Nominations, Please! What Was the Name of the Year for 2016?

Nov 21st 2016


Each year I turn to YOU with a name question: What name is a time capsule of the year just past? What was the Name of the Year?

The Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year isn't necessarily the most popular baby name. It's a name that changed in usage or significance during the year, and points to more changes around us. It highlights the way names connect to our world, shaping the meaning and texture of events.

Past NOTYs have come from realms ranging from entertainment to politics to technology. They've represented babies (like Blue Ivy), adults (Pope Francis), fictional characters (Renesmeee) and concepts (Joe). Feel free to cast your net wide, from silly to serious. But in these eventful times, please keep in mind that the target is a name of the year, not a person or story of the year. The name itself should be at the heart of the story.

In the comments section below, please share your Name of the Year nominations and reasoning. As you're thinking about the year in names, keep a lookout for these criteria:

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

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

- The "naminess" of a story or issue. How essential is the name to the event? Is it clearly a name, reflecting something about names and how they're used and perceived, and not a "term"?

And remember that your comments themselves count, too! The number of nominations factors into in the NOTY choice, and compelling arguments in support of your candidate count most of all.

 

Comments

1
November 21, 2016 12:38 PM

Much as I don't want to attend to the reality of our present situtation or bring it up on this lovely site, I'd have to say Drumpf.

2
November 21, 2016 4:27 PM

My nomination is very USA centric but...Simone.  We had two olympic gold medalist with this name this year. Both Simone's made history with winning Gold for their events Biles set an american record winning a record high 4 gold medals in a single olympics. Manuel set an american, and olympic record for her event and was the first African American woman to win gold in a swimming event.  IMHO the preception of the name has shifted from a frilly french girl name, to a more spunky athletic one.

3
November 21, 2016 4:54 PM

Can I put in a vote for 'Brexit'?

The first time I heard the term was in 2011-12ish when the possibility of 'Grexit' (Greece leaving the EU) was high. 'Brexit' at the time was a beyond-fringe idea, and the tabloid-gossip-style mashup made the concept almost laughable, something not to be taken seriously. That little mashup had a heck of a lot of power to convey an idea (but perhaps more importantly, emotion), despite the fact that it was (and *is*) an empty term with no clear meaning at the level of law and policy, so we're now talking about 'soft Brexit' and 'hard Brexit' with no clear idea what any of it actually means six months from now, a year, five years, or ten.

'Brexit' came to mean whatever the speaker wanted it to mean--a heroic stand for democracy in the face of European autocracy to one audience, or a seriously nasty code for white nationalism to another--which means that even as the European countries are using the term to describe what's happening in UK governing structures, it has both of those connotations behind it, and whatever that means for the hearer.

I think the invention of 'Brexit' and its trajectory over the last five years neatly sums up both the extraordinary power of names, and this year that is 2016.

4
November 22, 2016 12:37 PM

Becky, as in "Becky with the good hair" from Beyonce's "Sorry."  The name Becky is widely seen as a stand-in for the name of a white woman her husband cheated with.  When the song came out there was a lot of speculation about the real-life identity of the "Becky" in Beyonce's life as well as discussion of the significance of that particular name as representing an unlikeable white woman. 

Apparently the perception of Becky as a white name might go back much further, but this was the first I had heard of it.  There's a great article here:

http://fusion.net/story/298448/history-becky-with-the-good-hair-beyonce-lemonade/

"Some of us recognized it as the ultimate dig, a critique that is ambiguous yet sharply acute. Becky is white. Becky is basic. Becky is bitchy. Nobody likes her."

 

5
November 22, 2016 4:58 PM

Brexit? Has one person actually been named "Brexit", before or after it happened?

