Nominations, Please! What Was the Name of the Year for 2013?

Nov 27th 2013

Names are a window onto a society's style and psyche. Every December, honors the role of names in our culture by identifying a notable example that shaped -- and was shaped by -- the year that's been.

The Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year isn't necessarily the most popular baby name. It's a name that changed during the course of the year, and points to more changes around us. It's a one-name time capsule that reminds us of how names are woven into our lives, connecting to and reflecting everything that goes on in our culture.

Past honorees have come from Hollywood, politics and literature. They have included names of people real (Barack), fictional (Renesmee), and in-between (The Situation). They've included the names of specific individuals (Blue Ivy), but also names that suddenly popped up everywhere at once (ChuckJoe, in the year of Joe Six-Pack and Joe the Plumber). What they all had in common was zeitgeist...and your nominations. This is a group effort!

The criteria for the 2013 Name of the Year selection include:

- A dramatic change in the name's usage or social meaning

- A reflection of a broader cultural theme, or influence on broader style trends

- In the case of current events, "naminess" -- how essential the name is to the story

Your votes. The NOTY is selected from reader nominations. The number of nominations counts in the decision, and compelling arguments in support of your candidate count most of all.

Please post your nominations in comments here, and feel free to second others' suggestions. Then look for the official Name of the Year announcement in December!



November 27, 2013 11:26 AM

Trayvon.  With Trayvon's tragic death, this name has come to symbolize a whole generation of young black men who are marginalized.

By JayF
November 27, 2013 12:33 PM

I'm going with Francis. Pope Francis's selection of a name was hugely significant to his mission, and his papacy is drawing attention to the Catholic church and the poor in a positive way. His name choice is having a global impact. What's better is that he chose this name to reflect his values and the larger values he is promoting. Now if only we could teach kids about FrancEs with an E is for HER and FrancIs with an I is for HIS, maybe we'd see them better able to spell it...

November 27, 2013 12:39 PM

JayF, you beat me to it. I totally concur. Francis gets my vote!

As far as the BNW forums go, I'd like to nominate Seren. This name came out of nowhere and is now mentioned several times a week by both new folks considering it for their daughters and regular posters recommending it to others.

November 27, 2013 2:21 PM

I was going to suggest Francis, too. He resurrected a long-unused papal name to reflect his values.

(Though a good suggestion, I think that Trayvon would have been in 2012, the year he was shot, rather than 2013, the year of the trial.)

November 27, 2013 2:30 PM


Although we haven't been part of England for over 200 years, it seemed like everyone was either talking about the royal baby or talking about how much they didn't care about the royal baby this summer.  Either way, they were talking about baby Prince George, and it's the name that immidiately came to mind for me.

The former name of Pope Francis was Jorge, the spanish version of George

And the unfortunate connection- George Zimmerman was also in the headlines a lot this year.


If non-human names are allowed, I think Obamacare deserves a nod.  Between the supreme court decision, the attempted fillibuster, the government shutdown, and the website launch snafu, a huge chunk of our news centered around that name.  I think it's interesting that "Obamacare" was originally intended to be an insult, but it's quickly progressed to be a more neutral nickname for the Affordable Care Act just because it's quicker to say/type, and "ACA" seems so generic

November 27, 2013 4:40 PM

I vote for Trayvon.  It was the fact that George Zimmerman got off scott-free in 2013 that elevated the Trayvon Martin's case into an indictment of racial attitudes.  Plus, I doubt Trayvon ranked in the SSA records prior to this case.  I wonder if it has gone up.

November 27, 2013 5:58 PM

To answer your question, here are some numbers for the use of Trayvon:

1976: 5

1980: <5

1985: 9

1990: 50

1993: 89

1994: 156

1995: 197

1996: 132


2005: 89

2006: 99

2007: 94

2008: 89

2009: 73

2010: 67

2011: 55

2012: 178

So, going back to 1970, it first appears on the charts in 1975. It slowly increases in popularity, reaching its peak in 1995, the year that Trayvon Martin was born. It then slowly diminishes in use until 2012, when the name makes the news. I think that the 2013-2015 data will really show what effect the story had on the name's trajectory.

