Star Wars: The Baby Names Awaken?

Dec 31st 2015


"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is a powerhouse at the box office and in toy stores. With its deep cultural roots and cross-generational appeal, it's likely to extend that reach to baby names. After all, even the much-maligned prequels managed to launch the name Anakin onto the top-1,000 baby names chart. My question for the new Star Wars entry is, which names?

After seeing the film with a large multigenerational group, I surveyed my fellow moviegoers for their reactions to the film's key names. Here are the stylemaking odds, counting down from the longest longshot to the likeliest hit. SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen "The Force Awakens," get thee to a cinema first then come back and read on.


Image via StarWars.com

#8: Snoke
The name of the film's biggest, baddest villain earned nothing but eye rolls from my panelists. As one put it, "It doesn't even work for a bad guy."
Odds of taking off as a baby name: 10,000 to 1.

#7: Maz
The ancient space pirate Maz Kanata was a favorite with my group, "kind of a woman Yoda." They reluctantly rejected her name, though. The consensus was that Maz "would be a good name for pets, not humans."
Odds: 1,000 to 1.

#6: Skywalker
With the rising popularity of the names Sky and Walker, I thought this name might have legs as a futuristic take on the tradesman style. My panel was having none of it: "It's too specific to the characters."
Odds: 100 to 1.

#5: Han
Could "The Force Awakens" spark a new wave of namesakes for old friend Han Solo? Perhaps not. "It sounds incomplete," one respondent explained. Another summed it up: "If Han hasn't worked yet, it's just not going to work."
Odds: 50 to 1

#4: Kylo
The name of masked baddie Kylo Ren split the panel along generational lines. The kids and teenagers thought Kylo could catch on as a baby name. "It's a pretty cool villain name, not too villainous." Their grandparents were unconvinced. "It sounds like a brand of laundry detergent or toothpaste," one retiree observed. "Remember Halo Shampoo?" chimed in another, and they sang a duet of the 1950s shampoo sales jingle.
Odds: 8 to 1

#3: Poe
"Edgar Allan Poe!" shouted my panelists in unison when I brought up the fighter pilot's name. The literary association wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though. "It could be a winner."
Odds: 2 to 1

#2: Finn
Finn is already a fashionable, fast-rising name, and the new Star Wars character could put it over the top. "Finn used to sound super-Irish to me. Associating it with a person of color broadens the image in an appealing way." "It was already a cool name, (Star Wars) makes it even cooler."
Odds: Even

#1: Rey
The sound of this name was a hit with our whole panel. Notably, the young heroine Rey resonated particularly with the teenage girls. One explained that unlike the rest of the Star Wars universe which she had inherited from previous generations, "she's mine." And better yet, "she wears sensible clothing THE WHOLE TIME!"

The big point of contention was the spelling Rey, like the Spanish word for king. Most didn't care for it, offering alternatives like Rae, Raye, Re and Ray, "like a ray of light." Some liked it best as a middle name. In one form or another, though, look for Rey to rise for girls in the years ahead.
Odds: Bet on it.

Comments

1
December 31, 2015 4:58 PM

Since everybody and their neighbor seem to be on a "last name as first name" kick these days, I'll be interested to see whether Dameron or Kanata take off as names. The former is just one letter different than Cameron, after all.

Ren already sees some use as a girl's name, albeit it's usually spelled Wren. (In my head, the two sound different, but when I say them out loud, there's no difference.)

Regarding Rey, I'm generally in the "spelling it differently doesn't make it a different name" camp, but I do agree that a spelling like Rae makes the name more obviously feminine, whereas Ray makes it look like a masculine name given to a girl (which is a practice that I really, really dislike).

2
December 31, 2015 6:07 PM

Ren is apparently a very popular (masculine) name in Japan currently.

I know a girl with middle name Rae, so that's the spelling I was thinking of throughout the movie; I was disappointed to find it written as Rey afterwards. (I avoided all things Star Wars for months before the movie came out, because I figured it was the only way to really avoid spoilers. [Good thing, 'cause boy is it a highly spoilable movie!])

Another reason I'd prefer the spelling Rae is that it'd be slightly less confusing. Now that I'm no longer in Star Wars quarantine, I'm constantly having to backtrack to clarify whether an article had just mentioned Ren or Rey.

3
January 1, 2016 1:24 PM

I'd be interested to see what happens with Kanata myself, especially regionally. My understanding is that the name exists in Japan already, but Kanata is also the Iroquoian word (meaning "village" or "town") that Canada is thought to have derived from, and there's even an area of the nation's capital city called Kanata. A lot of Canadians, especially of a particular age group, are aware of this fact due to this commerical that started airing in the 90s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYi3O0ywY6k

I'd personally be reluctant to use it as a name because if this, but I'd be interested in seeing if people who lack this context find the name appealing.

