Jagger. Hendrix. Zeppelin. Lennon. Those names mean more than music. They're icons, attitudes, whole ways of living…and now, baby names. Names steeped in rock & roll history, from the Beatles to Nirvana, are one of the fastest-rising baby name styles in America.
Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Some snapshots of the trend in action:
• An American girl today is more likely to be named Presley than Jessica or Rebecca. A boy is more likely to be Axl than Chad.
• As recently as 1998, the name Hendrix was statistically nonexistent. Today it's a top-500 hit.
• The word credence, meaning "belief," is not used as a name. But the creative spelling Creedence, as in the band Creedence Clearwater Revival, is now used for both boys and girls.
• Last year, just as many American girls were named Zeppelin as Beyoncé.
• Even stylistically unlikely rock names like Kiedis and Reznor now register on the stats.
The rise of rock & roll names is a phenomenon unto itself, distinct from "celebrity names." Normal celebrity name trends surge with the burst of publicity around a new star. Most go on to fade nearly as quickly (see the graphs of Miley and Rihanna). The rock names are different. Not one name on the rock & roll names list below took off when the band or star rose to fame. Beatlemania didn't inspire little McCartneys, and the grunge era didn't see a wave of little Vedders. The names rose decades later, after the artists' works had begun to take on the mantle of "classic" or "iconic."
That makes these names homages, not only to the specific artists but to the spirit of rock itself. It's a famously independent, rebellious spirit, and so no two names on the list march in lockstep. Consider the varied messages the names Axl, Lennon, Marley and Cobain project. But whether a family's motto is "All You Need is Love" or "Born to Be Wild," they're more likely than ever before to present it in baby name form via a classic rock name.
Each name below was bestowed on at least 5 American boys or girls last year, some on hundreds or thousands. Especially popular names are indicated with an * (top 1000 name) or ** (top 500).
THE NEW ROCK & ROLL BABY NAME HALL OF FAME:
Axl (M*) – Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses
Bonham (M) – John Bonham of Led Zeppelin
Bowie (M, F) – David Bowie
Cobain (M) – Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
Creedence (M, F) – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Crue (M) – Mötley Crüe
Everly (F**, M) – The Everly Brothers
Halen (M, F) – Van Halen/Eddie Van Halen
Hendrix (M**, F) – Jimi Hendrix
Isley (F, M) – The Isley Brothers
Jagger (M*, F) – Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones
Jett (M**, F) – Joan Jett
Joplin (F) – Janis Joplin
Kiedis (M) – Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers
Lennon (F*, M*) – John Lennon of The Beatles
Marley (F**, M*) – Bob Marley
McCartney (F, M) – Paul McCartney of The Beatles
Nirvana (F) – Nirvana
Presley (F**, M) – Elvis Presley
Reznor (M) – Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails
Santana (M*, F) – Santana/Carlos Santana
Seger (M) – Bob Seger
Vedder (M) – Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam
Weiland (M) – Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots
Zeppelin (M, F) – Led Zeppelin
Meet the freshest new baby names in America. We call them the "100 Club," the select group of names that were given to 100 newborn boys or girls for the first time ever this past year.
The names in this Club show off the diversity of American baby name style, from nature names to video game heroes, from the Bible to Bollywood. Together, they give us a glimpse of where names may be heading. Many of these names will remain rare, but some – like recent 100 Club members Lennox, Castiel and Zayn – will rise to become hits.
Some notable themes among this year's 100 Club names:
Royals and Deities
Girls: Artemis, Kingsley, Royalty. Boys: Kaiser, Kyng, Pharaoh, Reign, Zeus [Read more about the rapid rise of exalted names]
Azriel, Benaiah, Elam, Jasiel
Berkeley, Brighton, Charleston
Alaia, Amyra, Analeah, Arayah [Read more about "liquid names"]
Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia), Korra (The Legend of Korra), Link (The Legend of Zelda)
THE GIRLS' 100 CLUB
THE BOYS' 100 CLUB
The 1960’s and 1970’s were full of the first wave of upbeat surfer-dude names, like Brett and Keith, with the 1990’s bringing in a new generation of names like Chad and Brad. These names are popular because of their ability to hit the sweet spot with their masculine sounds, friendly forms, and laid-back auras. Let’s look at modern names giving off “good vibrations”!
