“Stranger Things” in Naming


By Lowtrucks – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50284157

Something that’s been on mind lately is the possibility of Stranger Things affecting baby names.  The sci-fi/horror series, released on Netflix in July, has set the internet abuzz.  The show is so successful that a second season was announced today!  Disclaimer: I was already formulating this post before they announced it.  Good timing, I guess?

Since Stranger Things takes place in the early 1980s, the characters’ names generally reflect mid-century American names.  Some of them are rapidly losing popularity, but I expect them to recover at least temporarily. 

Joyce – This name has been in the top 1000 almost every year since 1880, but popularity has been declining for decades.  Peak popularity was in the 1940s, around the time when Joyce Byers likely would have been born.  Joyce was persistent in finding her son, even when everyone else thought he was dead and she was crazy; for that, I think Joyce will grow higher than her current U.S. rank of #837.

NancyNancy Wheeler is Mike’s older sister, who helps search for Will and for her friend Barb.  Nancy has been in the top 1000 every year since 1880, but that may not last much longer.  Still, the character may be enough to slow or even reverse the decline.  Current rank: #819.     

BarbaraBarb“- The name Barbara ranks similarly to Joyce and Nancy, but usage has been a little more stable this decade; she currently ranks #836.  Although the character doesn’t have much screen time or many lines, she’s become a huge meme.  I’m convinced Barb is going to reappear in the extended data because of this. 

Eleven I would be shocked if Eleven doesn’t debut in the extended data next year.  She’s too major a character, and even if her real name might be Jane, we all lovingly know her as El.  Yes, English numbers generally aren’t used as names.  The current exception to that rule is Seven, who was a character in the show Married With Children, if memory serves me.

Dustin – Dustin is friends with Mike, Will, and Lucas.  If his character was 12 or 13 in 1983, that would likely mean he was named after Dustin Hoffman.  Dustin has been in the top 1000 in 1968, the year after The Graduate hit cinemas.   Although declining in usage, Dustin still fares better than the more traditional women’s names above.  With the adorable kid from Stranger Things, I expect Dustin will be a more popular choice for parents in 2016 and 2017 than it was in 2015.  Current rank: #505. 

Mike – Mike Wheeler is Nancy’s brother, best friends with Lucas, Will, and Dustin, and later with Eleven.  Mike fell out of the top 1000 last year after being there all the way since 1880…but, with 194 uses in 2015, don’t be surprised if this name returns from the Upside-Down of the American onomastic lexicon in 2016.  The #1000 ranking name in 2015 was given to 202 boys.  

Lucas – Unlike the other names on this list, Lucas is actually much more popular or trendy now than in 1983, or in the early 70s when the character would have been born.  Last year, Lucas ranked #16…top 20!  But before 1973, this name wasn’t even top 100.  Lucas needed no boost, but the cool, nerdy character behind him grants him one by default. 

Hopper – Hawkins’ police chief Hopper’s first name is actually Jim, but it seems like he was always referred to by his surname.  Hopper isn’t a top 1000 name at all; in fact, only 5 boys were named Hopper in 2015.  I don’t expect 200 baby boys to suddenly be called  Hopper by the end of 2016, but whenever this year’s data is released, there will almost certainly be more than 5. 

Jonathan – A top 50 name for over as many years, Jonathan is the kind of name I’d describe as popular but un-trendy.  Yes, it’s still a top 100 name, but hundreds fewer boys are given this name each succeeding year.  I think the show could stabilize Jonathan for a little while, but I’m not as certain as with the other names.  Personally, I’d look more towards his surname – Byers – and see if that shows up in the extended data next year.

