Alaska is the land of Winter. Not just the season, the baby name. Alaskans are more likely to name a daughter Winter than any other state in the union—and that’s just the tip of this naming iceberg.
If you search for baby names that are disproportionately popular in Alaska, two apt choices rise far above the others. Denali is the tallest mountain not only in Alaska but in all of North America. It’ rarely heard as a baby name in most of the US, but tied for 141st among girl’s names in Alaska. Looking even higher, Aurora (F), as in the aurora borealis or northern lights, is number six in the state, ahead of Emma.
Other Alaskan names take a broad view of the outdoor experience. In addition to Winter, Wilder (M) and Forrest (M) are hot choices, as they are in the equally wooded states of Maine and Vermont. Even the name Atlas (M) is far more popular in Alaska than anywhere else in the US, suitable for the state that covers the greatest area on the map.
The impact of geography on Alaskan baby names runs even deeper than a first glance suggests. Parents frequently pay homage to the landscape with subtler name choices, such as:
- Thatcher (M), as in Point Thatcher, a cape in the Alexander Archipelago
- Sterling (M), a town that’s a popular launch point for wilderness travel
- Spencer (F), as in the Spencer Glacier and Spencer Lake
You can see this trend in state’s most famous family of names, the children of former Governor Sarah Palin. Eldest daughter Bristol was named for Bristol Bay, the easternmost point of the Bering Sea. The name Bristol ranks #101 for Alaskan girls. Piper (F), which elsewhere might sound like a surname or a bird, is more likely to suggest the Piper Cub bush plane in rural Alaska.
Alaska ranks just 13th among US states in the percentage of its population with Scandinavian roots. States like Minnesota and North Dakota boast several times as many Scandinavians. Yet it’s Alaska that reigns as America’s Nordic naming leader. Take a look at this all-star lineup of names that are much more popular in Alaska than anywhere else in the country:
The driving force behind this Nordic name boom seems to be style. The names are associated with a landscape of mountains, snow and ice. That image clearly speaks to parents of America’s own frozen North.