Celebrities Influence Popular Baby Names
In 2020 more than ever, celebrities and popular culture were essential forms of escapism. Last year, we spent more time binge-watching TV, scrolling through Instagram, and playing video games than we had in almost a decade.
So it’s no surprise that many of the fastest-rising names of the year — the ones we used on our COVID babies — were inspired by our main forms of entertainment.
Here, the fastest-rising names of 2020, influenced by celebrities, their babies, and the characters they play.
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically passed away in a helicopter accident on January 26, 2020, leaving behind his wife Vanessa and three other daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
The death of Kobe Bryant — a hero for many — inspired parents to use names from his family tree. The names of each member of the Bryant family increased in use in 2020, but the breakout stars were variations Jakobe and Jianna.
Jakobe, and, perhaps, JaKobe and Ja’Kobe — the Social Security Administration does not record diacritical marks or capitalization — is an innovative way for parents to honor Bryant while adding a degree of separation between his massive (and complicated) legacy and their child’s identity. Jakobe was previously in the US Top 1000 from 2008-2011, and then again in 2013.
Jianna is brand new to the Top 1000.
Below, names connected to Kobe Bryant, listed with the number of positions they rose between 2019 and 2020.
Bianca +30 (Bianka, the actual spelling of her name, is outside of the Top 1000 but nearly doubled in use from 2019-2020).
Jakobe + 575
In another devastating accident, actress Naya Rivera passed away in July of 2020. Her first name is related to the Swahili name Nia, meaning “purpose.” It rose over 200 positions over the year, reentering the Top 1000. The variation Anaya saw an increase in use as well.
Rivera was known for playing Santana Lopez on the television show Glee — Santana rose 116 spots for baby boys in 2020. However, it did not significantly rise among girls.
Olympic skier Bode Miller has a name that was way ahead of its time. In the 1970s, when he was born, Bodhi and similar names were extremely rare. The name Bode first appeared on the charts in 1998, the same year Miller entered the public eye at the Nagano Olympics. That year, it was given to eight baby boys.
Today, the Bos and Bodhis are at the height of fashion. Parents searching for a sleeker spelling option have gravitated toward Miller’s tailored variation of the spiritual Sanskrit Bodhi.
The second fastest-rising girl name of 2020 was Denisse, jumping over 900 positions to Number 854 on the popularity charts. The unexpected catapult is thanks to Denisse Novoa, a Mexican American reality television personality who competed in the 2019 season of Exatlón Estados Unidos.
The traditional spelling, Denise, also made a comeback. It reentered the Top 1000 for the first time since 2015. Denise had been falling sharply in popularity for decades — it peaked in 1955 — and wasn’t due to come back in style for another generation or two. Proof that the right celebrity can take a dated name and make it cool again.
The lovely name Leilani kicked off a trend of Hawaiian and pseudo-Hawaiian names ending in -lani. Kehlani belongs to the latter group — it’s a variation of the authentic Hawaiian Kailani, meaning “heavenly ocean.” The popularity of this particular spelling, which now ranks at Number 168, is influenced by singer Kehlani Parrish, known mononymously as Kehlani.
Australian actor Heath Ledger died in 2008, but it was almost a decade later that his surname would enter the US Top 1000 for the first time. It broke through in 2017, a year when surname names were well established for boys and parents were looking for fresher options beyond Parker and Cooper.
Ledger feels especially stylish today, with the hearty and masculine “dg” sound found in other fashionable names such as Legend, Ridge, and Bridger. It rose over 200 spots in 2020 and now ranks at Number 626.
Rosalia was the fifth fastest-rising girl name of the year, influenced in part by singer Rosalía Vila Tobella, known mononymously as Rosalía. She is a Spanish artist, born in Barcelona, and gained recognition in the US after her 2020 Grammy performance and frequent collaborations with Travis Scott.
Rose-related names as a whole are on the rise, with Rosalee, Rosalie, and Rosie also increasing in popularity in 2020.
Now that Saoirse Ronan is a household name, the pronunciation barrier of her Gaelic name has been broken. (For the record, Ronan pronounces it SIR-sha, although SEER-sha is also a legitimate pronunciation in Ireland). Saoirse first appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2016 and has been rising every year since. It now ranks at Number 741.
Kardashian Baby Names
The Kardashians have proven themselves tastemakers of the baby name world. With the exception of North and Chicago (sorry, girls), all the of the Kardashian baby names have gone on to be hits. Even, yes, Stormi.
