Celebrity Baby Names Revealed!

Apr 20th 2006

I interrupt today's scheduled statistical analysis with a breaking news bulletin.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's celebrity baby season. The (movie) stars have aligned so that an unusual number of famous people are giving birth all around us. And that means an unusual number of articles trumpeting the weirdness of celebrity baby names. Even when the names aren't so weird. Reading all the "wacky Gwyneth's done it again" columns, you'd think she named her son Banana rather than the biblical classic Moses.

The weird-name hysteria reached its zenith with a long piece by Alex Williams in this Sunday's New York Times. The thesis:

"It seems almost unimaginable for any 21st-century movie star to send his children out among the Hollywood elite equipped with ordinary names"

Any American who lived through 2005, when overhyped Hollywood babies named Sean and Violet were born, knows that statement is simply ridiculous. But the writer sticks to it doggedly, "proving" the point with such Hollywood luminaries as Shannyn Sossamon and Penn Jillette. (Surely Penn Jillette is no closer to the mainstream of Hollywood than he is to the mainstream of anything else.) In fact, every article like this trots out the same minor celebrities to prove that all Hollywood is wacko. If you read only baby name articles, you'd be convinced that Shannyn Sossamon is the queen of Hollywood and that Britney Spears conveniently doesn't exist.

Why should you care whether Shannyn Sossamon is elevated to royalty? Let's take a look at what the Times piece does next. Having briskly concluded that all celebrities choose wacko names, the writer goes on to offer an explanation for the phenomenon: it demonstrates a vast, universal character flaw. You see, celebrities all like crazy names because they all have gigantic egos, and are even willing to sacrifice their children's well-being to prove that they're above normal people. Ah. In other words, the wacky-name fixation is taken as a great excuse to bash people.

In the name of civility, I'm going to pose a question that I've never seen asked in any article on weird celebrity baby names: What do celebrities name their children?

For an impartial answer, I've adopted the Forbes Celebrity 100 as my fame-o-meter. To make my roster of A-list moms and dads you have to be a peformer, under 50, American, and listed by name among the top 40 in the Celebrity 100 during the past four years.

The 18 parents who make the cut are household names. Their 38 kids, by and large, are not. (Quick, can you name Jim Carrey's child? Did you even know he had one?)

The real celebrity baby name list:

Ben Affleck:

Jim Carrey:

Tom Cruise:
Isabella, Connor, Suri

Johnny Depp:
Lily, Jack

P Diddy:
Justin, Christian


Will Ferrell:

Tom Hanks:
Colin, Elizabeth, Chester, Truman

Angelina Jolie:
Maddox, Zahara

Lisa Kudrow:

Lourdes, Rocco

Eddie Murphy:
Bria, Miles, Shayne, Zola

Rosie O'Donnell:
Parker, Chelsea

Julia Roberts:
Hazel, Phinnaeus

Ray Romano:
Alexandra, Gregory, Matthew, Joseph

Meg Ryan:
Jack, Daisy

Will Smith:
Willard III ("Trey"), Jaden, Willow

Britney Spears:

About 75% of American babies receive names in the top 1000, same as the celebrities on the list. Some of the other 25% in each group are unusual, but fairly normal. (For instance Will Ferrell's wife is Swedish, and Magnus is a classic mainstream name in Sweden.) And some in each group are truly eye-popping, like Sossamon's son Audio Science and the several American boys named ESPN.

Hollywood may indeed have a higher wacky rate, as you'd expect from a community of creative artists...I'd need a much bigger sample to say for sure. Even so, Jacks and Isabellas clearly outnumber Audios by a huge margin. As for the wacky few, do they really point to egos run amok? Could be. But it's not so obvious to me that naming your child Audio shows more ego than naming him -- traditionally, conservatively -- after yourself.


By Christy (not verified)
April 20, 2006 3:34 PM

Rosie O'Donnell has four kids. The other two are Blake and Vivian.

By Jennie W. (not verified)
April 20, 2006 3:37 PM

Excellent article! Alex Williams (and the other "Holly wood Baby" writers) obviously don't have young children or they'd realize that all sorts of people are picking wacky baby names these days, not just celebrities. My children have friends named Sequoia, Maverick, Seawillow and Saxon. Hardly any name, celebrity-picked or not, raises my eyebrow.