Steve – Steve Harrington is Nancy’s boyfriend.  He has his pros and cons, but you never know with this name.  Steve barely remains in the top 1000, and I’m guessing that Mr. Harrington is the test for whether this name stays or goes.  Ironically, it’s Jonathan who’s a fan of The Clash…

Brenner – Dr. Brenner is the “scary government guy.”  Brenner was the name of 35 baby boys born last year.  I’d tell you to look for a drop in the 2016 data, but villainy hasn’t stopped Harry Potter fans from naming their daughters Bellatrix

Thoughts?  Stranger Things is one of my favorite TV shows, and I can’t wait to see how Season 2 pans out.  Naturally, I’m also very curious about the names! 


Love of Country (Names)

Places make perennially trendy choices as baby names.  City names are really hot items, and you’re very likely to meet a little London or Savannah.  What’s not as likely is that you’ll meet someone named after a country.

Here is an exhaustive list countries that were used as baby names in the U.S. in 2015, organized by continent!  When the name is popular enough to rank nationally, you’ll see that number in parentheses ().  Finally, when there’s more than one word in the country’s name, I write fuller name after the numbers. 


  • Chad: 311 boys (#763).
  • Egypt: 199 girls and 31 boys.
  • Ivory: 392 girls (#717) and 36 boys.  Ivory Coast, a.k.a Côte d’Ivoire.   
  • Kenya: 307 girls (#890), 7 boys.
  • Mali: 41 girls, 5 boys. 
  • Nigeria: 8 girls. 
  • Sierra: 778 girls (#408).  Sierra Leone.  Leone was given to 8 girls and 23 boys.

Africa and the Middle East from space

Asia and the Middle East

  • China: 33 girls. 
  • India: 261 girls. 
  • Iran: 7 girls and 11 boys. 
  • Israel: 1563 boys (#240), 59 girls. 
  • Jordan: 6524 boys (#60), 1209 girls (#262).
  • Korea: 12 girls.  South Korea. 
  • Malaysia: 717 girls (#437). 
  • Syria: 13 girls.
  • Taiwan: 6 boys.
  • Thailand: 9 boys.

Australia and Oceania

  • Australia: 5 girls.
  • Marshall: 1090 boys (#319).  Marshall Islands.
  • Solomon: 853 boys (#376).  Solomon Islands. 
  • Zealand: 5 girls.  New Zealand.

Europe by night


  • Cyprus: 11 boys. 
  • Finland: 5 boys.
  • France: 5 girls. 
  • Georgia: 1424 girls (#230). 
  • Germany: 12 girls.
  • Ireland: 272 girls (#983), 5 boys.
  • Italy: 99 girls. 
  • Marino: 22 boys.  San Marino. 
  • Sweden: 8 girls.

North America and the Caribbean

  • America: 280 (#960).  United States of America. 
  • Belize: 5 girls.


    The Americas 

  • Costa: 15 boys.  Costa Rica.
  • Dominica: 14 girls. 
  • Jamaica: 12 girls. 
  • Lucia: 1440 girls (#225).  Saint Lucia. 
  • Salvador: 421 boys (#630).  El Salvador. 
  • Trinidad: 10 girls, 22 boys.  Trinidad and Tobago. 
  • Vincent: 3697 boys (#109), 6 girls.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

South America

  • Brazil: 13 girls, 6 boys.

Thoughts, anyone?  I’m personally amazed that South America only has one country currently serving as name-fodder…Argentina has charted before, but apparently not since 2013


Below the Top 1000, Part 16 (Boys)

It’s a beautiful and sunny Saturday!  Between sipping my coffee, cloud-gazing, and listening to The Cure, I’m also thinking about names.

As it happens, it’s that time of the week when I post my weekly selections of rare names.  So – here are some of the baby boys’ names in the 35-39 range!  Remember, these are all actual first names and the number of times they were given, according to Social Security birth data for 2015.