6
November 22, 2016 7:12 PM

"Donald" should be the name of the year.  Not "Donald Trump", or "Trump", or "The Donald", but just "Donald".  I feel like the meaning of the name has changed DRAMATICALLY since last year, and now holds a distinction that will be hard to let go of.  "Donald" is not old enough to have a vintage feel, but may have a resurgance of naming due to people who admire the man and his politics.  On the other hand, there will be people who cringe at the name for a long time due to their views of his ideas and actions.  Perhaps there has never been a name more devisive!  Donald Trump is known for hating for people to call him by only his first name, rather than "Mr. Trump" or something similar.  It's also distinct, as he does not go by a nickname of "Don" or "Donny", and the use of the full name sets "Donald" apart from common trends of nicknames ("Ella" vs. "Isabella" for example).  

7
November 22, 2016 7:31 PM

ClaireP, the Name of the Year isn't necessarily the name of a person. Places and things/concepts also have names.

I hate and detest politics, so I second the nomination of Simone, which went in the space of two weeks from a seldom-heard French name to a well-loved powerful girl's name with athletic connotations.

8
November 22, 2016 7:55 PM

I nominate Brock. I wish I had a more positive name choice, but it hasn't been that kind of year. With the Stanford rape case and Brock Turner, no name changed in connotation more dramatically in 2016. You can see the lively discussion in commnets of the "Autum-Inspired Names for Boys." Brock is probably inextricably connected to the image of white male priveledge and rape.

9
By hka
November 22, 2016 8:02 PM

Alexander Hamilton - no longer just that guy who died in a duel.

10
November 22, 2016 8:27 PM

I'm going to put Hillary out there. Sure, she's been around forever. Widely known, love her or not. It's not the first time she ran for president, but first woman nominee.

People call Trump -Trump, Donald Trump, Mr. Trump, the Donald, Drumpt. And if the name Donald was mentioned, you knew who was being talked about.

Hillary Clinton also has several monikers, Clinton, Secretary Clinton, Mrs. Clinton.

But usually when the two nominees were talked about, it was Trump and Hillary, Hillary and Trump.

People almost always used the first name when referring to her.

Besides the female factor (or because of), that was really different.

Last time the two nominees were both not incumbents was Obama v McCain. Both were Senators. Usually the last name or  last name with both titles were used. It was never Barack and McCain or John and Obama. But Hillary and Trump or Trump and Hillary was a pretty normal thing to hear during a not normal election.

11
November 23, 2016 10:06 AM

The name of the year 2016 must have something to do with the really extraordinary presidential elections. But I am not sure which one to choose: Bernie, for the surprise Democratic candiate BERNIE Sanders, or either Donald or Trump for the president elected?

I won't choose Hillary, her name was present over too many years to spell "2016" at me.

 

--elbowin

12
November 23, 2016 11:02 AM

I'll second the nomination for Donald. It really signifies the culture we are apparentky living in.

13
By CGDH
November 23, 2016 12:00 PM

I think both Becky and Hamilton would be solid choices.

But I think the political situation is too overwhelming to let anything else claim "of the year" status.

"Donald" may be important, but it's not really about the name Donald; if anything, the story there should be "Trump," as in the convergence of name, verb, epithet, and cheer. These days, you can say "Trump!" to someone and, depending on context, it can take on a whole range of meanings, from "screw you" to "leave America" to "you're a racist." Whatever your politics, that's a solid name story.

I also see the logic in "Brexit" as the Name of the Year. That's an important story and encapsulation of a worldwide political moment, all tied up in a distinctive name. Endlessly flexible (Grexit?) and begging for parody (Quitaly? Portugone? Bailgaria? Polskedaddle?), the name is a big part of the story. 

14
By PJ
November 23, 2016 1:08 PM

My vote is for Becky. Beyonce's album was huge and topical, relating to the pain and resistance of black female experience in this country.

Her mention of "Becky with the good hair" has layers of meaning in terms of white beauty standards. There were several articles about whether or not calling someone a "Becky" was racist. I've seen some articles mention that the idea of Becky as a scheming social climber goes back to Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair.

Then there's Sir Mixalot's Becky, who is clearly white and is talking to her friend about dismissing black women's bodies.

The tension in "Becky" is that the name symbolizes both a wholesome sweet girl-next-door vibe (Becky from Tom Sawyer)  and also a racial critique about beauty standards and how the dominant culture skews towards whiteness when thinking or talking about what is attractive.