By Heather (not verified)
April 20, 2006 3:49 PM

Great article, I always suspected this was mostly hype. Of course, the real reason these articles exists is to cash in on the average American's desire to feel superior to celebrities. The same reason people love pics of Britney not using a car seat, etc. Clearly these things are exceptions for celebrities (like the rest of us) but a daughter named Jane or a responsible parent doesn't sell any copies of Us Weekly.

I never quite get how giving your child a "terrible" name is supposed to be so abusive. I personally know at least 5 people who have changed their names legally as adults (all from very standard names like Carrie and Christine) to something more non-traditional. Also, look at Zowie Bowie (not Joey). It's not a death sentence, it’s just an unusual name.

By Elizabeth (not verified)
April 20, 2006 4:02 PM

I agree that too much hype is made of unusual names. Once you get used to a person's name you hardly think of it anymore. One notable exception in my own family is my father-in-law's sister who was christened Trauma. That's just cruel! She has always hated her name--I don't know why she hasn't changed it or chosen to go by something else.

By Christina (not verified)
April 20, 2006 4:39 PM

The book "Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana" offers a pretty extensive, up-to-date list of celebrity baby names.

And Laura, if Satran and Rosenkrantz are your rivals, I apologize for this post. (;

By Jen (not verified)
April 20, 2006 4:47 PM

Zowie Bowie goes by Duncan Jones these days ...

By emilyb (not verified)
April 20, 2006 5:02 PM

I sincerely hope you send this in as a letter to the times--it's a very thoughtful rebuttal to the (not well written) article.

By Kerry (not verified)
April 20, 2006 6:53 PM

I knew celeb schadenfreude had reached critical mass when people were howling in disbelief over naming a girl Violet.

Thanks for the post! I admire your quest to separate anecdotes from facts with stats to back it up.

By greer (not verified)
April 20, 2006 7:17 PM

hi there.. i always thought i was originally named ...i was not impressed growing up in a land of kathy's and susie's..i just wanted a normal name...my sister was named deborah and was quite happy with hers...i have a theory about baby naming..my sister was my moms favorite and she got the "popular" name and i the "wierd" one..i am wondering if that holds true for any others out there. do you like your name? were you the 'chosen one" or the one who; if not the unchosen ; then at least the less favoured.. greer

By Ani (not verified)
April 20, 2006 10:38 PM

My name is Anisoara, followed by another 8 names not including my surname. I have never been ashamed of my name, or worried about it, even though it caused a lot of confusion and I got a lot of teasing... But I gave as good as I got! Does it matter if names are strange, I'm sure all the conventional names were not always so popular? What's the point in naming your child Jane if she is clearly a Sequoia? Or maybe she just looks purely like a Jane...? I'm guessing the parents think they're doing the right thing

By Nicole R. (not verified)
April 21, 2006 2:17 AM

The NYT article made me so mad; it was a real know-nothing piece of garbage. Not only were the "celebrities" not A-list, as you point out, the weird names were so average. I think Elijah and Brooklyn were given as examples of unusual names!

I've known at least two boys named Moses, by the way ...

By Nic (not verified)
April 21, 2006 7:59 AM

Is Moses the new Noah? Ten years ago Noah was unusual, but now it's really popular.

By Rebecca (not verified)
April 21, 2006 12:38 PM

Nice article. Just FYI, Rosie O'Donnell actually has 4 kids -- along with Parker and Chelsea, she and Kelli also have Blake and Vivian.

By Miz B (not verified)
April 21, 2006 5:10 PM

I have a crappy name: La Ronda. I go by "Rhonda" though. I grew up in a diverse area and people would always think I was African-American then they'd meet me and be like, "Uhhh...." I don't care that people think it's African-American, I don't like it because my mom says "it sounds French!" Ehhhh.... yet another disillusioned American! :b

Onto the topic at hand: This was a GREAT article and I can tell you that having my crappy name did not make nor break me as a child. I simply shortened it, added an "h" and moved on with my life. These children can easily go by something else if they choose until they are of age to legally change it. Simple as that. :)

By Jan (not verified)
April 21, 2006 9:34 PM

Yay, I was hoping you would write a response to the very non-sound NY Times article.

