The 12 Most Notable Names of 2012
The most notable names of 2012 take a colorful direction this year, with influences that range from presidents to K-pop, celebrities and the characters they play, and from the web to the weather.
Our picks for the 12 names most emblematic of 2012 – plus the dozen also-rans – are:
Malala. Runnerup: Dilma
Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani 14-year-old who was gunned down by the Taliban for championing girls’ education, wrote that her melodious name means “grief stricken.” Malala could well become an inspiration name choice for young girls in the Western World. Another female name to emerge from world politics this year is Dilma, via Brazil’s first woman president Dilma Rousseff, who was named after her mother.
Daniel Day Lewis’s brilliant film portrayal brought Abraham Lincoln alive in a way he hasn’t been since, well, 1863. As a modern hero name, our first choice is the fresh-sounding Lincoln, initially heard as a first name in the Mod Squad as the proper name for the cool character called Linc. Abraham relates more to the brethren of gray-bearded Old Testament names – Noah, Moses, Isaiah – than to our arguably greatest president, but that still puts it in step with our times.
London takes the title of the place name of the year, given the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee (more on that in a moment) as well as Prince Harry’s antics and the ongoing royal bump watch. The name London leapt into the Top 100 for girls this year and we see the city’s stature elevating it even higher; while London is sagging a bit as a boy’s name, it’s not out of the running. Runnerup name Jubilee is a celebratory new word name heard increasingly for girls.
The ancient Greek name Penelope became an unlikely reality star this year when Kourtney Kardashian chose it for her high-profile newborn. Meaning “weaver,” the name of Odysseus’s long-faithful wife was also placed in the limelight by Spanish star Penélope Cruz. Runnerup Greek sister Sophia makes our list because she became the Number 1 girls’ name in the U.S. this year, only the 16th name to take first place honors since 1880.
There aren’t many baby name inspirations less likely than the erotic 50 Shades of Grey blockbusters, but parents are indeed naming their children Grey – and Gray and Grayer and Grayson, the only one of the series to make the Top 1000. On the more literary end of literary inspiration, we nominate author Junot Diaz, this year’s Pulitzer novelist whose name is the Spanish variation of the Latin Junius, which means “born in June.”
Impresario Lena Dunham took HBO by storm with her series Girls, a Sex & the City for a new generation of women. The name Lena, adhering to the Hundred Year Rule, was in the Top 100 from 1880 until 1920. Originally a short form for Helena or any other name that ended in those four letters, Lena can now stand on its own and is headed back toward the top. Fellow series star Jemima Kirke makes her British-accented first name US-appropriate.
The lead male character on Showtime’s smash Homeland bears the handsome hero name Nicholas, but he’s always called by his surname Brody, emblematic of our times and our naming tastes. Brody is an Irish surname that means “ditch” and is in the Top 100. Charismatic actor Damian Lewis, who portrays the character, may help promote his upper class British name to Americans.
The mild-mannered Sandy was anything but as the superstorm that swamped the northeast in October 2012. While the name may be still stuck in the Sandra Dee–Sandy Koufax 1960s, Sandy now joins Katrina in the pantheon of bad-by-association names. Followup storm Athena was the first of the non-hurricanes named for a mythological figure by The Weather Channel.
Game of Thrones was one of the year’s breakout series and Arya was its breakout baby name, the appellation of a sword-wielding young heroine. Musical twin name Aria, which stars in television’s Pretty Little Liars, has been zooming up the popularity charts by hundreds of points a year.
Sévérine. Runnerup: Bérénice
The sensationally successful new Bond movie, Skyfall, introduced a sensationally gorgeous new Bond girl, and with it her sleek, sophisticated French name. The charismatic character was played by Bérénice Marlohe, (yet another possible spelling of Marlow/Marlowe?) who, coincidentally, shares her Gallic first name with last year’s Oscar nominee Bérénice Bejo, the female lead of The Artist.
No, these are not the names of the ladies in your Grandma’s canasta group, but all three belong to hot young singers (average age 28). And each of them has been influential in the renewed interest in her name’s use for babies– especially Adele, which rose 282 points on the charts in the last year.
