Cooper is the transferred use of an English surname derived from an occupation name. In Middle English, the word “cupere” defined a maker of wooden vessels or barrels (from the Middle Low German “kupe” meaning “cask, container”). In medieval England, a “cooper” was essentially a barrel or tub-maker. A dry cooper’s barrels held dry-goods, while the wet cooper’s casks were made to contain liquids. This particular trade dates back to the 8th century, but by the High Middle Ages, the craft of barrel making was vital to the preservation and shipment of dry goods and dairy products. The surname would have been assigned to barrel makers as a form of identification; trade surnames were usually passed down to the son, as well, as long as he followed his father into the same line of work. Not surprisingly, Cooper is one of the oldest surnames in English existence, recorded first as “le Cupere” in 1176 (predating the Domesday Book of 1086). It is also one of the oldest American surnames, having been borne by Walter Cooper, one of the earliest settlers in Virginia (predating the Mayflower). As a masculine given name, Cooper is more-or-less a modern-day, late 20th century invention. Despite its newness as a masculine given name choice, Cooper has already shown great success in Australia, Canada, Scotland and the United States. Maybe we should call him “Coup”-per.
Cooper’s popularity is most notable in Australia where the name ranked #4 in terms of usage in 2009 (today he’s around the Top 10). No doubt in America, Cooper is definitely on our radar, he’s just not quite as fashionable as he is with our friends down under. Cooper first debuted on the American male naming charts in 1982. It climbed pretty steadily up the charts, but maintained only moderate usage until the mid-2000s. In 2007 Cooper finally landed himself a coveted spot on America’s Top 100 list; although 2010 will probably be his best year ever at #75 on the charts (he’s slipping a tiny bit in popularity right now). Cooper is a non-traditional masculine name that has a certain impish quality and rebellious zest. We’re not quite sure why, though. It’s a cute boy’s name that will likely to be shortened to “Coop” in his adolescent years. It’s just one of those cool-sounding surnames that work equally well as a forename. We should also mention Cooper is a common name for pet dogs (but so is Riley, Bailey and Marley – not necessarily an off-putting issue for most parents).