15
By JayF
November 23, 2016 2:58 PM

I think the name Bill can't enjoy a resurgence anytime soon. Not after a year of Bill Cosby in the news and more recently revisiting Bill Clinton's extramarital activities. It's just lost so much of its charm... It was already on a path to disuse. I feel like a new parent would really just say, hmm before using it right now...

16
By JayF
November 23, 2016 3:02 PM

iel nna, it was even in Hillary's logo! She used the H with the arrow... Maybe it was to distinguish herself from her husband during the campaign? Still, good points. Even when Sarah Palin was running for VP, they didn't call her just "Sarah."

17
November 23, 2016 5:47 PM

Uch, I feel ill even suggesting it because I don't want to give them more attention than they've already gotten or legitimize them in any way, but I think that alt-right has potential. The name of the so-called alternative right is all about naming and what a name can do for branding. By giving themselves a name that simultaneously associated them with respectable conservatives and said that they weren't them, they took control of their story. Calling themselves white nationals or white supremacists would not have attracted the same kind of following and wouldn't have gotten them the sort of measured, balanced media coverage that they've been enjoying. 

I don't believe that the name has experienced a large change in how it's used or perceived, but I can't remember ever hearing the name until rather recently, and since then it's dominated my news feeds. However, I do believe that it is a strong reflection of broader social themes. More than the president-elect himself, I think that the worst part of this past election has been bringing hate speech into the open and making people think that it's okay, and the so called "alt-right" have played a large role in that.

EDIT: At least one news outlet agrees with the importance of their name and will no longer be using it.

https://thinkprogress.org/thinkprogress-alt-right-policy-b04fd141d8d4#.45mixxtv9

 

18
November 23, 2016 6:51 PM

There are a lot of fantastic suggestions here. It seems that 2016 has been the year of the name! I don't remember having as many potential candidates in past years.

I like the idea of paying homage to Hamilton in some way. The play came out in 2015 but didn't really gain traction in the popular imagination until 2016. I'm expecting a rise in the number of babies named Schuyler (or maybe Skylar), Eliza, Angelica (but not Peggy!), and possibly Miranda (for Lin-Manuel) and Hamilton. No, the meaning of these names hasn't changed, but the understanding of Hamilton's place in America's founding moments has certainly deepened. And now, as 2016 draws to a close, the show finds itself in the midst of the current political maelstrom.

19
November 24, 2016 9:58 AM

I have already commented here (#11) but I want to extend my thoughts:

 

Bernie – the slogan "Feel the burn" that would be impossible with another name make a point for his name

 

HRC – not Hillary, but HRC. I think it is a remarkable fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton often went by her three initials instead of spelling out one name. This was rarely seen since JFK.

 

--elbowin

20
November 24, 2016 1:16 PM

Of the names of presidential candidates, I also think that Bernie has the most associations, thanks to the "feel the Bern" slogan.

I think the name "Khan" deserves a consideration, for the Gold-star family that spoke at the Democratic national convention.

I also like Hamilton ... although "Aaron Burr, sir" is may be more distinctive in my head.

21
November 27, 2016 12:50 PM

Harambe

The killing of the gorilla sparked animal rights outrage and then quickly became an internet meme. The name even touched on the election with posts of "Harambe for President."

Also, the name's meaning of "working together" or "pulling together" is a fitting sentiment given everything that has gone on in 2016. 

22
November 27, 2016 4:54 PM

I am going to continue to put Hillary out there for the reasons above and for the following:

HRC was used a lot on Twitter mostly, I think, because of the restrictive characters.

Hillary chose to use her maiden name Rodham. Arkansas people didn't like this. True story: I knew people originally from Arkansas years ago. I asked one of the women why she didn't like Hillary. Answer was she "just didn't" and also that she didn't think that she was actually married to Bill because of the last name. NOT because of policies, R v D or anything else. She didn't LIKE her because of her last name!

So...she added Clinton to last name. Then, she dropped her last name. Then she was just Hillary Clinton. She changed her name two times plus her style so that her husband could become president.

