Most Notable Names of 2017
By Linda Rosenkrantz
What were the most noteworthy names of the year? To pick the Top 10, we looked at not only baby names, but beyond to include the names that had a significant impact on the culture. So here are our top selections–some representative of major trends–along with a few others that slipstreamed in their wake
2017 was clearly the year of fierce boys’ names, embodied by a menagerie of wild animal names that were domesticated onto birth certificates. Bears were the leaders of the pack, ranking at Number 133 on Nameberry (and in the Top 10 for dogs). Bear seemed like a surprising pick when Alicia Silverstone named her son Bear Blu in 2011, but it became gradually normalized when there were bear cubs in the cribs of other celebs like Kate Winslet and Liam Payne. Also in this once aggressive animal category are Wolf (208 on Nameberry) and the fast-rising Fox, which entered the US Top 800 last year.
Rumi, the twin daughter of Beyoncé and Jay-Z born this year, represents two strong 2017 baby name trends. As the name of an illustrious 13th century Sufi mystic—and the celebrated couple’s professedly favorite poet—it is the spiritual reverse of the aggressive boy names. And by using the male poet’s name for their daughter, it’s also an illustration of this era’s growing emphasis on gender fluidity. Rumi could see increased use in 2018, fitting in with such popular names as Romy and Remy.
Bodhi took those trends to the next level, rising over 500 spots in the last four years to its current rank of Number 363 and a striking #23 on NB. Over 900 parents were beguiled by the name’s mystical meaning—it’s a Sanskrit name signifying enlightenment, related to the Buddhist state of nirvana—and by its appealingly upbeat sound. A celebrity fave in recent years, Bodhi too was subject to gender- bending when actors Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed used it for their baby girl.
Nature names have been a growing trend for decades—from flower and tree names to birds and beasts and and bodies of water. River, this year, surged to just outside the Top 200, used by dozens of celebs, including Keri Russell and Jeff Goldblum. Goldblum had established that theme with his son Charlie’s middle name of Ocean, possibly the next rising wave, also associated with hot singer Frank Ocean. Also coming into full bloom: Wren, Maple and Marigold.
As one of the rising number (finally!) of women directors cracking the glass ceiling in Hollywood, Greta Gerwig made her solo directorial debut with the acclaimed film Lady Bird, starring the influentially named Saoirse Ronan. Greta, a Hollywood Golden Age glamour girl name via the exotic Garbo, is coming back into favor, now at 632 in the US, 287 on Nameberry and #8 in Italy.
Harvey was enjoying a nice, steady six-year surge as a revived semi-classic when it was slammed by two devastating events. First there was Houston’s Hurricane Harvey, one of the most destructive storms on record, and then there was the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, which unleashed a tidal wave of other revelations and accusations, opening the floodgates to a massive #MeToo movement on social media denouncing sexual assault, a hashtag now used by over 500,000 posters. With all this, the name Harvey’s prospects of recovering are extremely dim.
One of the most enduring by-products of the Harry Potter phenomenon, the luminescent Luna entered the US Top 100 this year—a distinction it also enjoys around the world, from England to France, Sweden to Spain, and Chile to Croatia. Luna is one of many ancient deity names that were super popular with parents in 2017, as were names with the Loo-sound.
In its various spellings, the name Megan/Meghan was enjoying a well-deserved rest after peaking in the 1980s. And then along came Meghan Markle, the American actress and humanitarian who became engaged to Britain’s Prince Harry on November 17th, rendering her name suddenly inescapable (hers was the most googled name of 2016). And with the wedding set for May, Meghan may well become the 2018 name of the year. Time will tell as to whether this Welsh diminutive of Margaret will become popular for babies again and ever regain its Top 65 status, but the future royal certainly makes an attractive and worthy namesake.
When Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter in September, she made a bold and somewhat unusual naming choice. First of all she made the baby girl a junior sharing her father Alexis Ohanian’s name. Olympia referenced Serena’s Olympic championships– and the initials AO were a sly nod to the Australian Open she’d won when already pregnant. The Greek name Olympia, with its relation to Mount Olympus, home of the Greek gods, has a powerful, goddess-like aura and is one of the classic O girl names—Ophelia, Odessa, Octavia—now ready to join Olivia and Olive on the popularity parade.
This intriguing African name which means thanks is ensconced in the Top 1000 (# 142 In New York City and 18 on Nameberry!) solely due to one-time Disney Channel star Zendaya who is having a breakout year, starring opposite Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman, and as a role model attracting 46 million Instagram followers. A self-proclaimed feminist she has been active in charities raising money for feeding hungry children in Haiti and for women’s empowerment.