Eight thieves — six men and two women — all dressed in red jumpsuits, all donning Salvador Dalí masks — break into the Royal Mint of Spain (in Madrid) with the aim of printing 2.4 billion in Euros over 11 days, then making a clean getaway.
That’s what happens at the start of the Spanish-language crime drama series Money Heist, which became a worldwide hit in 2018, thanks to Netflix.
Upon the success of the first two seasons of the show (which had originally aired on Spanish TV in 2017), Netflix renewed Money Heist — producing and releasing three more seasons over the next three years.
Impressively, Money Heist: Part 3, Money Heist: Part 4, and Money Heist: Part 5 currently rank 5th, 3rd, and 2nd (respectively) on Netflix’s list of most popular non-English TV series of all time.
So…what does this have to do with U.S. baby names?
Well, to maintain their anonymity, the eight thieves went by city-inspired code-names: Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, Nairobi, Rio, Denver, Helsinki, and Oslo.
While Moscow and Helsinki have never appeared in the U.S. baby name data, the six other city names have — and each one saw higher usage after Money Heist premiered on Netflix.
Let’s start with the biggest boosts…
(female character, played by Alba Flores)
Female usage of the baby name Nairobi began accelerating in 2018. (That massive jump in 2020 corresponds to a tragic Part 4 plot-twist.) Right now, the name is sitting just outside the girls’ top 1,000.
2021: 241 baby girls named Nairobi [rank: 1,044th]
2020: 215 baby girls named Nairobi
2019: 65 baby girls named Nairobi
2018: 37 baby girls named Nairobi
2017: 23 baby girls named Nairobi
2016: 21 baby girls named Nairobi
(male character, played by Miguel Herrán)
Male usage of the baby name Rio has risen significantly since 2018:
2021: 396 baby boys named Rio [rank: 672nd]
2020: 303 baby boys named Rio [rank: 776th]
2019: 193 baby boys named Rio
2018: 171 baby boys named Rio
2017: 132 baby boys named Rio
2016: 134 baby boys named Rio
(male character played by Jaime Lorente)
The baby name Denver, which was already on the rise for boys, began rising even faster in 2018:
2021: 577 baby boys named Denver [rank: 505th]
2020: 540 baby boys named Denver [rank: 526th]
2019: 422 baby boys named Denver [rank: 638th]
2018: 370 baby boys named Denver [rank: 674th]
2017: 273 baby boys named Denver [rank: 821st]
2016: 268 baby boys named Denver [rank: 840th]
(male character, played by Roberto García Ruiz)
Male usage of the baby name Oslo has been rising steadily since 2018:
2021: 49 baby boys named Olso
2020: 38 baby boys named Olso
2019: 29 baby boys named Olso
2018: 22 baby boys named Olso
2017: 14 baby boys named Olso
2016: 12 baby boys named Olso
(female character, played by Úrsula Corberó)
The baby name Tokyo, which had appeared in the data as a boy name a couple of times, finally debuted as a girl name in 2019:
2021: 10 baby girls named Tokyo
2020: 15 baby girls named Tokyo [peak usage]
2019: 7 baby girls named Tokyo [gender-specific debut]
(male character, played by Pedro Alonso)
Male usage of the baby name Berlin increased slightly in 2019 and 2020:
2021: 26 baby boys named Berlin
2020: 29 baby boys named Berlin
2019: 17 baby boys named Berlin
2018: 11 baby boys named Berlin
2017: 9 baby boys named Berlin
2016: 5 baby boys named Berlin
Which of the above names to you like best? What other city names do you think work well as human names?
P.S. Why were city names used as code-names on Money Heist? Álex Pina, the show’s creator, explained during an interview in 2018 that he’d been trying to come up with a theme for the code-names when, “one day, someone turned up with a T-shirt bearing the word Tokyo and that’s how it all began.”
Looking for baby names that work for both genders?
Actually, let me rephrase that: Do you want to see which names are being given to sizeable numbers of baby boys and baby girls in the U.S. right now?
