What is the meaning behind "Oscar," the name of the Academy Awards' gold statue?
The Academy Awards have been referred to as “the Oscars” for so long that it can be easy to forget that the former is actually the original name of the elite awards show. The coveted gold statue had a different name when it was first created (the Academy Award of Merit), but it’s been called an Oscar since around the 1930s. The origin of this name change is still largely a mystery, which makes some of us wonder: what is the meaning behind the name “Oscar” anyway?
Even though the coveted gold statuette has been called an Oscar for so long, it still took until 2013 for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science to officially rebrand the show as The Oscars. Show co-producer Neil Meron told The Wrap, “We’re not calling it ‘the 85th annual Academy Awards,’ which keeps it mired somewhat in a musty way. It’s called ‘The Oscars.'”
So, did “Oscar” take over as the name of the statue simply because it was an easier and snappier term? Or is there some kind of deeper meaning behind the name itself that made it more special?
Probably not, although that’s definitely an interesting theory! Actually, the name “Oscar” has some really cool history behind it. According to BehindTheName, the name possibly means “deer friend,” derived from Gaelic, where “os” means “deer” and “cara” means “friend.” But it could also come from “Asgeirr,” an Old Norse cognate. Asgeirr is reported to have been brought to Ireland by Viking invaders and settlers.
Oscar as a name came from a character in Irish mythology named Oscar, the grandson of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. In Old English, “os” means “god” and “gar” means “spear.” In many languages, the name means “divine spear.”
The name originally became popular in continental Europe thank to an 18th-century Scottish poet named James Macpherson, who wrote a popular book of poems called Ossian. Ossian was the narrator in the book, and at some point during translation into different languages, became Oscar. Among Macpherson’s fans were Napoleon, who suggested “Oscar” should be the name of his godson. Because of this connection to Napoleon, Oscar is often thought of as a Scandinavian name, and ended up being given to more than a half-dozen members of Scandinavian royal houses.
So nothing in the history of the name makes it stand out as something that should be associated with the Academy Awards, but hey — it’s definitely still interesting to see where it came from!