  • 39 times: Able, Banner, Boe, Breccan, Chadwick, Domani, Edgardo, Edric, Esau, Frederic, Lino, Neftali, Rye, Scotty, Sevyn, Walden, Yannick
  • 38: Alexei, Branch, Elden, Elnathan, Fenton, Hatcher, Heber, Klaus, Makoa, Maxime, Nazareth, Raj, Renner, Riddick, Tallon, Wayland, Zacarias
  • 37: Aldair, Champ, Chet, Christ, Cross, Cutler, Dana, Elimelech, Espen, Evans, Fausto, Hadley, Jeb, Khalif, Loukas, Maher, Pietro, Reeve, Saint, Whitaker
  • 36: Alasdair, Alder, Arsen, Charbel, Clarke, Dmitry, Draco, Hogan, Hubert, Ilya, Kashmir, Keane, Kota, Lexington, Luisangel, Maximilliano, Mercer, Navy, Oakland, Qasim, Rainer, Ramone, Rook, Seeley, Urban, Yug, Zebulon, Zidane
  • 35: Abdoulaye, Asiel, Avyukt, Brenner, Carlisle, Cashmere, Chael, Cloud, Colsen, Devonta, Divine, Eamonn, Elie, Eliud, Fulton, Garrick, Giuliano, Horacio, Kwame, Kylo, Osias, Quade, Quran, Rigo, Royale, Sasha, Tj

What do you think of these names?  And does Boe remind anyone else of the Face of Boe from Doctor Who? 

Earlier posts in this series:

Daring Daedalus

Sometime this week I noticed the name Daedalus in the SSA data.  Whoa…as a former classics student, may I remark just how hardcore that is?  2015 saw the birth of 7 American baby boys named Daedalus.  Pronunciation: “Dead-uh-lus.”

The seemingly obvious namesake is mythological Daedalus.  He constructed the labyrinth for the Minotaur, but he’s even more famous for what came afterwards.  Stuck on the island of Crete and yearning to return home, he decided to travel by sky.  Daedalus fashioned wax-wings for himself and his son Icarus.  Unfortunately, during their escape, Icarus flew too close to the sun.  The wings melted and he fell to his watery grave.  Note: 10 boys were named Icarus last year, and that name has appeared in the SSA data since about 2010.



Several far more obscure references exist, however, that are also possible namesakes. There is a minor filmmaker from California named Daedalus Howell, and also a musician who goes by Daedelus.  Serious Harry Potter fans like myself are aware of a character named Dedalus Diggle, whom Harry meets in Sorceror’s Stone.  And like many other names from Greek and Roman mythology, Daedalus has astronomical and maritime ties; ever heard of the Daedalus crater, or the HMS Daedalus?  Funnily enough, it also seems that Star Trek uses Daedalus as a class of starships.  

What do you think of Daedalus?  


Further reading: Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  The edition I own is one of the “Oxford World’s Classics,” but since the story is thousands of years old and therefore public domain, you can also find it on Project Gutenberg.  The tale of Daedalus is contained in Book VIII.  



Rarely do I find modern names so much to my taste as I do Elowen!  Although she sounds Welsh, she’s actually Cornish and means “elm tree.”  Pronunciation-wise, the second syllable is supposed to be emphasized – i.e., Elle-OH-when.  However, most people (myself included) probably emphasize the first syllable (like ELLE-oh-when).  36 girls were named Elowen in 2015.


Cornish Elms

Cornish is a rare and endangered language, but don’t underestimate Elowen.  Another Cornish name, Jennifer, transitioned from utter obscurity at the dawn of the 20th century into the #1 American girls’ name by the 1970s.  That took several decades, but maybe Elowen will rise faster in the days of the internet. 

Usage is growing steadily on this spelling alone, but popularity for the alternative spelling Elowyn nearly tripled between 2014 and 2015, from 24 to 67 uses!  That Elowyn is more popular than Elowen is curious, but not completely out-of-the-blue when you consider that Americans tend to spell other (mostly Welsh) names ending in -wen instead with -wyn (i.e., Bronwen and Gwendolen usually become Bronwyn and Gwendolyn).  Another spelling, Ellowyn, registered 34 times last year.  There’s also Ella-influenced Ellawyn at 7 uses.  If you rank names by combined spellings (as some people do), that means 144 baby girls were called Elowen last year…an average of almost 3 per state.  There may be even more, if there were spellings too rare to show up in the extended data.  Either way, don’t be shocked to find one on the playground.

