The interesting name Chael, after first appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the early 2000s, rose to peak usage in 2013:
2015: 35 baby boys named Chael
2014: 60 baby boys named Chael
2013: 96 baby boys named Chael [peak]
2012: 61 baby boys named Chael
2011: 34 baby boys named Chael
What was the influence?
Mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen (pronounced CHAYL SUN-en; first name similar to “jail”), whose career lasted from the late 1990s to the late 2010s.
He was most famous during the early 2010s, when he was a top contender in two different UFC weight classes. Also during that time period, he cemented his reputation as one of MMA’s best trash-talkers.
Sonnen’s initial fight with Anderson Silva* for the UFC Middleweight Championship in August of 2010 was voted Fight of the Year at the annual World MMA awards. Ahead of their highly anticipated re-match in July of 2012, a Bleacher Report writer said:
Chael Sonnen is a name that seems to be on the tip of every MMA fans’ tongues these days. Whether you’re online or watching UFC televised programming, Sonnen’s name and face are everywhere.
In April of 2013, Sonnen lost his third and final title bout, this time against Jon Jones in the Light Heavyweight division. But he did win MMA Personality of the Year in 2013 — ousting the usual recipient, Joe Rogan.
So how did Sonnen, who was born in Oregon in 1977, get the first name Chael? Here’s what he said during a Reddit AMA a few years ago:
My Mom took the name “Michael” and removed the “Mi”.
Jökla, feminine version of Jökull, the #2 boy name
Myrkvi, “darkness (caused by fog or a storm)” or “eclipse“
Svanhvit, “swan” + “white”
There was also a single non-binary name, Blær (“light breeze”), registered in Iceland last year.
Interestingly, about a decade ago, a teenager named Blær forced Iceland to legally recognize her name — which, at that time, was considered solely masculine — by taking the government to court. Perhaps that court battle paved the way for Blær to become a dual-gender name in Iceland? Hm…
The last time I posted rankings for Iceland, in 2018, the top two names (Embla and Aron) were the same.