Baby Name News: Chicago and beyond

Baby Name News: Chicago and beyond

By Clare Bristow

In this week’s news we have daring place names (including but not limited to Chicago), sporting heroes, acronyms and an Arabic name meaning beauty.

Chicago and other daring place names

What a difference a week makes! Last week, Chicago was a place name you probably hadn’t considered for a child. This week, she’s a baby girl.

You’ve almost certainly heard by now that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have named their new daughter Chicago, after a city important in Kanye’s childhood. It feels like almost every aspect of the name has already been discussed: the personal significance to dad, the nickname Chi (pronounced “shy”) that the family is using, and how it fits in with current trends like place names and -o endings, yet stands out because it’s so rare. Rare as in never charted for girls (though it has occasionally for boys – no more than 9 times in any year).

For me, the “Chica” part jumps out every time I read it. Even though it’s from a completely different root, I like that Chicago has an endearing word meaning “girl” embedded in it. And also the word “chic”.

Will it have any impact on non-celeb parents? My hunch is that, like her big sister North, Chicago’s name will be a one-off that doesn’t have a lasting impact on name trends. But maybe I’m wrong and, like big brother Saint, it will shoot up the charts this year. We’ll have to wait until May 2019 to find out.

Speaking of unusual place names, there were some great ones suggested in Nameberry’s invent-a-name competition. With options like Zealand, Lisbon, Montrose and Tavira, Kim and Kanye definitely don’t have a monopoly on off-grid place names.

Sporty baby names: Houston and Ynwa

Now for some names inspired by sporting heroes, starting with another place name.

A Christmas baby was called Houston, in honor of the Houston Astros winning the baseball World Series. It’s not such an unusual choice – it ranked #804 in the US in 2016, and slightly higher in its home state of Texas at #697. A bit of extra significance: Houston’s mom also associates the name with resilience, both of the baseball team and the city, after the damage done by Storm Harvey last year.

In the world of British football, remember the Norwegian girl called Ynwa (standing for the team’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone)? Well, now there’s another. Other baby names used by Norwegian superfans of the Reds include Tia (an acronym for “this is Anfield”, the club’s home ground) and Oliver Paul (sounds like “oh Liverpool” – more so in Norwegian).

Other sporty names sighted recently: 14-year-old Brady, named after footballer Tom Brady at his brother’s suggestion, and brothers Jack Nicklaus and Ryan Nicklaus (their first and middle names), whose dad is a big fan of the golfer.

Have you spotted any good sport-inspired names? And would you reuse a middle name to honor someone you admire?

Names and identity: Hala

We know how much names are linked to our identity. Things can get complex when people migrate and change their name – or choose not to. In this piece by Hala Alyan, the author reflects on the double identity she felt as a child between her Arabic self, Hala, and her American alter ego, Holly.

Despite the pronunciation differences, Hala seems like an Arabic name that could cross over to English speakers, like Layla and Aaliyah. According to Alyan, it means “beauty”.

The joy of Joan

Finally, is there any hope of a Joan revival? A medieval staple and former US number 1, it’s now deep in grandmother and great-grandmother territory. So it was refreshing to read about a young Joan in these name stories from Ireland. She was named after her grandmother, and not surprisingly is the only Joan she knows.

Looking for more old-time gems waiting to be rediscovered? Here are 100 of them!

About the Author

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