Now she is reduced to just Hillary. Can't be Rodham - Rodham can't even be middle; Clinton is husband's last name, so we get confused.

SHE WAS REDUCED TO HILLARY!

Hillary is 2016 because 2016 is about women not taken seriously. 2016 is about people chosing a racist over a qualified person. 2016 is about celebrity over policy for the good of the American people and actually the world.

Hillary not only is not president, but not even NOTY on a baby name site? Insert really bad langauge here!

 

23
November 29, 2016 1:10 PM

Ivanka

 

It's foreign and alluring and oh so influential.

24
November 29, 2016 5:31 PM

I'm going to have to say Trump after hearing it used in so many ways, both good and bad ("love trumps hate", etc.). Second choice is Brexit ;)

25
November 29, 2016 6:33 PM

Hamilton. because you could really name somebody that. Historic ,  but timeless.

26
November 30, 2016 6:44 AM

Shakeh

  Armenian female name..beacause it comes from deep heritage  and  is a lovable and beautiful name.

27
December 14, 2016 10:10 AM

I feel bad for kids named Donald, must be tough for them to be bullied in school. I know someone who has a kid called Donald and he already had to change classes 2 times.

Poor Donald

28
November 30, 2016 10:52 AM

As far as impact on culture, I would vote either for Donald or for Hamilton.

It'll be interesting to see if we have new Donalds in the U.S. post election, given that the previous famous Donald was a Duck. But Donald is still in the news so much that the name doesn't seem very illuminating as a NOTY choice. Maybe it is too tied to a single person, rather than being famous as a name. 

Hamilton was also a cultural sensation, is (slightly) less politicized, and imo is more likely to inspire future baby namesakes. (Does anyone remember Hamilton from the kiddie tv show Maggie and the Ferocious Beast? I loved that pig.) 

29
November 30, 2016 11:04 AM

Is this a name for a boy or a girl?

 

30
November 30, 2016 11:05 AM

Becky is a nickname for Rebecca.

 

31
November 30, 2016 1:44 PM

In support of my nomination, I'm going to point out how use of the name Alt-Right has been gaining traction in the news.

Two days ago, the Associated Press's Vice President for Standards published an article about acceptable uses of the term going forward: https://blog.ap.org/behind-the-news/writing-about-the-alt-right

Then today, I saw that there is a Google Chrome extension that replaces "Alt-Right" with "White Supremacy". While the extension, called “Stop Normalizing The Alt Right” has been available for a couple of weeks, its existence has more recently been picked up by media sources and lots of articles are being published about it, bringing the importance of the term into people's Facebook feeds. And apparently it's not the only one of its kind. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/google-chrome-extension-replaces-alt-right-with-white-supremacy_us_583c6106e4b09b60560157b6?

This term brings into focus how names matter. Names help frame people's expectations and associations. Perhaps a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and a name cannot change something's intrinsic characteristics, but a hate group by a different name wouldn't be gaining mainstream acceptability. Challenging the name, challenging the normalization of hatred, calling out how they are using a name to secure support is the story. It's the story of how the American election has brought fear and hatred into the foreground of people's consciousness and discourse, and how a hate group is using their name to prey on these weaknesses.

32
By Amy3
November 30, 2016 2:48 PM

As much as it pains me personally to do so, I'm casting my vote for "alt-right" with a second place vote for "Brexit."

I agree with Karyn's assessment that the name is a huge part of the alt-right story. If they'd called themselves what they are - white supremacists and white nationalists - they'd never have gained the traction in the mainstream media that they have. The push to rebrand them more honestly further demonstrates the importance of the name to the story. 

With regard to Brexit, I can't say it better than CDGH, "That's an important story and encapsulation of a worldwide political moment, all tied up in a distinctive name. Endlessly flexible (Grexit?) and begging for parody (Quitaly? Portugone? Bailgaria? Polskedaddle?), the name is a big part of the story."

33
November 30, 2016 4:35 PM

Brexit and Trump are obviously the most resonant events in 2016.  As both involved a large number of people making a choice without enough consideration of the consequences, the year can be summed up in one name: "Boaty McBoatface".

