Of all the buzzing baby names this year, one of the biggest is probably Cairo. Cairo entered the top 1000 in 2015 for the first time ever. City names are nothing new, and they often enjoy unisex popularity. London currently ranks #105 for girls and #605 among the boys, while Milan ranks #424 for boys and #695 for girls. Milan, however, is also recognized as a masculine Slavic-language name, which might explain why it’s more popular for boys in the U.S. Paris was such a name of an older generation, as for males it likely referred to the abductor of Helen, and for girls to the city or Paris Hilton. Nowadays it’s only popular as a feminine name (#263), and I suspect Ms. Hilton may be the reason.
I think these kinds of city names become so popular because, in some way or another, they represent pinnacles of culture to people. London, Paris, and Milan are fashion-capitals, or at least they were when I last heard that trivia question. Cairo is the capital of Egypt *and* has the Pyramids, but if it wasn’t popular before, why specifically is Cairo a popular name now?
The answer is in the numbers. If you look at the extended data (i.e. beyond the top 1000), the name Cairo first began to be used in the late 1970s and was a regular from then on. Then, in 2011, usage more than doubled. There were 45 boys named Cairo in 2010, and in 2011 there were 92. Usage has risen every year since. Last year there were 220 male Cairos, ranking the name at #940 out of 1000. The point: Cairo is a popular name because of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
I’ve never heard of names becoming popular because of protests that happened in another country, or because of instability in some location. The name Isis is dying because of the terror organization. Maybe the media brought Cairo to the attention of parents who use names as an outlet for cosmopolitan aspirations, or maybe people thought civil disobedience admirable. It’s certainly a more interesting tale of popularity than if it were fashion- or celebrity-based.