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Which people over time have had the greatest influence on baby names in the U.S.? We’ve collected the top dozen individuals who’ve inspired millions of namesakes, often in unexpected ways. Sometimes it was an actual name that went viral; in other cases these people set off a wider-ranging trend. Here, the greatest baby name influencers of all time:

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This week Appellation Mountain’s Abby Sandel follows the lead of Jada Pinkett (with son Jaden) in showing us how to find boys’ names honoring a female namesake.

Jaden Christopher Syre Smith turns 13 next month.  Smith is Hollywood royalty, the son of actors Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, and his name is often cited as one of the reasons Jayden, Caeden, Hayden, and company became an epidemic among boys’ names

Overlook the rhymes-with-Aiden qualities of Jaden Smith’s name for a minute, and there’s something else notable about this young actor’s appellation.  While girls have been named after their fathers since ancient days, Jaden is one of relatively few boys to be named after his mother. 

The Smiths continued the pattern with daughter Willow Camille Reign, choosing a name that honors dad, but opting for something less conventional than Billie or Wilhelmina.

They’re not the only famous parents looking to their family trees as a starting point for choosing a child’s nameOrlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr chose Flynn to honor his grandmother, Evelyn.

Plenty of names have obvious equivalents, like Charles and Charlotte or Ray and Rae.  Others don’t lend themselves to an obvious opposite-gendered name.  What’s the masculine form of Bridget?

You may need to be creative to name a daughter after your favorite uncle, but that can create an opportunity, too.  Grandpa Donald might fume if you reject Donald in favor of the more stylish Donovan for your son.  But honor grandma Donna or aunt Dawn with a little Donovan, and chances are she’ll be thrilled.

Based on the most popular names of the 1970s and 80s, here are some thoughts about how you might name a son, Pinkett-Smith style.  The girls’ list is up next week.  Add your additions and suggestions in the comments!

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Celebrity Baby Names

We talk a lot about the influence of celebrity baby names on the general population of baby namers, but just how potent is that influence in actuality?  I thought it might be useful to  take a closer look at some celebrity choices and see if there was some way to quantify their impact.

Of course there are, inevitably, other factors involved in whether celebrity baby names become popular.  For instance, how high-profile is this celeb and how much has her child been seen in the media?  What are other influences surrounding  the name?  A popular character in a movie or TV show?  Is this a name that would have risen anyway, just as part of the zeitgeist or is it one that was never—or hardly ever—even heard before?  Is  it a vintage name that had been stored in the attic until it was brought out and sprinkled with some stardust?

Here are a few specific examples, giving the child’s and his or her celebrity parent’s name, the year of birth, and where the name ranked before, during and after its arrival.

AVA is an interesting case.  Previously seen as an outdated, elderlyish name, it first showed signs of a revival when used by Aidan Quinn in 1989, but he didn’t seem to have the voltage to elevate the name above the 800’s on the Social Security list.  Next came Heather Locklear, a major TV star at the time of her Ava’s birth in 1997: the name subsequently rose from #737 in 1995 to 259 in 1999.  But it was following the more highly publicized arrival of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe‘s Ava-named daughter in 1999 that the name shot up to #133 two years later—and then all the way to #5 (and probably rising) last year.

HAZEL was another name that seemed to have little potential for a comeback when chosen by Julia Roberts for one of her twins in 2004.  It wasn’t even on the list in 1997, was at 681 when little Hazel Moder was born, but had risen to 359 three years later.

IRELAND is a clear-cut example of a name created by the celebrity culture, as it was unheard of when the daughter of Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin was born in 1995—a time when place names were heating up.  By last year, there were more baby girls named Ireland than there were named Tess, Tia or Tanya.

JADEN is another proof of the Starbaby Effect.  The son of Jada Pinkett and Will Smith was given this spin on the biblical Jadon in 1998, when it ranked #328; five years later it had zoomed to #82.  Jaden’s sister Willow’s name is also on the rise.

JAYDEN.  This spelling was already quite trendy when Britney Spears and Kevin Federline picked it for their son in 2006, but the maelstrom of  publicity swirling around Britney and her boys surely contributed to this version of the name reaching its current standing of  #11.

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