34
November 30, 2016 10:45 PM

I'm going to cast my vote for Brexit (pun unintended).  I heard from several different people who were speculating that somewhere in the US parents were going to name their child Brexit when the name dominated the news cycle.

35
December 1, 2016 12:33 AM

I would like to second the vote for Harambe. Before 2016, the name Harambe evoked absolutely nothing in the minds of most Americans. Now, there will be literally no other associations. Harambe's death in May was perhaps the inciting incident to the dumpster fire that 2016 has turned out to me. This event encapsulated so many issues in American society - differing ideas about the best way to care for animals and the natural world, widely divergent opinions about child-rearing, and the propensity for ANYTHING to become a meme. And it's all right there in the name - if you say "Harambe" everyone knows what you mean.

36
December 1, 2016 8:36 AM

Karyn makes a really good argument for Alt-Right. I'll just add the observation that it is the supreme irony that the term itself is the politically correct way of saying white supremicist. Considering that much of the election hinged on people's underlying reactions to the whole idea of political correctness, I find that the name Alt-Right itself just encapsulates how complex and confusing are the mental pretzels into which the American public has twisted itself.

37
December 1, 2016 10:42 AM

Hi, this is Laura. I really appreciate the thoughtful commentary here, and I wanted to clarify something about the criteria.

"Name" can be a broad term in different contexts, and the NOTY hasn't always been a traditional personal name. "The Situation," for instance, was a nickname; Siri was the name of a non-person. But it's always a proper noun, and one that in some way reflects personal naming. (I'll edit the post to make this clearer.)

In the past we've ruled out nominees like Arab Spring on this basis, as more of a "term of the year." I believe that alt-right pretty clearly falls into this category as well. Brexit is right on the edge -- thoughts?

38
December 1, 2016 11:38 AM

I think that the name of a group still fits the criterion of being a proper noun. No, it's not the name of an individual, but it's also not the name of a movement nor is it a general term, despite also being used to describe a general philosophical position. Brexit doesn't refer to people, it refers to a political/social movement. Alt-Right refers to a collective made of people who ascribe to certain values and who intentionally chose a name for themselves. For that reason, I think that it still fits the NOTY criteria. But if course, I'm biased, since I nominated it. 

39
By Amy3
December 1, 2016 2:56 PM

I understand your claification, Laura, and I think alt-right is a proper noun. I'd sooner say Brexit doesn't fit the criterion outlined than alt-right.

@jwanders, I had to laugh at Boaty McBoatface! 

40
By PJ
December 1, 2016 3:33 PM

Thanks for the clarification Laura. It does seem like we have this debate every year as we sort through the newsworthy and notable events of the year and pull out the naminess relevence. I remember the fierce and painful debate about "Trayvon" for example.

Clearly this was a year with heightened emotions and political decisions in both the US and Europe and many of us are still reeling from all of it. I know jwanders probably considered Boaty Mcboatface as a toss off nomination but I actually think it encapsulates some of what we're talking about here.

Be careful what you ask for, crowd sourcing, what is and is not a "legitimate" process or name, an underdog that's not taken seriously for good reasons that surprisingly wins, and the element of ridiculous absurdidity that becomes part of public discourse. Sounds like a name to represent 2016 to me.

(Though I still like Becky. C'mon guys.)

41
December 1, 2016 5:51 PM

Thanks for the clarification, Laura!

Becky's an awesome pick (seems so long ago I can hardly believe that was 2016, too!), and definitely less political. And Boaty McBoatface, of course!

For what it's worth, I do think Brexit is something of a 'name' story: I think that the how and the why of the term coming to be relates to personal naming practices in our culture, and is itself an illustration of how powerful those norms and practices are.

