Surprising Names: And the forces behind them

Unless you follow every reality series on the Oxygen and Style networks, Spanish soccer, country music and the contemporary cartoons, you might be hard pressed to figure out the sources behind some of the names that are suddenly rising in popularity. Yes, you may know that Number 2 boys’ name Mason is Kardashian-related, and that the Beckhams gave girls’ name Harper a big boost, but what’s with Iker? Brantley and Briella, Archer and Angelique?  Here’s a guide to the probable sources of the success of these surprising names on the rise.


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It sorta sounds made up—and it sorta was—by author Elmore Leonard who created the character Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens for a series of stories which went on to form the basis of the TV series Justified. Parents have really warmed to the trendy feel of the name: it’s a first timer on the Top 1000 this year, entering at a respectable Number 701.

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31 Responses to “Surprising Names: And the forces behind them”

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Poppy528 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 1:25 am

Enough with the pseudointellectual Harper/Atticus stuff, wow you read one whole book off the required reading list in high school? I’d rather have an Aria named for for the PLL series (a great airhead read, btw, I loved these books!). Aria and Mila are really gorgeous names people are waking up to.

sleepyjaime Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 4:01 am

Greyson might also come from the popular show Drop Dead Diva. Greyson is the attractive lawyer who dated the model girl before she died and was reincarnated into the body of another, heavier-set woman. I love the show, and that’s where I heard the name first.

One of my best friends named their daughter Raylan and used my middle name for her’s; Raylan Paige. I really like it, as well as Mila and Aria.

xiabelle Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 5:56 am

For Aria, there is also Arya on Game of Thrones, and she’s a fantastic character.

kewitzler Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 5:58 am

I’ve been wondering if there is a reason for Angelique to move up 247 places in one year; from 627 to 380.

henrye Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 8:04 am

Raylan always makes me think of Raeliens and Raelism, that weird cult that believed in aliens and kept claiming to have cloned things.

melissa2 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 8:23 am

Um, Poppy, what makes fans of TKAM pseudointellectual? I think you greatly underestimate the impact of that novel on a great portion of the population. Atticus Finch is one of the greatest characters ever written, a genuinely good man who bravely fights a battle he knows he’s going to lose. I also hold a great deal of admiration for the book’s author, Nelle Harper Lee. YOU may choose to prefer names from flash-in-the-pan teen books unlikely to stand the test of time, but do not sit in judgment of those who don’t follow your lead.

kristenj15 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 8:47 am

My 2011 Archer was definitely not inspired by the FX show. We had the named picked out before we saw the show and it makes me cringe; that character is not my cup of tea.

That being said, Archer hasn’t seem to have caught on much in the Midwest. People ask us all the time how we came up with his name. I’m hoping it doesn’t become too popular, but Nameberry did warn of it 🙂

kristenj15 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 8:51 am

@sleepyjaime I hadn’t thought of Raylan for a girl but I like it. There was also a RaeLynn on this past season of The Voice, which sounds pretty similar.

millymom619 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 9:20 am

How could Angelique be inspired by Dark Shadows? The movie hadn’t even been released yet! In fact, I never even heard of the movie until well into 2012 and I doubt many others had either.

Seriously, don’t just pair a rising name with a current movie/show/celebrity and ignore timing and popularity. Angelique is obviously rising on its own or for some other reason.

(And, for the record, I know Dark Shadows was an old TV show from the 60s/70s. But if that version of the character hadn’t created a jump in the last 40 yrs, we’re clearly talking about the recent movie.)

jeniferbraun Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 9:40 am

I’ll second the notion that Aria might be getting a little bit of heat from Arya on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The girl who plays that character on TV — and I haven’t read the books, sorry — is so cute, so spunky and so smart, it instantly made me like the name, which is otherwise way too girly for me.

I also love the actress’ actual name: Maisie. Cute, right?

