American Names · Analysis · Modern names

Royalty-Inspired Baby Names

What is up with all the royalty-inspired baby names that are suddenly popular? For a country without a royal family or inherited aristocracy, it looks like Americans are obsessed! Royalty and Reign both debuted in the top 1000 in 2016, and other names like Royal, Prince, and Princess also rose in the charts.

Here is a list of not-so-traditional royal baby names American parents chose in 2016! Rare names are listed by number of uses, while popular names are listed by rank.

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 1 : le roi Édouard le Confesseur
In 2016, King (#152) was a more popular name for baby boys than Edward (#163), a traditional royalty-inspired name.


  • Emperor – 5 boys in 2016, down from 10.
  • Empress – 95 girls, up from 66. 
  • King – #152, up from #163. This is a common surname and fairly old-fashioned baby name. Before King‘s 2006 return to the top 1000, the name hadn’t appeared since 1964. 
  • Queen – 197 girls, up from 148.
  • Prince – #343, up from #388. This name has been rising for several years, but received a large boost from the mononymous singer’s death last year. 
  • Princess – #767, up from #999. Prince’s death might have caused the boost to Princess too. I’d also wager that a very few Princesses were named after Leia
  • Duke – #556, up from #602. Already rising, this is a name that makes people think of college sports, jazz, and John Wayne.
  • Duchess – 14 girls, up from 10 in 2015.
  • Marquis – #943, down from #927.
  • Earl – 109 boys, down from 128.
  • Baron – 134 boys, up from 133. Another spelling, Barron, rose because of Barron Trump. 

If you lived elsewhere in the English-speaking world, there’s a decent chance that most of these title names would be banned. Just look at New Zealand. Strangely, I don’t think the United Kingdom has titled name restrictions; in 2007, the BBC reported that the U.K. only prohibits offensive names. What’s more, the latest England/Wales data indicates that were 72 girls named Princess, 28 boys named Duke, and 20 boys named King.

Titles in other languages:

  • Kaiser – 202 boys, up from 140. German word for “emperor,” English word for a royally delicious sandwich roll. 5 girls also received this name in 2016, so I’d like to point out that the German word for “Empress” is “Kaiserin.”  Kaiserin could be a very pretty name, actually. Would you call her Kai, Erin, or by her full name?  Anyway, Kaiser should have been in the top 1000 but four other boys’ names were used 202 times and three of them preceded Kaiser in alphabetical order. We usually don’t rank names below the top 1000, but Kaiser currently ranks #1001.
  • Reina – #853, up from #954. Reina is Spanish for “queen.” Other variants are Reyna (#666, up from #711), Rayna (#675, up from #722), and Raina (#835, up from #926. I think Star Wars is at least partly responsible for the gains, since these names look and sound so close to “Rey.” However, Reyna, Rayna, and Raina also gained between 2014 and 2015 (but not Reina)…
  • Reine – 12 girls (up from 8 in 2015). French for “queen.” Other spellings Raine (97 girls and 10 boys) and Rayne (#941, +42 boys), along with the first reappearance of Lareine (6 girls – literally “the queen”) in the birth data since the early 1930s. Rayne reentered the top 1000 in 2015! This time, I think both Star Wars and the popularity of the name Reign (see below) are responsible.
  • Rex – #632, up from #681. Latin word for “king.”
  • Regina – #437, up from #517. Latin and Italian word for “queen.” This name is a classic and has never been out of the top 1000, though she’s rebounded in the last few years. I initially assumed ABC’s “Once Upon A Time” was the reason for the revival, but apparently the name started returning the year before the show started.
  • Rey – #868 (up from #904), 63 girls. Spanish word for “king.” Thanks to the popularity of the character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2016 is the first year on record that Rey has been used as a girls’ name. It also rose as a boys’ name.
  • Raja – 13 boys, down from 15 boys and 9 girls. Sanskrit for “king.”
  • Contessa – 16 girls, down from 17. Italian for “countess.”
  • Sultan – 97 boys, up from 69. Arabic for “king.”
  • Marquise – 110 boys, down from 136. Although Marquise is a feminine word in French, the name is strictly masculine.


  • Crown – 6 boys. Data debut!
  • Tiara – 108 girls, down from 112.
  • Taj – 163 boys and 11 girls, down from 200 and 18. Taj means “crown” in Arabic.

Palaces or Castles:

  • Kensington – 261 girls and 12 boys. Kensington ranked #962 in 2015, but surprisingly fell out of the top 1000 in 2016.
  • Windsor – 35 girls and 14 boys, up from 32 girls and 11 boys in 2015.   
  • Versailles – 5 uses; data debut! As far as we know, this name was never used (i.e., wasn’t a name) before 2016. The show Versailles might be the influencing factor.