PSY. Runnerup: Gangnam
Notorious as well as notable, PSY (pronounced sigh) is the South Korean rapper/songwriter/ dancer (born Bak Jae-sang), whose infectious international hit single “Gangnam Style” now holds the record for being the most accessed YouTube video of all time, generating close to a billion views.
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on December 14th, 2012 at 6:02 am
Ummm…..Lincoln died in 1865.
on December 14th, 2012 at 6:20 am
I think my favorite is Lincoln which is also the name of my great uncle on my New Zealand side of the family (so I would be surprised if it related to the president).
on December 14th, 2012 at 8:04 am
I’m not sure I agree with a few names on this list. This list is heavy with names in entertainment. I think Callista and Runner-up: Anne would be notable, considering it was an election year. Maybe Felix, the guy who free falled from the edge of space.
on December 14th, 2012 at 8:54 am
Berenice isn’t Gallic, it’s Greek. Bérénice is just a French variant.
on December 14th, 2012 at 9:25 am
I agree with Vanessaaball’s idea of Felix… I feel like I am hearing it all over the place. And I love it. Last I heard from a friend, it was a way to honor the father’s grandmother Felicia.
I’m sad to see Penelope on the list. But I knew the minute that Kourtney K picked it, that I would have to let it go.
I’ve seen a lot of girls named Aria and Arya in Iowa lately. I kind of love it that they are so on trend here in the midwest. I do like Lincoln too… I’m interested to see how he plays out.
on December 14th, 2012 at 10:03 am
Eeee sexy ladies…
So, I love London, Penelope & Brody. I like the blog.
on December 14th, 2012 at 12:10 pm
I have said this before and I will say it again. I highly doubt people are using the names Grey/Gray/Greyson/Grayson because of 50 Shades of Grey. Both Greyson and Grayson have been climbing the charts steadily since 1995 and 1984 respectively. It also had a nice sound that is trendy right now, plus it has a good nickname potential. It might just be a current version of Jason, and an alternative to Mason which is so popular. I like the name Greyson and it irks me that people might associate it to some flash in the pan set of novels.
on December 14th, 2012 at 4:57 pm
I love Gray on a boy, and I don’t think I’m going to use it because of Fifty Shades of Grey. Most people won’t name a kid after a character in a porn book.
I’m thinking about using Malala as a middle name. She’s heroic, but I don’t know about her name as a first for a Western girl. It has a nice ring to it, though.
on December 15th, 2012 at 1:17 am
I agree with Aurra & UselessKitty. Grey has been on my short list of girls middles for ages. Also, does this mean Jemima’s going to be usable in the U.S. in the near future?
on December 15th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
I also agree that the popularity of Gray/Grayson has very little, if anything, to do with 50 Shades of Grey. I first heard it (and loved it) in the sci-fi series Torchwood. (Jack and Grey-fabulous brother names!) And a coworker of mine just named his son Grayson after Dick Grayson, aka Robin. However, some of the people who have read it don’t view it as porn, but as just another romance novel. Those people might use it.
on December 15th, 2012 at 9:43 pm
I genuinely feel for every child named Gray as in 50 Shades. It’s a pretty dull name to begin with, and to have the connotation of the book too? It’s not even that it’s an erotic novel that bothers me – it’s just that particular book is hugely over-hyped; it’s quite badly written and I think the way it presents sex is damaging specially the younger (my) generation.
I’d absolutely love to meet a little Gangnam or Psy though!
I’d happily back Lena/Jemima too – they’re two I’ve always liked, and since Girls became big (not so much in the UK, but Jemima is fairly common here anyway), I’ve fallen in love with both of them again. I absolutely love both Jemima Kirke and Lena Dunham!
Being British, the thought of actual human people named London or Jubilee makes me feel physically queezy. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Olympics have sparked more interest in Jess/Jessica (as in Ennis) or Mo (as in Farrah).
Speaking of British trends, I actually know of two baby Gabrielles, both coincidentally born in the past week or two, which I can’t help but assume might have something to do with Gabrielle Aplin, who’s a singer-songwriter with a very sudden #1 hit.
on April 8th, 2013 at 7:32 am
I loved Aria/Arya long ago. I hope it doesn’t get too popular like my other favourite Lily
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