Harry Potter Baby Names: Have they made a lasting impact?

Tracking the influence of J. K. Rowling's inventive character names

Harry Potter baby names

By Linda Rosenkrantz and Esmeralda Rocha

With a new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, about to be released this summer, we thought this would be a good time to investigate just what influence, if any, J. K. Rowling’s fabulously inventive character names have had on the baby naming world, 16 years after the first book’s debut.  Here, thanks to Esita’s digging, are the scientific results:

Andromeda   The year before the Harry Potter books were published here in 1998, the name Andromeda was given to just 15 girls in the US.  Harry Potter appears to have had some impact on the name, doubling its current usage to around 30 babies a year.

Arabella  In 1997, the name Arabella was given to just 68 girls By the time the 8 films had been screened, Arabella was well into the Top 1000, and was at an all time high in 2014 at #174. And it’s the 20th most popular name on Nameberry.

Bellatrix  Bellatrix was given to fewer than five girls the year before Harry Potter hit the scene. While the books appear to have had little effect, once Helena Bonham Carter brought the character to life on the screen in 2001, the name Bellatrix began to appear in the records. In 2012, the name was given to 12 girls in the US, right now it’s 507 on Nameberry.

Cedric  Even the dashing good looks and appealing temperament of the martyred Cedric Diggory character have done nothing to stop the slide in popularity of this name. Since 1998, Cedric has fallen from #419 to #785.

Charity  Given that Charity is such a peripheral character in the novels, it is unsurprising that the series has had such little effect on this name, which has continued to decline in popularity since its heyday in the 1980s.

Cornelius  The name of the bureaucratic and bumbling Minister of Magic has unsurprisingly not found many fans. From its position in the mid-700s in 1998, it has slipped completely out of the Top 1000. But the Berries have it at 451.

Demelza  This lovely Cornish name remains as underused as ever, despite appearing in Harry Potter as a minor character. In fact it has never featured on the US name records, even outside the Top 1000. Even in its native England, Demelza is rare; it was given to just five little girls in 2014.

Draco  Despite being such an unlovable character, Draco Malfoy appears to have had at least some impact on US names. Not seen before 1998, the year the books were first published in the US, Draco is now given to around 50 boys a year, one of whom is the son of actress Danica McKellar..

Godric  The name of the founder of Gryffindor house, Godric has gone from being an unused name (no record of it in the mid 1990s) to being a rare one by the time the movie series had ended, with 23 reported uses in 2012.

Harry  Harry, Harry, Harry – an evergreen favorite that has had a surprising decline in popularity in the US over the Harry Potter period. Not so in Harry Potter‘s homeland, where Harry has climbed to third place in recent years.

Helena  Helena has always been on the popularity charts. Although Helena has climbed in popularity over the past two decades, it is unlikely that this is connected to it being the name of two Harry Potter characters, as her ratings were rising fast before the books were published.

Hermione  This name with Shakespearean roots was virtually unheard of in the US before the intelligent and courageous Hermione Granger bossed her way into our lives. In the last decade, between 40 and 70 little girls were being called Hermione each year.

Kingsley  This surnamey boys name was not seen in the US until 2009, when it entered the Top 1000– one year after the suave and cool Kingsley Shacklebolt made his very funky appearance in the Harry Potter movies. Kingsley is currently at its most popular level ever, reaching #760 in 2014, still far begind Kingston, which is at 161.

Lavender  This fragrant botanical name appears to have remained impervious to Harry Potter influences, its usage unchanged from the mid-1990s—except, of course, among cutting-edge Nameberry namers, who rank it at 527.

Lucius  Lucius is five times more popular now than it was the year before Harry Potter arrived in America. Now given to around 130 boys per year, this climb in popularity seems to be in spite of the malevolence of the Harry Potter character.

Luna   Luna is probably the greatest of the Harry Potter success stories. In the years before Luna Lovegood made her charming yet befuddled way into our lives, around 150 girls were named Luna each year. Last year, Luna was ranked #147 in the US charts and was given to well over 2000 baby girls, and seems to have followed a similar trajectory in England.

Marjorie  Marjorie had suffered from years of decline before falling off the US Top 1000 in 1994. Its recent re-entry into the Top 1000 is probably not linked to its use as the unpleasant character of Marjorie Dursley, just more likely to be one of the latest vintage names to be dusted off.

