2020 was a year like no other. In a time of loss, division and moral reckoning, the fastest rising names of the year were not hot new celebrity names, but memorials.
Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash in January, 2020. Kobe was the #1 fastest rising boy’s name of the year; Gianna was the #1 fastest rising girl’s name. What’s more, the alternate spelling Jianna was the #5 fastest-rising name for girls.
There can be little doubt that the names were heartfelt homages rather than just style phenomena. Both names were already familiar and had hit long popularity plateaus, and their rise was sudden and dramatic. The jump in the name Gianna in particular was one of the sharpest of the modern naming era, a 130% rise in a name that already ranked in the top 100.
Gianna and Kobe weren’t the only baby names that remembered lives lost too soon. The name Naya jumped back into the top 1000 in honor of actress Naya Rivera, and the number of babies named Chadwick rose by 50% to honor actor Chadwick Boseman. Each performer made an impact with barrier-breaking roles that will be long remembered.
More Trends: Influencer Babies, Star Wars Villains
Spanish-language television is a reliable source of new name hits, and its most reliable hitmakers of all are Larry Hernández and Kenia Ontiveros of Larrymania. The couple welcomed their third daughter, Dalett, in 2020. Her name was the #1 new baby name of the year, just as her sister’s names Daleyza and Dalary were before her.
One key to the family’s baby naming influence is that their children are part of the on-screen story. Larrymania chronicles the family’s life, so the kids grow up on camera, “personalities” from day one. That’s increasingly true of the children of social media influencers as well, and name trends tell the tale.
The #2 fastest-rising girl’s name of the year is Avayah, the new baby in the Banks family. The family’s 600,000 YouTube subscribers can watch Avayah’s birth video, her first time meeting her family, and much, much more. Then there’s baby Souline, whose parents run the YouTube prank series “This is L&S,” and baby Ehlani, daughter of an Instagram influencer who had her own popular Instagram account from birth. Souline and Ehlani were two of the top new names of the year.
Finally, the fastest-rising name of 2016 is back for another round. Kylo, as in Star Wars antihero Kylo Ren, nearly tripled in popularity after the murderous villain showed his softer side. It was a big year for Star Wars names in general, with Anakin (aka Darth Vader) making a big jump to its all-time peak. On the flip side, Game of Thrones names fell across the board, as fans became disenchanted with the franchise after its unpopular ending. Popular GoT names like Arya and Khaleesi fell fast. Fans are not fickle, but you don’t want to cross them.
The complete lists of the fastest-rising names and names new vs. last year:
|RISING GIRLS||RISING BOYS|
|NEW GIRLS||NEW BOYS|
Your boy debuts are wrong: those names all show up in previous years… and I’m now very curious about what the common thread is for those names!
I think we’re just using different definitions of “new” here, I should have been clearer about that. These aren’t first-time-ever-in-the-stats names (more on those soon!) I was just trying to distinguish between two categories of fast-rising names, the names bursting on the scene after having been rare vs. the more popular names making moves that affect much larger numbers of babies but are smaller percentage changes.
Nevermind, I see what I was misreading. These are the fastest rising “new” names — even though they aren’t quite new, because they’re showing up in previous years, they weren’t used in 2019. This explains the different from my criteria of “new as in new to the SSA list entirely”.
Also, I would like to note that the Game of Thrones name Tormund is a new debut, bucking the trend of Game of Thrones names falling.
Do you think the Tormund and Fjord impulses might be related? There seems to be a vast appetite right now for intensely Nordic names. (And Tormund is used in Norway, as well as
Beyond the Wall!)
An appetite for “intensely Nordic” names may be why my daughter’s name (Astrid) keeps rising in defiance of the overwhelming popularity of liquid names. When she was born in 2001 the name wasn’t in the top 1000 and hadn’t been for years. Even when it made an appearance it was almost always in the high 900s. Now it’s been on a steady march upward. I’d wondered why, but maybe you’ve answered that question for me.
Geralt is yet another fantasy TV series name, the main character of The Witcher.
So is the name Yennefer, a new debut!
I just finished writing a lecture on Chadwick Boseman, but the bottom line is that the name has been jumping around from the 30s through the teens in the past decade, and thus I don’t think there’s really a significant uptick in usage this past year.
Are we just not going to talk about Denise?
Ah, busted! I dropped Denise from an earlier draft because it was all over the place, but that was a mistake–it definitely leaps out in the stats. Thank you for keeping me honest!
The French name Denise, which was an American favorite from the 1950s-70s, resurged last year as a Latina name. The key spark was Denisse Novoa, a contestant in the athletic competition show Exatlón Estados Unidos. The double-s and single-s spellings of the name both ranked among the 10 fastest rising names for girls.