  • Royalty – #532, 39 boys.  Celebrity baby name! Chris Brown has a daughter Royalty, who was born in 2015. Later that same year, he named an album after her. 
  • Royal – #460 for boys, #628 for girls. Royal is a top 100 girls’ name in Washington D.C.   
  • Reign – #829, 158 boys.  Top 1000 debut! From what I can tell, most of the namesakes coming from celebrity babies are boys! This includes a Kardashian kid born in late 2014. When I’ve seen Reign for girls, it always seems to be a middle name. There’s also a TV show called “Reign” about Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Sovereign – 9 boys (up from 7), 7 girls (reentry). Sovereign is rightly unisex, since both kings and queens can rule in their own right. 
  • Noble – 140 boys, 15 girls. Noble was a top 1000 boys’ name until 1954.
  • Jubilee – 223 girls. A jubilee is a kind of anniversary celebration that usually refers to royalty. 2017 is the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s sapphire jubilee (65 years on the throne). 
  • Castle – 15 boys, down from 27. Are they named after the TV show?
  • Kingdom – 28 boys, up from 16 in 2015. 
  • Majesty – 136 girls (up from 91) and 44 (up from 33).
  • Yamajesty – 5 boys (in 2016 and 2015). Not “Your majesty,” but his sarcastic brother.
  • Sirking – 6 boys in 2016. (doesn’t appear in 2015 data). Between Yamajesty and Sirking, I can tell you this is definitely *not* how you address a royal.

Of course, you can always go with the traditional method of naming after royalty – using their names! Which style do you prefer?

Ultimately, I don’t think Americans are suddenly royalty-crazy…at least, not anymore than we already are. I think this “trend” is serendipity; several factors converged in 2015 to give these names some serious appeal for 2016. The question is: will these names continue to rise in 2017 or is this a curious blip? What do you think?

American Names · Analysis

Star Wars Day 2017

Same image as last year, from this video

Happy Star Wars Day 2017!  May the Fourth be with you…unless you celebrate Revenge of the Fifth?  Whichever side of the Force you prefer, let’s talk about the state of Star Wars baby names in 2017!

On May 4th, 2016, we were just a couple days away from learning the most popular baby names of 2015.  Today, we’re within a week of the 2016 stats.  Because a new Star Wars movie is coming out every year now (and will for the foreseeable future), it’s seriously frustrating that we have to make guesses with the definitive data just around the corner!  That said – when we do have the data, I think we’ll see a decent impact from The Force Awakens on the popular baby names of 2016.  Rogue One might have a little influence, but the 2017 set will better reflect that.

A year ago, we learned that while Episode VII gave a massive boost to the name Kylo in 2015, there weren’t any female baby Reys (that we know of).  This is probably because Force Awakens was released in December – the end of the year, when phenomena have the least time to drastically alter the naming charts.  That said, we already know that 4 Scottish boys* were named Kylo in 2016 (none in 2015).  While we don’t know yet how popular Kylo is in America, it’s fairly safe to assume that it and other names from episode 7 will shine within our 2016 stats.  Rogue One character names, on the other hand, will probably be better reflected by babies born in 2017.

Let’s review the character names most likely to impact the charts, shall we?

The classics:

  • Luke – This popular New Testament name is in the top 30 (Current U.S. rank: #28).  Luke Skywalker barely appeared in Force Awakens, but the sheer hype might influence some parents. 
  • Leia – Current rank: #421.  Princess Leia returned in Episode VII as General Leia Organa.  This name is already rising quickly and will almost certainly continue to do so.  My question – will Leia reach the top 100 by the end of the decade?
  • Harrison – Harrison Ford revived this old-fashioned name when Star Wars first came out in the 70s.  At last count, Harrison ranked #119 in the U.S. and continues to rise.  Considering the actor’s prominent presence in Force Awakens, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harrison cracks the top 100 in the 2016 set. 
  • Carrie – Carrie Fisher passed away at the end of 2016, shortly after the release of Rogue One.  She also featured in Force Awakens, and supposedly finished filming for The Last Jedi (Episode VIII).  Don’t be surprised if Carrie returns to the top 1000 in 2017.  Although this name declines every time the Stephen King tale comes around, I think the actress’s death will give the name a boost.  At last count, only 125 girls were named Carrie.
  • Han – Just 22 boys were named Han in 2015 (and 19 girls…hmm).  Han is close to the German nickname Hans (equivalent to Jack), but the actor’s name has always been a more popular choice with parents than the character’s.
  • Solo – 7 boys in 2015.  Expect to see a few more in the 2016 set.  

At this point you’re probably asking where the prequel names are.  My answer: “it is not a story the Jedi would tell you.”  (In reality, I think we might see more of prequel names in the 2017 data due to the popularity of prequel memes.  Anyway, I’ve written a little about prequel names in last year’s May the Fourth post; still no Jar Jars, yay!  Anakin rose in popularity, though; debuted in 2014 at #960, ranked #912 in 2015.)

