When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.
Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?
Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.
Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts in the U.S. baby name data. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)
Which name was the very first to debut in the U.S. baby name data thanks to a celebrity baby?
The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.
If exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.
If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired a whopping six of them:
In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.
The name Jerilyn itself had already been in the data for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:
1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn
The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):
I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.
Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.
Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.
The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared in the data in 1949.
In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared in the U.S. data for the very first time.
(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed their first baby, Romina, who was named after the church in Italy (Santa Francesca Romana) where they had married in 1949. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared in the SSA’s data for the very first time.
In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted in the data.
In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted in the data as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street in Brooklyn.
In October of 1958, singer/actor Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fourth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted in the data.
In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted in the data.
In October of 1967, singer Eddie Fisher and actress Connie Stevens welcomed a baby girl named Joely. The same year, the baby name Joely debuted in the data.
In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted in the data.
In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted in the data. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.
Honorable mentions from the ’60s include:
Devera, which became more popular after actor Vince Edwards and his wife Kathy named their daughter Devera in late 1965.
Dodd, which became more popular after Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee named their son Dodd in late 1961.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted in the data.
(Both Jet magazine (in 1970) and Ebony magazine (in 1971) misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The misspelling debuted in 1970 and saw peak usage in 1971.)
In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted in the data.
In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted in the data.
In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted in the data.
In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted in the data.
In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted in the data. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:
Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.
In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted in the data. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:
Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!
In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted in the data. Most of these babies were born in New York.
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:
In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted in the data. It was one of the top debut names of 1985, in fact.
In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted in the data.
I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted in the data.
In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted in the data. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.
Kady, which became more popular after Pia Zadora named her daughter Kady in early 1985.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted in the data, for both genders.
In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted in the data. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)
In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted in the data as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
Ireland, which became more popular after Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger named their daughter Ireland in 1995.
Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.
Ronan, which became more popular after Daniel Day-Lewis named his son Ronan in 1998.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted in the data (as a girl name).
In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted in the data.
In May of 2002, actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller welcomed a baby boy named Cashel. The next year, the baby name Cashel debuted in the data.
In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted in the data.
In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted in the data.
In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted in the data.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.
Lots of people name their cars, but how many people name their computers?