By ri0tdorque (not verified)
April 22, 2006 4:09 PM

to greer:

i grew up with a very normal common name and i was the 'odd one out' in my family so i'm not sure it has much to do with that however you bring up something interesting

my partner and i have been talking about children as of late and i already have a girl's name picked out but having issues with the boy name because *every* name i pick is a dead "no way in hell"

i know the reality of naming your child 'chaos' would be very bad i just always thought it would be such a cool name for a boy but i've often wondered if they would grow up assuming that everyone is thinking they are trouble so they fall into trouble more easily.....

By joan (not verified)
April 22, 2006 7:16 PM

Laura, thank you! That NY Times article drove me crazy, especially when they suggested that Moses and Elijah and Aaron were weird names. Moses seems pretty common to me amongst African American men--I can think of a few off-hand who are adults. But the article started with an argument and then had to construct crazy evidence to support it. I do hope you write a letter to the paper.

By Kate (not verified)
April 23, 2006 6:17 PM

Zowie Bowie no longer calles himself Zowie. His real name is Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones (David Bowie's real name is David Robert Jones) and "Zowie" (who is in his early 30s now) is known as Duncan Jones. So that seems like one occurence when a "crazy" celeb name didn't work out in reality.

By mnmom (not verified)
April 24, 2006 2:32 AM

Is there such a thing as an unusual name anymore, really? It's tough to make me think twice about any name lately, unless it's just frightingly overused (half my friends have "Ella"s).
Also, a very close friend of Gwynyth's actually had a daughter named Apple when the ever-annoying Gwyn named her first baby. Suddenly seems not so original, huh?

By Dana (not verified)
April 24, 2006 12:50 PM

I may or may not have something for another article. In looking for names for my baby, I investigated the history of those names on thenamemachine.com (I'm sorry if it's a competitor). We'd narrowed it down to combinations of sounds we liked and were going to name our baby girl either Sophia or Sylvia, or Abigail or Adelaide.

Here's the interesting part: when you compare the historical popularity of these sets of names, even though they sound similar, they're almost mutually exclusive. Not only were Adelaide and Abigail never popular at the same time, but Abigail only became popular after Adelaide was wiped off the map - and Adelaide was only popular when Abigail was unpopular.

The Sophia/Sylvia comparison is even more dramatic:

By Christina (not verified)
April 24, 2006 7:09 PM

Frankly, I actually prefer the name Apple over the name Sylence (the name of a little girl in my town). And Moses beats Mystical Blue Ocean (a little boy in my town) anyday.

By Leilia (not verified)
April 26, 2006 4:41 AM

I was named Leilia twenty years ago. My parents took the name from a little girl living in their student family housing complex. It's always been very unusual, but I've always really liked it. Now you see a lot more of Layla and Leila than you did when I was growing up! My parents are big Clapton fans so I don't know why they didn't just go for Layla, but I'm satisfied. Anyway my sister has a much more traditional name (after our grandmother), Julia. But I've always felt we've been treated very equally, and I like how both our names end the same way-- it was unintended, but it's a nice bit of continuity. Similar but very different, just as we are.

By Jennifer (not verified)
April 26, 2006 4:22 PM

I think that Leilia is a beautiful name I am tired of my name (Jennifer),because
it is very common.It means "Fair Lady" Oh well my parents had their intentions.
When I have my daughter soon her name will be Jenica meaning "God is gracious"
I only hope that she will appreciate where the idea for her name came from.

By KF (not verified)
April 26, 2006 4:45 PM

Why don't people use names from their own culture more? It seems to me that everyone just picks out a name from a films or a book or a TV show or something and says "oh thats so pretty - its Greek/Irish/Swedish/Hindi" and it means "pretty/beloved/graceful" etc.

These people never seem to actually have any Greek/Irish/Swedish/Hindi in them!

I'm Welsh and my partner is English and we want a combination of an English name and a Welsh name for our baby, due in December. At the moment I've decided on Arthur Aneurin John. Arthur because it evokes the image of King Arthur and because no-one else is using it in the UK. Aneurin after the Great Welsh Socialist Politician Aneurin Bevan and also because no-one else is using it in Wales ("Popular" Welsh names are Sian/Rhys/Owen/Ffion - yawn!). And John as its a family name.