November 28, 2013 1:08 AM

Thanks for the great stats Karyn.

November 28, 2013 4:45 AM

My name of the year 2013 is SNOWDEN for the whistleblower Edward Snowden. He brought to attention that the spying programmes not only target the countries outside the USA but also the US citizens as well.

Alternatives might be the fancy names of some spying programes like PRISM, XKEYSCORE, and TEMPORA.

True nerds may consider the hero LADAR LEVISON who prefferred to shut down his mail service to surrending his customer data to the secret services.

November 28, 2013 4:47 AM

For the previous mentioned suggestions: A +1 to OBAMACARE, it captures the craze of the year very well.

November 28, 2013 10:21 AM

It all depends on whether we're looking for "name of the year" or "name of the year in America".

November 28, 2013 2:08 PM

Sorry to say, nevaeh.

November 29, 2013 2:13 AM

I would have to say Malala for everything her name has come to represent for womens rights and the struggle for peace and freedom in general. Malala Yousafzai has changed the face of the world.

By Coll
November 29, 2013 10:57 AM

I agree with the suggestions of George and Francis. They were the most anticipated name choices of the year. Francis especially spoke such volumes about the priorities and plans of the man who chose it.

December 1, 2013 1:21 AM

I have to agree with the above poster who mentioned Malala. Her name was virtually unknown in western cultures... but in 2013 she received worldwide support in a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.

For a completely pop culture reference I want to nominate Ichabod. Before 2013 this name was forever tied to the Washington Irving short story... but thanks to the actor Tom Mison and the new TV show Sleepy Hollow, I could honestly see this Old Testament name take off (at least as a pet's name.)

December 2, 2013 12:17 AM

Malala, Trayvon, and George are all great choices!  

December 1, 2013 5:50 PM

I don't know... I'm not Catholic, but I was following the selection (election? - see, not Catholic:) of the Pope in the news. I get that he chose Francis because of Saint Francis being kind of the saint you think of when you think poverty. And the helping the poor is his big mission. There you go, from someone who doesn't really follow Catholic matters, I know a lot, actually. And I'd also vote for either Francis or George. 

December 1, 2013 9:04 PM

That's why I said it was a big news story.

December 2, 2013 1:46 PM

I agree with most of you but wanted to add Jaxon, I know of three born this year.  I think the change in spelling changes the feel of the name and shows the shift in high value scrabble names.

December 2, 2013 3:33 PM

I vote Francis too. As a name enthusiast, I was as excited to hear what name he chose as I was to see who was elected. I was blown away by his choice of Francis, as so many others were -- a name that's never been used before by any pope is huge news! Its selection suggested a Franciscan sensibility: a love for the poor and a personality who would shake things up -- both of which have been shown to be true, over and over in the short time he's been pope. Additionally, it shows that the namer himself has a very good understanding of the power of the "right" name -- I can't think of any other name that would be more appropriate for Pope Francis or carry such meaning for those who hear it. In one name, Cardinal Bergoglio told us who he is and what kind of a pope he would be.

December 2, 2013 5:43 PM

Well said, traleerose!

I also appreciated all the name discussion and debates about whether he was honouring St. Francis of Assisi or Francis Xavier. The name selection was such a huge part of the news coverage (and as a non-Catholic, one of the most interesting parts of the story for me.)

December 2, 2013 6:01 PM

I was responding to someone who said that Francis was only significant for Catholics. I don't see that post anymore.

December 2, 2013 9:46 PM

I find that my non-Catholic friends are posting more about Pope Francis than my Catholic ones, probably because his ideas are so novel to them (in other words, they're surprised to hear these ideas coming from a Catholic). So I agree 100% that the profile of the name Francis has been expanded this year.

