Baby Names Inspired by Olympians

By Pamela Redmond Satran

The names of some Olympic greats get a second chance at stardom as popular baby names. The Russian name Nadia, for instance, vaulted from nowhere to Number 360 in the US in 1976, after Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci charmed the world and won three gold medals. And American skier Bode Miller nudged his unusual name along with the original Sanskrit Bodhi back onto the Top 1000 for boys.

This year, the baby name possibilities introduced by Olympic athletes are more varied and fascinating than ever. Our picks for the dozen Olympic names most likely to make it to the baby names popularity list:


Ellia – All names El-related – from Ella to Ellie to Eleanor – are hot baby names for girls right now, but Ellia is a fresh entry to the category, thanks to Australian rugby player Ellia Green. Born in Fiji, Ellia Green is know as the fastest woman in the sport. Her name was used for fewer than 100 girls in the US last year, a number we expect to grow.

English – American track and field star English Gardner has to win the gold medal for the most distinctive name at the Olympic games. Gardner says her mother chose the name English because, believing her daughter was destined for greatness, she wanted to give the child a memorable name. While place-names for babies have been exploding in popularity in recent years, this is a new twist, opening the way for babies named Irish, Italian, Pakistani, and so on.

Flavia – Ancient Roman clan name Flavia hasn’t been on the US Top 1000 since 1884, but that may change thanks to pint-sized Brazilian gymnast Flavia Saraiva, a fan favorite.(shown) Auspicious sign: Flavia means gold.

Ki Ki BoBae is a Korean archer and the defending gold medalist, and her simple-but-unusual name seems ripe for import. The name is simple yet truly unique: There were baby girls named Kia, Aki, and Kiki born in the US last year, but none named Ki. Ki is also the name of the Sumerian earth goddess.

SimoneAmerica’s sweetheart gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Simone Manuel may combine forces to promote this appealing name. The French feminine form of the Biblical Simon strikes the perfect balance between fitting in and standing out. While it’s been in the US Top 1000 for 80 years, it’s never risen above Number 300 and now stands at Number 821 – visible but not pandemic, familiar yet still exotic.

Vashti Vashti Cunningham is a high jumper who may bring her obscure but intriguing Biblical name to prominence. In the Book of Esther, Vashti was a Persian queen – the name is Persian for “lovely” – who defies the king’s orders to appear naked in front of his guests, making her something of a feminist icon.


CarlinCarlin Isles is known as the fastest man in rugby, playing for the American team. His unusual name – fewer than 70 babies were named Carlin in the US last year – was given nearly evenly to boys and girls, making it a perfect choice for our post-gender world. Bonus: This Irish name means “little champion.”

Kohei Asian names migrate to the US much less frequently than European ones, but this Japanese name of reigning Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura could be an exception. Called the best male gymnast ever, Uchimura is the reigning Olympic champion. The name Kohei is pronounce ko-hee and means “wide and flat.”

LazaroLazarus is one name that’s remained quiet through the explosion of Biblical boys’ names, but its time has come to rise again. Spanish and Italian form Lazaro holds wide appeal. Lazaro Alvarez, boxing for Cuba, is the three-time world champion lightweight boxer.

MadisonMadison was a boys’ name that in recent years became a Top 10 girls’ name but now is prime to swing back, and London native Madison Hughes, captain of the US men’s rugby team, may help make that happen. The name has feminist roots in its meaning “Maud’s son,” and was very popular for boys in the 1880s.

Neymar – Brazilian soccer standout Neymar is known by his unique first name, which was passed down from his father. His prominence was enough to propel the name onto the US Top 1000 in 2012. Neymar is thought to be a combination of the planetary names Neptune and Mars, appropriate for a star.

Steele – Diver Steele Johnson’s first name connotes strength and endurance, perfect for an athlete – or a citizen of the modern world. This name was used for exactly 100 baby boys in the US last year….and 11 girls. Another 33 boys were named the more straightforward Steel.

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


11 Responses to “Baby Names Inspired by Olympians”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

lesliemarion Says:

August 8th, 2016 at 11:22 pm

Nadia, Oksana, Olga, Cathy are my favorites still – they date me, but those were the good old days in my view.

southern.maple Says:

August 9th, 2016 at 12:25 am

Ki is Bo-bae’s family name, not her given name…

SimoneKadele Says:

August 9th, 2016 at 10:18 am

Yeah, as @southern.maple said, Korean names are written with the family name first. Ki is her last name, and Bo-bae is her given name.

clairels Says:

August 9th, 2016 at 11:30 am

One of my favorite parts of the Olympics is hearing cool names. My favorites so far are Australian swimmer Bronte Campbell and French swimmer Coralie Balmy.

Bobcat108 Says:

August 9th, 2016 at 1:19 pm

I agree w/clairels…I love seeing all the cool names that the athletes have.

And I had wondered as well about Ki being the athlete’s last name. I did a quick search on Google & it appears that Bo-Bae means treasure or precious.

While its recent popularity means it’s out now, I do really like the spelling variant Lilly. Flavia makes me think of the series of books featuring Flavia de Luce, which are really enjoyable.

So far the most unusual Western guy’s name that caught my eye was Townsley Haas.

jenni_lynn91 Says:

August 10th, 2016 at 8:19 am

I don’t think anyone should be named English. An English man named English? People should not be named after ethnicities.

The most interesting names I have seen so far were Steele Johnson and a commentator named Rowdy.

HaileyMichelle Says:

August 11th, 2016 at 5:47 pm

There’s a young dynamo swimmer from Canada named Penelope “Penny” Oleksiak and I think that name might become more popular here because of her.
I also agree with clairels, Bronte Campbell – and her sister Cate – have gorgeous names. My favourite that I’ve seen so far was another swimmer by the name of Kaio. I don’t remember his last name or the country he represents, but Kaio is just SO COOL.

KTG75 Says:

August 11th, 2016 at 9:08 pm

I like the name Steele, but don’t think I would use it with the last name Johnson!

tabitha Says:

August 12th, 2016 at 4:43 am

The name Kohei can actually have different meanings depending on the Kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese) used. In the case of Kohei Uchimura, he has stated that his name means ‘peaceful flight’ which is quite apt for a gymnast ?

sanne1982 Says:

August 18th, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I love the name Elis (pronounced Ay-lis). Elis ligtlee is a dutch cyclist who won gold at Keirin

henrye Says:

August 22nd, 2016 at 9:51 pm

The name Kohei is pronounced “Ko-hey,” not “Ko-hee.”

leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.