What is THE Name of the Moment?

Nov 13th 2014


Names are a cultural time capsule. A boy named MacArthur or a girl named Farrah conjures up a moment in America's past. But what name captures this moment? Each year we try to answer that question with the Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year. And right now, I'm asking YOU.

The Name of the Year can be a baby name, like Blue Ivy in 2012 -- the year that celebrity parents not only chose that name for their daugher, but trademarked it. But it can can also be an adult name or moniker, like Pope Francis or "The Situation." It can even be fictional like Renesmee, or non-human like Siri, or conceptual like the American everyman Joe.

These wide-ranging names have two things in common. The first is zeitgeist: they reflect and shape the naming culture around us. The second is this blog post you're reading now. The Name of the Year is chosen from nominations posted by BabyNameWizard.com readers, and your votes, seconds and impassioned arguments make a difference.

In the comments section below, please share your Name of the Year nominations and reasoning. As you're thinking about the year in names, keep a lookout for these criteria:

- A dramatic change in the name's usage or social meaning
- A reflection of a broader cultural theme, or influence on broader style trends
- The "naminess" of a story or issue. How essential is the name to the story?

And remember that your comments themselves count, too! The number of nominations factors into in the NOTY choice, and compelling arguments in support of your candidate count most of all.

Comments

1
November 13, 2014 10:40 AM

I'd like to nominate Malala. Malala Yousafzai has made the name familiar. Although only 9 baby girls in the US were named Malala in 2013 (up from fewer than 5 in years past), I wouldn't be surprised if the number were over 100 this year. Ms. Yousafzai's recent Nobel Peace Prize brought much-deserved recognition both to her and her cause (girls' education), meaning that many more parents will hear her name and associate positive emotions with it. In addition, her name fits in well with current American naming trends.

2
November 13, 2014 12:50 PM

While I agree that Malala is an important and evocative figure for 2014, I'm not sure she meets the "naminess" criterion: her story would be the same even if her name was Mariam or Mubina.

3
November 13, 2014 4:26 PM

Although Frozen was technically released in 2013, its songs were stuck in our heads for most of 2014. It was an appropriate soundtrack to the great Snowpocalypse that hit the Southeast at the end of January (I was snowed in at work overnight!). Elsa also appeared to have a cold influence on Halloween as the record number of little girls dressed up like her had to trick-or-treat in record cold weather and even some snow. So I nominate "Elsa" as the 2014 name of the year.

4
By KO
November 13, 2014 5:38 PM

I second Elsa and add Isis and Ebola as well.

5
By JMV
November 13, 2014 6:36 PM

 

I nominate ISIS as the NOTY.

 

- The name ISIS was essential to the discussion.  The group tries to call themselves the Islamic State (IS); the President Obama calls them ISIL; the media seems have chosen ISIS.  There were many news articles about the differences in the name. Here is one: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/09/09/isis-vs-isil-vs-islamic-state-the-political-importance-of-a-much-debated-acronym/

 

- The ISIS name influenced broader style trends.  For example, the FX show Archer changed the name of their make believe spy agency: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/13/355769259/fx-show-archer-to-drop-isis-namehttp://www.npr.org/2014/10/13/355769259/fx-show-archer-to-drop-isis-name. 

 

- There were plenty of other groups/companies that changed their names to avoid a branding issue: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-rebranding-unfortunate-firms-forced-change-name-1467008

 

- In 2013, Isis was ranked number 575 in the baby name rankings.  I expect that number to fall dramatically in 2014, as parents can't seem brainy citing the Egyptian goddess without looking like they live under a rock.   

 

6
November 14, 2014 1:55 PM

Isis: I second the nomination. Definitely newsworthy and dominates any "Year in Review" you care to find. The naming has been ... notable (IS or ISIS or ISIL, etc) and caused trouble for parents and businesses. Like JMV, I sincerely doubt that the name can bounce back from this. We'll never think of it the same way again.

Elsa: Thirding the nomination, at least for newsworthiness. I'm not sure she wouldn't have been just as fascinating a character if she had been named Britta or Margrete, but the name has really jumped in popularity (at least for 2013, and I'm sure it will continue). Frozen is a cultural sensation, and Elsa's at the middle of it.

7
By mk
November 14, 2014 3:46 PM

I agree that Isis fits all the criteria.

I just see Elsa as a name from a popular movie, no different than any other name beocming popular due to a popular character.