That will reflect our son's heritage so much better than if I'd just picked some name out of the air that I thought was "pretty" even though it had no bearing on us or who we were.

By KF (not verified)
April 26, 2006 4:50 PM

Still stuck on girls' names though. Don't like any Welsh ones!

Rose is the nearest we can come to agreeing right now. And, guess what - no-one else is using it!

You don't need to give your kid a really crazy sounding name to make them individual.

By Heather (not verified)
April 26, 2006 5:05 PM

KF-if you go back far enough, we're all related, so why not use an African, etc name? I think that first names that "match" last names just sound better together. My kids will have their father's german last name--Herman--so I look at a lot of Germanic names (even though I'm Basque & Scottish). Is that "stealing" from the German culture? How far removed does the heritage have to be before it's culture stealing?

Laura--I'm sure people ask you all the time (I've been reading the archives) what you named your kids. I can see you not wanting to answer, just thought I'd ask!

By Jennifer (not verified)
April 26, 2006 5:39 PM

Where as I can't get over some of the wacked out names out there, I do understand wanting to give your child a unique name. Growing up with at least 2 Jennifer's in all my classes, I wanted to give my child something that was a little different but not so much as that he would get teased at school.

By Lillie (not verified)
April 27, 2006 7:15 AM

Thanks, Laura. I'm glad you brought this misguided article to everyone's attention. For what it's worth, this was my immediate reaction upon reading it the day it came out:

this article was uncalled for, and the the new york times should have known better. A, celebrities have been giving their kids weird names for a long time. witness frank zappa. B, people think it's a huge deal that celebrities give their kids crazy names because the crazy names are the only ones people remember and those birth announcements get so much publicity. no one is talking about how britney's son is named sean or about how plenty of noncelebrities choose names like crescent.

anyway, what's so whack about apple martin and moses martin? those names rock, and they're not even that weird.

i did love the penn jillette quote, though. "Everyone I know with an unusual name loves it," he wrote. "It's only the losers named Dave that think having an unusual name is bad, and who cares what they think. They're named Dave."

By Lauren (not verified)
April 28, 2006 9:27 PM

My fiance` and I have decided to name our little girl Savannah Mackenzie when she is born in October.Both me and my fiance` decided on the name Savannah Mackenzie because it is a beautiful name and we both love it.

By Clash City Wombat (not verified)
May 1, 2006 12:54 PM

I really like Will Ferrel's choice of 'Magnus' for his son. I'm building a list of traditional Irish baby names along with their pronunciations and meanings over at www.clashcitywombat.blogspot.com. Check it out!

By Harald Korneliussen (not verified)
May 15, 2006 6:34 AM

Tom Cruise's explanation of his daughter's name promted one of the creative minds of an anagram newsgroup (Meyaran K) to construct this one:

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes name their baby Suri, supposedly the Jewish
word for 'Princess'
Maybe I should interject (as I speak Hebrew): I fear there's simply NO
such word, stupid morons!

By Donna (not verified)
May 19, 2006 2:23 AM

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
(However, I do love that name, Rhett!) HA HA

By Delora (not verified)
May 22, 2006 3:05 AM

I thought there was no one else in this world given my name, as of now I still have never met one person with it. But I typed into a search engine and found there were thousands... I never liked my name growing up. But I love it now, because, as I said I havent met anyone with it and it seems to stand out with the crowd of overused normal names.

We had a baby 8 months ago and named him Hunter Lee. Lee is a family name, at leat ten people with it in our families together. But Hunter was a new one in our HUGE family.
I agree some celebrity names are a little off the wall but oh well, they'll name their kids what they want just as we will name ours what we feel is appropriate.

By Melissa (not verified)
May 22, 2006 3:17 PM

My husband and I are adopting a little girl from China, and are seriously struggling over her name. He wants to go with Josephine (Josie for short) as a way of honoring two of our grandparents, but I'm not sold. To me, it sounds frumpy and Biblical. Also, because she will be adopted, should be be saddling her with a name that is not individual to her? Also, having lived with a common girl's name, I would like something a little more exotic. In keeping with her Chinese heritage, we are considering the middle name of Lian. I should also mention that we don't have the luxury of meeting her before we name her; the paper work all gets completed prior to the adoption. Anyone else in this unique circumstance?