The most obvious nicknames for an Elowen are Ella and Ellie, but Winnie is arguably possible as well.  I can even see where a fan of Netflix’s Stranger Things might use this name to honor Eleven without calling their daughter a number. 

What do you think of ElowenDo you think she or Elowyn will enter the top 1000 at some point? 

Writers’ Names in Usage

My 100th post…wow!  Can you believe it?  Thank you all for reading and enjoying my site over the past few months.  Let’s hope for many more. 🙂

Now on to the post.  I was looking through the SSA 2015 data earlier today and noticed the name Cervantes, which was the surname of Don Quixote‘s author.  So then I wondered how popular other authors’ names were. 

Here are some writers’ names that were used as baby names in the U.S. last year! 

First Names:

  • Agatha (Christie) – 85 girls.  Poirot.
  • Alexandre (Dumas) – 111 boys.  The Count of Monte Cristo.
  • Bram (Stoker) – 48 boys.  Dracula.
  • Chinua (Achebe) – 5 boys.  Things Fall Apart.
  • Horatio (Alger) – 9 boys.  Famous for his “rags-to-riches” stories.”
  • Joanne (K. Rowling) – 95 girls. Harry Potter.
  • Khaled (Hosseini) – 99 boys.  The Kite Runner.
  • Toni (Morrison) – 177 girls.  Beloved.
  • Zelda (Fitzgerald) – #646.  Save Me the Waltz.
  • Zora (Neale Hurston) – 136 girls.  Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Middle Names:

  • Conan (Doyle, Arthur) – 58 boys. Sherlock Holmes.
  • Harper (Lee, Nelle) – Harper is currently the #10 girls’ name in the U.S., and ranks #722 for boys.  To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Reuel (Tolkien, John Ronald) – 8 boys. Lord of the Rings.
  • Zane (Grey, Pearl) – #232.  Zane Grey wrote westerns.  And yes, his name was Pearl!    

Last Names:

  • Austen (Jane) – 61 girls and 119 boys.  Pride and Prejudice.
  • Brontë (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) – 7 girls.  Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, respectively.  Bronte is also the name of an Ancient Greek thunder deity.  
  • Cervantes (Saavedra, Miguel de) – 6 boys.  Don Quixote.
  • Cooper (Fenimore, James) – #77.  Last of the Mohicans
  • Fitzgerald (F. Scott) – 73 boys.  The Great Gatsby.
  • Haddon (Mark) – 39 boys.  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
  • Hawthorne (Nathaniel) – 25 boys.  The Scarlet Letter.
  • Hemingway (Ernest) – 5 boys.  The Old Man and the Sea.
  • Huxley (Aldous) – #960.  Brave New World.
  • Kipling (Rudyard) – 5 boys.  The Jungle Books.
  • Lewis (C. S.) – #569.  Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Milton (John) – 152 boys.  Paradise Lost.
  • Poe (Edgar Allan) – 9 boys.  Murder in the Rue Morgue.
  • Salinger (J.D.) – 5 boys.  The Catcher in the Rye.
  • Shelley (Mary) – 13 girls.  Frankenstein.
  • Wilde (Oscar) – 7 boys.  The Picture of Dorian Gray.

What do you think?  Are there any other writers’ names you’d add to this list? 


Drury, Wilmouth, and Sith: A Few Names from Colonial Virginia.

On a recent trip to a history library, I perused some books containing parish records from 18th-century Virginia.  These records are treasure troves of names!  Admittedly, most of the names within were pretty familiar and common even today – George, Mary, Thomas, and Elizabeth.  There were also some names I’m pretty sure you’d only see in the 17th or 18th century, like Obedience.

