There are geek names, and then there are geek names. Plenty of fanboys and fangirls take baby name inspiration from favorite characters, but for most the choice is subtle. You can name your son Malcom after Firefly's Captain Mal Reynolds and your in-laws will be none the wiser.
Today, we acknowledge those parents who have taken a bolder step into fandom, daring to go where few names have gone before. Each of the proudly geeky names below was given to at least five American babies last year.
Image via kazz.0/Flicker
NAME (SEX, NUMBER BORN IN 2014)
Anakin (M, 218) : Darth Vader now ranks among the top 1,000 names for boys. The Empire has won.
Eevee (F, 24) : A genetically flexible fox-like Pokemon. A Pokemon!!!
Ender (M, 118) : Naming after Ender Wiggin of Ender's Game gives your child an early introduction to life's moral complexities.
Stark (M, 20) : This name could solve baby-name arguments in mixed marriages between a Marvel loyalist and a Game of Thrones fan: "Iron Man wants you to know that Winter is Coming."
Sephiroth (M, 7) : The archvillain of the game Final Fantasy VII, with his long black coat and flowing silver hair, is the epitome of evil fashion.
Kal-El (M, 257) : Phew. In a baby-name faceoff of good versus evil, Superman (born Kal-El) outranks Darth Vader (born Anakin).
Tron (M, 11) : The 1982 film TRON transports us into the heart of a computer, where an artificial intelligence called Tron takes the form of a glowing Bruce Boxleitner.
Quorra (F, 26) : In the 2010 sequel TRON: Legacy, Quorra is a skilled pilot and warrior -- unusual skill sets for an algorithm.
Draco(M, 42) : A Death Eater with a name that means "dragon." Don't mess with this infant.
Garrus (M, 9) : Most names from action games are more macho than geeky, but it helps that Mass Effect's Garrus Vakarian is a raptor-headed alien.
Jadzia (F, 19) : Jadzia Dax of Star-Trek: Deep Space Nine shares her mind with a symbiotic organism. Two for the price of one! (On Earth Jadzia is also a Polish nickname, but its American usage started with Deep Space Nine.)
Korra (F, 87) : The element bender of the animated series "The Legend of Korra" nearly dies fighting for peace, but does gain a cute girlfriend along the way.
Tidus (M, 43) : The protagonist of Final Fantasy X, Tidus is the rare video game hero who is regularly described as "cheerful."
Lando (M, 9) : In the original Star Wars trilogy, Lando Calrissian is a charming gambler and smuggler -- basically like Han Solo, but way better at it.
Tyrion (M, 60) : The "imp" Tyrion is the heart (or perhaps the brain) of Game of Thrones.
Winry (F, 32) : If you need a prosthetic limb repaired, Winry Rockbell of Fullmetal Alchemist is your woman.
Xena (F, 71) : Xena the Warrior Princess injected the familiar underdressed-warrior-woman trope with a new element: humanity. This is a name that kicks butt, with feeling.
Tauriel (F, 20) : Ooh, we're off canon! This attractively named elf from The Hobbit movie wasn't in Tolkein's book. And in other Hobbit book vs. movie news...
Thorin (M, 112) : ...note that these babies were named for dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield before the final installment of the movie came out. Hopefully the parents read the book and knew what they (and Thorin) were in for.
Loki (M, 111) : The trickster god Loki is an age-old fixture of Norse myth, but nobody named after him until he became a snazzy Marvel supervillain.
Jedi (M, 21) : The force is with these youngsters.
The Social Security Administration has announced the most popular names in each state. Here are the top names from coast to coast (a brief analysis is below):
|TOP GIRLS' NAMES BY STATE, 2014|
|TOP BOYS' NAMES BY STATE, 2014|
Two girls' names, Emma and Olivia, dominate from coast to coast. Emma ranked among the top three in 48 states, Olivia in 42. Other widespread hits include Ava (21), Sophia (19), Harper (7), Isabella (6) and Charlotte (4). Evelyn was a distinctive choice in Minnesota, and Brooklyn in Wyoming.
Harper appears to be the most regionalized hit for girls. The states where it ranks highly make up a solid block heading North from Oklahoma up through Montana and North Dakota.
The country is much less unanimous on boys' names. Liam makes the most appearances on the list with 32, while the nationwide #1 boys' name, Noah, appears only 23 times. Other popular choices: Mason (27), William (24), James (6) and Alexander (5). Local highlights include Henry in Minnesota and Oregon, Jackson in Wyoming, Matthew and Joseph in New Jersey, and Hunter in West Virginia.
Perhaps the biggest story on the boys' list is what's missing. Jacob and Michael, the two dominant names of the past generation, combine for only 8 appearances.
More from the most popular names stats:
The biggest trend in baby names doesn't come from Hollywood, or the Bible, or anywhere on a map. It's not about meanings or origins or aspirations. It's about pure sound. Take a look at which initial letters rose and fell this past year in American baby name choices:
The initials that rose the fastest were E, L, O, A, H, R, W. The fastest fallers: Z, S, D, B, K, T, J. Try pronouncing those two lists like words and you'll see how different they sound and feel.
In the past I've identified specific smooth name styles on the rise, like "raindrop names," but this trend is looking bigger. It's a literal sound of the times, a smoothing out of a whole generation of names. Just look at the plummeting letter J on the far right of the chart above. From John to James to Jeffrey to Jason to Jayden (not to mention Joan, Janet, Jennifer and Jessica), J has been a perennial staple of American name style. This year it fell to an all-time historic low, as you see in this graph from the NameVoyager.
J is hardly alone. All of rough-edged initials (stops, fricatives, etc.) are declining year by year:
While names starting with vowels soar:
That's just initials. Looking to the ends of names, smooth letters like A, N and R dominate as well. The parents who do buck that tide seem to be looking for a "exclamation point": a quick, crisp close like TT or X, nothing too heavy. When was the last time you met a baby whose name ended in D?
(These graphs of end letters and letter combinations were created with the Expert NameVoyager. You can sign up for free to use our expert tools!)
My guess is that there's still more smoothing ahead for American baby names. The tide won't turn until we're saturated in silky-smooth names, so that chunkier sounds start to sound fresh to the next naming generation. For a glimpse of that future, I recently heard some middle-school girls discussing name they thought was really pretty: Bernadette.
More on the new name trends:
- The top 1000 names of 2014, with last year's rankings for comparison
- The fastest-rising boys' names of 2014
- The fastest-rising girls' names of 2014