Trendy Baby Names: The trendiest of all time
Trendy baby names have been around a lot longer Miley Cyrus or any of the famous Kardashians. From the dawn of recorded U.S. baby name history — aka 1880, when the federal government began keeping records — we’ve adopted names inspired by current events and popular people and culture, only to leave them behind for a new inspiration the next year.
The inspiration for name trends a century ago may have been politicians and war heroes rather than reality stars, but the definition of trendy baby names was the same: Names that spiked in popularity thanks to an outside influence, then sank from view along with its original bearer.
An organization called Flowing Data has calculated the trendiest names in US history, a fascinating look at which names burned the brightest only to fade the fastest.
Taken by 25-year bites, the trendiest baby names provide a window into our past. The use of place name Manila was probably inspired by the Philippine-American war at the turn of the last century, while Dewey — surprisingly trendy for both girls and boys at the end of the 19th century — honored not the much-later presidential candidate but philosopher and educator John Dewey. Public figures from Woodrow Wilson to General Pershing to Coretta Scott King are represented.
And then many other of the trendiest baby names are lost to the ages, along with whoever or whatever inspired their popularity.
A look at the trendiest girls’ and boys’ names of past eras:
The trendiest of the trendy are a similar mix of a few names that have endured over the years and many more that live up to their trendiness by disappearing as quickly and dramatically as they appeared.
The Top 10 trendiest names of the past 130 years, along with the year of their peak popularity and their original inspiration, are:
- Catina, 1972 — Spelling twist on name of baby on soap opera Where the Heart Is.
- Deneen, 1964 — Smoosh name drawn from Top 25 name Denise plus the then-stylish -een ending.
- Aaliyah, 1994 — Tragic R & B singer.
- Allisson, 2008 — Spelling aberration inspired by Latina actress Allisson Lozano.
- Katina, 1972– Actual spelling of baby name from Where the Heart Is.
- Cataleyah, 2012 — Zoe Saldana character named for a genus of orchids.
- Yulissa, 1997 — Character in a telenovela.
- Aja, 1978 — Name of Steely Dan album.
- Krystle,1981 — Dynasty character.
- Deanna, 1937 — Inspired by actress Deanna Durbin.
- Jalen, 1992 — Star college basketball player Jalen Rose.
- Tevin, 1990 — Actor Tevin Campbell in first film.
- Elian, 2000 — Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez made headlines.
- Demond, 1972 — Actor Demond Wilson was in TV’s popular Sanford & Son.
- Mcarthur, 1942 — World War II’s General Douglas MacArthur.
- Talan, 2005 — Talan Toriero from Laguna Beach.
- Colt, 1982 — Lee Majors character on TV.
- Yahir, 2002 — Singer Yahir Othon Parra
- Devante, 1992 — Record producer and rapper
- Jarrod, 1966 — Character on television’s The Big Family
What names on the scene today do you think might be the trendy flash-in-the-pans of the future? And which of today’s trendiest choices will transcend the moment and live on? Will Cataleya be the next Catina and fade from view, or the next Aaliyah and live on?
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on August 5th, 2013 at 11:22 pm
Yeah, I really don’t like when parents choose a name because it’s suddenly prominent on a movie star or television character. In the future, I’m predicting Khaleesi and Khloe to be on this list.
author in writing Said
on August 5th, 2013 at 11:27 pm
I am really surprised that Shelby was trendy in 1925-1949! I wonder what sparked that?
on August 6th, 2013 at 12:00 am
I have a newborn cousin named Kataleya. I had never before heard of it. I’m surprised to see Eris as a trendy name in 1900-1924. Despite it’s goddess association, I think it’s a beautiful name.
on August 6th, 2013 at 6:55 am
Ooh, my mom (born in 1930) had a trendy name! Who knew? I know what inspired the fad for her name, Jeannine. It was a song popular in 1929 called “Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time,” which was sung by Colleen Moore in the movie Lilac Time. Pretty funny to know that the other parents were probably talking behind my mom’s back about her annoying trendy name, hee!
on August 6th, 2013 at 7:32 am
I wonder too, Shelby! And thanks for the info on Jeannine, Clemency — you’d never know that if you didn’t have a personal connection to pass down the memory, so I really appreciate that little piece of name knowledge!