In the case of Brexit, it feels like emerging practices, norms, and ideals in personal naming have suddenly left parent-toddler groups and hit the political process: snappy and social-media ready, unique in the sense that your google hits are going to refer to one thing, and following a trend for highly literal mashup names to either honour or refer to people. Names like Joshlyn and Chason have a long history, of course (i.e. Marilyn, Marlene), but the altogether-too-viral-from-10 years ago Renesmee Carlie Cullen of Twilight (for grandparents Renee, Esme, Carlisle, and Charlie) highlighted the concept, and articulated the desire for 'uniqueness' (googleability?). Add to that the tabloid impulse to mesh favourite couple names over the same period (Brangelina, but also Bennifer and TomKat and Kimye and Billary...), and I think you set the stage for the emergence--and acceptance--of a name/term like Brexit.

Portmanteaux aren't new, but 'Brexit' feels like it's more directly related to our cultural affinity for babies called 'Briella' and updates on 'Brangelina' than it is to 'brunch'. 

 

42
December 1, 2016 6:48 PM

Wow. I am so grateful to all of you for this amazing discussion. Your arguments have persuaded me that there are several thoroughly worthy contenders. (I'd be tempted to put it up for a vote, but Boaty McBoatface argues otherwise.)

43
December 1, 2016 7:36 PM

While my vote is still for Harambe, I would argue that Brexit is a legitimate contender. The term Brexit is used as a name for "Great Britain voting to leave the European Union" much the same way that Obamacare is used as a name for "insurance offered under the Affordable Care Act." The collective we took a thing and name-ified it. 

44
December 1, 2016 9:58 PM

In the spirit of trying to avoid politics, I'm going to throw out Cubs/Cubbie, Grandpa Rossy or Wrigley.  I'm not a baseball fan but  the historic win coupled with extensive news coverage and an article I read about the predicted baby boom in Chicago 40 weeks after the World Series win makes me think it should at least be in the conversation.  

45
December 1, 2016 11:52 PM

This is the only serious political discussion I have read in 2016 that has not devolved into a screaming match between trolls. Let me be the first to nominate Baby Name Wizard as the name of the year (sadly the name does not reflect the tenor of 2016, but I'd like to throw out something positive!).

46
By Amy3
December 2, 2016 11:19 AM

I have to say PJ's assessment of Boaty McBoatface - "Be careful what you ask for, crowd sourcing, what is and is not a "legitimate" process or name, an underdog that's not taken seriously for good reasons that surprisingly wins, and the element of ridiculous absurdidity that becomes part of public discourse. Sounds like a name to represent 2016 to me." - is compelling, and encapsulates a lot of what went on in 2016. 

I'm thinking this may be the NOTY. 

(And I totally agree about the discussion not devolving into mud-slinging. BNW readers are awesome!)

47
December 2, 2016 4:21 PM

I vote for Simone too. Biles and Manuel were just so both so awesome at the Olympics. Hamilton, Cubs or Cubs.

48
December 2, 2016 5:10 PM

As we discuss Brexit and alt-right, I wonder if we should also mention BLM or Black Lives Matter, which didn't originate in 2016, but has certainly been part of our national discourse this year.

Politics aside, I have to put another plug in for Simone from the summer Olympics. 

Initially, I thought HRC and Trump should win, but I'd like to demote them to an honorable mention, as they have both been household names for decades and will likely remain so.

49
December 3, 2016 3:02 PM

My vote would be for Harambe. I still see this name everytime I go to Reddit. He has turned into an internet icon for the Millenials and the name was unheard of before this year. Now everyone knows the story and situation surrounding him.

My second choice would be Simone. Not only does it represent two amazing athletes but it reminds everyone of the Olympics that took place this year. Katie Ledecky was another great name that came from the games this year. 

50
December 5, 2016 1:53 PM

I was thinking a little more about why Alt-Right feels like a proper noun instead of a term, and I realized that it's because it was self-appointed. If calling this group of people "the alternative right" to differentiate them from "the religious right" had been an organic process, and then "alternative right" had naturally been shortened to "alt-right", I would definitely call it a term. However, the name was deliberately chosen by the people themselves in order to obfuscate their true politics and to gain legitimacy, which to me makes it the name of a specific collective, not a broad political bent.

My second choice is now Boaty McBoatface. PJ's reasoning 100% convinced me.