Help! I don't want to make a mistake here...

By Marie (not verified)
May 23, 2006 2:37 PM

My family has an abundance of unusual names. I had aunts names Australia, Fannie, Roxie, Ruby, and Azalee. Uncles included Arden, Herschel, clyde, and Elijah. My father was named Bright and my mother was Donnie.

By Shirah (not verified)
May 30, 2006 3:00 PM

I have to come to Tom and Katies defense as I too was shocked to here Suri as Princess. Suri is a very common name among orthodox jews it is in fact a nick name for Sarah which does in fact mean princess.

By Kira (not verified)
June 1, 2006 11:00 PM

My one-year-old daughter is named Sequoia. We had her name picked out for 10 years before she finally joined us! Oh, was I mad when Toyota came out with that SUV and used MY name ... lol.

What amazes me is how many people think that Sequoia as a name is so out there. Sierra and Sienna are similar - what's so weird about Sequoia?

It fits my little girl perfectly, and I'm glad we held steady with our choice.

By Mercedes (not verified)
June 6, 2006 6:53 PM

my boys are hispanic and cajun. i wanted them to have name that wouldnt classify them either way. with a common cajun last name (french last name ) i gave them my Mexican last name as their last name. their first name well mario is italian/ hispanic. depending who you ask, and lucas is used more in italy and france then in mexico, but it still can be prounouce perfect in mexico. now when we visit mexico people find the name rather strange but i think it works for us. they are actually pretty simple names , but we liked how they sounded together.

By Mercedes (not verified)
June 6, 2006 6:54 PM

sorry my last name as their middle name.

By Amanda (not verified)
June 7, 2006 5:37 PM

I think coming from having a common name like Amanda, and having like 6 other girls in your grade w/the same name you want to name your kid something that sets them apart, not something way out there like Banana Rock or something, but something just enough different that they don't have the whole "I have the same name as everyone else" thing going on. I like names like Scarlett, Velvet (both from books) and Ava, Zander (boy) they're not totally off, but they're enough different everyone else doesn't have them.

By Susan (not verified)
June 13, 2006 9:44 PM

My son and daughter in law were determined to name their first child (our first grandchild) Tangerine. The last name is Jones. I talked them out of it, so they decided on Sunshine Daydream (they would call her Sunny Day). They finally decided to name her Patience Sue. The second child, also a girl is named Serenity Faith Lynn Jones. She'll be in kindergarten forever just trying to learn to write her name. Bottom line... I think both my son and his now ex-wife were on drugs.

By Colette (not verified)
June 13, 2006 10:22 PM

My name is Colette Spring. I find that a little unusual. I have also known of people named BlueJeans, Abcde(Ab-sa-dee), Longstreet, and Stormy November Rain. One of my aunts was once married to a man named Honey. And I used to know some girls named Rainy, Tuesday, and Timber.

By Stef (not verified)
June 15, 2006 2:58 PM

Hahaha! Tangarine Jones, sounds like some sort of suave street hustler from the 70's.

Anyway what's important to remember when classifying names as "common" or "unusual" is that what is common to you and your peer group may be unusual to your child and her peer group. For instance, Amanda, you said you knew lots of Amandas as a child. I bet your kids don't! If you name your daughter "Ava", chances are that she'll be in the same boat as you were in, with lots of Avas in her peer group, as it's not an unusual name now, but quite a popular one. To your kids, Amanda would be less common than Ava, although you may be tired of hearing it. I predict that Ava will seem stale to your kids when it's time for them to name their little ones.

By Aurora (not verified)
June 18, 2006 4:16 PM

Melissa: A girl I babysit for has an aunt that is adopted (from Asia, but I don't remember the country--Vietnam?) Her given name was Sun Mia, and they didn't want to change it but thought Sun was a little too different, so they switched it to Mia Sun. If her name isn't too off-the-wall, I say keep it the same. If it's really different and/or unpronouncable, try to find a name with the same meaning, or just a name that sounds good but is Chinese. Hope this helps!