4
January 1, 2016 4:04 PM

I wonder if opinions on the names would be very different from people who haven't seen the films. I haven't seen it (nor have I any interest), and my guess would have been that Kylo would rank higher, due to trendy sound-alikes like Kyler and Kylie, and the -o ending that's bringing Milo and Arlo up the ranks. My husband says that the SW character isn't likeable enough to inspire namesakes, which is what made me wonder how the names would rank among non-fans. I thought Maz might also catch on more, as an alternative to the popular Max, except for it being a female character's name.

5
January 1, 2016 6:54 PM

I know several young boys (all Hispanic) named or middle-named "Rey"; at least one of them is named for a grandfather. I wonder if that gender-mismatch will affect the name's trend.

6
January 4, 2016 4:07 AM

I've just been on this site too much! I was sad to see Rey's spelling in the credits too. 

I thought Poe was Paul When I heard it. I prefer Paul. 

I thought Finn was going out of this world as I heard it in the movie. 

 I think Sky is popular because of agents of shield. 

7
By JayF
January 4, 2016 1:12 PM

I'm wondering if Daisy will increase in popularity. Or Ridley. Ridley was a character on the last season of Austin and Ally. And with Daisy Ridley's great performance, people may look to honor the Star Wars universe by pulling from the "stars" themselves and not just the characters.

I'd also be inclined to take another look at Leia. And maybe even BeBe. Because that is one cute droid. :)

 

I think Kylo is too unlikable at this point. It remains to be seen if there is any redemption for his character in the long run. Anakin, it must be remembered, was redeemed in the end of Jedi which made his name more acceptable.

 

8
January 5, 2016 6:08 PM

I know several woman named Maz - it's a nickname for names such as Marion. I don't know any pets named Maz.

9
January 5, 2016 7:35 PM

Hah, I just posted in the forum about Ren (for a boy); I have to say the extreme dislikability of the character definitely makes it harder to use for me, so I can see Emerald Bee's idea that the names would feel different to folks who have seen the film and those who haven't.

Overall, a lot of the names felt very Asian and especially Japanese to me (which is in keeping with Lucas's original vision for the film). In addition to Ren and Kanata, Maz sounds like a mash-up of super-common Japanese--male--nicknames Kaz and Mas (and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that it's already in use in Japan), Kylo sounds a lot like Kaito, Po (that spelling) can be a Vietnamese name and possibly is a name in other languages, and of course Han has always been a Chinese dynasty, ethnic group, and surname.

Regarding Poe: I heard it as Po, which to me still says Teletubbies (in spite of the Vietnamese given name). I was kind of snickering throughout the movie as a result, imagining the hot-shot pilot as a cuddly giant red baby.

10
January 6, 2016 8:07 AM

I haven't seen the film yet, but I think those who are saying Kylo won't increase because the character is a villain are wrong. Many parents just don't care if the character is a villain if the name sounds cool as a "different but not too different" shift from a currently popular name. Peyton (for girls) boomed after it was the name of the villainous nanny in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle". Kylo, as a blend of the sounds of Kyle and Milo, is probably going to get a big boost from the film, second only to Finn, which I do think will have an even bigger surge from the "Hollywood feedback loop" effect, where a name already popular for babies accelerates because of pop culture publicity.

I also think it's interesting that almost all the new Star Wars names are so short. I think there are signs that avant garde trends are moving toward short names like Jack, Reid, Leo, Quinn, June, Nora, etc., and names like Maz, Poe, Rey, and Finn are part of that shift.

11
January 6, 2016 1:13 PM

"NOOOoooo!" [read dramatically] - Mom of 4 year old boy Ray. Maybe he'll decide to go by his full name Raymond or by Raymie to differentiate himself from the girl wave that is to come. I actually had originally planned on the nickname Raimi in honor of Sam Raimi, so maybe I'll be testing that out from now on.

12
January 8, 2016 3:44 AM

The name Rey drove me crazy in the movie. As a name enthusiast, I've noticed that the two most important women in the franchise so far have fairly formal and feminine names (Leia Organa and Padme Amidala), so "just Rey" felt like mysterious foreshadowing...especially with her lack of last name as of now. My prediction is that her name is along the lines of Reyna, implying she has a royal lineage. (I could really geek out on Star Wars here, but I'll leave it at that for now.) Rey as a nickname for a more feminine full name is definitely something that could seriously catch on. 

While I completely love Star Wars, naming a baby after a fictional character is beyond what I would do. Look at what happened to Atticus--what was once a beloved figure has been marred by a new book. 

13
February 9, 2016 11:33 PM

I know lots of women with the name Rae.  They are all Rachels.