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Celebrity Baby Names: The hottest and the nottest

Nicole Richie and Lionel Richie in Los Angeles, CA

The year before Nicole Richie, who’s mainly famous for being famous, named her first child Harlow Winter Kate, that Golden Age of Hollywood first name was given to only 28 baby girls.

In 2008, the year Richie gave birth in January, that number shot up to 133, more than doubling again the following year to enter the official Top 1000, rising to Number 778 in 2010 when 349 baby girls were named Harlow.

Celebrities have the power to catapult not only their own names to stardom, as they have in recent years for choices ranging from Scarlett to Jude, but the names they choose for their babies. Celebrity baby name choices can breathe life into a forgotten name like Matilda or Violet, add new luster to a vintage Hollywood appellation as with Harlow or Ava, even switch a name’s gender identity.

For a celebrity baby name to make it big seems to take a combination of parental star power and intrinsic name appeal: Reese Witherspoon’s Ava caught on in a major way, for instance, while son Deacon’s name may be just too quirky or religious for widespread use.

The most influential celebrity baby names right now:

AVAHeather Locklear first revived the slumbering (it had been out of the Top 1000 for two decades) name of gorgeous Hollywood star Gardner in 1997, but it really started to climb after Witherspoon used it for her daughter in 1999, jumping all the way to Number 5 last year.

EMERSON for a girl — When Teri Hatcher named her daughter Emerson in 1997, there were nearly six boys for every girl that received the name. In the most recent count, thanks to Hatcher’s influence, there were 1000 female Emersons born to only 612 boys.

KINGSTON – This place-name that mixes reggae with royalty entered the Top 1000 in 2006, the same year Gwen Stefani used it for her son, and has now risen to Number 214.

MADDOX – The names of the Brangelina brood are mixed in terms of their influence. Maddox, Pax, Zahara, and Vivienne have caught on, while Shiloh and Knox have not to the same extent. Oldest son Maddox is still the dominant baby name influencer. Born in 2001, his name entered the Top 1000 in 2003 and is now Number 180.

MATILDA – This quirky old-fashioned name harkened back to late dad Heath Ledger’s home country of Australia. Obscure when Michelle Williams gave birth to the little girl in 2005, Matilda entered the Top 1000 after a 45 year hiatus and is now a hipster favorite.

RYDER – Use of the name Ryder has more than tripled since Kate Hudson chose it for her older son in 2004. Infant son Bingham’s name is unlikely to have the same widespread appeal.

VALENTINA – This romantic name, chosen for her daughter by Salma Hayek in 2007, has risen 250 places on the popularity chart, to Number 152.

VIOLET – Blushing Violet has become a star since Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck revived this vintage name and used it for their daughter in 2005. Number 372 then, it’s now closing in on the Top 100. We predict little sister’s name SERAPHINA will also become much more popular. Though not yet in the Top 1000, the use of the obscure angelic name has doubled in the two years since Garner and Affleck chose it.

WILLOWWill and Jada Pinkett Smith used this graceful name for their daughter eleven years ago; now it’s risen from Number 760 to 290 and seems sure to go even higher, along with big brother Jaden’s name, whose popularity has also been influenced by Britney Spears’ Jayden.

A few other celebrity baby names destined to be influential but too recent to make the Top 1000 list are Clementine (Ethan Hawke), Romy (Sofia Coppola), and Story (Jenna Elfman).

And then there are those celebrity baby names that may have attracted a lot of attention but not many real-life namesakes. Why? While the children may be high profile and adorable, their names fall on the wrong side of the line between distinctive and weird.

AppleGwyneth Paltrow & Chris Martin
BronxAshlee Simpson & Pete Wentz
EgyptAlicia Keys & Swizz Beatz
HuckleberryBear Grylls
IgnatiusCate Blanchet
Monroe for girl—Mariah Carey & Nick Cannon
MoroccanMariah Carey & Nick Cannon
MoxiePenn Jillette
PtolemyGretchen Mol
SparrowNicole Richie and Joel Madden
SundayNicole Kidman & Keith Urban
SuriKatie Holmes & Tom Cruise

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