8
November 14, 2014 4:04 PM

I think Elsa, like Malala, has all the sounds that make for a hit girls' name today. In Elsa's case, a potential mega hit, although some parents may be turned off by the link to Frozen. I suspect that most little girls named Elsa in 2014 and 2015 will be first children; parents with older kids will be aware of the movie and steer away from the name because of it. First-time parents, however, are a lot less likely to know about the movie, much less the protagonist's name.

9
November 14, 2014 8:14 PM

I see your 'American everyman Joe', and raise you the Canadian 'Joe Sack O'Donuts'.  :grin:

10
November 15, 2014 2:35 PM

Elsa for sure. It's everywhere! Toys flying off the shelf, kids breaking out singing"Let it go" in stores, cars, classrooms  and homes. On Halloween I have never seen so many kids wearing the same costume (Elsa) 

11
November 15, 2014 4:10 PM

I vote for ISIS as well. I wish I could come up with another suggestion to add to the discussion, but I don't feel like I watch the news enough to have a clear pulse on current events. I do hear enough, though, to understand how ISIS fits the criteria.

 

12
November 15, 2014 11:34 PM

Like everybody else I instantly thought of Isis, but just to be different how about:

Sochi, Crimea or just Putin?

On a most postive front I'll also nominate Rosetta and Philae.

 

 

 

 

13
By PJ
November 16, 2014 6:08 PM

In favor of Elsa:

the movie was ubiquitous, it's true. I think some of it's popularity speaks to the fact that we still are hungry for fairy tales, but we want updated fairy tales where sisterhood is more important than love, and princesses are clumsy and gassy. Our cultural ideas of romantic love are changing and the movie is a symbol of that struggle. 

Against Elsa: I think the movie and it's message would have had the same impact if the main characters had been named Ingrid and Greta. 

As for ISIS, I agree it's been in the news a lot but I have the same unsettled reaction people had a couple years ago when we were discussing Trayvon as a potential name of the year. I mean really, the organization that kidnaps people and beheads them is the name of the year? It doesn't work for me.

 

I will nominate Wyatt, just because of its recent use as the name of a celebrity baby girl and all the super interesting discussions that has inspired about sexism and so-called androgynous names.

 

I will also nominate Messiah, for the court case where the judge changed the little boy's name because it offended her religious beliefs. There is an interesting conversation there about meaning names and when they cross the line into being offensive to certain religions or belief systems.

 

 

 

 

14
November 16, 2014 11:33 PM

I disagree that Elsa would be as popular if she were named Britta, Margrete, Ingrid, or Greta.  Elsa is a very cleverly chosen name for a pseudo-scandinavian Disney princess -- it's a name that is very close to trendy super-feminine names like Ava (vowel heavy, short, -a ending) but with a little hint of something foreign.  The other names mentioned are too foreign and have those consonent heavy sounds -br- or -gr-  Princesses definitely need names ending in "A" these days, just like all of the little girls who are dressing up at Halloween who are named Isabella, Olivia, Mia, Emma, Amelia, Ella, Sophia, etc.

 

15
November 17, 2014 11:13 AM

I support Jiminy's nomination of Philae.

It is a great name with fantasy appeal (through its -ae ending), the name of an Egyptian island and of one of the most spectacular human achievements in space upto now.

That the Rosetta mission is an European mission means something to the USA as well: their scientific leadership is challenged now!

 

16
November 17, 2014 11:35 AM

I'd speak against Malala and ISIS: Both names don't clearly spell out "2014"---they were there the year before (and, arguably at least for Malala, even more prominent so).

17
November 17, 2014 4:33 PM

I also disagree that Elsa would be as popular if her name was Ingrid or Greta. Frozen was actually loosely base off of the book The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

In the book, Elsa was called Gerda. Personally, I don't find the name Gerda endearing in the way the name Elsa is. And quite frankly, Greda is not princess name to me at all. Elsa sounds similar to popular names today, while still distinct - making it memorable, yet relatable. I find that very important to genuinely caring about a character. (I mean, I don't have to like the name, but can you honestly imagine Elsa being called Gerda? I can't, even though it obviously has worked for the book).

(And, another vote for Elsa and Isis.)

18
November 17, 2014 5:19 PM

I will add another vote for ISIS, though I'm not sure we've seen the full fallout of the name yet. Maybe Isis will drop dramatically next year, as news-savvy parents are horrified by the implications. I could also see it going the other way, though, as non-news-watching parents find it closer to the surface than it was before--like with fashionable-sounding deadly storms. At first I thought "poor Isis, probably going to go the way of Adolph"--but then I actually looked at the stats for Adolph. It was a pretty popular name in the U.S. in the late 1800s, but fell pretty steadily and steeply starting at the turn of the century. As expected, there is an inflection point around WWII--but it's from a steep decline to a much shallower decline, which continued through the next few decades before the name finally fell off the charts in the 1970s (if it had continued on its 1900-1930 trajectory, it should have been gone at least twenty years earlier).

