Biggest Name Fads of the Last 40 Years

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What do expectant moms and dads fight about most? According to Babycenter, a parental information site, baby-naming is a major sore point, with 50% of parents disagreeing about their future child’s name. Baby names carry weight, and some names have risen to fad status, while others have faded into obscurity. (Here are 25 baby names popular for the first time.)

Celebrities sometimes give their children names that are so original they’re not likely to be copied. Moon Unit, Blue Ivy, Reign, Pilot Inspektor, and X Æ A-12 are but a few celebrity baby names that have made headlines. 

Pop culture has inspired baby-name fads for years, with celebrities and non-celebrities alike borrowing names from pop stars, actors, athletes, movie and TV characters, even fashion and beauty brands. (Yes, parents are naming their babies after these fashion and beauty brands.

To determine the biggest name fads in America over the last 40 years, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on baby names from the Social Security Administration. Names were ranked based on the average year-over-year growth in newborns receiving a given name over a five-year period since 1980. The greatest five-year period of average annual growth since 1980 was chosen for each name. Only years in which at least 50 newborns received a given name were included in growth calculations. Additionally, only names with at least 10,000 newborn recipients since 1980 were considered. All data came from the SSA and is current through 2021.

In many cases the increase in the use of a name relates clearly to popular figures. No. 21, Mariah, gained popularity during singer Mariah Carey’s rise to fame, while the name Kobe, No. 25, saw growth during basketball player Kobe Bryant’s career. Mallory, the No. 1 baby name on our ranking, was made popular by a character of the same name in the ‘80s sitcom “Family Ties.”

Three of the biggest baby name fads on our list – Tristan, Tristin, and Tristen – are identical save for one letter. All experienced strong growth between 1994 and 1998, though the reasons are less clear.  

Several of the biggest baby name fads have a religious connection. No. 21, Zion, may have been popularized by Lauryn Hill’s baby name selection, but Zion is a Biblical name, referring to Jerusalem and to Israel as a whole. Another religiously inspired name, Nevaeh, at No. 3, isn’t in the Bible at all – but it’s “heaven” spelled backwards, which has made it popular among evangelicals.

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