Jarrett. This name sounds like a classic, but Jarrett has managed to stay uncommon – even with all the Garrett’s and Jared’s running around. The moniker has a kind and approachable feel, with a lot of strong consonants that assert its masculinity (opposite feminine names like Ava, Aaliyah, etc). Jarrett also has a few nickname options – Jerry, Rett – that can add some vintage flair. The name may take a bit of explaining, but it’s pro’s far outweigh any con’s!
Kit. Fun and energetic, Kit has the short-and-sweet sound that vibes with modern boy trends like Jack and Ben. But there’s definitely a unique kind of playfulness here! Kit was originally a short form of Christopher, which would definitely still work if you’re looking for a more formal first name. I think Kit would be a cute nickname for a little Fox, too! There are plenty of historical namesakes, real and fictional, so your Kit would be carrying on an upbeat legacy.
Lazer. While this name sounds like a modern technological invention, it’s actually a form of the Biblical Eliezer or Lazarus, making Lazer perfect for fans of the old and the new! The name exudes a centered energy – think “laser-cut” or “laser-focused” – but still maintains the laid-back “lazy” connotation. Add these positives to the stylish –er ending and zippy Z sound in the middle, and we have a winning combination!
Leith. No, this isn’t a mistype of Keith or Leif – unusual Leith dates all the way back to medieval times. It comes from the name of a Scottish river, with a second origin being an Arabic word for “lion”. The sound of the name is light and somehow more natural than sturdy Keith, but Leith holds its own with a strong unique personality. It’s cross-cultural background and accessible tone make it a lovely but uncommon option for your little one.
Pace. Both a noun and a verb, this active word name is perfect for a boisterous little boy who “sets the pace” for those around him. Pace fits in with names like Blaise or Tripp, but the soft C in the middle calms the active vibe a bit. Pace has more often been seen as a last name, university, or salsa brand, but it’s uncommon enough to merit its own identity. If you love Jace or Parker but want to try something a bit less known, Pace is for you!
Palmer. This name’s summery sound is two-fold: the first syllable puts palm trees in your mind, and the name is also reminiscent of springtime tennis courts and refreshing drinks (see Arnold Palmer). The name is also occupational – from religious pilgrims who carried palm fronds – but crisper than Parker or Mason. Palmer toes the fine line between a relaxed beachy feeling and a distinguished preppy sound – an excellent compromise!
Scout. Along with related literary name Atticus, Scout has gotten some attention recently surrounding its connections to the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and late author Harper Lee. All publicity aside, Scout is a fantastic name that connotes curiosity and movement, learning and leading. Scout’s friendliness and possible use as an updated version of Scott keep it on this laid-back list, but this name has all sorts of positives that can’t be pinned to one personality.
Seneca. One of the few ends-in-A names on the boy’s lists, Seneca’s origins as both a Native American term and an ancient Roman name prove its ability to work all over the map. Seneca has also come into the spotlight through its use in The Hunger Games, but even that popularity doesn’t tie Seneca to one character for life. Seneca has an understated strength about it, an engaging sound without an overbearing perkiness. Want something well-established but wise? Try Seneca!
Shay. I picked the Shay spelling over the Shea spelling to highlight the soft, vintage sound, but the original has many of the same accessible qualities. Shay is calming but masculine, sturdy but sweet. It’s gotten more use on the girls’ side in recent years, but Shay’s history makes it more than viable for the boys. There’s a bit of a Western twang in Shay, too, which helps it transition from the beach to the country seamlessly.
Sumner. With a down-to-earth feel and a summery sound, Sumner is solid and centered. Like Palmer, it’s a more unusual occupational name, but it maintains an amicable quality that can’t help you feel anything but upbeat. The connection to Fort Sumner in New Mexico adds a little bit of a Southwest vibe, too, but the name is unique enough to stand without context. One possible issue – Sumner may be mistaken for Summer. Quite a bit. I stand by it as a recommendation, though!
Thad. Long-form Thaddeus can be heavy, but the nickname or short-form Thad is perfect for the modern beach boy. It’s a fresh update of Chad, but it keeps the smart and distinguished qualities of its longer original. Thad is also slightly more grown up than adorable Tad, and will transition well from childhood to adulthood. Numerous Thad’s throughout history add to the enticing background of this handsome name!
Vance. A lovely compromise between trendy Van and classic Vincent, Vance is lively but strong. Vance’s history in the top 1000 is admirable – it’s managed to stay recognizable but has avoided the fickle winds of fashion. Recent indie pop musician Vance Joy (born James Keogh) has brought more attention to this name, but Vance has proved itself time and time again to be more than a flash in the pan.