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What is Your Pick for the 2021 Name of the Year?

November 16, 2021 namerology 15 Comments

What is Your Pick for the 2021 Name of the Year?

November 16, 2021 Namerology 15 Comments
Nominate now: NOTY (Name of the Year)

Names are part of the story of our times. A name can spark a fashion craze or a flame war. It can become a meme that makes us laugh or an insult that makes us cringe. It can symbolize change, or mark a social dividing line, or capture a cultural moment in a single word.

What was the Name of the Year for 2021?

What name did you suddenly hear everywhere, or find yourself talking about? The NOTY doesn’t have to be a baby name per se. Past honorees have included symbolic names, brand names, and viral jokes as well as names of actual babies. But a human-style name should be the focal point, reflecting the role of names in our society.

Please nominate names, second others’ nominations, and discuss your thinking in the comments here. (Or if you prefer, on Twitter: @NamerologyTalk).

Some criteria to consider:

  • How central is the name to the story?
  • How has the name changed or emerged in 2021?
  • How does the name story connect to broader trends, in names or in the world?

Let the name talk begin!


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  • Betsy Howard November 16, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    I think “Meghan” is a contender. It’s amazing that such a common name can now be used to refer to one person with no surname. She’s kept herself in the news throughout the year. And the divide between those who favor her vs the royal family symbolizes the dividedness of our time.

    • Zita
      Zita November 17, 2021 at 5:57 pm

      I think Lilibet might be an even better choice. The name really is central there, and the very fact that an honor name is being taken as an insult (at least by observers – I don’t think we actually have any idea how the royal family feels about it?) is very reflective of the dividedness you mention, and how social media culture encourages people to jump to take sides even when they don’t really know the full inside story.

  • katie November 17, 2021 at 4:28 am

    My first thought was Pfizer and/or Moderna. Two names of companies that went from obscure or at least not frequently thought about, a frequent part of our conversation. At this point they are basically synonymous with the fastest vaccine ever developed.

    I also find it interesting how the companies have to rename their vaccines once they get FDA approval. I think it’s too late for that though – colloquially at least for the forseeable future everyone will refer to the vaccines by the companies that created them. It’s hard to imagine suddenly switching to “Comirnaty” (not very catchy…)

  • Elizabeth November 17, 2021 at 1:10 pm

    I painfully submit Brandon. Ugh. But the name is completely central to the story (how’s that for a redundancy?) and sums up so much of what is wrong with our political discourse today.

    • Penguinmom November 18, 2021 at 3:28 pm

      I think you’re right about this one. I read there was even an attempt at a meme response of #ThankYouBrandon.

    • KO November 23, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      Yep, 100% Brandon is the NOTY

    • Amy3 November 23, 2021 at 7:03 pm

      I’m here to sadly cast another vote for Brandon.

    • Kate November 29, 2021 at 8:28 pm

      Seconding the nomination of Brandon.

    • Elizabeth December 2, 2021 at 6:11 pm

      I’d have to put my vote here too, with the same regret many of you have expressed.

  • K November 19, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    It’s shocking to me that some folks still misspell her name.

  • Marisa November 21, 2021 at 9:50 pm

    Maeve. It’s dominating the fastest rising lists this year. (It’s also my daughter’s name.)

  • Maddison November 22, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    I don’t know if it’s really rising but for me I nominate Promise. This year felt like the promise of some semblance of normalcy post 2020 and at times it’s lived up to that and at other times came nowhere near and I think that’s going to continue into 2022 so Promise feels fitting.

  • Elizabeth November 30, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    While I still feel that Brandon is the name of the year due to the essential “naminess” of the story, I think a case can be made for Delta (but hopefully not Omicron). Why do we choose names to call something that is disrupting our lives so much and killing millions of people? (I suppose it can be argued that a Greek letter is not a name, but lots of parents would disagree.) It is certainly easier to use a shorthand call name rather than the genetic sequence for the particular viral variant, but the WHO could have chosen to use words or numbers instead of something that sounds name-like. I think that we have a collective and deep-seated psychological need to name things, even things that might kill us.
    Delta has not charted in the US since the 1930s, but perhaps her time has come. Delta was given to 116 baby girls in 2020.

  • MollyCatherine December 3, 2021 at 3:10 am

    Hm, I’ve only just now learned about Brandon.

    Like Elizabeth, Delta was the nomination I came up with. To the best of my recollection, it was the first variant to be given a Greek letter designation – specifically because it was first identified in India and referring to it as the Indian variant was going to cause a lot more problems than with the prior UK variant. So it marked a change in naming practice related to the themes of racism and xenophobia that society has been wrestling with these past several years. Also, there was the incident where some top brass at Delta Airlines contorted himself into knots to avoid referring to the variant by name. This signified a change in the common usage and understanding of the name, despite the airline and Delta Dental having long been household names, plus usage for fraternities/sororities and in math/science contexts, etc… A common, neutral name/term was no longer neutral. As for baby names, I could see Delta fitting right into trends and appealing to a number of new parents. I would expect it to be shied away from right now but picked up in the near future, when the news cycle has moved on from the delta variant of covid (as it’s already starting to).

  • MeganW December 6, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    I wonder about “Q”.
    The name is part of the story, and the anonymity of the author is important.

    January 6 was just this year, though I admit it sometimes seems like ancient history. That “Q” stopped speaking this year makes this name significant this year as opposed to other years. The US is divided in so many ways, and “Q” is a signifier of that.

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