What turned Juniper into a baby name in 1969?

Donovan's single "Jennifer Juniper" (1968)
The single “Jennifer Juniper”

The playful song “Jennifer Juniper” by Scottish musician Donovan was released as a single in early 1968. It peaked at #26 on the U.S. Hot 100 chart in April.

Jennifer Juniper lives upon the hill
Jennifer Juniper, sitting very still

The inspiration behind the song was Jenny Boyd — the younger sister of famous English model Pattie Boyd (who, at that time, was married to George Harrison of the Beatles).

What effect did the song have on the baby names Jennifer and Juniper?

With Jennifer it’s hard to tell, as the name was already extremely trendy. It was also being featured elsewhere in pop culture (e.g., the 1968 song “Jennifer Eccles” by the Hollies).

  • 1971: 56,775 baby girls named Jennifer [rank: 1st]
  • 1970: 46,153 baby girls named Jennifer [rank: 1st]
  • 1969: 33,702 baby girls named Jennifer [rank: 3rd]
  • 1968: 26,850 baby girls named Jennifer [rank: 4th]
  • 1967: 18,238 baby girls named Jennifer [rank: 10th]

Incidentally, Jenny Boyd’s legal name was not Jennifer Boyd, but Helen Mary Boyd. Here’s the story, according to Pattie:

She wasn’t actually christened Jenny: my mother named her Helen Mary, to please a couple of aunts, but I had a favorite teddy at the time called Jenny and I insisted my new sister be called by the same name.

It’s much easier to see the effect of “Jennifer Juniper” on the name Juniper, which debuted in the U.S. baby name data the year after the song came out:

  • 1971: 12 baby girls named Juniper
  • 1970: 7 baby girls named Juniper
  • 1969: 5 baby girls named Juniper [debut]
  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: unlisted

It’s interesting that Donovan’s song “Laléna” came out months after “Jennifer Juniper,” and yet the name Lalena debuted in the SSA data a year ahead of Juniper.

Despite sounding similar, the names Jennifer and Juniper have different etymologies. Juniper, which refers to a type of tree, comes from the Latin word iuniperus. Jennifer, on the other hand, can be traced back to the Welsh name Gwenhwyfar, which is based on a pair of Celtic words that may have meant “white” and “phantom.” (The Arthuruan name Guinevere has the same origin.)

Which name, Jennifer or Juniper, do you prefer? Why?


2 thoughts on “What turned Juniper into a baby name in 1969?

  1. It’s hard to be objective about the name Jennifer, because I was born in 1973 and have gone to school and work with hundreds of Jennifers near my age. I’ve met every kind of Jen, Jenny, and Jennifer out there. I love the name Jenny (my cat Genevieve’s nickname), but Jen is too plain with its short vowel (I love Jane, Jean, Joan, and June — long vowels are key) and I dislike the “fer” part of Jennifer. I don’t care for Christopher either.

    I have never met anyone named Juniper. I like the June part. If my name were Juniper I would definitely change it to June. “Jennifer Juniper” is another of my most hated Donovan songs. The only Donovan song I can think of that has a name I like is “Mellow Yellow” — Saffron. But I just read Pattie Boyd’s memoir last week, coincidentally.

  2. Yes, it really is hard to be objective about Jennifer! I was born the same decade, and have had a similar experience. My friend-groups during grade school almost always included at least one Jennifer. (And at least one Jessica.)

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