I also like the nomination for Obamacare. Originally intended as an insult, the name now encompasses much more than the Affordable Care Act (as if that weren't big enough!). I'll see if I can express this--my sixth grader is practicing her flute in the background and it's something of a distraction, lol. I think that the moniker Obamacare was intended to be a derisive critique of what the president hoped would be one of his biggest legislative accomplishments. Soon, however, the name caught on with lots of supporters of the ACA and its use became a way to upstage those intending insult (or simply to refer to it in shorthand as the official name is long). That significantly watered down the intended sting. Even with the disastrous rollout of the law, I don't think that people can transmit their disgust with the law merely by pronouncing it "Obamacare", the way they could when the term first debuted. Now it takes tone of voice to convey disdain. So the term Obamacare carried lots of cultural baggage when it debuted, but that baggage was considerably watered down when supporters of the law co-opted the term for themselves. This is a very interesting use of a name in the public sphere.

December 3, 2013 1:05 AM

I'm not sure George meets the "dramatic change" criterion -- the baby prince is just a blip in the name's associations.

Francis, on the other hand, is definitely a dramatically different name now than it was a year ago. I also think that this name is the embodiment of the second criterion: "A reflection of a broader cultural theme" -- no previous pope ever chose it, and it's my feeling that no previous pope even had it on the radar, but for this pope, elected this year, it was a masterful choice.

My one worry about "Obamacare" as a NOTY choice is that the story isn't finished yet: we don't know whether the positives or negatives will win out in the end. But Elizabeth T is right: the way supporters turned the intended insult on its head is certainly food for thought.

Malala, for me, fails the third criterion: her story would be just as compelling if her name was Amira or Fatima or Zahara.

December 3, 2013 7:12 AM

I'm not Catholic but I have a big connection to Assisi and the original namesake and I also vote Francis. I know a teenage girl Frances and I love that it's getting dusted off for girls (though I abhor Fanny/Fran/Franny and much prefer swinging retro gender-bending Frankie). I feel like Francis makes beauty Francesca more approachable, which somehow 80% of people mispronounce despite being a classic. At least with Pope Francis you'd have a talking point if you did have to correct someone, instead of it just being an elaboration of a name nobody is interested in. 

((As a name enthusiast/onomatomaniac I also think the study of Saint Francis will turn up a lovely selection of related names for history buffs or Catholics, such as the Spanish version of Saint Francis's fellow patron saint of Italy, Catalina de Siena. I think Catalina is an extra-lovely rendition of Catherine/Caterina.)) 

I'd also suggest Linden. This has been one of my personal (secret) favorites for a long time, the name of a town in my home state and a beloved tree, but as the surname of a female main character on popular show The Killing (who goes by Linden for the most part), it seems like it's being seriously considered for a girl for possibly the first time, certainly as far as my (admittedly scant) research on that particular name has gone. Variants such as Lyndon seem to always have been male, so this follows the unisex bent. I see Linden and Laurel as the fresh updates for past favorites Laura, Linda, and Lauren. 

December 3, 2013 3:24 PM


December 3, 2013 4:01 PM

Francis wins for me, hands-down. It squarely hits all of the criteria:

- Dramatic change? Well, before last spring, the only remarkable thing about Francis was figuring out whether it was masculine or feminine. (My boss' given name technically translates to Francis, but he's only ever used Frank, because Francis just confused people.)

- Reflection or influence on broader trends? Well, the pope is certainly making his own trends, noticeable even to a non-Catholic like me. It remains to be seen how the pope's name choice will affect the popularity of the name, but if nothing else, we all now know exactly how to spell it. :)

- Naminess? Well, yeah, that's the whole point. He up and managed to choose a name that is both thoroughly Catholic and has never been chosen by a pope. That it neatly summarizes his entire agenda in a single word is just a nice bonus.

December 3, 2013 4:46 PM

Trayvon came up a bunch in this discussion last year. I agree that it's an important story of the year, and the name factors in as a symbol of African-American naming culture, but last year someone brought up the fact that it might be in poor taste to nominate a murder victim for name of the year. I kind of agree with that.

George, I think fails rule #3 for the same reason that Pippa failed it last year. The royal baby got a lot of press, but the coverage would have been the same regardless of the name. And the traditional British royals picked a tradtional British name. Substutite "Charles" or "Henry" and it's the same story. Now if they had called the baby Jaxon, that might change the game, but as it stands...

