How Did “Fido" Become the Default Name for a Dog?

Maybe you know dogs named Ace, Bandit, Sparky, Max or Cinnamon, but the chance of being introduced to a Fido are much lower. These days, Fido doesn’t even make the top 100 dog names, but it was once generic shorthand for “dog” itself, much like Kleenex has become the default for tissues. So, how did the name Fido become synonymous with dog? The credit goes to Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th president. Before becoming president and while living in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln had a mixed-breed yellow dog named Fido, who enjoyed scraps from Lincoln’s plate at meals, waited patiently outside the barber shop or other establishments Lincoln patronized, and generally became known around town as a good-natured dog. In 1863, as Lincoln prepared to move to the White House, it became apparent that Fido was a little too friendly, and perhaps ill-manned, for high office. The Lincolns also worried that the hustle and bustle of life in Washington, DC, might upset the dog. Upon moving into the White House, the Lincolns welcomed a dog named Jip, but to ensure that Fido had a good life back in Springfield, Lincoln decided to have a local carpenter named John Roll and his family take care of Fido. To help soothe his sense of loss, Lincoln had Fido's formal portrait taken. The photo made its way into numerous newspapers, and thereafter Fido — both the dog and the name — skyrocketed in popularity. Just as Fido's master was killed by another man, so too did Fido meet an unfortunate end at the hands of another. In 1866, a year after Lincoln's assassination, Fido — ever the trusting and people-loving dog — came across a man sleeping on a sidewalk. Fido started to lick the man's face, which prompted the man, who was drunk, to pull a knife and stab Fido in self-defense. While Fido met a tragic end, his name lives on in popular culture, signifying the ideal of a friendly, faithful pooch.