Minerva  Minerva‘s usage remains unchanged from pre-Harry Potter days and would be likely used by US parents more as an homage to the Roman goddess of wisdom than the stern but loveable Professor McGonagall. Nameberry rank: 339.

Myrtle  The character of Moping Myrtle did not do this slightly dowdy name any favors. Unsurprisingly, Myrtle continues to be unheard of in the US name records, even outside of the Top 1000.

Penelope  Given the relative obscurity of the Penelope Clearwater character, we can’t attribute Penelope‘s meteoric rise in popularity to the HP phenomenon but more to its recent celebrity use. Penelope went from being well outside the Top 1000 in the mid-1990s to being in the Top 50 by 2014.

Remus  It’s probably no accident that the first year that Remus appears in the US records is the same year that the character of Remus Lupin appeared on the scene. Only a handful of boys are named Remus each year, yet it’s 330 on Nameberry.

Ronald  Even the charms of the incorrigible and loveable Ron Weasley have not managed to save Ronald from its slip from a Top 100 position in the mid 1980s to the position of #397 in 2014. But this positive association might make this old-fashioned name easier for a little boy to wear.

Rufus  Rufus fell out of the Top 1000 in the 1980s and has never regained its popularity, even though J.K. Rowling chose the name for the gruff and leonine second Minister of Magic. Still, it gets a lot of love on NB, ranking at 220.

Sirius  Until 2002, Sirius had never been recorded in the US name records. Since the rakish and careworn Sirius Black was introduced as the Prisoner of Azkaban (and Harry‘s loving godfather), Sirius has been given to around 20 boys each year.

Zacharius  Unsurprisingly, the peripheral character of Zacharias Smith has had no impact on the popularity of this biblical name in the US, which continues to be given to around 50 boys a year.

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14 Responses to “Harry Potter Baby Names: Have they made a lasting impact?”

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Bobcat108 Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 1:45 am

It’s Moaning Myrtle, not Moping Myrtle.

Swangirl Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 2:56 am

I think the decline in Harry is BECAUSE HP is so huge. It’s a nice enough name, but I would never use it because it’s so tied to the character for everyone in my generation. If I named my child “Harry,” I think he would get an awful lot of, “like Harry Potter?” And while I like Harry Potter it’s just such a strong association.

Luna has a lot going for it. It’s associated with a character people generally like but not an extremely major character. She’s also right on trend being short and sweet, starting with L, ending in A, and with a nature connection as Luna means moon.

EW314 Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 4:24 am

While I really enjoyed this round-up of HP names, I think that the vast majority of these names have risen in popularity because of naming trends, rather than directly because of the books/films.

Frilly feminine names like Arabella are up, following in the wake of Isabella, Sophia, Olivia, Amelia and co.

Mythological and Latinate names for both genders are super-cool right now: Andromeda, Bellatrix, Helena, Hermione, Luna, Minerva, Penelope, Draco, Lucius, Remus, Rufus, Sirius… JK Rowling was obviously ahead of the curve in enjoying these! I think many of these would have risen anyway (as others like Athena, Juno, Lyra, Augustus, Maximus and Julius have), but I’ll give JK the credit for a few of the more unusual ones, like Bellatrix, Remus and Sirius.

I wonder if names like Bellatrix, Draco and Lucius would have exploded as Luna has if the characters had been good rather than evil? They seem to have all the right ingredients but bad connotations now, unfortunately. I love the OTT sound and awesome meanings of both Draco and Bellatrix, but they feel unusable to me now because the character associations are so strong. Glad to hear that some parents aren’t being deterred though!

jjayx Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 7:37 am

Whilst HP hasn’t done anything for Demelza, I think Poldark will have a huge impact. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t rise, quite rapidly, over the next few years.

Alsace Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 10:03 am

My husband and I were just talking about the name Sirius the other day. I get that it’s the name of a character but it sounds exactly like the word “serious”, right? Seems like an awful name to saddle a kid with. Not to mention all the jokes and puns.