I wanted to ask the question in a more specific way because I think the details matter. Names can be gender-neutral in theory, but that doesn’t mean they’re being given to babies of both genders in practice.
Gender identity is a big topic of conversation these days, so it’s not surprising that an ever-growing number of parents are searching for baby names that aren’t strongly associated with one gender or the other.
To know what’s happening with baby names in real life, though, we need to focus on the data. That’s why I didn’t consider anything but data when I created the list below.
These names were culled from the 2021 U.S. baby name data (provided by the U.S. Social Security Administration). Each one saw usage that was at least one-third female and at least one-third male, making all of them relatively gender-neutral among today’s newborns.
Top gender-neutral baby names
Let’s start with a quick rundown of the 20 most popular gender-neutral baby names in the U.S. right now:
Now here’s the same list again, but this time around I’ve added more information: data, rankings, popularity graphs, and definitions.
Last year, the name Parker was given to 6,229 babies. Of these babies, 2,406 (38.63%) were girls and 3,823 (61.37%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Parker placed 115th for girls and 93rd for boys.
Parker is an English surname that originally referred to someone who was employed as the keeper of a hunting park.
Last year, the name River was given to 5,317 babies. Of these babies, 1,862 (35.02%) were girls and 3,455 (64.98%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, River placed 151st for girls and 110th for boys.
River, the English word that refers to a flowing body of water, was derived from the Latin word ripa, meaning “riverbank” or “seashore.”
Last year, the name Charlie was given to 4,190 babies. Of these babies, 2,202 (52.55%) were girls and 1,988 (47.45%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Charlie placed 127th for girls and 189th for boys.
Charlie is a diminutive of the male name Charles, which ultimately comes from the Germanic name Karl, which meant “freeman” (i.e., not a serf or slave).
Interestingly, Charlie is a top-10 name for boys in some regions (like New Zealand and Ireland) and a top-10 name for girls in others (like Quebec).
Last year, the name Blake was given to 3,337 babies. Of these babies, 1,497 (44.86%) were girls and 1,840 (55.14%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Blake placed 199th for girls and 205th for boys.
Blake is an English surname that can be traced back to either of two Old English words that happen to have opposite meanings — one being “black,” the other being “white.”
Last year, the name Hayden was given to 3,283 babies. Of these babies, 1,096 (33.38%) were girls and 2,187 (66.62%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Hayden placed 290th for girls and 176th for boys.
Hayden is an English surname that originally referred to someone from one of several different like-named locations. In many cases, the place names were made up of elements meaning “hay” and “hill.” (Depending upon the location, though, the first element sometimes meant “fence enclosure,” and the second element sometimes meant “valley.”)
Last year, the name Emerson was given to 2,952 babies. Of these babies, 1,729 (58.57%) were girls and 1,223 (41.43%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Emerson placed 167th for girls and 279th for boys.
Emerson is an English surname that originally referred to the son of someone named Emery.
Last year, the name Amari was given to 2,880 babies. Of these babies, 972 (33.75%) were girls and 1,908 (66.25%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Amari placed 333rd for girls and 199th for boys.
Amari is a modern name that doesn’t seem to have a specific origin or meaning.
Last year, the name Finley was given to 2,705 babies. Of these babies, 1,407 (52.01%) were girls and 1,298 (47.99%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Finley placed 211th for girls and 265th for boys.
Finley is based on the Gaelic name Fionnlagh, which is made up of elements meaning “white” and “warrior.”
Last year, the name Remington was given to 2,475 babies. Of these babies, 890 (35.96%) were girls and 1,585 (64.04%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Remington placed 348th for girls and 231st for boys.
Remington is an English surname that originally referred to someone from the town of Rimington, in Lancashire. (It’s also an American gun brand.)
Last year, the name Phoenix was given to 2,454 babies. Of these babies, 1,032 (42.05%) were girls and 1,422 (57.95%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Phoenix placed 308th for girls and 248th for boys.
Phoenix, the word that refers the mythological bird that rises from its own ashes, was derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “crimson” or “purple.”