Also, anyone else think part of Archer’s rise might be due to Girls Gone Child blogger Rebecca Woolf writing about her son Archer for the last seven or so years — and pointing the great Rumi passage she pulled it from?

(Other than those two, though, I’m not loving any of these. Not bad names, just — meh.)

augusta_lee Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 10:10 am

Eh, a lot of these explanations seem akin to the (incorrect) assumption that Jacob and Isabella rose due to Twilight — in fact they’d been on their way up for years. Attributing Angelique to Dark Shadows is particularly silly, as it was only just released last week and had very little buzz beforehand.

neuilly Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 10:42 am

I agree with the pp, I don’t think Dark Shadows has anything to do with the rise…especially when you consider timing. I think there’s another explanation out there.

Flick Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 11:39 am

I don’t think TV had much to do with the rise of some of these names. I’ve been in the naming community for going on 7 years now and Brielle / Briella has ALWAYS been there – long before that hairstylist was popular. It’s gotten more use in the past year or two, but it’s been slowly making an appearance. Grayson has also been used for at least the past 5 or 6 years and Aria has always been there as an alternative to Melody or Harmony. Grayson has been on a steady rise for the past 10 years and Brielle has been on a steady rise since 2002.

kashed22 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Brielle/Briella make me think of John Edward’s mistress.

thetxbelle Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Pet Peeve: I wish Nameberry would change it’s info on Brielle, it claims to be a long form of the of the place name Brie. If that’s the case then there is no long form of the name, the town of Brie is not short for Brielle.

If anything it’s a place name for the Dutch municipality of Brielle, formerly of Den Briel Which apparently comes from the Gallic brogilo

Saranel Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Does anyone know why Felicity rose 99 places last year. I just can’t figure it out.

edenlyla13 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I adore Aria and Luna! The names and the characters!

akky3210 Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 3:09 pm

–I think the picture of the cat in the Nylah part is so cute; I really just want to pick her up and cuddle her!

–Aria has long been a favorite of mine as an (unpublished) author. I’ve used it for three or four different characters from various projects…and that was before I realized people actually used it as a name!

–Atticus is, for me, too wrapped up in the TKAM character that I couldn’t name *anyone,* whether it was a baby or a fictional person, after him.

Flick Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

thetxbelle: I always thought Brielle / Briella were diminutives of Gabrielle / Gabriella? Thatfeels more likely than being linked to a place name?

miloowen Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Personally, I feel the same way about Atticus and Harper. Enough already, for heaven’s sake. I know for a fact that Miss Lee feels the same way.

I do like Luna and I prefer Arya, the Hebrew lioness of G-d, to Aria (it always makes me think which aria? Vissi d’arte? Caro nome?)

Some of these other names are just NOKD.

thetxbelle Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Flick: I dont think I made my point clear since I tried to simplify it (which in hindsight always sounds stupid when I try this) Brie is a region in France, the name isn’t short for anything but Nameberry lists Brielle as the long form of Brie.

However, apparently there is a town/municipality called Brielle in the Netherlands so I think that’s the best choice to use if they want to call Brielle a place name, or better yet list them as Americanized diminutives of Gabrielle/Gabrielle like you said.

I would assume that Brie/Brielle share an older root word though.

LyndsayJenness Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Yeah Angelique obviously didn’t rise due to Dark Shadows. That’s just silly. There must be another explanation…. a spin on Angelina Jolie? It makes a good sister for Isabella… I don’t know.

And I know for sure that Grayson was on the rise way before Revenge came out. Like sleepyjaime said, Drop Dead Diva came first. Though I do think I heard quite a bit of it even before that came out. I know I’ve loved Graydon since I was little because of Trevor Graydon from Thoroughly Modern Millie, not sure exactly when Grayson came into my conscientious.

Pansy Says:

May 18th, 2012 at 11:12 pm

@LyndsayJenness – I was thinking the same thing about Angelique. I think people are hearing Angelina Jolie’s name all the time and likiing it, but don’t want to use Angelina because it’s too linked to the actress. Instead, they go for a variant and since Angela is dated, the best option is Angelique.