The Force Awakens:

  • ReyRey is historically a boys’ name, but as a girls’ name this didn’t even appear in the 2015 set.  Expect to see some in 2016!  (On a side note – I almost convinced my cousin to name her May 4th baby after Rey last year.  She loved it, but her husband wasn’t keen on second middle names!).  If you’d like to know more about this name, check out this post by Maybe It Is Daijirou.
  • Poe Dameron – 8 baby boys were named Poe in 2015.  Fewer than 5 boys (possibly none) were named Poe in 2014, though 5 girls got the name.  Expect to see Poe rise and Dameron debut.
  • Finn – #209.  This was already a trendy baby name before the Force awakened.  It’s possible that some of the Finns in 2015 were named after the John Boyega character, and I wonder how much of a boost there will be in the 2016 list.
  • Kylo Ren – In the year before Episode VII’s release, only 8 boys were named Kylo in the U.S.  At that point, it would have been considered a variation of Kyle.  Then, in 2015, there were 35 boys named Kylo.  Despite a December release and the villainy of Kylo Ren, parents immediately latched onto this name!  My question – could enough parents of babies born in 2016 have chosen this name to make it a top 1000 debut?  We’ll find out soon enough.  Meanwhile, the same number of boys were named Ren in 2015 as they were in 2014. 

Rogue One:

  • Jyn Erso – A new name on everyone’s mind!  There might be some in the 2016 set; although Rogue One also had an end-of-year release, I think the name Jyn Erso was touted around for several months before we finally got to see who she was.  Side note: Does anyone else wonder if we’ll start seeing Jynnifer as a SW-inspired alternative to Jennifer?
  • Galen Erso – Jyn’s father.  Galen (pr. gay-lin) is an Ancient Greek name associated with medicine.  47 boys were named Galen in 2015.
  • Cassian Andor – Cassian is related to the popular Roman name Cassius (ranks #646) through Cassianus.  19 boys were named Cassian in 2015, and I for one would love to see this name take off.
  • Orson Krennic The name Orson is famous because of Orson Welles and Orson Scott Card; 65 boys were named this in 2015.
  • Saw Gerrera – 31 boys were named Saw in 2015. 
  • Bodhi – #499 in U.S.  This name would continue to rise with or without Star Wars!
  • ChirrutI never saw this name before the movie, but maybe it’ll debut in 2017? 

What are your favorite Star Wars Names?  Would you name a child after a character? 

*The Scottish baby name stats can be found here:  Don’t let the dates in the URL fool you – 2015 and 2016 are on the page too.  

**The American data comes from the Social Security Administration.

Modern names

Geeking Out, Crossing The Streams, and Jaylah from Star Trek

I’ve mostly dedicated this weekend to reading the Chronicles of Narnia and watching the new Star Trek movies all the way through, both for the first time.  As if I’m not nerdy enough, I’m currently wearing a t-shirt that says “Expressions of Vader.”  And yes, that means I was wearing Star Wars regalia when I saw the new Star Trek movie today.  Please don’t accuse me of crossing the streams – at least I’m not this guy:

Use the force...

Or do accuse me of crossing the streams, since I’ve just dragged the Ghostbusters into the fray. XD  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie. 

I don’t watch nearly enough sci-fi, though as a self-proclaimed “namenerd” I appreciate how profoundly it can affect baby naming.  Star Wars is a great example.  That series made Leia a popular name, boosted Luke, and created the now mildly-popular name Anakin

Admittedly, I’m a bigger fan of Star Wars than of Star Trek, and I haven’t really considered Trekkie baby naming until now.  I already did know about the Jean-Lucs, and it’s not too much of a stretch to think that those 9 boys named Trek last year were probably named in honor of Star Trek.  But today there was one name in particular that piqued my interest – Jaylah.

Jaylah is a very modern name that currently ranks #483 in the U.S., down from #234 in 2012.  Jayla is the more common spelling, with a current rank of #238, but I’ve also seen rarer spellings like JailaBoth Jayla and Jaylah are losing popularity, Jaylah more rapidly.  Under normal circumstances, we could probably expect them to leave the top 1000 within the next few years and go down in history as “flash-in-the-pans.”  They may still exit soon.  But, maybe not now that there’s a namesake.

Jaylah is a new character introduced in Star Trek Beyond, which only opened this past week.  After aliens attack the Enterprise in uncharted space, the crew mostly ends up imprisoned by their attackers on a nearby planet, with some of the officers racing to find them and each other.  Scotty, completely alone upon landing, ends up cornered by the enemy.  Jaylah appears at the crucial moment and slaughters the enemy, saving Scotty.  It turns out she lives in a long-lost Federation starship, and wants his help fixing it (i.e., getting it airborne).  I don’t want to spoil the movie, so I’ll just say this: she’s awesome.

