The baby name Kennedy — which had been popularized as a boy name by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s — started seeing much higher usage as a girl name in the 1990s.
Here’s the data:
|Girls named Kennedy||Boys named Kennedy|
|1997||1,624 [rank: 186th]||185 [rank: 796th]|
|1996||1,418 [rank: 208th]||169 [rank: 840th]|
|1995||1,235 [rank: 229th]||159 [rank: 860th]|
|1994||472 [rank: 524th]||142 [rank: 923rd]|
In 1993, the name was given to more girls than boys for the first time. The year after that, it entered the girls’ top 1,000 for the first time. (It also re-entered the boys’ top 1,000, curiously.)
What caused the switch, and the rise?
I believe it’s a blend of a couple of things.
The switch could have been due to the influence of mononymous MTV video jockey Kennedy (whose birth name was Lisa Kennedy Montgomery).
Big-haired, bespectacled Kennedy hosted MTV’s popular weeknight show Alternative Nation (1992-1997), which featured hit songs by alt-rock bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Oasis, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, and Bush.
The name’s steep rise in usage around 1995, however, was more likely fueled by a little girl from a sitcom.
The fifth and final season of the series Blossom (1991-1995) included two new main characters: Blossom’s English step-mother Carol (played by Finola Hughes) and Blossom’s 6-year-old step-sister Kennedy (played by Courtney Chase). TV critics were not impressed by Kennedy’s feigned English accent, but viewers were clearly impressed by her name.
The Irish/Scottish surname Kennedy can be traced back to the Gaelic personal name Ceannéidigh, which is comprised of the words ceann, meaning “head,” and éidigh, meaning “unseemly, ugly.”
What are your thoughts on the baby name Kennedy? Do you prefer it as a girl name, or as a boy name?
- Alternative Nation – Wikipedia
- Fernandez, Maria Elena. “‘I had such a warped self-image’: MTV VJ Kennedy dishes on naughty ’90s.” NBC News 24 Jul. 2013.
- Blossom (TV series) – IMDb
- Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
P.S. Name quotes #86 includes a quote from MTV’s Kennedy.
4 thoughts on “What popularized the baby name Kennedy in the 1990s?”
More Blossom connections! I think we’re lucky Six didn’t take off as a name.
“Ugly head” is a rather unfortunate name meaning. Although on the name nerds subreddit, people are always commenting how sad it is that Cecilia means “blind,” and that’s my cat’s name. (She has perfect kitty eyesight.)
“Six” would be a hard name to grow up with, imo.
I do wonder how things might have been different if that character had been called Seven instead of Six. (The name Seven was just starting to pop up in the SSA data regularly in the early/mid ’90s…)
Interesting! Was that because of George Costanza loving the name Seven?
I do think that particular Seinfeld episode (from early 1996) helped popularize the idea of “Seven” as a name.
And Erykah Badu actually using the name (for her son, born in late 1997) was no doubt an influence as well.
That said…the name was also in the data from 1993 to 1995, which is curious. I don’t know what (if anything?) accounts for this earlier usage.