Let’s talk about the name Severus. It’s an Ancient Roman name that’s belonged to several emperors and early saints, and yet was exceedingly rare until very recently. The Harry Potter series brought Severus into everyday usage in the 21st century, and even then, it took 10 years since the first movie (and 14 since the first book) for it to appear in American (SSA) baby name data. Severus debuted with 5 boys in 2011, the same year that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came to theaters. Since many viewers don’t read the books, that would have been the year that many fans learned (spoiler alert!) of Professor Snape’s vindication and redemption.
Once people started naming their sons Severus, it seemed like it was going to be a rarity only a few hardcore fans would be brave enough to use. Despite Roman names having been trendy in recent years, prospective parents are probably deterred by the “sever” part (or even by Snape’s less savory aspects). So, from 2011 to 2015, only 5-7 babies received the name every year. 2016 is when it gets strange.
Just 7 boys were named Severus in 2015, but 32 got the name in 2016! 5 alone (15.625%) were born in Texas, though without other state data it’s impossible to make a geographically-based assessment. Regardless, going from 7 to 32 boys? That’s a ginormous jump for an extremely rare name. What’s the influence?
A couple of things happened in 2016 that might have influenced the spike:
- The actor who played Severus Snape – Alan Rickman – died on January 14.
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hit the stage on July 30. Snape appears in the play, and one of the main characters is named Albus Severus Potter. Although the production didn’t come to the U.S. that year, many American fans would have read the script.
Curiously, another name associated with Death Eaters – Bellatrix – jumped from 5 girls to 24 girls in 2016. Bellatrix didn’t physically appear in Cursed Child, but she was discussed in it. Additionally (and proving this isn’t just an infatuation with the magical dark side), Albus debuted in SSA data in 2016 with 8 boys. Dumbledore himself couldn’t make the name appear! Harry, Ronald, and Hermione all rose in 2016 too. Weirdly enough, the nuclear Malfoy family (Draco, Scorpius, and Astoria) didn’t experience spikes in their names. Lucius rose, but that used to be a popular name and so something else could be happening there.
If Alan Rickman hadn’t died, then we could to point to Cursed Child as the singular reason why usage of the name Severus more than quadrupled between 2015 and 2016. But he did die, so we can’t. After all, why name the baby Alan (which could refer to *any* Alan) when you can name him after the character you fell in love with? I think it will be very interesting to see whether the name Severus maintains its surge in 2017.
What do you think of the name Severus? Do you think there could be another reason why it spiked in 2016? Let me know what you think.