The Secret Celebrity Baby Names that Nobody Talks About

Jul 26th 2017

Want a celebrity baby name that will set the world abuzz with astonishment? Forget Dream and Zuma, the names you're looking for are…

Alexander and Ella.

When George and Amal Clooney chose those familiar, fashionable names for their newborn twins last month, popular opinion declared it a Hollywood miracle. A sampling of media reactions from around the globe:

Headline: "George and Amal Clooney don’t know they’re celebrities and picked normal names for their twins" (Digisnak)

"It's almost an outrage for celebrity babies to be given names that have already appeared on 'most popular' lists" (stuff)

"The Clooneys have cemented their distinctive reputation by doing something extraordinary. They have given their twins normal names….Wacky baby names in Hollywood are as common as juice bars on Sunset Strip, with most celebrities choosing names that sound like a cocktail or a haemorrhoid treatment." (TheTimes)

I myself received multiple inquiries from reporters about why these celebrities broke from the norm, and whether they could spark a new trend with this unprecedented normality. Unprecedented? That will come as a surprise to all the other famous parents who have named a child Ella or Alexander, like:

Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor
John Travolta and Kelly Preston
Keshia Knight Pulliam and Ed Hartwell
Mark Wahlberg and Rhea Durham
Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber
Tom Ford and Richard Buckley
Warren Beatty and Annette Bening

The secret truth is, Hollywood is teeming with conventional baby names. In past tallies, I've found that celebrity parents choose top-1,000 names at about the same rate as the general public. Why, then, do we think of Hollywood as a baby-name funhouse, out of touch with "normal" naming?

One reason is that "normal" naming isn't what it used to be. All parents are naming more adventurously. Sure, Kim & Kanye named their kids North and Saint, but consider that last year 71 not-so-famous American babies were named Riot, 91 were named Zeppelin, 179 were named Denim, and 1,200 (yes, 1,200) were named Legend. We can hardly expect Hollywood types to be less creative than the general public.

Another factor is that familiar, traditional celebrity baby names just don't stick in our minds. "Weird" name choices become fodder for internet wits and water-cooler banter. They're rehashed year after year, whenever a new unconventional name is mentioned. At this point, I'd wager that more people can name one of musician Frank Zappa's kids (e.g. Moon Unit) than one of his songs. Meanwhile I dare you to name a single child of Zappa's musical contemporaries, like Roger Waters or Jerry Garcia. In short, we remember the memorable.

So our perception of celebrity baby names is skewed. I've written before about the rapidly changing realm of typical baby names across America. Today I'm going to tackle perceptions from the other direction, and reveal the shocking normality hiding in Hollywood. Below are 10 traditional, mainstream hit names and some of the famous parents who have chosen them, totaling 52 celebrity babies. Between these conventionally named A-listers and the 1,200 newborn Legends, we may see that the divide between Main Street and Hollywood Boulevard isn't as wide as it seems.

Image: BestPhotoStudio/shutterstock

Ava: Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Renner, Josh Gad, Jason Priestley, Rachel Roy and Damon Dash

Charles/Charlie: Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall, Jodie Foster, Russell Crowe, Jeff Goldblum, Cynthia Nixon, Chris O'Donnell

Charlotte: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Harry Connick Jr., Dylan McDermott, Amy Brenneman and Brad Silberling, Colin Hanks

Grace: Kevin Costner, Mark Wahlberg, Christy Turnlington and Ed Burns, Lynn Whitfield, Elisabeth Hasselback, Dave Matthews

Henry: Julia Roberts, Colin Farrell, Jack White, Rachel Weisz and Darren Aronofsky, Heidi Klum and Seal, Minnie Driver, Amanda Peet

Isabella: Matt Damon, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Josh Gad, Justin Chambers

Jack: Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, Tom Brady and Bridget Moynahan, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, Johnny Depp, Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson, James Marsden

James: Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Colin Farrell, Ellie Kemper, Jamie King

Oliver: Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, Julie Bowen, Fred Savage, Danny Elfman and Bridget Fonda

Samuel/Sam: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Jack Black, Andrew McCarthy



July 26, 2017 10:48 PM

While undoubtedly classic names without any Hollywood wackadoodle flair, I wonder if it's worth noting that some of these kids were named before the names were as popular as they are today. For example:

Isabella Cruise -- 508 born in 1992 when she was born vs. 14,722 in 2016

Charlotte Prinz -- 4171 in 2009 vs. 13,030 in 2016

Jack Quaid -- 2067 boys in 1992 vs. 8367 in 2016

Ava Phillippe -- 1215 in 1999 vs. 16,237

Ella Travolta -- 1217 born in 2000 vs. 7866 in 2016, which is likely not *hugely* different than 2017 when Ella Clooney was born.

So, yes, these celebrities gave their kids "normal" names, but they were relatively unusual in their time and weren't as massively popular as Ella Clooney's name was when her parents chose it.

July 27, 2017 1:49 AM

Another notable normal celebrity-kid name: Billy Kimmel, son of Jimmy and whomever he is married to. I took note of this because Billy is SO retro. Lots of little Williams and Liams, and even Wills these days, but Billy really takes me back to my childhood.

July 28, 2017 9:05 AM

For me this is why one should give the kid a non-flashy name.  If you are named "John" you have nothing to live up to.  If you are named "Saint" (or any other of dozens of examples), right away everyone knows you are a celebrity kid and you have to live up to that moniker.  But as always, different styles abound!  And that's what makes names fun.

August 2, 2017 12:18 PM

Jimmy Kimmel's son is actually William John Kimmel.  Billy is an unusual nickname these days, though.  His other kids all have normal names, too:  Katherine, Kevin, and Jane.

August 2, 2017 8:32 PM

I know Billy is the child's nickname. But today most Williams are William or Liam or even Will, but not Billy.

October 4, 2017 11:42 AM

The reason we expect Hollywood  to be out of touch with normal naming is because Hollywood is out of touch with normal life in general!