How Bad Are These Names?

How Bad Are These Names?

Some names are so taboo that no one would dare use them… or would they?

Parents are now naming their babies Lucifer — 58 of them in 2022 — and many other names of notorious figures that might have been off limits a generation ago. Some parents may not know that Lucifer is the proper name of the biblical devil; others may not care.

But more and more, people may choose these names not despite but because of their Bad Boy and Bad Girl image.

What makes a name change from unthinkable to a naughty-but-nice option? It can be cultural shift, like religion playing less part in many people's lives. A character’s reputation can change, like Jezebel getting a feminist makeover. Or the associations might be diluted by other namesakes, like Benedict Cumberbatch overtaking Benedict Arnold in popular association. Style plays a huge role too: if a name sounds on-trend and edgy, parents will find a way to use it.

Here, we check in on where 28 notorious names are now, ranked in order of acceptability from Totally Fine to Do. Not. Use. Ever.

The statistics are for the USA's most popular baby names 2022, the most recent data available.


Popularity: Number 58

This biblical bad girl has been in moderate use since records began, but really started trending upwards around the year 2000, just like Lilah and Layla. It’s now the most popular girl name starting with D.

Notoriety rating: 😈 — melodic with just enough naughtiness.


Popularity: Number 963

Revolutionary defector Benedict Arnold put the brakes on his name in the States, but it has finally made it back to the Top 1000. It got a boost when Pope Benedict XVI was elected, and Benedict Cumberbatch gives it extra quirky British charm.

Notoriety rating: 😈 — more blessed than cursed now.


Popularity: Number 304

The horror movie namesakes lost Damien a little popularity in the 1970s, but even then, this French classic never dropped out of the Top 500.

Notoriety rating: 😈 — no bad omens here.


Popularity: Number 403

Vintage Harvey was rising fast, until 2017 dealt the double whammy of Hurricane Harvey, and Harvey Weinstein’s crimes coming to light. It dropped over 60 places in the charts the following year, but so far it hasn’t fallen further, and the bad press is starting to fade from recent memory. It’s a longstanding Top 100 name in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Notoriety rating: 😈 — stronger than its worst namesakes.


Popularity: 10 girls

This tragic heroine name is rare but not unheard of: it first charted in 1962, inspired by a movie, and has been used for a few girls most years since then.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈 — strong main character energy (and Tiggy is a cute nickname).


Popularity: 132 boys

Draco debuted as a baby name in 1997, the year the first Harry Potter book introduced Draco Malfoy to the world. It rose steeply from 2018-21, perhaps as fans start their own families and -o ending names grow more popular.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈 — flawed, but not evil.


Popularity: 34 boys

Stymied by Scrooge, Ebenezer was only very occasionally used until the 1980s. But as Old Testament names have come back into style, parents have started to reclaim it, and use it for girls too.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈 — we’re not saying bah humbug to this one.


Popularity: 10 boys

Never on the charts until 2002, this Shakespearean name has now been given to at least 78 boys in total.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈 — villainous, but reassuringly fictional (and a bona fide Galician name).


Popularity: Number 436

When Kylo Ren first appeared on screens in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, his name was almost zero-use. It quickly jumped straight into the Top 1000, then the Top 500, and it's still there even after the trilogy has finished.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈 — super-cool sound, with just enough of the Dark Side.


Popularity: Number 270

Lilith’s appealing sound is trumping her history as a demon in Jewish legend. The name has a strong subversive streak, as feminism has reinterpreted the figure of Lilith as a strong, free-willed woman.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈 — it might shock the grandparents, but there’s no stopping it now.


Popularity: 136 boys, 9 girls

The mischief-maker of the Norse gods was unheard of as a baby name until 1996. Then parents started to look for alternative mythological names, and Nordic culture became cool. Loki was already rising when the first Thor movie came out, and Tom Hiddleston’s pale-and-interesting villain boosted it further.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈 — bold and playful, we low-key love it.


Popularity: 15 boys

Best known as the leader of the Huns — with a fearsome reputation — Attila first appeared on the charts in 1958. It has been a steady but rare option ever since, mainly as a heritage name, as it’s common in Hungary and Turkey.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — if it’s from your culture, great. If not, a bit menacing.


Popularity: Number 732 (353 boys), 31 girls

The angel of death’s name first made the charts in 1994, and has risen fast in the last 10 years, along with other darkly angelic names like Castiel.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — a grim namesake, but it belongs to over 2000 children now.


