Pop Culture Influences Rising Baby Names
Each year, a new crop of pop culture names bursts onto the scene. Some will go on to reach massive heights — former Top 10 name Madison was introduced by the movie Splash in 1984 — while others will fade (remember Sekani and Kovid?)
In the COVID years more than ever, celebrities and popular culture were essential forms of escapism. In the past few years, 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 pop culture entertainment.
These were the biggest pop culture influences on baby names in 2021.
Euphoria was a breakout hit for HBO in 2019. Despite airing only two one-hour specials between August 2019 and January 2022, Euphoria transfixed expectant parents. Character names such as Rue, Gia, and Faye saw an uptick in 2021, as well as actor names Barbie (Ferreira) and Zendaya.
Most notably, Euphoria itself debuted as a name for girls. It was used 19 times in 2021.
The Matrix Names
2021 saw the release of The Matrix: Resurrections, the fourth film in the series. Back when the first movie was released in 1999, Trinity took off and broke into the Top 50 five years later.
Now, the other Matrix names are getting their dues. Neo ranks in the Top 1000 for the first time in 2021, and Morpheus debuted for boys on the charts. Other rising names include Cypher, Oracle, and Matrix.
Sci-fi epic Dune isn't known for its creative names — main characters have names such as Paul and Jessica — yet parents gleaned inspiration from the film. Dune more than tripled in use and reached a record high as a boy name when it was used 15 times in 2021.
The only character name to significantly rise was Leto, that of Oscar Isaac's character. Actor names (Josh) Brolin, Stellan (Skarsgård), and again, Zendaya, all increased in use.
Bridgerton names are not the most realistic for the show's Regency-era setting, but parents in 2021 cannot get enough of them. As predicted, Daphne — the heroine of the first season — dramatically increased in use. Daphne rose over 100 spots and is now at Number 288.
The rest of the Bridgerton sisters' names — Eloise, Francesca, and Hyacinth — rose as well, along with one of their brother's names, Benedict. And Bridger, one of our favorite woodsy names for boys, rose more than 200 positions to Number 721.
Disney names are beloved by parents, and two of the biggest releases of 2021 were especially influential.
Raya was the fastest-rising girl name of the year thanks to the animated film Raya and the Last Dragon, released in March. It's not surprising that a warrior princess with a multicultural name would be a namesake, however, the name of the villain also proved to be a hit. Namaari was the top debut of 2021 with 43 births.
Danna Paola, the actress who voices Raya in the Spanish-dubbed version, drew attention to her name, which rose over 100 spots to reach Number 369.
The Pixar movie Luca boosted the already-rising name even further. Luca increased in use by more than 42% and broke the Top 50.
Cartoon and Anime Names
Anime is increasingly becoming a source of American baby name inspiration. Jiraiya, one of the fastest-rising names of the year, is the name of a ninja character from Naruto. It shares that fashionable "raya" sound with other top risers Raya, Soraya, and Sariyah.
Many anime names made their debuts this year, including Henzo (One Piece), Himawari (Naruto), and Sayori (Doki Doki Literature Club). Anime voice actor Kenjiro Tsuda also led parents to consider his name for their sons.
Video Game Names
Much like anime names, video game names are ever more fashionable. Halo, the video game turned television show, was also a hot choice for girls in 2021 — rising over 200 places to reach Number 738. Kenshi, another video game, was also adopted as a baby name for boys.
The most influential video game was Final Fantasy, which introduced parents to names such as Rydia, Sephiroth, and Vanille. Other names that debuted this year include Zagreus (Hades), Torbjorn (Overwatch), and Onyxia (World of Warcraft).
As we mentioned in our latest newsletter, the top debut for boys was Azaire, the name of M.Pire the Sire's indie hip hop album released last year.
Jerusalema joined the charts after the song by South African DJ Master KG went viral. It was given to six baby girls in 2021. Jerusalem surprisingly decreased in popularity last year.
Other notable music-related names on the rise include KPOP stars Jisoo and Woojin, band name Odesza, Bowie, and Este — one of the sisters in the band Haim, who is mentioned in a lyric of the Taylor Swift song "no body no crime."
Designer names were one of the biggest trends of 2020, and it continued into 2021. Amiri was the fastest-rising boy name of the year thanks to its on-trend sounds and connection to luxury fashion label AMIRI.
Established brand names like Armani and Celine rose last year, and two new design-related names joined the scene. Eliantte, a jewelry brand often worn by celebrities, debuted with 13 uses for boys, and Yoadan, connected to Ethiopian influencer and designer Yoadan Ephrem, was given to nine baby girls.
Other Pop Culture Names
These influencer, starbaby, and celebrity names are among the top risers and most notable debuts of the year. Included here are names of telenovela stars (Angelique, Arleth), TikTok creators (Charli, Zakius), celebrity babies (Mylah, Renny), and stars themselves (Costner, Styles).
Also here: one presidential surname (Biden) and a royal baby (Lilibet).