Jacquelini Says:

May 19th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I was thinking the same thing about Archer…

Saracita00 Says:

May 19th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I agree — for many of these names, linking to just one pop culture reference makes for entertaining discussion, but I really don’t think it can be taken seriously. It seems that there must be other influences affecting the naming scene.

Case in point: Atticus. This name gets a lot of attention because of TKAM, however I have seen Atticus linked to quite a few claims that “Roman names” are a hot item. Now what explains the Roman name trend? It was certainly well underway before The Hunger Games movie. So what is causing these “Roman” sounding names to be appealing and sound more approachable as actual modern given names? I would argue that the cultural atmosphere that is (for whatever reason) more accepting of “Roman” names could be what is giving the Finch fans the courage to actually use his name — if TKAM is, in fact, the reference in mind. There’s just a lot affecting the culture and naming attitudes.

augusta_lee Says:

May 20th, 2012 at 12:52 am

I think that there’s rarely ONE cause for a name rising.

Grayson? Well, surname names having been on an upward trajectory for a while. It also shares the popular “ay” sound with mega-hit Aiden and its variants. It’s also an alternative to “Jackson”, which has consistently charted very high for the past few years.

Atticus? A lot of popular boys’ names start with “A” — see Aiden again, and Andrew, Alex, Anthony, Austin, Aaron etc — and the “s” ending recalls other perennial favorites like Marcus and Nicholas. Literary names are having a serious moment also. Atticus is the right combination of accessible and intellectual.

Brie? It’s a punchy little name a la top-10ers Chloe, Ava, and Mia. It also resonates with longtime favorite Brianna. “Br” names are in — see Brantley, another listed name, as well as Brayden (ick), Brandon, and, yep, Brianna. “Briella” contains the popular Ella; it’s also long been a diminutive of equally popular Gabriella. “Aubrey”, another listed name, also contains the “brie” sound. It’s probably rising for similar reasons. It’s also a soundalike to popular Audrey AND has the auspiciously upbeat “-ee/ie/y” ending so popular with the current wave of names. This one’s a no-brainer.

Luna? I’m sure Harry Potter has something to do with it, but this name definitely also got a boos from the current popularity of “L” names. It’s a stylish alternative to Lily, Lila, Lydia, Lia, and the rest.

Basically what I’m saying is: any cultural trend tends to be more complicated than you’d guess at first glance. That’s definitely true of names. I get that simple explanations make for more concise slide-shows, but these explanations also suffer for being reductive, and sometimes — like in the case of the “connection” between Angelique and Dark Shadows — they’re just patently unlikely. Names are complicated. That’s part of the reason why they’re awesome. Amirite?

linzybindi Says:

May 20th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I think Aria was also brought to light because of the Food Network show Next Food Network Star contestant Aria Kagan. She made it close to the finals and she made me fall in love with this name. The show she was on aired in 2010. I could see that also having an impact on the name.

raylan2011 Says:

May 20th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

My daughter name is Raylan, I’m always asked if my child is a boy or girl.

l0emkb Says:

May 20th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Saranel – Felicity Jones (an English actress) has gotten some attention recently, that’s the only reason I can think of. I’m in Britain though, so I’m not sure if she’s known well enough in the US to have made an impact. A very pretty name, though 🙂

LyndsayJenness Says:

May 20th, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I was just watching Cougar Town and totally forgot the main guy on that show is named Grayson, so, there’s another one.

pattyanniee Says:

September 28th, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I can’t stand naming children after popular books/TV shows/etc of the era in which the parents grew up in. A cousin of mine named his daughter Bella, just Bella, specifically after Twilight, and I think it’s just stupid. So anything related to these are out for me, which is a shame because I do love Lily, Luna and Hugo as names, but wouldn’t want anyone to assume the children were named after the respective characters in Harry Potter.

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