I also agree with previous poster that Malala, while inspirational and courageous, would have displayed those same characteristics with another name. 

The political choices of Obamacare and Snowden seem too political and not enough name, to me. They were important stories but not so much because of the names. 

I will vote for Francis because of many of the reasons already stated: the name is part of the story, the name has many layers of symbolism that apply directly to the story and the story was a big one this year.

My other nomination is Tris. The heroine of a wildly popular series of young adult books that are now being made into movies, Tris symbolizes our current trend of making new modern nicknames out of classic names.

Tris is short for Beatrice, and fits in with other names of this trend: Xander for Alexander, Topher for Christopher, Liam for William. Tris is unusual in that it's one of the first female examples of this trend but it also continues the idea. People are searching for a formal classic name that everyone has heard of, but they want to jazz it up with a fresh new nickname. 

By mk
December 3, 2013 5:08 PM

I like the suggestion of Obamacare. I am very interested in all the nominations for Francis. I grew up Catholic and know many Catholics, but I don't recall anyone discussing the name choice with any major interest. But if Francis/Frances is getting more notice now, I'm happy.


By Jude
December 3, 2013 9:14 PM

Another vote for Francis, both because I love the name and I think the name itself was such a big part of the story. Choosing to honor St. Francis was a pretty bold move on the pope's part, and he's obviously making an effort to live up to his namesake. His actions have a lot of people around the globe (both Catholic and non-Catholic) talking. Plus, having two popes living is such a remarkable event that I think his election drew much more attention than a normal papal election might. 

Trayvon would have been more appropriate last year, I think, and some of the other choices don't seem to fit the third criteria well. But this has seemed like a much less namey year to me - I remember other years where I could think of many options, but Francis is the only that leaps out at me for 2013.

December 4, 2013 2:51 AM

Oh it must be Malala! In my house with a one-year-old and a five-year-old when I hear George I think of a curious monkey and Francis is a badger with bedtime worries and a baby sister, but both Malala, and Trayvon, fit the criterium for NOTY. My official vote goes to Malala. Her name is part of a U.N. slogan: I am Malala. It is a name that was certainly not on my radar before, but now evokes thoughts of strength, power, and courage, just as she spoke about earlier this year on "Malala Day". I think that her name itself, which actually means grief-stricken, is now synonymous with women's rights, children's rights, and peace. 

A previous poster mentions that her name fails third criterion, as it would be just as compelling were her name Amira, Fatima, or Zahara. That doesn't ring true for me, as I believe that the girl herself would be no less fascinating, but the name would be  less weighty if it were something more common such as one of those three. I know people with each of those three names used as examples, but I've never come across a Malala. For me, the name only became known to me from Malala Yousafzai. I'd suspect that the name will see an increase in usage in Western countries, from people who hadn't heard of it a year ago. 

Additionally, Malala herself is still so young, and I believe that she will continue to do amazing things with her life, and her name will continue to share her legacy. The name Malala will continue to carry the weight of social justice and positive change.

December 4, 2013 4:30 AM

Here is another suggestion, allthough extremly political again and concerning the names of a geographical object, not a person

SENKAKU ISLANDS. Due to political and military pressure by the PR China, the islands are now in the media referred to as SENKAKU ISLANDS OR DIAOZU ISLANDS, putting the chinese claims to an equal level to the japanese rights.

What Francis is concerned: Yes, it is a big name choice and very expressive. I´m just sceptical whether the Pope will hold the promises transported by the name. Too often the office determines the person and not the other way round. Remember that Barack Obama promised to close the Guantanamo Bay Camps?

December 4, 2013 10:57 AM

Khaleesi.  This name came from Game of Thrones and ins't even a character on the show: it's a title.

December 4, 2013 11:26 AM

My 6-year-old came in the room while I was watching a CNN special on Malala and she started asking me why she couldn't go to school. Then she said that her name was pretty.  I actually felt a little disappointed that I had promised the next baby's mn slot to a family member (if it's a girl) because I would have considered using Malala.  This story has a happy ending, if there can be.  I agreed with the Trayvon suggestion but some good points have been made against that choice. I feel very uplifted and hopeful when I hear Malala's name and I agree it is synonymous with her.

