Is Isis the Fastest-Falling Baby Name of All Time?
As I tallied up the biggest baby name trends of the year, one declining name stood out. The name Isis has become one of the fastest-falling, or "most poisoned," baby names of all time. The Egyptian goddess name, which became linked to a brutal jihadist group, lost 70.5% of its U.S. popularity in a single year. That edges out the 70.2% drop the name Hilary experienced in 2003.
Here's the recent history of babies named Isis in graphical terms:
For perspective, compare to the effect of World War II on the popularity of the names Adolph/Adolf and Benito:
The decline in Isis is arguably the steepest one-year decline ever recorded. In 2013, statistician Hilary Parker analyzed historical data and concluded that her own name Hilary held the record for the biggest percentage drop among baby names with a prior multiyear record of popularity. Parker dubbed it the "most poisoned" name ever. Isis fell by an even higher percentage, which could set a new mark. On the other hand, Hilary started out from a higher popularity point, meaning more babies were affected. My own "name hotness formula" would take this into account and give Hilary the edge.
Regardless of whether the decline of Isis is a record holder, it's fair to say it represents a historically dramatic impact of world events on names. This negative effect comes even as positive effects of politics and world events on names disappear. Parents used to routinely name babies after political and military heroes; now they steer far clear of political homages. Notably, the decline of the name Hilary (and a similar fall for Hillary) coincided with the first Clinton administration.
Names from movies, sports, tv and music can still soar as well as sink. But when it comes to reminders of the more serious world around us – in tragedy, and even in triumph – today's baby names go in only one direction: down.