If anyone else knows the origin of any of the other less-obvious trendy names, please share!
on August 6th, 2013 at 8:51 am
My grandfather was G.C., aka trendy Grover Cleveland. I know two writer Shelbys from that era (1925-1949), one male (Shelby Foote), one female (Shelby Hearon), both Southern
on August 6th, 2013 at 9:42 am
Dayami was the runner up a few years back on Nuestra Belleza Latina- a beauty pageant-esque show on Univision. Very interesting that the most recent trendy names on girls are of Latina actresses or tv personalities or movies. That’s why I say for a Hispanic parent to name their child something like Elizabeth isn’t lazy or just using a name from the top 10- it’s actually very different. At least that is true for me.
on August 6th, 2013 at 9:48 am
Bentlee – with the double ee!! Ugh
on August 6th, 2013 at 9:56 am
My cousin’s name, Krystle is there, I’m not surprised!
on August 6th, 2013 at 11:44 am
I know two girls named Katina, both my age (20). I never knew it used to be trendy! I think it is a nice name.
on August 6th, 2013 at 12:42 pm
I am intrigued by this list. I am confused about the difference between trendy and popular. I would have consider Jennifer trendy, but none of these names are that popular.
@Clemency I love your story about your mother! I like the name Jeannine too, although I think my friend spells it differently.
With nothing against soap operas, books, and Movies, (love all) I would put names that come from a national figure in a different category maybe. Coretta I would guess to be inspired by Martin Luther King’s wife and widow Coretta Scott King. She was active in civil rights as well and I can understand wanting to honor her.
However I could be wrong, and maybe there was another reason Coretta was popular?
on August 6th, 2013 at 1:20 pm
I think trendy is more “flash in the pan” than popular. Trendy names quickly climb up the charts but plummet back down just as quickly. Much like the fame of a one-hit-wonder band. Sadly, I think Arya is trendy. My husband loved it when he first read it in A Song of Fire and Ice series in the ’90s, if the TV version wasn’t blowing up right now the name would have remained a rare, unusual gem. (Oh well, at least the television serious is forcing George RR Martin to hurry it along and finish the series 🙂 )
on August 6th, 2013 at 4:35 pm
I’m intrigued by Dewey–especially since it occurs on both male and female name lists.
Is it possible that Dewey honors not John Dewey but George Dewey, a US Navy Admiral? I don’t know how prominent John Dewey would have been prior to 1900–I always associate him with his 1930s writings on education, which were influential then.
But George Dewey was made famous for the Battle of Manila in 1898—which may account for the Manila name trend as well.
Here’s a list of other famous Deweys who could be candidates: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_(surname)
on August 7th, 2013 at 5:17 am
I’d love to know what the spike for Cataleya is like. Has it gone up and back down already I wonder? My cousin has a baby Cataleya born last year (pron. cat-ah-LAY-ah)
on August 7th, 2013 at 9:03 am
Cataleyah is a beautiful name. In the chart, from 1925-1949, I know someone with the name Shelba and I’ve always wondered about its origins.
on August 7th, 2013 at 9:18 am
murp, I just checked the SS extended list and there were 28 girls named Cataleya in 2011 and 636 given the name in 2012, so in sheer numbers that’s a huge jump. It remains to be seen whether the numbers will keep increasing or drop back down and so whether the name can truly be defined as trendy or whether this is just the beginning of its sustained popularity,
on August 7th, 2013 at 9:44 am
Dewey is also a nickname for Duane – a popular name in the 30’s and 40’s. Funny how Grover is listed on there. I was just telling my boyfriend that you never hear of anyone named Grover anymore, even though its a nice name. I think our furry friend from Sesame Street stole the name for good. And speaking of naming people after pop culture trends; I used to work with a younger woman named Roxanne. I thought she was uncharacteristically young for the name and I jokingly asked her if her parents were big fans of the Police. She said, “yeah they really loved the song”. She wasn’t kidding!
I have never heard the name Kataleya until just now. Not my style of name, and it’s a mouthful to say.
on August 7th, 2013 at 3:28 pm
Interesting blog! It would be interesting to have a similar blog for the UK I wonder what is ‘trendy’…?!
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