The Delayed Arrival of Kal-El

The name Kal-El — unlike the name Jor-El — did not debut in the U.S. baby name data following the release of the famous 1978 movie Superman. In fact, the name didn’t make its first appearance in the data until the mid-1990s.

Since then, though, the name has picked up steam. One thing that gave it a boost was Nicolas Cage choosing the name for his son, born in October of 2005. Another was the movie Superman Returns, released in mid-2006. Notice how the usage of Kal-El (rendered “Kalel” in the SSA data) more than doubled from 2005 to 2006:

  • 2007: 177 baby boys named Kalel
  • 2006: 161 baby boys named Kalel
  • 2005: 70 baby boys named Kalel
  • 2004: 53 baby boys named Kalel

Here’s Nicolas Cage explaining how he and his wife chose the name:

My wife wanted a unique name and originally I thought of the name Kyle and then she said, ‘No, something more unusual but beautiful.’ Then I remembered the old Superman comics… I wanted a name that stood for something good, was unique and American and that’s all three. I just thought it was a beautiful name and it had kind of a magical ring to it.

So far, peak usage of the name Kal-El was in 2014:

  • 2015: 243 baby boys named Kalel [rank: 896th]
  • 2014: 257 baby boys named Kalel [rank: 860th]
  • 2013: 208 baby boys named Kalel [rank: 963rd]
  • 2012: 152 baby boys named Kalel

The peak can be attributed to yet another Superman film: Man of Steel (2013), which focused on the character’s origin story. Here’s dialogue from the scene in which Clark Kent “meets” his father, Jor-El:

Jor-El: “To see you standing there having grown into an adult…if only Lara could have witnessed this.”
Clark: “Who are you?”
Jor-El: “I am your father, Kal, or at least a shadow of him. His consciousness. My name is Jor-El.”
Clark: “Kal? That’s my name?”
Jor-El: “Kal-El, it is.”

What are your thoughts on the name Kal-El? Would you use it?

Sources: Nicolas Cage Explains His Baby’s Name, Man of Steel (film) – Wikiquote

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