A is for Acela….Meet 26 intriguing new names that debuted in 2021
There is always something new under the sun. Over 100,000 different names have already appeared in US national baby name statistics, yet every year parents introduce hundreds of brand-new choices. These debuts come from every source you can imagine and represent an extraordinary range of cultures and interests. Because names, more than ever before, reflect every part of the world around us.
Meet some of the noteworthy, intriguing, and remarkable names that were given to five or more boys or girls for the first time in 2021.
A: Acela (F)
Amtrak’s high-speed rail service has a simple, fashionable-sounding name with an extra burst of acceleration. The biggest surprise is that this name didn’t happen sooner.
B: Biden (M)
How fitting that “Amtrak Joe” Biden makes his baby-name debut alongside Acela. Political homage names are rare today, so this one is notable. Yet it’s still extremely uncommon compared to presidential names of earlier generations.
C: Celaena (F)
Calaena Sardothien is an assassin queen in Throne of Glass, a popular young adult fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas. The first book in the series was published a decade ago, so its young fans are now coming of age.
D: Darlington (M)
There are dozens of places called Darlington around the globe, but it’s a fair bet that the one that matters most to this name is the NASCAR Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
E: Endymion (M)
In Greek mythology, Endymion was a beautiful human sent into endless sleep by the gods. Endymion is also the title of a Keats poem and the name of various characters in science fiction, fantasy and video games.
F: Five (M)
Until this year, the only numbers used as names were those ending in -n: Seven, Eleven, Million, Billion, Trillion. Now you can add both Five and Three to the equation.
G: Grit (M)
Grit is a German girl’s name short for Margrit. But for boys, it’s usually chosen for the meaning “resolve and strength of character,” as in the John Wayne film title True Grit. Not coincidentally, the name Johnwayne also made its first appearance this year.
H: Hiraeth (F, M)
Hiraeth is a Welsh word for a nostalgic, homesick longing for a departed past or unreachable homeland—perhaps even one that never really existed. It is not traditionally used as a name in Wales.
I: Ice (M, F)
This ultra-simple, ultra-chill name made a double debut on the boys’ and girls’ charts. Ice, Ice babies.
J: Jerusalema (F)
The uplifting Zulu-language song “Jerusalema,” by South African musicians Master KG and Nomcebo, was a global hit and sparked a viral dance craze.
K: Koufax (M)
49 years after baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax entered the Hall of Fame, he received a new honor in the form of baby names. Give credit to the fashion appeal of that final x. Based on current trajectories, in 2022 more boys will be named Koufax than Sandy.
L: Lobo (M), Lupine (F)
Lobo is Spanish for “wolf.” Lupine is the name of a flowering plant, but also an adjective meaning “wolflike.” This pair, combined with new all-time highs for the names Wolf and Wolfgang, makes for the wolfiest name year ever.
M: Maevynn, Maeverly (F)
America has fully embraced the classic Irish name Maeve: its popularity has risen by 350% over the past decade. And like a hit song, a hit name inspires remixes.
N: Nezuko (F)
In the manga and anime Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Nezuko Kamado is a demon girl who wears a bamboo muzzle to restrain her from tasting human blood.
O: Ohtli (M)
A Nahuatl word meaning “path” or “road,” Ohtli is the name of an award given by the Mexican government to individuals who have helped Mexican citizens around the world.
P: Praisely (F)
The US popularity map of the hit name Paisley is a remarkably close match for the map of evangelical Christianity. This faith-forward twist on the name seems like a natural next step we should expect to hear more in the future.
Q: Quimby (F)
The surname Quimby (and fellow new entry Quinsley) follow the rise of Quincy for girls. For a role model, Harriet Quimby was America’s first licensed pilot. The Simpsons’ Mayor Quimby and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, though, are more widely known.
R: Rivia (F)
Geralt of Rivia, the protagonist of the tv series The Witcher, is a mutated monster hunter. To fans, Rivia will sound like a medieval fantasy kingdom. To everyone else, it will sound like a fresh cousin to Olivia.
S: Saturn (M)
It was a big year for planets and Roman deities. In addition to Saturn, Neptune made its first appearance in the boys’ stats.
T: Trhue (F)
The name Trhue demonstrates the continuing growth of the “ornamental H” in American names. Another new example is Rhip, which also corresponds to a military acronym meaning “rank has its privileges.”
U: Umayr (M)
U is America’s least common name initial. Out of over a thousand brand-new names, this Arabic and Urdu name was the one and only debut starting with U.
V: Vignette (F)
In writing, a vignette is a brief, evocative narrative of a scene or episode. In art, it’s a small design that fills a space, or a small borderless portrait. The French -ette ending that indicates the small scales is also familiar from diminutive names like Annette.
W: Whiskey (M)
This spirit adds a rare male example to the mostly female roster of intoxicating baby names.
X: Xoán (M)
Xoán is the Galician form of John. Xoel, the Galician form of Joel, premiered in the US a few years ago. Other Galician X names like Xurxo (George) still await discovery.
Y: Yasuke (M)
The anime series Yasuke was inspired by a true historical figure. Yasuke was a swordfighter of African origin in 16th-century Japan, fighting for the “Great Unifier” Oda Nobunaga.
Z: ZaZa (F)
ZaZa is the performing name of child rapper, dancer and internet sensation Zahara Bean. It is also a slang term for high-end cannabis, and the title of multiple rap songs.