There’s nothing subtle about a name like Danger. Its meaning is spelled out right in front of you, with attitude to match.
Meaning-first names, drawn straight from the dictionary or from history, are a growing element of contemporary, high-impact name style. They can be as fresh and bold—or as personal and significant—as any parent might wish, without seeming “made up” or hard to spell or pronounce. And they rise and fall in thematic groups. Here are four meaning-first name styles that made an impact on American baby names last year: three on the way up, and one down.
Rage! Chaos! Babies!
All kinds of creative new word names have been on the rise for years, including deadly ones. But 2019 saw a more specific spike in abstract words suggesting rage and chaos. Ten such words have appeared in recent name stats, meaning they were given to five or more boys or girls in a single year:
Blitz, Chaos, Danger, Furious, Havoc, Hazard, Mayhem, Rage, Riot (M &F), Savage
While these names are still uncommon, they were up a collective 19% last year. Names like Havoc and Furious seem a step beyond the gun-related names popular with firearms aficionados, or fiery “doer” names like Gunner and Raider. They are celebrations of danger and destruction themselves.
The Good Book’s Books
This trend has been longer in the making: biblical names that aren’t just from the Bible, but are the Bible. Fittingly, it all started with Genesis. That name started gaining steam for girls in the 1980s when Jen/Jenny was a ubiquitous nickname, and when the band Genesis and later the Sega Genesis gaming console opened the word up to broader interpretations.
Genesis remains the only true hit in the category, but parents are starting to broaden their horizons. The names Exodus (M&F), Leviticus (M) and Psalms (M&F) were given to over 100 babies last year, an all-time high.
Animals, Short and Swift
Think of a pugnacious mammal with a punchy one-syllable name, and it’s probably a rising boy’s name. The names Bear, Bronc, Buck, Colt, Cub, Lynx and Wolf all rose in 2019. The one notable exception was Fox, a name that started climbing back in the X-Files days of Fox Mulder and has since become increasing politicized.
As for girls’, parents mostly stick to gentler bird names. Dove, Lark and Wren are three rising examples.
As American communities reckon with stone and bronze monuments to the Confederacy, another kind of monument is already falling. Baby names associated with Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee, P. G. T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis declined in popularity last year.
The names Lee (M & F), Beauregard (M), Jefferson (M) and Davis (M) all dropped, by a combined 11%. While that’s not exactly freefall, it’s a much steeper slide than in previous years and a significant change in trajectory. This will be an interesting trend to watch in 2020, as attitudes toward the Confederacy have become an even more prominent cultural dividing line.
I would love to hear from parents who used one of the names in the rage category. This is a category of names I just don’t understand, but I bet the parents have great stories for choosing them.
When I hear “Jefferson”, I think of Thomas Jefferson, not Confederacy overall. The name might be falling for similar reasons though.
I love meaning-first names, and the rise of the rage names is so interesting to me.