I just read the first fifteen lives of Harry August and have to admit I fell in love with the name Harry for a few days. Again though, the word gets to me. I don’t usually mind word names but descriptive words as names are a challenge for me. Is it a name or a particularly hairy person? I can’t help but hear both, which is too bad because it’s actually a very nice name.

Penguinkin Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 11:57 am

This is a very selective look at the names in use within the cannon and while interesting to note which names made the list it’s not necessarily indicative of JK s influence on naming trends. With friends that are less interested in names I often hear ‘that’s a HP name ‘ for names that I would think of as more mainstream: Arianna, Lily, Minerva, Lucius, Luna, etc
personally I like the mix of muggle, trends over generations, flowers and weird that Rowling combines: have you noticed how she uses the 100 year rule too? How muggle borns usually have more mainstream names, how pure bloods have a lot more Latinate/elaborate names handed down, she uses honor names, siblings with the same initial/themes and even parents boxed into honor naming using ridiculous names( poor Ron Billious Weasley!) I also love that she goes as far as to have name regret: nymphadora Tonks only answers to Tonks!
I find it more interesting that Rowlings naming strategies both echo and extrapolate the same trends and experiences we have IRL.

Penguinkin Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 12:47 pm

And on the pronouciation of Harry as Hairy?
I don’t know why Americans seem to have this issue…. I’ve never noticed an American to realise they pronounce Tara like ‘terror’, there is a difference between Harry and Hairy and maybe it’s just a case that people who don’t like the name are more likely to make the link?
In England it’s never an issue or link that is made but maybe it’s because we have less cross over names that could be items or names e.g. Brick, Floss, Axel, etc that I would see as more usual within American culture, but maybe that’s just a stereotype from TV?

LoveBugsMama Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Cedric was on my list for my daughter in 2008 because of Cedric Diggory. We got, “like Cedric the Entertainer?” which ultimately led to it being cut.

ARead Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 3:24 pm

@penguinkin-Americans do not pronounce “Tara” and “terror” the same way. Remember, we give an “r” at the end of a word a hard sound, not like the British “ah” sound for “r” at the end of a word. 🙂

gmdx Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 11:53 pm

I was about to refute @Penguinkin’s assertion that muggleborns have more mainstream names on the basis that no first time Potter reader can pronounce Hermione, when I realized how much sense it makes for her to have a Shakespearean name. She must have inherited her love of reading from someone. It’s definitely likely her parents were just as nerdy,

Care Says:

February 20th, 2016 at 11:45 pm

Famous log before Harry Potter…………….
Hermione Ferdinanda Gingold (9 December 1897 – 24 May 1987) was an English actress known for her sharp-tongued, eccentric persona. She had a strikingly individual voice, drawling and deep, the latter a result of nodes on her vocal chords in the 1920s and early 1930s.

After a successful career as a child actress, she later established herself on the stage as an adult, playing in comedy, drama and experiment theatre, and broadcasting on the radio. She found her milieu in revue, in which she played from the 1930s to the 1950s, co-starring several times with Hermione Baddeley. Later she played formidable elderly characters in such films and stage musicals as Gigi (1958), Bell, Book and Candle (1958), The Music Man (1962) and A Little Night Music (1973).

From the early 1950s Gingold lived and made her career mostly in the US. Her American stage work ranged from John Murray Anderson’s Almanac (1953) to Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (1963), the latter of which she also played in London. She became well known as a guest on television talk shows. She made further appearances in revue and toured in plays and musicals until an accident ended her performing career in 1977.

Star_Girl Says:

February 21st, 2016 at 12:47 pm

The problem with Luna is that people might call her “loony”. Also, people that haven’t seeing the movies might pronounce Hermione differently. I mean, I love the characters, but not the names. And there’s a chance that my kids would not like the names. I know my mom hates all the “ilda” and “ald” names, but Ron Weasley is a loveable character as well as Luna. I like both her and Hermione, just not the names.

mykka Says:

March 5th, 2016 at 5:15 pm

No one will call Luna looney, its quite popular.

I love Kinglsey

9 Stylish Classic Boy Names You Should Consider – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

July 3rd, 2016 at 10:48 pm

[…] – friendly and upbeat, and creative, too – just think Charlie Parker or Charlie Chaplin. In Harry Potter, there’s a Weasley brother by the name, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an enduring […]

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