Karol for a boy?

A reader was asking me today if anyone’s using Karol for a boy, whether first or middle name. I know this mama has a boy with Karol as one of his middle names, and I know a little boy in real life who does so as well — what about all of you? Have you seen Karol as a first or middle name for a boy? Has he had any difficulty with the fact that it’s most familiar to [non-JP-loving Catholics] as a girl’s name?

31 thoughts on “Karol for a boy?

  1. I had a professor in college with a son named Karol. They pronounced it Carl, so I never saw any problem with it, though it’d be interesting to see how the boy is weathering teenhood with it. The culture at my college was/is very pro Catholic, so it’s probably fine.

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    • That’s an excellent point — I would imagine the pronunciation Carl (which I believe is how Karol is meant to be said in Poland) would raise far less eyebrows than said like Carol.


  2. Speaking as someone who isn’t Catholic…I perceive Carol as feminine and Karol as masculine. The SSA data would disagree with me (Karol still being more widespread among girls than boys), but to answer the usage question – yes, 18 boys were named Karol last year!

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  3. I have a little one who is middle named Karol. We haven’t had any issues with it so far. It was one of those perfect “aha” moments when we came up with the name so we would have used it even if people gave us a hard time. But after we named him, we heard of a few others with the same name, so I so think it is going to become a bit more normalized but the time our boys are older.

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  4. I have always heard this name pronounced like “Carl” by people who I consider to be “in the know” (either bilingual in Polish or well-traveled or who have studied JPII extensively). Most everyday Catholics I know say it like “Carol”, but I use the “Carl” pronunciation because I like it a lot better. And if it’s pronounced like “Carl”, it seems fine to me. The only people I’ve met so far with the name Karol have been little girls named for JPII, though. (Maybe more people with boys use John Paul to honor him?)

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    • Interesting, I am Polish (born there, speak fluently), and the way I have always known it to be pronounced is with two syllables: ka – rol. The “ka” is said like “cartoon” but not like the “ka” in “can” or “carrot,” the latter of which sounds like the American/English feminine name “Carol.” And the second syllable “rol” is said like the American/English word “roll” (tootsie roll, roll over, etc.). But it definitely has two distinct syllables. Hope that helps out there. 🙂

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      • This is great — and fascinating, because that’s not too far off of how I say Carl. Definitely like “car” (as in cartoon) plus an almost swallowed “rull” (rather than a fully pronounced “roll”), and probably technically one syllable but I often make it too. I bet when native English-speaking Americans hear the correct Polish pronunciation, they think it’s just like our Carl. I love your pronunciation! Thanks for clarifying!

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      • Yes, I totally agree with Kate! How you’re describing it, Kasia, is very close to how I hear and say Carl, just with a more swallowed “roll” sound.

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      • Aha! Glad to hear from someone who knows Polish. I always suspected that was the most likely pronunciation, but I don’t get around my Polish-speaking relatives often enough to ask such questions :). I do think most of us American English speakers would “hear” Karl/Carl without seeing it written out. It is one of those names that kind of lends itself to making it two syllables even if it technically has only 1.

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  5. I know a John Karol (pronounced John Carl) and think he wears it well. The double barrel makes it obviously masculine, of course. Otherwise, I saw it used twice last year by Catholic families with late term losses of boys in pregnancy. I’ve never seen it used for a girl, though obviously the SSA data contradicts my anecdotal experience.

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  6. I worked with a guy named Karel. It’s pronounced like Carl. He has a very Slavic last name. I imagine it causes some confusion, but you get used to it.

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  7. Hmmmm, this one, for me, said like the female Carol, would be better left as a middle name for now. But it would be a great middle name that goes with tons of names I feel like because it has such unique sound combinations!

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  8. Okay, speaking as a Polish-American here :), Karol in Polish would sound very similar to Karl or Carl in English. Pretty sure it’s the Polish variant of Carl or Charles (haven’t read the other comments yet!). Quit the long “a,” it sounds plenty masculine to me. I probably wouldn’t give an American boy the name with the feminine pronunciation Care-ol just because culturally, I am not sure it works and that’s not the original pronunciation anyway, so why take on all that baggage? :-P. That’s just me! I do have a nephew/niece in heaven named Alex Karol. Maybe one day I will finally take my Polish-American mother’s advice and bestow the name of Karl (which I consider still an honor name for JP) on a boy, but probably as a middle name.

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