by Linda Rosenkrantz
Place names for babies are a movable feast. We’ve traveled from London and Paris and Brittany to towns in New Jersey like Trenton and Camden and on to New York’s Brooklyn and even a starbaby boy named Bronx.
And at the same time there are the names that have become so widely used that they’re no longer associated with any specific geographic locale—looking at you Charlotte and Carolina and Savannah, Dakota and Cheyenne.
But let’s take a look at what’s happening now on the baby-name map: which country and city names are moving fastest up the ranks?
Judging from the latest Social Security stats, here are the place names that attracting the most new visitors.
PLACE NAMES FOR GIRLS
Holland—rose 113 places
Samara—up 68 spots
Samara is the 6th largest city in Russia, along the Volga River, home to a museum of Russian art. A much more distinctive path to nickname Sam than Samantha, it’s worn by the Samara Cook character in Pretty Little Liars, who works for an LGBT Pride group.
Exotic Egypt was new to the popularity list in 2017 and appears to be on an upward trajectory.
Santa Catalina was one of the two patron saints of Italy and Santa Catalina is one of California’s Channel Islands, known for its wildlife. Catalina Aruca was a Bolivian character on the sitcom My Name is Earl. The name now ranks at #235.
PLACE NAMES FOR BOYS
Harlem—up 199, new to the Top 1000
The capital city of Colorado, named for politician James W. Denver, has been on and off the list since1887, jumping back in 2015 and rising 145 points last year, in part perhaps thanks to its stylish er ending.
The girls have Egypt and the parents of boys have opted for its capital city name, bringing it into the Top 1000 in 2015. Site of the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, Cairo has an evocative, exotic aura, brought down to earth by its energetic o-ending.
Parents are probably more attracted to the sound of this name with its trendy middle X and on-ending, than to the image of the colorful working-class south London community of Brixton.
The Republic of Zaire was the name of a sovereign state in Central Africa between 1971 and 1997, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The name Zaire comes from a term meaning ‘the river that swallows all rivers’. NBA star Dwyane Wade has sons named Zaire, Zion and Xavier.
This proper Bostonian had been unseen since 1901 when it suddenly reappeared in 2004, part of the renaissance of American city names. Back in 1980, Kurt Russell and Season Hubley used it for their son.
When Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale looked to memories of their time in Jamaica for the name of their first son in 2006, it sent Kingston straight onto the popularity list, where it has been ever since. Starbaby power rules!