For Frozen, I would vote for Idina Menzel/"Adele Dazeem" over Elsa because the story is so much namier and also clearly 2014 rather than 2013 or the early 2010s in general (I think the film will continue to be influential for at least another year).

I agree that Elsa is a clever choice by Disney (would even Ilsa be quite as on-trend?), but I don't think the story of Frozen is really about the name Elsa, especially given that I think Anna was probably expected/intended to be the main princess. In fact, I think the Anna name story might be more interesting (as a name story) in the long run, if the Ah-nuh pronunciation begins to compete with Ann-uh in the U.S.

19
November 18, 2014 1:08 PM

Idina Menzel/Adele Dazeem--that's awesome! I had forgotten all about that, but agree that it merits a nomination for Name of the Year. That story (John Travolta's ludicrous mispronunciation of Menzel's name during the Academy Awards) evoked so many other themes: discomfort with unusual names, especially those that sound non-Western, the whole Frozen industry, and further proof (as if we needed it) of Twitter's influence. That story was the one that got re-tweeted the most and the fictitious Ms. Dazeem quickly got her own hashtag and Twitter account. Perhaps Travolta was thinking of another talented singer, Adele. This is a story that really elevates "naminess" to an art: 1) Travolta mangles a singer's name and in so doing creates a national story about names and their importance; 2) Ms. Menzel plays Elsa, whose name is another great candidate for Name of the Year; 3) the story calls to mind British singer Adele, whose name is noteworthy for being uncommon, featuring trendy sounds, and for standing alone on album covers without a surname.

I hereby shift my support from Malala to Idina Menzel/Adele Dazeem. As for my dream of Malala beating out all others for NotY, well, I'll just have to let it go.

20
November 18, 2014 11:58 AM

I'd like to second PJ's nominations of Wyatt and Messiah. They both seem like names people are talking about that point out ways that names are changing. And the fact that people disagree about them so much is a sign they've hit a nerve!

21
November 18, 2014 2:54 PM

I hate to cast a vote for ISIS, but I feel like it's the obvious choice. The (negative) impact that group has had on the world, all of the conversations about the name of the group itself (ISIS vs ISIL), and then to cap it off with the fact that it's an actual name! Other years there was a debate, but this year, I don't see how any other name had the impact of the name Isis.

22
November 18, 2014 3:43 PM

We were planning on giving our daughter the middle name Isal which is a family name but with ISIL in the news we opted to name her Cordelia Jean instead. I'm still a but disapointed about that 8 weeks later but we definitely didn't want our little one'a name to remind people of a terrorist group. I'm guessing most parents are going to feel like that about Isis, too, which is such a shame. 

23
November 18, 2014 4:13 PM

I vote for Rosetta and Philae. They've been in the news for the whole year, starting with Rosetta leaving hibernation on January 20. Then rendezvous, orbit, science, smaller orbit, landing site selection, even smaller orbit, more science, pre-delivery, separation, 7 hours of terror, landing, 2 more hours of terror with non-zero spin (unlike higgs boson ;-) ), landing, another landing, even more science, and most recently not getting enough power to boot up... Oh, and there actually were people named Rosetta: http://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager#prefix=rosetta&sw=both&exact=false.

I agree with Pj that Isis shouldn't be nominated. And I'm against Putin and Crimea for similar reasons. (Achievement got: compare Putin to other terrorists 10 times. Oops. 11 now ;-) )

I don't see what's so special about Sochi. Other than the fact that it's the first time in history when Winter Olympics and World Robot Olympiad are hosted in the same city, but that's not enough for NOTY. I vote against it.

As for other suggestions, I haven't heard those stories (and haven't watched Frozen), so I will neither vote for, nor against them.

 

I can't think of any new names I can suggest. Most news I hear don't feature names. Unless ISEE3 counts as a name, but I doubt it ;-)

24
November 18, 2014 9:56 PM

I'd say our collective societal reaction to the name Ferguson has been significantly altered in 2014.

25
By Amy3
November 19, 2014 11:44 AM

In light of the listed criteria

- A dramatic change in the name's usage or social meaning

- A reflection of a broader cultural theme, or influence on broader style trends

- The "naminess" of a story or issue. How essential is the name to the story?

