What will happen to the baby name Atticus?

Upswing of the baby name Atticus
The rise of Atticus

Atticus Finch is racist? There’s a twist no one saw coming.

Especially all the parents who were inspired by Finch — up to now, one of the most beloved characters in 20th-century American fiction — to call their sons Atticus, a name that has become quite trendy:

  • 2014: 846 baby boys named Atticus [ranked 370th]
  • 2013: 733 baby boys named Atticus [ranked 404th]
  • 2012: 709 baby boys named Atticus [ranked 409th]
  • 2011: 577 baby boys named Atticus [ranked 461st]
  • 2010: 450 baby boys named Atticus [ranked 561st]

Bounding up the U.S. charts over the last decade, Atticus entered the top 1,000 in 2004 and the top 500 in 2011.

Then, last week, Go Set a Watchman was released. In Harper Lee’s Mockingbird sequel, Atticus makes racist comments, reads racist pamphlets, even attends a KKK meeting.

On a societal level, this could be a good thing. I like this quote from Laurel Raymond’s Goodbye And Good Riddance To Atticus Finch And Other ‘White Saviors’:

Atticus Finch — and Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning portrayal of him — is the quintessential white savior. But the trouble with white saviors is that the story is not about those whom they’re saving. It’s about themselves.

But for the hundreds of young people who’ve been named Atticus in the last few years (and for their parents) this was an unexpected and unwelcome turn of events.

(It’s a good reminder, though, that any baby name strongly associated with just one thing — a person, a character, an entity, etc. — is a risk.)

The year is half over, but sales of Watchman are through the roof, so…what do you think will happen to usage of the baby name Atticus in 2015? Will the rise continue, but at a slower rate? Will usage level off? Will usage turn around and begin to decrease? (Could Atticus become this decade’s Hillary?)

8 thoughts on “What will happen to the baby name Atticus?

  1. FYI, ‘Atticus’ is also the name of a new character in the popular TV show ‘Downton Abbey’. I think the writers may have ridden on that trend but probably also picked a historically accurate name. (I don’t personally know whether the name is historically accurate within the context of the character, but I would assume it is good, since the show takes pride in its historical details).

  2. I guess someone has been vindicated, because for several years there has been a movement trying to argue that Atticus Finch was always a bit racist, even in To Kill a Mockingbird. So I suppose they could see it coming.


    I’m not really sure what it will do to immediate use of the name Atticus – probably I would be conservative and predict a slowing down in its popularity.

    I’m pretty sure most parents who have already chosen the name will get a big shock, and then decide it’s no big deal, or doesn’t affect the name, or even makes it better somehow. At least, that’s what I’ve seen so far.

  3. I personally found To Kill a Mockigbird quite racist when I read it even though my English teacher was portraying Atticus and Scout to be the only people who cared about the blacks when really I don’t think they did. I think it will have an affect since when I see Atticus mentioned on Nameberry they love it because of Atticus Finch. I’m not expecting a huge drop just a gradual fall.

  4. At least one young Atticus has already had his name changed:

    “When the new book came out, we just felt like, this does not at all encompass the values that we want for our son to have and know,” [mom Christen Epstein] explains. “And we felt like our son was young enough that we could change his name.”

    Epstein’s 14-month-old son is now Lucas, nn Luke.

    And she mentioned another young Atticus she knows of (a 4-month-old) who might also be getting a name change.

    Source: Parents Change 14-Month-Old Son Atticus’ Name After Go Set a Watchman Controversy

  5. Similar perhaps to Miley last year. Miley was an incredibly obscure name for both males and females until Miley Cyrus became a phenomenon when her show Hannah Montana hit the airwaves in early 2007. She was a sweet, sassy, bright, musical, and likable girl.It’s not that the girl’s name Miley did not exist before that but there were 26 girls named Miley in 2005, 197 in 2006, 1232 in 2007 and 2648 in 2008. It was the 128th most popular girls name that year. There were a LOT of girls named Miley for a few years. It phenomenal effect on popular culture, comparable (though not identical) to that of Shirley Temple. Fast forward to 2014 with “twerking,” smoking pot and having songs about it, being an exhibitionist and posing nude and always with her tongue sticking out, bascially Miley became a huge pop culture attention craving a-hole, plus she changed her look from having attractive longish hair to a short near-Mohawk. The drop off in parents naming their kids Miley from 2013 to 2014 was the most pronounced drop off of any name for that one year from 797 to 352. Talk about a Hillary effect. I think Miley’s name will still drop off more but not down to zero this year. After all, people in the USA still named their kids Adolf and Adolph after World War II. I look forward to seeing the fate of Atticus, and I think it will falloff in a way similar to Miley and Monica. Those who give their kids pop culture names are influenced by the changes in pop culture.

  6. I may have spoken too soon! There was a drop in the number of boys named Atticus in 2016:

    2016 – 914 (360th)
    2015 – 974 (348th)
    2014 – 854 (369th)
    2013 – 735 (404th)

    Is it just a one-year thing, or will the fall it continue?

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