How did “Game of Thrones” influence baby names?

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones will premiere on HBO in a few days. The TV series is based on the epic fantasy books of George R. R. Martin.

(No, he’s didn’t steal those middle initials from fellow epic fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien; his full name is George Raymond Richard Martin.)

I’m mentioning the show here because the story features some exotic character names:

CerseiKhal Drogo*Tyrion

If it does well, who knows…we may start hearing about babies named Cersei and Daenerys.

Have you ever read the books? If so, what did you think?

*Apparently Khal Drogo’s name translates to “King Drogo” — Khal is the title, Drogo is the name. Thanks, commenters!


Update, May 15, 2012: The top names of 2011 recently came out. Looks like these three names may have been influenced by Game of Thrones:

  • Arya, from 273 baby girls in 2010 to 386 baby girls in 2011.
  • Khaleesi, from never-listed to a debut (!) of 27 baby girls.
  • Tyrion, from 11 baby boys to 18 baby boys.

Update, May 2013: The top names of 2012 recently came out, and in these rankings we see…

  • Daenerys, which debuted with 21 baby girls.
  • Nymeria, which debuted with 5 baby girls.
  • Theon, which returned to the data with its highest-ever usage (so far)
  • Renly, which debuted with 10 baby boys.

Update, May 2014: The top names of 2013 just came out, and this set includes at least two more:

  • Sansa, from never-listed to a debut of 11 baby girls.
  • Beric, from never-listed to a debut of 5 baby boys.

Update, May 2015: In the 2014 rankings, the name Jorah, which had appeared in the data as a girl name before, debuted as a boy name. The name Tywin also debuted.

Update, May 2016: The top names of 2015, just released, include the debut name Oberyn.

Update, May 2017: The top names of 2016 recently came out, and these latest rankings indicate that Lyanna has seen a sizeable rise in usage. Debuts include Ellaria and Bronn.

Update, May 2018: The top names of 2017 just came out. This batch includes:

Update, May 2019: The top names of 2018 just came out. The SSA noted in its press release that name Yara rose from 986th place (2017) to 672nd (2018). Also, the name Khal finally debuted — seven years behind Khaleesi. So did Rhaegar, Aegon, and Myrcella.

Update, September 2020: The top names of 2019 came out late this year (due to Covid), but in this set I noticed three more GoT-inspired entries: Rhaella, Margaery, and Dracarys — the third of which isn’t even a character name, but a word that means “dragonfire” in High Valyrian. Daenerys uses the word dracarys to order her dragon to breathe fire.

Update, May 2020: The debut names of 2020 included Tormund, inspired by Tormund Giantsbane.

Update, October 2023: Game of Thrones may be over, but the names continue! Among the top debuts of 2022 was Rhaenyra, inspired by House of the Dragon character Rhaenyra Targaryen. And I think the return of the rare name Helaena to the data could be attributed to the GoT-prequel as well.

Source: SSA

[Latest update: Oct. 2023]

17 thoughts on “How did “Game of Thrones” influence baby names?

  1. It’s happened already, according to this article about George R. R. Martin in the April 11 New Yorker:

    “Martin was unflaggingly attentive to his supplicants, including the couple who asked him to pose for a photograph with their infant daughter, who was named Daenerys, for one of his heroines.”

    Just Write It!” by Laura Miller

  2. I really enjoy the names he has chosen back in 2001 a friend of mine named her daughter Daenerys as well, at the time I had never heard of the books,but love a lot of them,I think Sansa is adorable!
    It’s Sandor, not Sendor

  3. I have nothing against naming kids after fictional characters, in fact it’s quite cool. But somebody on Yahoo Answers wanted to name their kid Khaleesi… isn’t that the same thing as naming your daughter Princess? :/

    I would call a kid Brandon though, after all the Brandons in the Stark family. Or Arya.

  4. Didn’t Khaleesi mean queen? lol! It’s still pretty sounding.. in Feb when my daughter comes I’m naming her Luna Daenerys :) I’d have Daenerys as her first name.. but I think she’d have a hard time spelling and saying it for awhile yet.. and the nickname Dany.. loll.. but yes, he does make up beautiful names :)

  5. I feel I should correct a couple of small mistakes in the above article.

    Firstly, Catelyn is not a name created by Martin but an already existing name of Celtic origin (although it’s more commonly spelled Caitlin or Caitlyn) and although Bran is an invented abbreviation, in the series it is a short version of the name Brandon.

    Also although their is a character called Khal Drogo, the “Khal” part is a title and means King, his real name is Drogo (his wife is referred to as Khaleesi as stated in an above post)

    Many of the other names are lovely but I’d really worry for any parent who chooses to call their child either Cersei or Joffrey considering the actions and personalities of those characters in the series.

  6. Thanks all, I’ve amended the post to fix the Khal/Drogo thing.

    @Mogul – I think most people know that the name Catelyn (and variants) existed long before the show came along. :)

    I don’t know why, though, I included Catelyn in the post as an example of an “exotic” character name. Because, you’re right, it isn’t. My bad.

    I do stand by Bran, though, as (by itself) it’s quite rare — just 5 babies named Bran in the U.S. last year.

  7. I think I’d call my daughter Nymeria. Nymeria is the name of the direwolf bonded to Arya Stark, and I think it’s such a beautiful name…Arya named her after the legendary Queen of the Rhoynar. I love the name Daenerys too, and I think Khaleesi is a pretty name for a girl. 8)

    Arya and Asha are both nice names as well.

  8. Check out George R. R. Martin’s website, He has photos people have sent him over the years of their children who have been named after his characters.

    I’ve been a fan of his books since around 2000, when the 3rd book in the series came out and found his site maybe a couple of years later. By then he already had several baby pictures of fan’s kids posted, so there are probably already some kids out there who are 7, 8 even 10 years old with names from his books.

  9. Many of the names seem “real” enough, or have normal-enough counterparts. I really like Eddard and Catelyn, they’re different but not too weird. Nobody blinks at Ed, Eddie, or Ned; at Cate, Cat, or Lynnie…

  10. Arya has always been a very popular name is Nepal. I think it has something to do with Aryan heritage. I know several girls named Arya…

  11. The name “Sándor” is a hungarian version for “Alexander”. We say, that his name day brings the warmth of the spring after the winter days… XD(it’s 18th March in our land).
    I hope, the name Daenerys will be a beloved name in other countrys…the name rules are strict in our land. If this name will be popular, we can give it to our babys…but only as “Denerisz”. :-S

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