I was doing some movie-related research last week when I happened to spot an article about the next official Disney princess: a 14-year-old Polynesian girl named Moana.
The article said Moana would be out in 2018, but Disney announced just a couple of days ago that the movie’s release date had been moved up to 2016.
Moana is set in the South Pacific about 2,000 years ago. Moana and her friend Maui “traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage in which they encounter enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds, and ancient folklore.”
This isn’t the first time the name Moana has been featured in film. The documentary Moana (1926) focused on a young Samoan man named Moana, and the movie Rainbow Island (1944) included a minor female character named Moana. Neither of these match up with the 1941 debut of Moana on the SSA’s baby name list, though. (Any guesses on that?)
The Polynesian word moana generally means “deep sea” or “ocean,” though the definition changes slightly from one language to the next:
While it’s traditionally a unisex name, it’s given more often to baby girls than to baby boys in the U.S.:
- 2013: 19 baby girls named Moana (5 in California)
- 2012: 10 baby girls named Moana
- 2011: 12 baby girls named Moana (5 in California)
- 2010: 9 baby girls named Moana (5 in California)
- 2009: 11 baby girls named Moana
- 2008: 19 baby girls named Moana (9 in California)
- 2007: 10 baby girls named Moana
- 2006: 16 baby girls named Moana (7 in California, 6 in Hawaii)
- 2005: 8 baby girls named Moana
- 2004: 5 baby girls named Moana
I think we can safely say that the baby name Moana will be seeing increased usage in 2016 thanks to the upcoming Disney movie. But do you think all the pre-release hype could affect the name’s popularity even earlier than that? Say, in 2015?
Update, Mar. 2021: As it turns out, the pre-movie hype didn’t matter much to expectant parents. Moana was released in November of 2016, and the baby names Moana and Maui both saw peak usage the following year:
|Moana, U.S. usage||Maui, U.S. usage|
|2019||51 baby girls||22 baby boys + 5 baby girls|
|2018||80 baby girls||20 baby boys + 6 baby girls|
|2017||141 baby girls||42 baby boys + 10 baby girls|
|2016||57 baby girls||5 baby boys + 7 baby girls|
|2015||18 baby girls||(unlisted for boys) + 7 baby girls|
|2014||16 baby girls||6 baby boys + 8 baby girls|
- Disney Animation Unveils ‘Moana’ From ‘Little Mermaid’ Filmmakers For November 2016
- Ross, Malcolm, Andrew Pawley, and Meredith Osmond. The Lexicon of Proto-Oceanic: The Culture and Environment of Ancestral Oceanic Society. Vol. 2. Canberra: ANU E Press, 2007.