the name today?

A: While its original meaning was more negative, Claude today conveys attributes like creativity, wisdom, intelligence, spirituality, leadership abilities, and artistic talents.

Q: How popular was the name Claude in the 20th century?

A: Claude was very popular in the United States in the early 20th century, ranking in the top 100 names from 1880 to 1949. But its usage declined steadily in the latter half of the century.

Q: Is Claude used more for boys or girls?

A: Traditionally, Claude has been used overwhelmingly as a boys’ name. However, there are a few examples of it being used as a feminine name by some artists and writers.

Q: What are some variants of the name Claude in other languages?

A: Some variants include Clovis (German), Claudio (Spanish/Italian) and Klaudijus (Lithuanian). The name has evolved into different international versions over time.

Q: Does Claude have any significant cultural references?

A: Claude appears in books, films, and other media, especially historical European works. It carries connotations of intelligence and creativity in pop culture.

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