Last year, the name Oakley was given to 2,292 babies. Of these babies, 1,524 (66.49%) were girls and 768 (33.51%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Oakley placed 193rd for girls and 403rd for boys.
Oakley is an English surname that originally referred to someone from one of several different like-named locations. In all cases, the place names were made up of elements meaning “oak” and “clearing.”
Last year, the name Dakota was given to 2,090 babies. Of these babies, 1,147 (54.88%) were girls and 943 (45.12%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Dakota placed 270th for girls and 344th for boys.
Dakota, the name of a Native American tribe, means “friendly” or “allied” in the Siouan language of the Dakota people.
Last year, the name Tatum was given to 1,959 babies. Of these babies, 1,125 (57.43%) were girls and 834 (42.57%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Tatum placed 279th for girls and 385th for boys.
Tatum is an English surname that originally referred to the homestead of someone named Tata.
Last year, the name Rory was given to 1,919 babies. Of these babies, 789 (41.12%) were girls and 1,130 (58.88%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Rory placed 396th for girls and 295th for boys.
Rory is an Anglicized form of the Irish name Ruaidhri, which is made up of elements meaning “red” and “king.”
Last year, the name Ari was given to 1,598 babies. Of these babies, 649 (40.61%) were girls and 949 (59.39%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Ari placed 478th for girls and 342nd for boys.
Ari has several potential definitions, including: “lion” in Hebrew, “brave” in Armenian, and “eagle” in Icelandic.
Last year, the name Alexis was given to 1,569 babies. Of these babies, 940 (59.91%) were girls and 629 (40.09%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Alexis placed 341st for girls and 472nd for boys.
Alexis comes directly from the ancient Greek (male) name Alexis, which meant “helper” or “defender.”
Last year, the name Armani was given to 1,540 babies. Of these babies, 661 (42.92%) were girls and 879 (57.08%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Armani placed 469th for girls and 369th for boys.
Armani is an Italian surname that originally referred to the child of someone named Armano. (It’s also an Italian fashion brand.)
Last year, the name Remy was given to 1,451 babies. Of these babies, 550 (37.90%) were girls and 901 (62.10%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Remy placed 550th for girls and 357th for boys.
Remy, written Rémy in French, is based on the Latin name Remigius, which meant “oarsman.”
It’s interesting that both Remy and Remington are on this list. Remy is a stand-alone name…but it could also be used as a nickname for Remington.
Last year, the name Reign was given to 1,338 babies. Of these babies, 884 (66.07%) were girls and 454 (33.93%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Reign placed 349th for girls and 608th for boys.
Reign is an English word that can be traced back to the Latin word regnum, meaning “royal power” or “kingdom.”
Last year, the name Milan was given to 1,278 babies. Of these babies, 452 (35.37%) were girls and 826 (64.63%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Milan placed 655th for girls and 388th for boys.
Milan is a Slavic name based on the element milu, meaning “dear, sweet.” (It’s also a city in northern Italy.)
More gender-neutral baby names
What other gender-neutral names made the cut?
Here are the names that were used a bit less often than the twenty above…
Number of babies*
*Male and female usage added together
All of the above ranked among both the top 1,000 girl names and the top 1,000 boy names last year. Two of the below (Robin and Landry) did as well.
Number of babies*
*Male and female usage added together
Most of the above appeared in at least one top-1,000 list last year. The exceptions were Kacey, Campbell, True, Arden, Shea, and Sol.
None of the names from this point onward reached the top 1,000 for either gender.
Number of babies*
*Male and female usage added together
Here are the gender-neutral baby names that saw overall usage ranging from 100 to 199 babies (in descending order):
Most of the names above don’t have a long history of usage in the U.S., so they aren’t anchored one gender or the other — making them good options for expectant parents who want names that work for both genders.
Note that many fall into a handful of categories, including: nature names, place names, surnames, color names, and virtue names. It may be worthwhile to focus on categories like these as you continue your search, as they’ll tend to naturally contain a good proportion of gender-neutral names.
