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Has Star Wars Wrecked Your Favorite Name?

The Name Sage makes a pop culture decision

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts
star wars baby names

Lauren writes:

I’ve got a little naming dilemma. A favorite family name, and one that goes well with my daughter’s name, is used in the new Star Wars movie … for one of the bad guys.

The spelling is different (thankfully), but can I name my baby something pronounced Kylo given how evil the character is? We would use the nickname Ky/Kai.

We have other family names in our pocket as well – they are just more common, like Oliver, Henry, and Lincoln.

The Name Sage replies:

What a tough question!

My initial answer is that yes, you can absolutely use the name, if – and only if – you won’t be driven mad by questions about your choice.

And there will be questions. Not only was the latest installment in the Star Wars series a major blockbuster, it’s the beginning of a whole new storyline with multiple sequels in the works.

The good news? Bad guy or not, the character could boost Kylo as a baby name, and make it a more mainstream possibility. After all, Anakin entered the US Top 1000 in 2014. Eight boys were named Kylo that year, too – likely inspired by familiar names like Kyle, Milo, and Kai.

Still, I wonder if I’d like to be named Kylo, or Leia – or any name strongly associated with a fictional character – and only that fictional character. (Luke doesn’t count – there have been plenty of others Lukes besides Skywalker.) Even though you’re not naming your son after Kylo Ren, he may grow weary of explaining.

It’s also possible that the different spelling will prove to be a disadvantage as your son grows up. I’m picturing him as a college student, ordering a double shot of espresso during finals week.

Barista: May I have your name for the cup?

Kylo-not-spelled-that-way gives name.

Barista: Like Star Wars? Cool!

Kylo-not-spelled-that-way: Yeah. No. It’s pronounced like Kylo, but let me spell it for you …

Barista writes K-Y-L-O on the cup.

It strikes me that Kylo might be the best middle name ever, if you’re open to that option. As a middle name, Kylo is a little bit like Tiberius or Danger – a secret that is potentially embarrassing when you’re a teenager, but also kind of fun. That’s even truer because it’s a family name that just happens to share sounds with the Star Wars character.

Overall, I think it would be easier to be Oliver Kylo than Kylo Oliver. But this is one situation where I know our readers can be so helpful, so let’s have a poll!

Should Lauren give her son the family name Kylo, or is this family name too closely associated with the Star Wars villain?

  1. AYes! It’s a family name, and that’s much more important than a movie villain, no matter how famous.
  2. BNo! Your son will have to explain his name forever, and that gets old quick.
  3. CMaybe … It depends on how upset you’ll be if others assume the name was inspired by the movie.
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About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.
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17 Responses to “Has Star Wars Wrecked Your Favorite Name?”

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markat Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 12:54 am

I have a friend named Cale (pronounced like the vegetable but spelled differently) who was named after a family friend, and though he does get jokes about his name, he embraces it and doesn’t resent it. Not quite the same as the Kylo situation, but similar in that he has a name that people have strong associations with, but spelled differently than the association. I think naming your son Kylo (with your spelling variation) will mean he has to explain his name, but I don’t think that needs to be a dealbreaker if you’re okay with it.

paw Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 5:22 am

I would probably use it as a middle name. It avoids all the issues raised with the name but still carries on the family tradition.

Titus245Mama Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 7:35 am

No. Just no. You have no idea what is going to happen in future movies, and the Star Wars villain is going to literally be the only other association that most people have with the name. The potential trouble isn’t worth it. Yes, the name Anakin has entered the baby-naming world to a point, but nobody is naming their kid Vader. What about a different name that can be shorted to Ky/Kai? I know of a little Malachi that goes by Kai.

If you feel you absolutely can’t help but use it, I think NameSage’s idea of putting it in the middle is a good one. But honestly, I don’t think I’d even go that far. I’m all for using family names, and being creative/distinctive, but there’s a point where my affinity for unusual and interesting names has to be tempered by real life–at least, just a little.

jpruitt76 Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 7:42 am

I agree with Abby – use it in the mn spot. And, I think it pairs well with some of the other family names you mentioned if you could go in for those as a first name option (Lincoln Kylo, Oliver Kylo, Henry Kylo, etc).

FairMaiden Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 9:21 am

I’d also suggest the MN spot and think it’s especially cool that it’s a family name. The series isn’t over, so who knows, maybe like Vader Kylo Ren will redeem himself before the end.

My hubby is a Luke born in the 80s. He gets “Luke, I am your father” jokes EVERY time he meets someone new. Every. Time. So know the star wars association isn’t going anywhere and would definitely constantly come up.

Haids1987 Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 10:55 am

I am a huge Star Wars freak, so the association wouldn’t bother me at all–it would heighten my love for the name! 🙂 But since it’s your baby, you do what makes sense for your family–Henry Kylo? Oliver Kylo? Do these names flow to you? If you love it, use it! If you’re wary, use it as a middle name. I think it’s a great name!

Maerad Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 12:20 pm

I think he’s probably going to get a redemption story ark, so he might not always be the villain! However I really think it does depend on how well you think you (and him) will deal with people assuming it is after Star Wars. The fact that it isn’t the same spelling might help?

amosburton Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 3:57 pm

I think Kylo’s a really cool name. I’m not that old, (in high school) and I know that other kids my age would think its really cool that his name is Kylo, bad guy or not.

ashbee Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Better in the middle!

southern.maple Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 4:29 pm

I would put it in the middle spot, especially since there’s no way to know what direction Kylo Ren’s storyline will take or how enduring he’ll be as a villain in the long run.

namergirl3 Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 7:23 pm

I vote for the middle spot as well, or with a PP’s suggestion of using a name where Ky could be a nickname. I personally hated the new star wars and kylo’s character (unpopular opinion, I know). I don’t really care what “redemption” story they could do/where they could take him to make you see him in a new light, pop culture reference names can often be a cross to bear, no matter whether it is a good association or a bad one. I know a Luke, the child of star wars fanatics, who hates his name because of the “I am your father” comments….and Luke was a good guy, with no bad association! I personally love the name Anakin, but probably wouldn’t saddle a child with it, because it’s so obviously a reference to something in pop culture.

thorn144 Says:

March 30th, 2016 at 10:32 pm

Honestly, I didn’t even know Kylo was a Star Wars character. I think a significant amount of people he meets wouldn’t even pick up on it/ know enough about Star Wars. I think it’s a cool name and if you like it, go for it. Especially with the spelling variation!

southern.maple Says:

March 31st, 2016 at 10:15 pm

@thorn144

It’s been at least a year since I’ve walked into a store without seeing Kylo Ren.

littleamico Says:

April 2nd, 2016 at 8:31 pm

Ugh I can totally relate! Shortly after our son Ronan was born, the movie Guardians of the Galaxy came out with the disgusting Ronan villain character, which unfortunately is the only association some people have for his name! Definitely not on the same scale as Star Wars though!

survivedall Says:

May 19th, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Another problem with Kylo as a first name is pronunciation. Anyone associating the name with Star Wars might also pronounce it “kee-loh” since that pronunciation is also used in the film and interviews (similar to Leia and Leah being used interchangeably in the OT). To me, that sounds too much like a unit of measurement to also be a name, like naming a child Pound, Ton, Ounce, or Litre, and could lead to teasing for that reason.

I’d stick to using it as a middle name, and if you still wanted to use the nickname Ky, he wouldn’t be the first child to use his middle name (or a nickname of it) as the primary name. A first name with Ky/Kai as a nickname would also be a good alternative—Malachi, Kyson, Kyle.

As a first name, I wouldn’t just worry about it generally as a Star Wars villain name. In addition to being a murderer, according to interviews, that interrogation scene wasn’t just meant to be creepy, it was meant to feel like a rape scene. Even if he gets a redemption arc, I wouldn’t want anyone assuming I named a child after him, or associating my child with him. And if it does turn out that Kylo and Rey are related, there would be an extra dose of bullying for potential siblings.

Middle Name Danger – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

October 11th, 2016 at 11:00 pm

[…] this year, I described bold middles as “… a secret that is potentially embarrassing when you’re a teenager, but also kind of […]

orphanedhanyou Says:

May 7th, 2017 at 10:02 am

i feel like there is such a huge -o & -lo trend right now that while Star Wars brought this particular name to light, it fits right in with the new normal. Anakin stands alone. (but is an awesome name!)

ps we dont know if Kylo wont redeemed himself – a name reminding your kid he can overcome anything isnt a bad connection which really dissolves once you change the spelling. as a Star Wars fan, the sound doesn’t mean as much as the spelling. Anakin = Star Wars, cool. Annacen = not Star Wars, not cool.

also for your example for the Starbucks cup, my name has multiple spellings and rhythms with multiple other names, when they ask – i usually just spell out the name from the start. it just becomes part of life.

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