A good number, turns out.
Granted, any computer on a network already has a name. But that’s not necessarily the name we’re talking about here. (Though some people do change their computer’s network name to match its “given” name.)
What kinds of names have people chosen for their laptops and desktops? Here are some real-life computer names I’ve collected from around the web:
Aurora: “I named her Aurora. Isn’t she beautiful? Like every really wonderful thing, her outward beauty is a reflection of her deeper goodness.” –MrShad of Conflictium
Avery Cates: “How can you resist this series when the first line of the back cover blurb is “Avery Cates is a very bad man”? I love Avery Cates so much I named my computer after him.” –Melanie of Melanie R. Meadors (blog)
Black Stallion: “As my birthday/Christmas present, I was given a brand new LAPTOP! Vane named him “Black Stallion”. It’s very sleek and black.” –Des of Miss DreamyMarie
Don Juan IV: “Don Juan IV is my laptop. What, you don’t name your computer? That is too bad.” –Heather of The Spohrs Are Multiplying
Dorothy Parker: “Interesting aside: I named my computer Dorothy Parker. It’s probably wishful thinking more than anything else.” –cenobyte of centre of the univerce
Frangus: “Frangus is a beautiful name. It sounds like the name of the lost Weasley child. It evokes images of a tall, rangy, somewhat grungy hunk (think Aragorn-esque) with blazing red hair, a legendary sword, and a breathtaking Scottish accent. It was also, as some may recall, from a Sparticle made of pure awesomeness. It just fit perfectly.” –RabidWrackspurt via SparkLife
Henry & Eli: “I finally have a laptop, after two and half years working on a desktop. Trust me, I loved my desktop but he was hard to live with. Not being able to spend valuable time with him while I worked with my friends in the studios. And yes, I called him a ‘he.’ I named him Henry. But now my laptop is named Eli and he is a gem. I can take him anywhere and I love it! I sound like I had no idea they make computers that can move.” –Catie of Catie Witt (blog)
Holophonor: “All of which is an extended introduction to the announcement of the name of my new MacBook. I’ve dubbed it Holophonor. (…) It’s a musical instrument from Futurama, which produces images as well as music. It’s allegedly incredibly hard to play (although the holophonor recital in one episode suggests a little otherwise) but is capable of intoxicatingly immersive effects.” –James Grimmelmann of The Laboratorium
Hubert: “I named my computer Hubert because it reminds me of Hubert Humphrey, the long time U.S. Senator from Minnesota and Lyndon Johnson’s vice president. For those of you too young to remember, Humphrey was a likeable, compulsive talker who was so eager to please he could become annoying. My computer is like that.” –Gwen Gibson of The Lighter Years
Lafayette: “Lafayette – My current iMac is named for my favorite, and the most well-acted character in HBO’s True Blood.” –Courtney Heard of courtneyheard.com
Lisbeth: “But, before I sign off for tonight, let me introduce you to Lisbeth. (…) Yes, I named my laptop after the hacker survivor extraordinaire from the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. She’s a victim who takes her life back, with the power of her intelligence and her trusty computer.” –Erin of Daisies and Bruises
Lucille: “My computer is Lucille; she is a fiery redhead, like Lucille Ball.” –Rachel of Not-so-Plain Jane
Lucy: “I am writing this from my new laptop – a MacBook. Lovely little piece of equipment – I have named her Lucy (as in “Lucy, I’m h-o-m-e”) with the hopes that we will enter into a long-term relationship of mutual respect and understanding.” –mimijk of Waiting for the Karma Truck
Lula: “It was the Romantic me who went to Circuit City and Best Buy, who glazed over as acne-riddled salesboys extolled the virtues of Vaios and Thinkpads, and who eventually fled to do some reading on the subject before spending nearly a month’s salary for a basic, Luddite-friendly model. When I finally got my laptop home, I immediately named her Lula (after my grandmother, who also inspired and terrorized me), then ditched my paper notebook, opened Word, and began writing the new play before even checking out the other programs I had paid for.” –David Valdes Greenwood via The Boston Phoenix
Mandy: “I know you all are wondering why her name is Mandy (ok, maybe you’re not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.) When I first got Mandy, she was a beautiful new white Macbook. I had just started dating my Handsome, and he lent me his book of cd’s so I could put new music on my new laptop. Well, lo and behold, what cd did I find buried in with his? Why yes, the cd pictured at the beginning of this post [Mandy Moore’s “So Real”]. I thought this was hysterical, and because it was a white cd and my laptop was white, I named her Mandy. It seemed to fit.” –Kate of Kindly, Kate
Marcus: “i have named him Marcus after the lead singer of my favorite band Mumford & Sons. i was going to call him Lenny because Lenovo, but ever since the movie The Perfect Man, all i can think of when i hear that name is a chubby guy singing a Styx song.” –Leann Elizabeth of A Glass of Leannade
Milo: “My world is currently in a state of crazed shuffling and god-awful box hoarding. My room is now returned to the cold monastic state I found it in and as soon as this post is over so goes Milo the netbook. (Yes I named my computer Milo, no you cannot make fun of me for it). By this time tomorrow I will have returned to my domicile and summer hi-jinks can begin!” –SugaryCynic of Sugary Cynicism
