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16 Baby Name Trends Influenced by Pop Culture

Last week the U.S. Social Security Administration released a statement revealing America’s most popular baby names for 2012. There were two names that had significant rises in popularity: Major and Arya. I’ll be looking at the name Major later this week, but I was really fascinated by the increase in popularity of the name Arya. It was completely foreign to me.

Thankfully the SSA helpfully explained, “The fastest riser on the girls’ list may have been influenced by the popular cable TV series “Game of Thrones.” Arya is the daughter of a leader of one of the Seven Kingdoms. She also is an expert sword fighter, so doubt her influence on the popular names list at your own risk.”

OF COURSE!

(I know. I know. But I just haven’t been able to get into Game of Thrones.)

Pop culture has always influenced baby names. We get inspired by what we read or see and then the name of a favorite character ends up as the name of our bundle of joy. The trends of these names is sometimes instantly obvious. Such is the case with the name Arya. Other times it takes a year or so for the trend to take off.

This collection of baby name trends focuses on the spikes in name trends and then locates what the pop culture influence might have been.

16 Baby Name Trends Influenced by Pop Culture

  • Pop Culture Name Trends 1 of 17
    16 Baby Name Trends Influenced by Pop Culture

    From family tv shows in the 70's to large action movies of the 80's to vampire franchises of the 90's - when it comes to pop culture everything influences what we name our kids!

     

    Image Credit: istock photos

  • Arya 2 of 17
    Arya: pop cultue baby name trend

    In 2011 Arya was listed as 711th in the top 1,000 baby names in the United States. It jumped to 413 in 212 making one of the winners for biggest jump in popularity. 

     

    Arya Stark is a major character in the first, second and third seasons of HBO's popular Game of Thrones.

     

    Image Credit: HBO

  • Willow 3 of 17
    Willow: pop culture baby name trend

    In 1988 Ron Howard directed Willow, a movie about a dwarf that needs to protect a baby from an evil queen.

     

    It wasn't until the TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1997 that the name Willow started to take off. Buffy features a character named Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan). In 1998 Willow first shows up in the top 1,000 at spot 853.

     

    In 2012 Willow is the 171st most popular baby name for a girl.

     

    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Family Ties 4 of 17
    Family Ties: pop culture baby name trend

    The first episode of Family Ties aired on September 22, 1982. Of course we all remember the oldest sister on the show, right? Mallory! 

     

    The name Mallory doesn't show up at ALL on the top 1,000 until 1983 and it made its debut at spot 333.

     

    The mom's name on Family Ties was Elyse. This name was on the top 1,000 in the 1950's. It returned to the chart at spot 702 in 1983.

     

    Here is how influential this show was on baby name trends: the last name of the family was Keaton. Guess what name landed on the top 1,000 starting in 1985? 

     

    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Luke and Leia 5 of 17
    Luke and Leia: pop culture baby name trend

    ohbabynames says about the popularity of the name Luke, "Luke has been in use in America for well over a century and its popularity has always maintained a level of moderate success. In the late 1970's through the 1980's the name jumped close to the Top 100 most favored name for boys. This increase in usage was likely influenced by the popular movie, Star Wars, and the courageous yet boyish central character, Luke Skywalker."

     

    Oddly Leia never broke the top 1,000 until 2006. 

     

    In 2012 Leia is the 673rd most popular name for a girl and Luke is the 37th most popular name for a boy.

     

    Image Credit: © Lucasfilm

    Still of Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in Star Wars

  • Olivia 6 of 17
    Olivia: pop culture baby name trend

    The name Olivia became very popular in the mid 70's and many point to popular tv character Oliver Walton for this influence. 

     

    In 2012 this name was ranked the 4th most popular baby girls name.

     

    Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive

  • Madison 7 of 17
    Madison: pop culture baby name trend

    The name Madison doesn't show up on the charts at all until 1985 where it debuts at spot 628. By 1988 it was ranked 300. By 1993 it was in the top 100 baby names. By 1997 it was ranked in top 10 baby names  and it has been there ever since.

     

    So what happened just before 1985 that brought the name Madison into our hearts? Oh just a little movie named Splash!