Popularity: Number 916

Fashion wins over the biblical bad reputation here. Cain started to be used regularly in the 1970s, tying in with trending names like Caleb and Shane. It first broke into the Top 1000 in the 1990s, and has been there every year since 2009.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — spell it Kane for all the benefits without the murder.


Popularity: 10 boys

Decades after the first Godfather movie, parents started using the gangster family’s surname in 1997. (Real-life gangster name Capone entered the charts the year before.) Up to 12 boys a year have been named Corleone ever since.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — baby names inspired by organized crime? That’s an offer we can refuse.


Popularity: 5 boys

Goliath was never in the US charts until 2015, but has been given to a handful of boys most years since then — proof that parents are looking ever-further for rare, edgy biblical names.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — a giant weight to bear.


Popularity: under 5 boys

Believe it or not, Hannibal has become more popular since Lecter came onto the scene, than it was when the only namesake was the Carthaginian general. It vanished from the charts the year after Silence of the Lambs, and again after Red Dragon, but it has been rare-but-steady for most of the 21st century. However, in 2022 it took a nosedive and didn't appear on the charts at all. Have we convinced parents not to go there?

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — ancient names are cool, but this one is still too cannibal for most people’s taste.


Popularity: 21 girls

Jezebel, the pagan wife of an Israelite king, used to be shorthand for a false prophet or promiscuous woman, but modern feminism has reclaimed her as a pragmatic queen. It was never used as a baby name until 1980, but has been on the charts ever since.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — cool sound, strong character, but a big statement.


Popularity: 27 boys

Judas first entered the charts in the 1960s, and in the last 30 years has trended upwards. Sure, some interpretations paint Judas Iscariot in a better light, and there are other namesakes like Judas Maccabeus. But for many people, it’s synonymous with betrayal.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — try Judah or Jude instead.


Popularity: 8 boys

Always a rare choice, parents almost completely stopped using this name after Charles Manson’s conviction in 1971. The singer Marilyn Manson didn’t help; in fact, the name charted even less after he rose to fame in the 1990s.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — almost any other -son name would be better.


Popularity: 24 boys

The fiddling Roman emperor’s name was very uncommon in the twentieth century, but things have changed with the growing trends for names from ancient Rome, and names ending in -o. Nero has made the charts every year since 2009.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — plenty of emperors were murderous in one way or another… at least this one sounds stylish.


Popularity: 9 boys

This Arabic name meaning “lion” debuted in 1968 and rose steeply until 1999, then plummeted in the years that followed. Most parents are still avoiding any hint of association with Bin Laden.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈 — outside the Arab world, there’s still only one Osama.


Popularity: 28 boys

The Greek god of the underworld first appeared on the charts in 2006, and tripled in popularity in 2020, perhaps inspired by a video game (and lockdown gaming sessions).

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈😈 — dark…almost certainly too dark.


Popularity: 11 girls

This charming diminutive was used steadily, though never hugely fashionable, through the twentieth century… until the 1962 movie of Nabokov’s novel sent it soaring into the Top 1000. But the connotations of obsession with a young girl became less and less acceptable, and now few parents want anything to do with it.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈😈 — there’s nothing “lol” about this namesake.


Popularity: 58 boys

This fallen angel-turned-devil is one of the most controversial names around. It was completely unheard-of until it debuted on the charts in 2002. While still rare, it’s rose sharply from 2016-2021, when the TV show Lucifer first aired — helped by the trend for all names with a “Lu” sound — but has fallen a little now the show is over.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈😈 — very seriously loaded.


Popularity: fewer than 5 girls

Disney’s dark fairy inspired a handful of parents to use her name in 2014, 2020 and 2021, after the two movies were released. 

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈😈 — we love the character, but not the ill-willed meaning: maleficent literally means doing evil.


Popularity: fewer than 5 boys

The Soviet leader’s pseudonym, meaning “man of steel”, is rare but not completely unused in the States. It first charted in 1971, and has been given to up to 9 boys a year ever since.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈😈 —  a deeply problematic namesake.


Popularity: not on the charts since 1990

Adolf was never used much outside Germany, so it’s very strongly tied to one person. Hitler is just within living memory, and his legacy lingers on in sinister ways. The statistics bear it out: no one is going there.

Notoriety rating: 😈😈😈😈😈 — never would still be way too soon.

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare Green

Clare Green has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from names peaking right now to feminist baby names, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. Her work has featured in publications such as The Independent and HuffPost. Clare has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and recently completed an MA dissertation researching names in multilingual families. She lives in England with her husband and son. You can reach her at