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THE NAME OF SHERLOCK HOLMES


Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes

Author: SherlockExtra - Translator: Revati


Sherlock Holmes – the name means logical thinking, just like the name of Albert Einstein. Holmes is a world famous character, and when someone says something stupid or states a thing that is obvious, we funnily call him/her Sherlock. But where does the name of the great detective originate from?

It is not an easy question. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle renamed his hero many times, and in addition to that we have to take into consideration that Sherlock was created long ago, and many rumours were around him and his name. In the following we list the major anecdotes which blend into an interesting story.

Hope Ship - Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes and hope
Sherrinford Hope

Originally Doyle wanted to call his detective Sherrinford Hope. Hope was the name of a whaling ship sailing from Scotland’s Peterhead to Greenland. There are suppositions that in 1880 Doyle was bored of studying and he fled to the ship. The truth is that in those days medical students often served on ships for months, because they could practice their future profession and help whalers whose job was hard and dangerous. Conan’s classmate was assigned for Hope, but he could not take part on the journey. He offered his place and Doyle snatched at the opportunity. He wrote a diary about his days on board, which was later published with the title Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure.

In the end the detective was renamed, because Louisa, the first wife of Doyle thought the name Sherrinford Hope was awful, so she persuaded her husband to change it. Doyle chose the name Sherrinford Holmes. But Hope is not far from the British sleuth, as his greatest merit is that though he is a fictional character, he is still able to raise hope. We write more detailed about his relationship with hope in the following article: I believe in Sherlock Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

The picture in the middle belongs to bio.com,
where you can read more about Oliver Wendell Holmes


Oliver Wendell Holmes
A famous Holmes

While the model of Holmes was Scottish surgeon Joseph Bell, his family name is a kind of salute to another doctor similar to him. The American Oliver Wendell Holmes thought that meticulous observation and good deducting skills are essential in medical practice. He was a lecturer and a true reformer. His thinking was rational. He looked upon homeopathy as false science – he published his arguments and analysed the misbeliefs.

He was not as tall as Bell, but he too wrote poems. He was an outstanding literary personality, who was an acclaimed novelist and poet.

In Doyle’s novels the detective is a solitary genius, while the doctors who inspired him were married and had children. Oliver sometimes had a moustache like Doyle, and sometimes he was clean-shaven like dr. Bell.

Sherrinford Hope - Sherlock Holmes

The name Sherlock Holmes is born
Sherrinford or Sherringford Holmes?

So our hero got the name Sherrinford Holmes. Or Sherringford Holmes? Sometimes there is a „g” in his first name. Doyle liked both versions, so the fans of the great detective use them too. Nowadays we could read the adventures of Sherrin(g)ford Holmes, but publishers rejected the stories. Seeing this, Doyle chose a new name that sounded better for British ears: Sherlock. This name met with success.

Doyle also renamed the faithful chronicler of Holmes – his name changed from Ormand Sacker to John Watson. Dr. Patrick Watson was the colleague and close friend of Joseph Bell, he was a real gentleman. Though Doyle modelled Watson after himself, he also used Patrick Watson as inspiration.

According to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London the name 'Sherlock' originates from the famous violinist, Alfred Sherlock.

Conan was a fan of cricket. He maybe chose the name Sherlock because of two revered British cricket players, Mordecai Sherwin and Frank Shacklock. (We must note that the former was a professional footballer as well.)

SHERwin + ShackLOCK = SHERLOCK

Mordecai Sherwin

SHERLOCK = shear + lock


The name Sherlock has Old English origins. It has the following meanings: bright-haired, short-haired, sheared. It is worth to mention that when Jeremy Brett accepted the role of the great detective, it was his idea that Sherlock must be bright-haired to show his brilliant mind.

The name also means short-haired – in the novels and on the original illustrations by Sydney Paget Sherlock has short, black hair. But his hair colour often changed both on illustrations and onscreen. Anthony Higgins played him with long hair in the movie Sherlock Holmes returns.

Sherlock Holmes name

The brilliant detective became a real icon with the name Sherlock Holmes. Later some parodies played with it too – he was called Herlock Sholmes or Sherlock Hemlock.

Sherlockian Holmesian

The full name of Sherlock Holmes and his middle name
William Sherlock Holmes Scott - the real name


Sherlockian Holmesian

Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes

In some adaptations appears the name William Sherlock Holmes Scott as the true name of the detective. But you find no traces of it in the original Canon - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always calls his hero Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlockian Holmesian

If you want to get more acquainted with the personality of Sherlock Holmes
and with the misbeliefs surrounding him, please read these articles:


Sherlock Holmes

I believe in Sherlock Holmes

Common misbeliefs about Sherlock Holmes

Sherlockian Holmesian

Author: SherlockExtra
Translator: Revati

© All rights reserved.


Sherlockian Holmesian

Recommended site:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Dr. Joseph Bell the real Sherlock Holmes

C. Auguste Dupin, the predecessor of Sherlock Holmes


Sherlockian Holmesian


Sherlockian Sherlock Site


Sherlock Holmes is The World's Greatest Detective. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the canon. EVERYTHING else is fanfiction.

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