People who grew up in the ’90s know exactly why the place-name Topanga started popping up in the baby name data that decade:
1999: 44 baby girls named Topanga
1998: 48 baby girls named Topanga [peak]
1997: 33 baby girls named Topanga
1996: 11 baby girls named Topanga
1995: 10 baby girls named Topanga
1994: 5 baby girls named Topanga [debut]
Topanga was the name of a character on the coming-of-age sitcom Boy Meets World, which premiered in September of 1993. The “Boy” at the center of the show was Cory Matthews, his love interest throughout the series was Topanga Lawrence (played by Danielle Fishel).
According to Fishel, show producer Michael Jacobs was the one who came up with her character’s name. He was driving down a highway in California when he got a phone call about naming the character. At that moment, he happened to be driving past the Topanga Canyon exit, so he said “Topanga” and it stuck.
The canyon’s modern name comes from the Gabrielino (or Tongva) word topa’nga. The “-nga” suffix indicates that it’s a place name, but the meaning of topa remains unknown.
Another name that may have gotten a boost from Boy Meets World is Morgan, the name of Cory’s little sister. It was already on the rise at that time, but from 1993 to 1994 the increase was higher than expected.
…And I’ll just randomly throw in one more name that was inspired by a geological feature: Cohutta, a 2014 debut inspired by MTV reality star Cohutta Lee Grindstaff, who was born in Georgia and named after the Cohutta Mountains. The place name Cohutta, originally Gahûtĭ, comes from the Cherokee word gahûtâ’yĭ, meaning “a shed roof supported on poles.”
Which place name works better as a baby name, do you think: Topanga or Cohutta?
Which girl names increased the most in popularity from 2016 to 2017? And which ones decreased the most?
There are a few different ways to answer this question. The SSA, for instance, likes to look at ranking differences within the top 1,000. And I like to augment their list by looking at raw number differences across all the data.
Which girl names increased the most in popularity from 2015 to 2016? Which ones decreased the most?
The SSA likes to answer this question by analyzing ranking differences within the top 1,000. I like to answer it by looking at raw number differences that take the full list into account. So let’s check out the results using both methods…
Girl Names: Biggest Increases, 2015 to 2016
1. Kehlani, +2,487 spots — up from 3,359th to 872nd
2. Royalty, +618 spots — up from 1,150th to 532nd
3. Saoirse, +465 spots — up from 1,448th to 983rd
4. Ophelia, +396 spots — up from 976th to 580th
5. Aitana, +368 spots — up from 917th to 549th
6. Itzayana, +356 spots — up from 1,125th to 769th
7. Alessia, +348 spots — up from 1,175th to 827th
8. Kaylani, +301 spots — up from 1,056th to 755th
9. Avianna, +298 spots — up from 751st to 453rd
10. Nalani, +294 spots — up from 1,280th to 986th
Royalty was influenced by the R&B singer Chris Brown, whose daughter (b. 2014) and 7th album (2015) were both called Royalty.
Saoirse was influenced by Irish actress Saoirse Ronan — perhaps specifically by those American talk show appearances in which she talked to the hosts (Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, etc.) about how to pronounce her name. Plus there was that widely circulated Ryan Gosling quote on the same topic (“It’s Ser-sha, like inertia”).
Alessia was influenced by singer/songwriter Alessia Cara.
1. Adeline, +1,700 baby girls — up from 2,403 to 4,103
2. Charlotte, +1,649 baby girls — up from 11,381 to 13,030
3. Riley, +1,390 baby girls — up from 5,720 to 7,110
4. Adaline, +971 baby girls — up from 902 to 1,873
5. Amelia, +864 baby girls — up from 9,838 to 10,702
6. Luna, +849 baby girls — up from 2,796 to 3,645
7. Emilia, +804 baby girls — up from 2,215 to 3,019
8. Camila, +765 baby girls — up from 5,271 to 6,036
9. Nova, +754 baby girls — up from 1,518 to 2,272
10. Evelyn, +708 baby girls — up from 9,352 to 10,060
Adeline and Adaline were influenced, at least initially, by the movie The Age of Adaline (2015).
Other names that saw raw number increases in the 200+ range included Eleanor, Teagan, Kinsley, Scarlett, Everly, Quinn, Aria, Remi, Harper, Penelope, Thea, Claire, Rowan, Hazel, Ruby, Blake, Aurora, Ivy, Harley, Eloise, Willow, Elena, Josephine, Alice, Blakely, Saylor, Nora, Leia, Iris, Margot, Isla, Freya, Samara, Joy, Zara, Eliana, Joanna, and Malia.
Girl Names: Biggest Decreases, 2015 to 2016
1. Caitlin, -542 spots — down from 609th to 1,151st
2. Caitlyn, -462 spots — down from 598th to 1,060th
3. Katelynn, -402 spots — down from 652nd to 1,054th
4. Kaitlynn, -381 spots — down from 994th to 1,375th
5. Neriah, -344 spots — down from 943rd to 1,287th
6. Bryanna, -276 spots — down from 783rd to 1,059th
7. Kiley, -275 spots — down from 898th to 1,173rd
8. Yaritza, -271 spots — down from 935th to 1,206th
9. Denise, -210 spots — down from 993rd to 1,203rd
10. Kaelyn, -203 spots — down from 521st to 724th
Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn, and Kaitlynn, were negatively influenced by Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner), who appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in mid-2015 with the headline “Call me Caitlyn.”
This reminds me of what happened a few decades ago to Hillary — another name that was strongly associated for a time with a female who wasn’t conforming to gender norms. Perhaps tellingly, the name Bruce wasn’t hit nearly as hard. Jenner did fall of the charts, though.
1. Sophia, -1,311 baby girls — down from 17,381 to 16,070
2. Alexa, -1,289 baby girls — down from 6,049 to 4,760
3. Madison, -1,090 baby girls — down from 10,072 to 8,982
4. Emma, -1,001 baby girls — down from 20,415 to 19,414 (…but still the #1 name overall)
5. Aubrey, -869 baby girls — down from 7,376 to 6,507
6. Isabella, -852 baby girls — down from 15,574 to 14,722
7. Emily, -840 baby girls — down from 11,766 to 10,926
8. Kylie, -753 baby girls — down from 4,149 to 3,396
9. Alexis, -744 baby girls — down from 3,406 to 2,662
10. Abigail, -672 baby girls — down from 12,371 to 11,699
Other names that saw raw number drops in the 200+ range included Kaitlyn, Avery, Allison, Alyssa, London, Kaylee, Sofia, Katelyn, Kimberly, Zoey, Mia, Chloe, Kendall, Taylor, Sadie, Khloe, Mackenzie, Hannah, Peyton, Addison, Samantha, Ashley, Olivia, Gabriella, Brianna, Lauren, Anna, Brooklyn, Morgan, Jocelyn, Sydney, Natalie, Victoria, Makayla, Zoe, Hailey, Payton, Brooke, Annabelle, Trinity, Keira, Adalyn, Jordyn, Kayla, Molly, Audrey, Faith, Madelyn, Lillian, Caitlin, Caitlyn, Makenzie, Paige, Aaliyah, Paisley, Nevaeh, Elizabeth, Amy, and Jessica.
Interesting how certain like-names went in opposite directions last year. Leia, Alessia, and Adaline rose; Leah, Alyssa, and Adalyn fell.
Do you have any other explanations/guesses about any of the names above? If so, please comment!
(In 2015, the big winners were Alexa and Alaia, and the big losers were Isabella and Isis.)