The given name Carter comes from the transferred use of an English surname which originated as an occupation name. The word cart comes from the Old French “caret” meaning “carrier” (basically one who transported goods in a cart). Surnames were introduced in England after the Norman Conquest in 1066 as a means to keep track of people and their assets for the purpose of taxation. Trade-descriptive surnames were among the earliest to be introduced around the 12th century and were passed down to the son only if he followed his father into the same line of work. The spelling variation of Carter developed from its earlier predecessors such as Charer or Charman describing a carter or driver of a "char" (short for chariot). Another possible derivation of the name Carter comes from the Gaelic word “cairtear” which is a term for a tourist or sojourner. Usage of surnames as forenames dates back to at least the 19th century and has always been more typically a masculine naming style (although in recent years, surnames have become quite fashionable for baby girls, as well). Carter is a pretty popular boy’s name in both Canada and the United States, but it also shows up on Northern Ireland’s Top 100 list.
The name Carter has been in circulation as a boy’s name for well over a century in America. Occasionally, the name is used for girls, but so rarely that it doesn’t even register on the charts. In fact, Carter is 37 times more popular boys vs. girls. Therefore, we consider Carter a “masculine” name as opposed to unisex. The name has generally experienced relatively low success even for boys until about the year 2000. When you look at the name’s recent and rapid ascension to the top of the charts, you can clearly see that Carter is currently “in vogue” – yet somehow it doesn’t feel overused or super common. When it comes to surnames as forenames for boys, Carter is in fifth place right now (after Mason, Logan, Jackson and Landon). Carter is a strong sounding name with blue-collar elements given its origin as a trade name. It’s confident, cool and casual.