Back to my point: the name Jaylah not only now has a namesake, but more importantly has nerd cred.  Will the new Star Trek film grant this name a reprieve in her downward popularity spiral?  If so, will other spellings like Jayla become more popular too?  What do you think of the name Jaylah?

P.S.: How’d y’all like the movie? 



May the Fourth Be With You!

This image is from a hilarious video which can be viewed here

Today’s discussion: Star Wars names!

Now, I doubt we’re going to see a particularly large upswing of names from the latest movie.  Force Awakens was only released in December.  That’s enough time for a few more babies to be named Poe, Rey, and Kylo, but the chances that will send any of those names into the 2015 top 1000 are small (Finn is already popular).  Look for them instead next year when the 2016 data comes out!

Still, Star Wars has been influencing baby names ever since 1977, and not only through the propagation of character names.  Harrison likely would have died out if Harrison Ford hadn’t been Han Solo; actually, 1977 saw the lowest ranking for Harrison within the top 1000 ever, at #970.  The rebound was swift and fierce.  Now Harrison will potentially be a top 100 name, either in 2015 or 2016.  It’s only a matter of time.

Leia already existed as a name in the extended SSA data during the 1950s and 60s, but entered the top 1000 in 1978 and 1980, presumably resulting from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.  Then she flew under the radar for 25 years until reentry in 2006.  Revenge of the Sith may be partially responsible here, but Leia was already increasing in usage when that film was released in 2005.  Luke, on the other hand, has always been a top 1000 name.  *That* has become incredibly popular in the last few years, though.

Stranger universe names are teeming in the pot.  Anakin finally made his top 1000 debut in 2014 (why???).  Padme registered 14 uses that year.  Han – 20 times.  Amidala charted just once – 7 uses, back in 1999.  And I found this article, which writes that even Darth was a baby name back in the 70s.  Considering all those cartoons where Darth Vader is parenting his young twins, I can’t deny that this makes me chuckle.  Thankfully, there are no Jar-Jars to be found.

Food for thought: in the way that Leia was already a charting name before the movies, Kylo already is within the data (8 of them in 2014).  In other words, not even Game of Thrones writer George R. R. Martin invents all his character names. 

Articles · Opinions

Star Wars names are popular? Sure, but not so fast.

The Internet is buzzing.  Recently, BabyCenter projected that Star Wars names are some of this year’s most-popular names, and major media outlets have since responded.  We can all guess why.  Episode VII was highly anticipated, and that’s an understatement of massive proportions.  For those of us who couldn’t see it opening night, avoiding spoiler alerts was even harder than that time Sherlock was released in the U.K. two weeks before it was in the U.S.  It was still totally worth it!  It was the first time I’d ever seen a Star Wars in the cinema, and the amazing experiences both of watching it for the first time and watching it totally unprepared nevertheless make me feel slightly envious of people who were alive to see it in the 1970s.

I agree that Star Wars names will experience a boost, but hesitate in calling them “popular” just yet.  Because the 2016 Social Security Administration data won’t be released for another year, nobody can know that the names are popular now.  Indeed, the 2015 data doesn’t come out for another month, so if the movie affected naming in December we won’t know for a few weeks anyway.  While I can’t pretend that I know how BabyCenter actually decides what names are “popular” since I don’t normally use the site, I have my suspicions.  Chances are that such information is gathered by looking at what names are being mentioned or clicked on the most, along with people who’ve outright posted that they’ve used the names.  In other words, the site is probably determining name “popularity” through some kind of analytics. 

My other primary concern with this news is a question of semantics.  To call a name “popular” suggests concrete usage data, like from the SSA or Census.  The only concrete data they might currently have is in the form of birth announcements.  That alone can help determine potential popularity, but not current popularity.  What BabyCenter has actually tapped into is that Star Wars names are trendy.  I do credit them for using the word “trendy” in a few instances, but perhaps they shouldn’t use “trendy” and “popular” so interchangeably.  I’ll put it this way – popularity is to usage as trendiness is to conversation.  Popularity is the number you see every May when you look at how many times the SSA says a name was used that year, or the name itself when you realize it made the list at all.  Trendiness is that name you mentioned on social media but won’t necessarily use.  See what I’m saying?

Now, Kylo actually did show up on the SSA data in 2014, with 8 uses…which tells us the name already existed.  That’s the thing about Star Wars and other sagas; quite often, the characters’ names were unusual names already belonging to people.  I’ve found that there were a number of Leias born before 1977.   Also of note are that Anakin finally entered the top 1000 in 2014, and that 1977 was the all-time lowest ranking for Harrison, after which it rebounded.  So, Han shot Greedo but saved a name.  I think that balances the justice scales. 😉