I cast my vote for ISIS. I agree with others who voiced a hesitation (or even unwillingness) to vote for this name. However, with the exception of perhaps the second point, it nails the criteria. It certainly represents a dramatic change in the usage or social meaning and the name is absolutely essential to the story, including the variety of names used.

I also like the suggestion of Adele Dazeem as that says a lot about our understanding of names (certainly it was a dramatic change in a name's social meaning and the name was the entire story). Apparently immediately following Travolta's mistake, the Playbills for If/Then were changed to say "the role of Elizabeth being played by Adele Dazeem." :)

I understand the popularity of Frozen and Elsa, but I don't see a dramatic change in usage or social meaning (popularity may go up, but that will be next year and beyond). It hits the second point, but I think the name does that on its own without the movie and while I agree Elsa is on-trend in a way Gerda is not, they could have chosen a number of names that would have worked in the context of the story.

Wyatt and Messiah are interesting choices, but the discussion around the use of those names doesn't feel particularly 2014 to me. Rather, it's a discussion that we circle back to periodically. 

As for Ferguson, I don't think the name itself had any bearing on the story. It would have been a story regardless of the town's name. I give Rosetta, Philae, Putin, Crimea, and Sochi the same assessment.

26
November 19, 2014 11:44 PM

Definitely a vote for ISIS, and timely since it is the Name Lady question of the week :)

27
By PJ
November 20, 2014 1:00 PM

I continue to believe that declaring ISIS the name of the year is disrespectful and in poor taste. The name of the year is a fun sociological game we play, it's entertainment really, like People magazines "Sexiest man of the year" award. Giving that title to a real terrorist group that has gruesomely tortured and killed US citizens, among others, is just bizarre. This is not, and has never been, a news commentary site. 

28
November 20, 2014 2:54 PM

But this is a name site, and ISIS is, among many other things, a name story in a couple of ways.  First, there is the question of the acronym/name itself; that is, why the media have almost universally chosen to use ISIS rather than IS or ISIL (which President Obama uses) or Islamic State or something else.  And second, there is the impact of the use of ISIS as the name of an appalling terroorist group on the girls and women who have been happily living their lives as namesakes of an Egyptian goddess and who suddenly find themselves associated with caliphates, beheadings, crucifixions, rape as a tactic of war, sex slavery, genocidal attacks on Yazidis and others, among many other horrific acts.  IMO ISIS is the name STORY of the year and arguably the name of the year.  I don't think that it is either disrespectful or in poor taste to acknowledge the fact that political events have turned the previously benign if a bit eccentric name Isis upside-down and not at all for the good.

The "name of the year" as defined here is not an award, like the Nobel Prize of names.  It is a recognition of the significant impact of that name on society in the past year.

29
November 21, 2014 5:31 AM

I want to make a point on the "naminess" in favour of Philae. Before the lander on the comet was given this nice name, the names Roland (from ROsetta LANDer) and Champollion (the decipherer of the Hieroglyphs) were also proposed.

Both alternatives carry very different connotations and don't have the phantasy appeal that Philae has. I think the choice of the name is relevant to the story of Philae.

30
November 21, 2014 11:43 PM

I vote Elsa:

It is now highly associated with the movie Frozen.
It contains the popular "elle" sound.
It sounds like a far away princess, who we can also relate to.
Furthermore, I think that we will soon see a rise in its usage as parents become familar with the name.

On a side note, I wish that Malala Yousafzai and Maryam Mirzakhani had been in the news more often and I could vote for one of their names.  

31
November 29, 2014 3:07 PM

It light of how things went this past week (& how much the story has gone international), I have to say Ferguson feels like it has to be the name of 2014.

 

 

32
November 30, 2014 8:24 PM

I think ISIS is a compelling suggestion, but I think ObamaCare is a major story this year. The term was originally used negatively by people against the legislation, but has morphed into its actual name.

33
November 30, 2014 8:27 PM

I just want to add, that perhaps ISIS is not the name of the year, but rather Isis. All the women and businesses that share the name have certainly had a difficult time with the association.

34
By PJ
December 1, 2014 12:57 PM

I'm confused by people nominating all these current events. Ferguson is a big story. Obamacare is a big story. But they are not names or name related, just important stories of the year. ISIS, while I deeply disagree with the nomination, is at least a name. 

Maybe it's time to revisit the defintion and criteria for Name of the Year?