A few names especially jumped out at me because they actually seemed rather popular in their parishes.  However, there’s little to no information about these names today.  They are:

Drury – There were a lot of these.  I only got about halfway through the Bristol Parish lists, but I counted nearly ten of them.  Also spelled Drurey, this is the only name here that ever appeared in the American top 1000, and only once at that (even so, don’t take it for granted…before 1937 the SSA birth data isn’t even very accurate). 

Wilmouth – This name appeared in both parishes under various spellings.  Wilmouth was the most common rendering, though Wilmot, Willmouth, and Wilmoth also appeared.  Some of these spellings do eventually appear in Social Security birth data in the 1910s and 20s.  Again, take that information with a grain of salt. 

Sith – Yes, you read that right, and so did I.  The records of Overwharton Parish indicate that at least 2 girls were named Sith in the 1740s, and another Sith had a baby in 1749.  Additionally, a Sithy was born in 1753.  The records from that area aren’t all extant, so it’s possible there were more.  What kind of name is Sith?  A family name?   Maybe it came from a galaxy far, far away?  Anyway, this doesn’t even appear in the data once, even after Star Wars.  

Unfortunately, I only had the chance to look at the lists for Overwharton and Bristol Parishes.  I wonder what other locally-popular names I might find elsewhere?

Thoughts, anyone? 


  • Boogher, Wm. F.  Old Stafford County, Virginia: Overwharton Parish Register 1720-1760.  Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing Co., 2003. 
  • Chamberlayne, Churchill Gibson, transcriber.  Births from the Bristol Parish Register of Henrico, Prince George, and Dinwiddie Counties, Virginia, 1720-1798.  Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing Co., 1990. 
  • http://www.nancy.cc/baby-names/


Correction: One Sith wasn’t born in 1749, but bore a child in that year.  That means the others could be named after her, but that still doesn’t answer the question regarding whence the name originates. 

Below the Top 1000, Part 15 (Girls)

Happy Saturday! 

This week’s selection includes girls’ names that appeared on 40 to 44 American girls born in 2015, according to data from the Social Security Administration

  • 44: Aine, Beau, Beth, Brihanna, Cambry, Caterina, Evianna, Griselda, JettKerrington, Lakelynn, Maelie, Manal, Maven, Mei, Mirabel, Nubia, Pessy, Rainey, Rhoda, Sapphira, Scottie, Tammy
  • 43: Aeryn, Alara, Bronwyn, Chimamanda, Constanza, Elva, Eshaal, Heavenlee, Hendrix, Keturah, Maribelle, Maureen, Shelly, Srinika, Vale
  • 42: Aicha, Amalie, Amariana, Arisbeth, Camari, Cherry, Clarice, Divina, Emiko, Hadasa, Halley, Lexa, Lumen, Maeva, Mishka, Portia, Trista, Vianna, Zoha
  • 41: Addy, Amore, Anela, Blossom, Bowie, Dhriti, Elienai, Helene, Jupiter, Lanae, Mali, October, Posey, Queenie, Valentine, Valkyrie, Vittoria, Zenobia
  • 40: Angeles, Aster, Ayelet, Cypress, December, Ekaterina, Jaleesa, Jamileth, Jessalynn, Kamara, Leonor, Maxwell, Milliana, Monet, Renesmae, Roma, Silver, Ursula, Zaara

What do you think of these names?  Let me know in the comments!

Previous posts in this series:

Magenta, Crimson, and Marigold: Warm Color Names


Some names you can actually visualize!  Plenty of colors are also people’s names. 

Here are some warm-color names that U.S. parents gave to their children in 2015, according to data from the Social Security Administration.  I covered the blues, greens, and purples yesterday in this post: Violet, Azure, and Emerald: Cool Color Names.  If you’re looking for some vibrancy, these lists are for you!

Magenta – 7 girls. 

Pink – 5 girls.  I imagine they’re named after the pop singer, but you never know. 

