The Baby Name Atari

Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids…if you grew up in the 1980s, you know all about Atari.

atari

But you might not realize that, at the height of the video game console’s popularity, dozens of U.S. babies were actually named Atari:

  • 1983: 5 baby boys named Atari
  • 1982: 16 baby boys and 11 baby girls named Atari
  • 1981: 13 baby boys and 7 baby girls named Atari
  • 1980: 10 baby boys and 12 baby girls named Atari
  • 1979: 10 baby boys named Atari [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted

The console name comes from the Japanese word atari, which is used in the board came go in the same way “check” and “checkmate” are used in chess–as a warning to one’s opponent that he/she is in imminent danger of capture.

The baby name Atari dropped off the SSA’s baby name list after 1983, but has recently returned:

  • 2011: 8 baby boys named Atari
  • […]
  • 2009: 8 baby boys and 6 baby girls named Atari
  • 2008: 9 baby boys named Atari
  • […]
  • 2006: 5 baby girls named Atari

Pop culture names typically don’t disappear and then reappear decades later, but the explanation in this case is simple: sports. Football player Atari Bigby (b. 1981) — who claims he wasn’t named for the video game console — made his NFL debut in late 2005.


9 thoughts on “The Baby Name Atari

  1. The other possibility: children that grew up playing the Atari console system are now grown up and having children of their own.

  2. @R – Yes, that’s always a possibility. But sports stars tend to have a much greater impact on baby naming trends than childhood memories. :)

  3. Astro, what was the reasoning behind the naming of your Son?

    Mine was after the Games Company Atari, I was an 80’s Gamer and the first console i ever had was an Atari 7800.

  4. I named my son (2009) Atari and it had absolutely *nothing* to do with sports. We picked the name mostly because we like the way it sounds, and due to our love of Japanese culture. The fact that there’s an association to the classic console is just a bonus. Secondary at best.

  5. I’ve never even heard of that footballer. In fact we weren’t even aware that other people had the name (we didn’t check either).

    As a side note: we get positive comments about his name all the time!

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