     

    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Claire 8 of 17
    Claire: pop culture baby name trend

    The name Claire has always been popular, but it became REALLY popular in the late 1980's. Could it be that Molly Ringwald's iconic character from The Breakfast Club had anything to do with that?

     

    In 2012 Claire was ranked as the 45th most popular girl's name.

     

    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Clark Kent 9 of 17
    Clark Kent: pop culture baby name trend

    The 1st Superman movie of our generation came out in 1978. The name Clark started to see a rise in popularity in the late 70's. The highest it reached in the top 1,000 after Superman was released was spot 466 in 1983.

     

    In 2012 Clark was the 554th most popular boy name in America.

     

    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Sloane 10 of 17
    Sloane: pop culture baby name trend

    Sloane doesn't show up on the top 1,000 list until 2009. So what happened in 2009 that suddenly made Ferris Bueller's girlfriend land on the list? 

     

    While most of us saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off when it came out in the theater, many of us happily purchased the film when it was released on DVD in 2006 (and then again in 2008). Perhaps it was that nostalgia that influenced Sloane to land on the top 1,000 for the first time in 2009 ranked at 883. It has been on the rise ever since.

     

    In 2012 it was the 480th most popular name for a girl.

     

    Image Credit: IMDB

  • Madeline 11 of 17
    Madeline: pop culture baby name trend

    Madeline was listed on the top 1,000 starting in 1973 but never started to rise until the late 1980's.  A film version of the popular book series was released in 1998 and might have had something to do with keeping the name on the top 100's.

     

    In 2012 Madeline was the 96th most popular name for a girl.

     

    Image Credit: Wikimedia

  • Jareth 12 of 17
    Jareth: pop culture baby name trends

    Nancy's Baby Names has BRILLIANT posts about unusual names and I was amused to see that she had found a few babies that had been named Jareth after the Goblin King in Labyrinth.  According to Nancy:

    • 1986 10 baby boys named Jareth
    • 1987 50 baby boys named Jareth
    • 1988 51 baby boys named Jareth
    • 1989 38 baby boys named Jareth
    • 1990 49 baby boys named Jareth

    Then in 2006 the name shows up again! Has to be from the film being available on Netflix, right?!

     

    Image Credit: IMDB

     

  • Ariel 13 of 17
    Ariel: pop culture baby names

    Ariel was on the top 1,000 for a few years, but it didn't break into the top 100 spot until 1990. It's probably no coincidence that The Little Mermaid opened in 1989.

     

    In 2012 Ariel was ranked as the 181st most popular baby girl name.

     

    Image Credit: © 1989 - Walt Disney Studios

  • Emmy 14 of 17
    Emmy: pop cultue baby name trend

    The name Emmy all of a sudden shows up in the top 1,000 in the year 2007. It took me a while to figure out why the name could have become so popular. Then I realized that just a few years prior a relatively unknown actress, Emmy Rossum, was cast to play Christine in the 2004 film version of The Phantom of the Opera

     

    In 2012 Emmy was ranked as the 716th most popular girl's name.

     

    Image Credit: 2004 Scion Films Phantom

  • Olive 15 of 17
    Olive: pop culture baby name trend

    In 2007 Olive broke the top 1,000 for 1st time in 50 years. Little Miss Sunshine, featuring the super cute Olive, was released in 2006.

     

    In 2012 Olive was ranked 368th most popular name for a girl.

     

    Image credit: 20th century Fox

  • Kiara 16 of 17
    Kiara: pop culture baby name trend

    Kiara landed on the top 1,000 starting in 1988 but it wasn't until ten years later, and after the release of The Lion King II, that the name surpassed the top 200's. Kiara is Simba's daughter.

     

    In the 2012 Kiara was the 346th most popular girl name.

     

    Image Credit:  IMDB

  • Phoenix 17 of 17
    Phoenix: pop culture baby name trend

    River Phoenix died on October 31, 1993. Two years later the name showed up on the top 1,000 for boys in spot 961.   

    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published on June 21, 2003.

     

    In 2003 the name Phoenix showed up on the top 1,000 for girls in spot 981.

     

    In 2012 it was the 381st most popular name for a boy and the 573rd most popular name for a girl.

     

    Image Credits: Wikimedia (both)

Resources: Social Security Popular Baby Names

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