Why Baby Names Are Getting Spookier

Oct 8th 2014

Can you guess which of these Halloween-ready baby names made America's official name popularity stats last year?


The answer is all of them. A generation ago those names were unheard of, but now they show up every year. Names are getting spookier.

photo credit: devinf, flickr

On both the boys' and girls' popularity charts, you can see a new willingness to name on the dark side. Once upon a time, American parents liked to name their daughters Dove. The bird of peace was a top-1,000 baby name in the 1800s, and the diminutive Dovie was even more popular. Not any more. For the past generation America's favorite bird name has been Raven, the bird of ill omen

What's more, parents shopping for fresh names are now willing to look in the villain aisle. Dark, violent antiheroes like Draven (undead vigilante of The Crow) and Kratos (from the God of War video games) have soared. The X-Men films made villainous Mystique a hot name, and the Death Eaters of Harry Potter inspired scores of babies named Bellatrix and Draco. Even Vader showed up in the baby name stats for the first time in 2012.

It's not just new names that show the effects. The name Alucard ("Dracula" backwards) has been a staple in vampire tales for generations. The monster master himself, Lon Chaney Jr., played an Alucard in the 1943 film Son of Dracula. Since then the name has been steadily used for bloodsuckers in movies, tv series, comic books and video games. But it wasn't until the past decade that parents started giving the name to real-life, warm-blooded children.

You can see traditional namers turning darker, too. Biblical villains used to be mostly out of bounds as baby names. Today, Delilah is soaring toward the girls' top 100. Even biblical names that are negative words in English have risen: Judas, Lucifer, Jezebel.

For the record, I don't believe that American parents are raising a generation of vampires and supervillains. I think that the rising tide of sinister names reflects the rising triumph of style in baby naming. We're drawn to names that sound fresh and intriguing and have an eye-catching edge to them, regardless of where they come from. And let's face it, a good villain can be awfully stylish.

When Disney decided to give Sleeping Beauty's nemesis Maleficent her own film, they hired Angelina Jolie for the role. A cosmetics company stands ready to help you capture her look, or that of sisters in evil like Cruella De Vil, with their "Disney Villains" makeup collection. Even in the realm of names, the lure of the dark side isn't entirely new. Demon spawn from horror movies have been baby name hitmakers for years. (Damien from The Omen, Regan from The Exorcist, Gage from Pet Sematary, et al.)

As long as the shadowy depths are filled with such stylish names, parents are going to be lured in. And if the names happen to come with a curse attached, so be it.


October 9, 2014 5:33 PM

The Mexican revolutionaries of a century ago knew exactly what they were doing when they named their sons Satan and Lucifer. Today's Americans are just being stupid and shallow. 

October 15, 2014 7:12 AM

I have a hard time envisioning parenting children with these names. "Lucifer, behave! Chaos, calm down!"

October 27, 2014 2:15 AM

Lucifer is more likely a reference to Jesus than to Satan. The idea that it is the devil's name is modern Christian mythology either misconstrued or deliberately contrived by the church and then reinforced in popular literature. The only mention of it in the Bible is a metaphorical reference. Lucifer, the morning star, or the planet Venus, possibly representing Jesus; a referential comparison made to the king of Babylon, not Satan. There are many other biblical references to Jesus as "the morning star". 2 Peter 1:19, Revelation 2:28 and 22:16. Until fairly recently this was the interpretation. There is actually a saint named Lucifer. Teasing and societal superstition would keep me from using it, but I adore the name. 

October 30, 2014 6:48 AM

I feel sorry for the children that have to lives their lives with these names. Why would a parent do that to their child?