By Janeane (not verified)
June 20, 2006 4:50 PM

I have female cousins named Glee, Pearl, Karma, Dixie, and Swan. My sisters are Roxanna and Athena. makes my name, Janeane, pretty standard (as in janeane garafolo)

By Rachel (not verified)
June 24, 2006 4:27 AM

To Melissa and the person who talked of how Noah was unusual 10 years ago,

I have a (brilliant, incredible - if I do say so! :-) 4 year old son named Noah Miles. I'm 34 and ever since I was 16 (1988) I've wanted to have a little boy named Noah. Indeed it become somewhat more popular over the years; however, Noah and I have yet to meet another Noah in person and he is involved in all the usual activities, pre-school, etc. And we live near NYC where sort of "different but not too different" names reign supreme. So I'm not sure how common it actually is, in reality. He likes his name but wants to know why his father and I picked a name with the word "no" in it. (He answered the question himself by realizing his best friend Carlos had the word "car" at the start of his name.)

I'm now divorced and (Melissa, this is where you come in) plan/hope to adopt a little girl from China in two or three years (not a baby - whom usually are given to married couples anyway - but, rather a 2 or 3 year old)

By Rachel (not verified)
June 24, 2006 4:37 AM

Though I have a bevy of girls' names I love, I had a dream where my future daughter's name was presented to me. It's a name I like a lot, but was never on my "absolute favorite" list. This was when Noah was still a baby himself, and before I was divorced.

I never told anyone except my ex and my mother about this dream or the name. Forgive me but I don't want to say it here, lest I jinx things. But let's just say it was "Ashley" as it's sort of similar.

A few months ago, Noah awoke and said he'd just had a dream that he had a little sister named "Ashley." He declared it his favorite girl name in the world, and he's a typical little boy - doesn't spend much time thinking of names at all, much less girls names. Since he had no idea I'd had the same dream, I took this as a true sign that in a few years there will be a little girl in China whom God intends to join our family, and Noah and I talk of her semi-regularly, tho I emphasize it's not a definite so as to not disappoint him if it doesn't happen.

By Rachel (not verified)
June 24, 2006 4:46 AM

Sorry to be so long-winded, but I guess my point for Melissa (BTW, I love that name) is that in my personal, humble opinion, you will bestow upon this child the name that the universe/God/Buddha/whomever intends for her to have. This doesn't mean it has to come in a sleeping dream as happened with my son and myself; rather, name her what's in your heart. Like I said, I remember day-dreaming in Algebra 2 back in 1988 of having a little boy named Noah when I "grew up" and would you believe, the man who is Noah's father was sitting directly behind me in that class? I wouldn't have...we didn't start dating until after college...very sad and not my choice we're divorced but DREAMS DO COME TRUE, whether day dreams or sleeping dreams, you can make it happen. You haven't met her yet, but she's already your daughter, despite waiting on paperwork. Deep down you know her name - don't intellectualize it with cultural issues (I'm a teacher so this is hard for me, too) just go with your heart - and hope your husband agrees! :-

By Rachel (not verified)
June 24, 2006 4:59 AM

P.S. To really clarify that story I should add that I've also always wanted two children, one biological and one adopted. Noah was a true miracle after 3 years of trying to conceive and one miscarriage; I'd grown pretty sure that the adopted child would be the oldest and the biological would happen in time, perhaps when the "pressure" was off. Alas, Noah had other plans, thank goodness.

I love that idea of "not remembering which is the adopted child," though in reality Noah looks exactly like me and since I'm not Asian, my daughter obviously won't. But of course that notion is meant to refer to the recognition that's in our hearts.

By Sarah Jane (not verified)
July 20, 2006 7:52 PM

My daughter was born premature in the city of Siena when My husband and I were visiting relatives.

My son was born in Orlando and I had my water break at Sea World of all places.

My niece was delivered in a ambulance unexpectedly in Dallas County.

The family joke goes that to get away from the family infighting on which relative to name the baby after (the tradition is after the respective grandparents, but Edith Agnes and Dudley George are NOT names I am fond despite how much I love the people) so my sister and I keep having our babies in weird places so we have a legimate reason to buck the tradition.

Siena is six now and loves to tell people how she got her name.