If you’d like to see popularity graphs for any of the names in this post, check below for the long list of tags. Each tag is a name, so just find the name you’re interested in and click through. The graph will need a moment to load — it’s grabbing a lot of data — but it will allow you to see at a glance the name’s current gender-balance (and make an informed guess about its near-future gender-balance, given the current trajectories).
A few days ago, a writer with the Monroe News (of Monroe County, Michigan) tallied up all the baby names mentioned in the paper’s 2020 birth announcements. The most frequently occurring names for girls were Abigail and Ava (tie), and for boys was Asher.
Like I mentioned yesterday, I don’t tend to post rankings from non-governmental sources. But, again, this set had a relatively high number of names (451) compared to the size of the county (about 150,000 residents), so here’s the full list…
“I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.”
From a 1936 newspaper article about movie actress Veda Ann Borg:
Miss Borg was given a new tag almost the minute she stepped into the studio. It was “Ann Noble.” […] Miss Borg contended that her own name is more descriptive of her personality than Ann Noble. The former model’s argument was convincing. She will be billed as Veda Ann Borg.
(Keavy, Hubbard. “Screen Life In Hollywood.” Wilkes-Barre Record 23 Apr. 1936: 19.)
How in the world did we get from “Jeremy” to “Jezza”?
There is a rule for how this works. Names which have the letter R in them–Jeremy, Catherine, Sharon, Barry, Murray–are trouble for speakers of non-rhotic variations of English to abbreviate. Rhoticity is a linguistic term for describing when the letter is pronounced; in non-rhotic dialects of English, the sound will be discarded unless followed immediately by a vowel. The dialects of England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and, well, New England are all non-rhotic, which is why the word “car” sounds like “cah.”
This isn’t a problem in any of those names if they’re pronounced fully; there’s always a vowel after the R. But to truncate them would be difficult. Typically hypocoristic nicknames are formed by cutting everything but the first syllable and then either leaving that as-is or adding a vowel. That’s how “Daniel” becomes “Danno”: clip to the first syllable (“Dan”) and add a vowel. (The -o ending is most common for male names; -ie is more common for female names.)
The team, led by North Carolina State University’s Terry Gates, named the shark Galagadon nordquistae, a nod to its teeth, which have a stepped triangle shape like the spaceships in the 1980s video game Galaga, and to Karen Nordquist, the Field Museum volunteer who discovered the fossils.
Lorin now often finds himself babysitting while Cali campaigns against atomic power. Symbolically, not long ago she shed the name she’d “hated for 30 years” for one that sounded right. Margo became Cali. “I look at myself differently now,” she says firmly, “except people all across the country think Lorin has remarried.”
The Wayback Machine was named to reference Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine from the popular cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle. In the show, the machine was pronounced as “way back,” which is where the index got its name.
However, Howard did go out of his way to confirm one long-held belief about Willow: that two of the villains were named after famous film critics. The evil General Kael was named after the notoriously ruthless Pauline Kael and the two-headed monster Eborsisk was named after the iconic At the Movies duo of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
And, finally, a pair of snippets from a Colorado Public Radio article about Denver street names. First:
William McGaa [one of Denver’s founding officials] had a debaucherous reputation of his own, drinking and adulterating his way out of favor with the city’s elite. McGaa even named Wazee and Wewatta streets after two of his many wives, both Native American woman from local tribes.
(The settlement of Denver was named in late 1858. McGaa’s son, William Denver McGaa, was born in the settlement in March of 1859 and named after it. His mother was neither Wazee nor Wewatta, but a half-Native American woman named Jennie.)
Second, regarding Denver’s “double alphabetical” streets, which were renamed in 1904:
The pattern is a proper noun name, ideally British, followed by the name of a tree or plant. Albion and Ash, Bellaire and Birch, Clermont and Cherry.
The switch wasn’t without resistance from those wealthy neighborhoods. When Eudora Avenue became Fir Street, residents decried the name as “too plebeian.”
Country singer Dolly Parton was born to parents Avie Lee and Robert Lee Parton in Tennessee 1946. She was the fourth of a dozen children: six boys and six girls. The names of all twelve, in order, are: