Trendy baby names have been around a lot longer Miley Cyrus or any of the famous Kardashians. From the dawn of recorded U.S. baby name history — aka 1880, when the federal government began keeping records — we’ve adopted names inspired by current events and popular people and culture, only to leave them behind for a new inspiration the next year.
The inspiration for name trends a century ago may have been politicians and war heroes rather than reality stars, but the definition of trendy baby names was the same: Names that spiked in popularity thanks to an outside influence, then sank from view along with its original bearer.
An organization called Flowing Data has calculated the trendiest names in US history, a fascinating look at which names burned the brightest only to fade the fastest.
Taken by 25-year bites, the trendiest baby names provide a window into our past. The use of place name Manila was probably inspired by the Philippine-American war at the turn of the last century, while Dewey — surprisingly trendy for both girls and boys at the end of the 19th century — honored not the much-later presidential candidate but philosopher and educator John Dewey. Public figures from Woodrow Wilson to General Pershing to Coretta Scott King are represented.
And then many other of the trendiest baby names are lost to the ages, along with whoever or whatever inspired their popularity.
A look at the trendiest girls’ and boys’ names of past eras:
The trendiest of the trendy are a similar mix of a few names that have endured over the years and many more that live up to their trendiness by disappearing as quickly and dramatically as they appeared.
The Top 10 trendiest names of the past 130 years, along with the year of their peak popularity and their original inspiration, are:
- Catina, 1972 — Spelling twist on name of baby on soap opera Where the Heart Is.
- Deneen, 1964 — Smoosh name drawn from Top 25 name Denise plus the then-stylish -een ending.
- Aaliyah, 1994 — Tragic R & B singer.
- Allisson, 2008 — Spelling aberration inspired by Latina actress Allisson Lozano.
- Katina, 1972– Actual spelling of baby name from Where the Heart Is.
- Cataleyah, 2012 — Zoe Saldana character named for a genus of orchids.
- Yulissa, 1997 — Character in a telenovela.
- Aja, 1978 — Name of Steely Dan album.
- Krystle,1981 — Dynasty character.
- Deanna, 1937 — Inspired by actress Deanna Durbin.
- Jalen, 1992 — Star college basketball player Jalen Rose.
- Tevin, 1990 — Actor Tevin Campbell in first film.
- Elian, 2000 — Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez made headlines.
- Demond, 1972 — Actor Demond Wilson was in TV’s popular Sanford & Son.
- Mcarthur, 1942 — World War II’s General Douglas MacArthur.
- Talan, 2005 — Talan Toriero from Laguna Beach.
- Colt, 1982 — Lee Majors character on TV.
- Yahir, 2002 — Singer Yahir Othon Parra
- Devante, 1992 — Record producer and rapper
- Jarrod, 1966 — Character on television’s The Big Family
What names on the scene today do you think might be the trendy flash-in-the-pans of the future? And which of today’s trendiest choices will transcend the moment and live on? Will Cataleya be the next Catina and fade from view, or the next Aaliyah and live on?