Nox: “It started (…) with me buying a new computer, and this time I went for brand new hardware, top of the line, as I just had gotten my first paycheck from my first real job. And as this was a proper computer, it needed a proper name. And as the casing was black, I went looking for something that resembled darkness and the absence of light. Can you guess which name I ended up with? Probably not if you aren’t very well versed in old Greek and Roman mythology, as the goddess I named my computer after isn’t that famous. I named my computer “Nox”, the Roman name for the Greek goddess Nyx, the primordial goddess of the night.” –Sebastian Storholm of Sebastian’s Blog
Sadie: “Sadie came into my life in March of 2008. She was an HP Pavilion, the first new computer I had purchased in over ten years. Sadie was not my first choice when I was doing research in buying a laptop, but she was quite simply prettier and shinier than the one I had originally picked out, so I bought her instead. I named her Sadie because I had had a dream where I bought a laptop and named it Sexy Sadie, after the Beatles song.” –Gena Radcliffe of You Are Not a Winner
Sally: “My computer, Sally (yes, I named my computer), is almost six years old. While I love her to death, it’s about time to put her down. She’s been good to me, despite all the verbal abuse.” –Marian Schembari of marianlibrarian.com
Serena: “I got Serena back in the winter of 2005, and named her, as I named a lot of my machines, [after] a character in the TV show ‘Roswell’ – actually, an enigmatic reference to a person from the future who was never shown on screen.” –Chris K of The Kelworth Files
SparkyBookPro: “My baby is going into the hospital for outpatient surgery. Actually it’s more like a transplant. SparkyBookPro needs his fan replaced. Yes, I named my computer. Yes, I am a nerd. They are also going to do a bypass of the current battery and transplant a new one in its place. As soon as I am done with this post (and a bit more blog reading), SparkyBookPro will be taken to the facility. He will be gone for two days.” –Kim of Emergiblog
Tardis: “Now, I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m a big Whovian. (fan of the British show Dr Who) I named my computer the TARDIS, I have a sonic screwdriver on me at all times, and I bought a pair of Converse because the 10th Doctor wears them. Yes, I am obsessed.” –Jenny of The Eternal Puppy Station
Thusnelda: “How did I choose the name Thusnelda? Well, you see, a month or two ago I mentioned on Facebook that I was going to buy a laptop, and I needed a name. And generously, Angela shared the names of some of her relatives. And when I read Thusnelda, I knew that had to be the one. It is solid, original, and not at all trendy. There aren’t going to be 15 other Thusneldas in a 3-block radius. And the name can’t go out of style, because it was never in style.” –Amber Strocel of strocel.com
Veronica: “She’s cute, she’s skinny, she’s bright-eyed, energetic (great battery life), and she even has a cute pattern on her hood. I’ve named her Veronica.” –Jamie of The Appropriate Opinion
Have you named your computer? If so, what’s the name, and why did you choose it?
They were young actresses on the cusp of movie stardom back in the 1920s and 1930s.
About 13 Baby Stars were selected by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers every year from 1922 to 1934 (minus 1930 and 1933).
Some of those young women did indeed achieve stardom. Among the Baby Stars were Clara Bow (’24), Mary Astor (’26), Joan Crawford (’26), Fay Wray (’26) and Ginger Rogers (’32).
I thought the names of the Baby Stars — the oldest of whom were born in the final years of the 1800s, the youngest of whom were born in the mid-1910s — would make an interesting set. But I wanted birth names, not stage names, so I tracked down as many birth names as I could. Here’s the result, sorted by frequency (i.e., seven women were named Dorothy).
(Often stage names were the real-life middle names of these women.)
Finally, a few interesting details:
“Derelys” was Derelys Perdue, whose first name at birth was actually Geraldine. I’m not sure how she came up with her stage name, but, in March of 1923, her film studio (FBO) tried to re-rename her “Ann.” (They’d sponsored a name contest in a magazine called Film Fun. The winner got $50.) Derelys brought an injunction against the studio in April to prevent the name change from happening, and the story ended up in the newspapers. This extra visibility is likely what boosted the name Derelys into the U.S. baby name data for the first and only time in 1924.
“Jobyna” was Jobyna Ralston, who was named for actress Jobyna Howland, daughter of a man named Joby Howland. The name Jobyna debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1927.
A reader named Kelly is expecting her second daughter in May, and she’d appreciate a few name suggestions. She writes:
Our first daughter, Maeve, was named really easily, and we grow to love the name more and more. However, we are having an exceptionally difficult time finding a second girl’s name that we like as much. I especially like Gaelic/Celtic names, but am willing to consider other options as well.
Here are some names that I think could work with Maeve: