It's easy to think of celebrities who made their names suddenly popular. It's much harder to think of celebrities who made their names suddenly unpopular. This year, though, we have such an example.
In 2016, the first full year after the star formerly known as Bruce Jenner was reintroduced as Caitlyn Jenner, the three fastest-falling names in America were all versions of Caitlyn:
And then there's #5 Caitlyn, #9 Katelynn, etc. At first glance, this wholesale retreat from a familiar name may seem to be a rejection of Jenner's new public identity. Certainly, parents do shy away from controversy in names, as we've seen in the decline of political homages. But I think the real story on Caitlyn is complicated, and as much about names as about gender.
First off, it's important to realize that the name was going to fall in popularity even if Jenner hadn't existed. Take a look at the popularity trend of all 57 (!) varieties of Caitlyn over the previous two decades:
The name was sliding out of fashion, and it's easiest to move the public in a direction it's already heading. Next, consider that this wasn't just another new celebrity name. The name itself was the story, announced with a flourish in a "Call Me Caitlyn" magazine cover, the choice of name debated and analyzed.
The result was inevitable Caitlyn fatigue. With the year-long media blitz it became hard to hear the name in its own right, as just a nice baby name. Jenner had staked her claim to it.
Finally, consider that the Caitlyn gazing out of that famous magazine cover was 65 years old. Caitlyn became popular as a fresh, youthful twist on Catherine and Kathleen. The new standard-bearer for the name helped age it in a hurry.
The rest of the fastest-falling names:
#4 Jase (M)
#6. Alexa (F)
#7. Blake (M)
#8. Brandon (M)
#10. Alexis (F)
The hottest boys' names of 2016 weren't shy. The fastest risers were all about dramatic shows of force – or The Force. Meet the names soaring up the popularity charts.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered at the end of 2015, and its baby name impact reverberated through the following year. Lots of force-ful names like Rey, Finn and even Jedi saw popularity spikes. But America's biggest zero-to-60 breakout name was Kylo, as in dark side bigwig Kylo Ren.
This name stands as a supreme demonstration that celebrity-inspired naming today is all about style, not about homages. The name's sound couldn't be hotter, a Kai/Milo hybrid that puts a fresh coat of cool on old favorite Kyle. But, you know…
WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT. If you haven't seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, just complete the sentence above with "Kylo wasn't the most likeable character in the movie" and skip the next paragraph.
…Kylo Ren killed his own dad. And not just any dad, but Han Solo, arguably the coolest dad you could possibly have. Kylo is hardly the first villainous character to spark a baby name trend. Anakin, AKA Darth Vader, is also a rising hit. But when fathers-to-be are willing to look past patricide for the sake of fashion, you're witnessing the true power of sound.
The movie Creed was a boxing film in the Rocky lineage that focused on Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky's onetime foe Apollo Creed. Like his dad, Adonis brought the muscle and the Greek-god name flair. Back in 1976 when the original Rocky came out, that flair was too flashy for most parents. Not anymore. Adonis is a pitch-perfect choice for our new era of exalted names.
Connor, with one n, is Ireland's standard spelling of this classic name. In the United States, it has lagged in third place, well behind Connor and Conner. Enter Irish mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor. With his distinctive bearded, tattooed looks, flashy style, and unquestioned fighting prowess, McGregor has shifted the spelling balance.
Singer Zayn Malik first boosted his name as a member of the boy band One Direction. When he went solo and dropped his surname, the sky was the limit. Zayn (an Arabic name) is pronounced like the fashionable cowboy name Zane, but has a much glossier and more contemporary image.
…and the rest of the top 10 fastest-rising boys' names:
Meet America's new top names!
The Social Security Administration has released the official rankings of the most popular baby names of 2016. The top of the charts remains unchanged: Noah is the country's #1 choice for boys, and Emma returns as #1 for girls.
The big newcomer in the top 10 is Elijah, which bumped Alexander out of the top 10 for the first time in a decade. That exchange highlights the increasingly smooth sound of today's boys' names, and the dominance of Old Testament names among tradition-minded parents.
The new top 10 baby names in America:
As always, the top 10 is just the beginning of the name news. Check out the full top 1,000 name lists (with last year's ranks for comparison). I'll also be reporting on the fastest risers and fallers, surprising pop culture name phenomena and more. Follow here and on Twitter: twitter.com/BabyNameWizard