By Amy3
December 4, 2013 3:38 PM

I was originally skeptical of the nomination of Francis. However, after reading the compelling arguments in favor of it and particularly those that address how it fits the criteria, I'm casting another vote for it.

By JayF
December 5, 2013 12:43 PM

I guess I still feel that, even if no one starts naming their kid Francis for a while, that Francis fits the times. The focus in the world right now is on social justice, and the name Francis was chosen to reflect this focus on the poor and marginalized. Because it had never been used before, it made an even bigger impact. He's Pope Francis the first, and maybe last, if no one else claims it. But, the use of the name was specifically chosen to send a message, which to me is bigger than George or even Malala, though I think both are good choices. Yes, the royal family spent time picking a name that fit with the family tradition but wasn't too big a name to bear and had the traditional sound they wanted. Malala's meaning is actually an unfortunate coincidence, but her name is beautiful and fits with other names. Maybe the raindrop names that Laura talks about, so I can totally see it gaining in popularity here.

However, Francis wasn't choosing a name to be beautiful, but one because of what it symbolized to him and millions of people, and he is using it as a brand himself and connect himself to something larger. He's like Blue Ivy or The Situation, but with a different end-goal! 

December 6, 2013 3:03 PM

I vote for Francis as well. The name really embodies so much more than just the current pope--the issues that are facing the world today, the history of the church and the saints, and within the church, and even, yes, a the antique revival babynaming trend! I fall right into the "antique charm" category and put Frances on the list for a possible middle name for this baby if she is a girl!

December 11, 2013 5:02 PM

Time Magazine weighs in:

You beat them to the punch though. Great analysis all 'round.

Also, I noticed Snowden was their runner up.

I cast my vote Pope Francis's way.

December 11, 2013 7:08 PM

Also noted in the Time article linked to by Allegra: "Franceso is the most popular male baby name in Italy" because of Pope Francis!

December 12, 2013 11:11 AM

So many political names being considered.

I agree with Francis. People's perception of the name has changed significantly, and it reflects a world-peace effort that a lot of people agree with. I don't know if more people will start using the name Francis, but it is educating people of the corrrect male version of this "androgenous" name.

I don't feel that Trayvon is worthy. To me, its fame feels manufactured because the media was trying to turn a local crime story into a national one. If Trayvon wins a nomination, it would represent the victory of race baiting. For the most part, this country is still a peaceful one, where people can feel safe about going to the grocery store. Trayvon is just not a significant name, nor does it represent anything larger than itself.

Obamacare is another divisive name, but I'd at least consider this one being significant on a large scale. This year, it started out being used positively, with everyone using it. Only toward the last third of the year did it suddenly change connotations to the negative, to the point that the media started refering to it as the Affordable Care Act instead of as Obamacare. The image of Obamacare has changed significantly this year as compared to previous years. It is a divisive name, so I would hate to see it win, but I'd understand if it did.

I'd love it is Snowden wins. He has a cool name.

December 14, 2013 10:59 PM

Sandy. Between Sandy Hook and Hurricane Sandy - this name is no longer bubbly and innocent.

By JayF
December 17, 2013 2:45 PM

Forgot all about Sandy, but that's true. Takes the Sandra Dee out of Sandy...And yet, it's too bad, because with all of the Sydneys walking around, Sandy almost would have been a fun alternative.


July 14, 2014 3:16 PM

Another vote for Francis, both because I love the name and I think the name itself was such a big part of the story. Choosing to honor St. Francis was a pretty bold move on the pope's part, and he's obviously making an effort to live up to his namesake. His actions have a lot of people around the globe (both Catholic and non-Catholic) talking. Plus, having two popes living is such a remarkable event that I think his election drew much more attention than a normal papal election might. 

Trayvon would have been more appropriate last year, I think, and some of the other choices don't seem to fit the third criteria well. But this has seemed like a much less namey year to me - I remember other years where I could think of many options, but Francis is the only that leaps out at me for 2013.

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