Psalm and True haven’t broken into the Top 1000 yet, although each significantly rose in use throughout 2020.
Below, the most influential Kardashian-inspired baby names, listed with the number of positions they rose between 2019 and 2020.
Tru +115 (for boys, not girls)
Meghan and Harry’s royal baby name was already on the rise in 2019, the year Archie Harrison was born, but their endorsement sent it straight into the Top 500 for 2020. Archie is already a popular pick in England, where it currently ranks at Number 19. It still has a lot of catching up to do on this side of the pond, where Archie now sits at Number 466.
YouTube vloggers Makaela and Ronnie Banks welcomed a daughter named Avayah (pronounced uh-VAYE-ah) in December 2019 — in 2020, it was the fastest-rising name for girls. Avayah rose an impressive 1547 spots from the Top 3000 to Number 930 on the charts. With its on-trend sounds, Avayah could jump even higher in years to come.
Hilary Duff named her daughter Banks in 2018 but ended up popularizing the name for baby boys. The sleek, preppy surname name entered the US Top 1000 in 2019 and rose over 150 spots to Number 751.
Chip and Joanna Gaines were faced with a challenge in 2018, when —surprise! — they found out they were expecting their fifth child. Their children were named according to theme — E’s for girls and D’s for boys — but they broke the pattern with Crew.
Not that it mattered — like everything else about the Gaines’s style, Crew really resonated with American parents, and it’s been among the fastest-rising names for two years in a row. The Krew spelling variation is also bounding up the charts.
Ed Sheeran welcomed his daughter Lyra in September of 2020, so it’s difficult to say if its rise was due to his influence, or whether it bound to happen anyway. We think that at least some of the baby Lyras born at the end of the year were inspired by Sheeran’s musical choice — Lyra is related to the lyre, an Ancient Greek instrument.
Gem names have been on the rise for girls and boys, most notably Onyx, usually associated with a dark black stone. Rapper Iggy Azalea welcomed her son Onyx in April of 2020. His name was chosen specifically for the gemstone connection — Azalea’s birth name is Amethyst, and she wanted to carry on the tradition.
The Star Wars franchise is a goldmine for modern baby names. Newer adaptations in particular have introduced characters with names that feel futuristic while meeting current style standards (looking at you, Kylo). Mixed in are mainstream names such as Luke and Finn, but below, see the fastest-rising names with clear ties to Star Wars.
The 2015 movie Creed, a spinoff of the Rocky franchise, sent the protagonist’s surname soaring into the Top 1000 the following year (his first name, Adonis, has also been on the rise ever since). In 2020, Creed ranks at Number 796. It fits into the trend of modern virtue or spiritual names — as a word, creed refers to Christian beliefs.
Jovial Jovie was created for the 2003 film Elf, where Zooey Deschanel played the sweet-singing love interest by the name. Recently, parents have gravitated toward Jovie as an alternative to cute and sassy vintage nicknames such as Josie and Evie.
Marceline the Vampire Queen is the 1000-year-old bass-playing vampire in the cult animated show Adventure Time. Her frilly French name falls on the right side of over-the-top and appeals to parents who favor lengthy and lavish girl names such as Genevieve and Valentina.
Marceline peaked in 1928, so according to the 100 Year Rule, it’s coming back right on schedule. It is currently ranked at Number 973.
Author Neil Gaiman invented the name Mazikeen for a character in his Sandman comics, which were adapted into the current TV show Lucifer. Mazikeen, also known by Maze, is a demon friend of Lucifer’s. Her name is a perfect fit — Gaiman adapted it from the Hebrew term Mazzikin, invisible spirits or demons referenced in Jewish mythology.
The Disney movie Raya and the Last Dragon premiered last month, but press began in 2020, when Raya saw a major jump in popularity. It made the Top 1000 for the first time ever and now ranks at Number 937.
We expect Raya to continue to rise, as it is a true multicultural name with roots in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. In the movie, Raya is of East Asian descent.
Zelda certainly doesn’t owe all of its success to The Legend of Zelda — Zelda Fitzgerald gives it a jazzy edge — but the beloved video game series kept it in the public consciousness until Zelda was ready to be revived. Nintendo released the first installment in 1986 — around the time when many of today’s new parents were born. Zelda rose over 100 spots in 2020 to Number 559 on the charts.