Rose – #166.  This is one of those names that just so happens to be a color too, rather than the other way around.  Classic Rose lies in the midst of a revival!

Cerise – 10 girls. 

Ruby – #83.  3433 girls were named Ruby last year. 

Carmine – 150 boys.

Auburn – 52 girls and 5 boys.

Crimson – 62 girls and 37 boys.  On a side note, the juxtaposition of this name with the above name makes me think of a certain two Alabama universities and their football rivalry…hmm.

Red – 6 boys.

Scarlet – #375 in the U.S.  Spelling variant Scarlett ranks at #22.

Mahogany – 79 girls. 

Coral – 199 girls.

Marigold – 66 girls. 

Amber – #334.  This gem is apparently starting to grow outdated, considering peak usage was in the 80s. 

Gold – 5 girls.  Golden, however, is unisex (28 boys, 17 girls). 

Lemon – 8 girls.  As far as fruity names go, Apple is a little more popular with parents at 14 uses. 

What do you think of these names?  I find it curious that only the reds seem to enjoy any popularity for baby boys.  Something to do with fighting, I guess…




Violet, Azure, and Emerald: Cool Color Names


The color wheel provides some fantastic naming inspiration!  Let’s look at some of the cooler hues (i.e. blues, greens, and purples) and see how popular they were as baby names in 2015!

Normally I color-code corresponding to respective gender-usage, but for this post I will highlight the shades in their actual colors…I can only imagine how confused everyone would be if I listed Blue with a shade of purple.

Olive – An old-fashioned name, this recently made a comeback.  10 years ago it ranked below the top 1000, but last year she ranked #264! 

Harlequin – I was more surprised to find out this was a shade than a name.  People will name their children after anything, Harlequin Romances included.  In 2015, this name was given to 5 girls in the U.S., as was variant Harlequinn.  There’s also a small possibility that Harley Quinn from DC comics (Suicide Squad, anyone?) was the namesake instead, especially for Harlequinn…21 girls were named Harleyquinn, after all.

Kelly – For the longest time, this was unisex.  It finally fell off the charts as a boys’ name in 2002; 2015 saw only 101 male Kelly‘s.  As a girls’ name, it currently ranks #468. 

India – 261 girls, but not quite in the top 1000.

Hunter – #41 for boys and #786 for girls.  Hunter, which only reentered as a girls’ names in 2013, was even more popular for women born in the 90s. 

Emerald – 193 girls and 6 boys.  Usage is more likely tied to the gem, though this could also honor Irish heritage. 

Teal – 24 girls and 9 boys.

Robin – as in “Robin Egg Blue.”  Robin returned to the top 1000 last year as a boys’ name, most likely because of Robin Williams’ 2014 passing. 😦  Current rank: #971.

Cyan – 24 boys and 22 girls.

Aqua – 6 girls.  I don’t think this name (or the band) will ever live down the Barbie Girl association.

Azure – 35 girls and 16 boys. 

Liberty Currently ranking #558, Liberty has only become steadily popular since 9/11. 

Independence – Another patriotic color name, but only given to 5 girls last year.  If you’re looking for something truly rare, this is it.

Blue 50 girls and 31 boys.  I’ve heard there are celebrity connections with this name, but all I can think of is that song from Iron Man III

Navy – 116 girls and 36 boys. 

Indigo – 119 girls and 50 boys.  If you like plants more than places, this is a great alternative to Indiana

Violet – the most popular of the color-names, this is the only one in the American top 100!  Current rank #50. 

Royal – as of 2015, Royal charts for both genders – #465 for boys and #752 for girls. 

Lavender – 60 girls.  Like several other names on this list, it’s both a color and a flower.  It also reminds of Lavender Brown, a character in the Harry Potter series.  Yes, that really is her name.

Lilac – 13 girls. 

What do you think of these names?  Personally, it’s interesting for me how much a few of the names evoke 90s nostalgia.

Check back later for a post on warm-color names!