The baby name Tristan saw an impressive jump in usage in the mid-1990s:
- 1997: 4,196 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 92nd]
- 1996: 5,458 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 68th]
- 1995: 3,088 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 121st]
- 1994: 492 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 452nd]
- 1993: 567 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 409th]
The name’s rise in 1995 was the second-largest of the year (after Austin), and it reached the U.S. top 100 for the first time ever in 1996.
Here’s a visual:
Many variant forms of the name saw higher usage during those years as well…
Tristen, Triston, Tristin and Tristian all entered top 1,000 in 1995, and Trystan followed a year later.
The name that saw the largest relative increase in usage in 1995 was Tristin. In second place? Tristen.
(…And this doesn’t even account for all the Tristan-related girl names that got a mid-’90s boost.)
So, what was the influence?
The character Tristan Ludlow (played by Brad Pitt) from the movie Legends of the Fall — a saga set in rural Montana during the early decades of the 1900s.
Tristan was the rebellious middle son of rancher Col. William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins). He and his brothers — the older, ambitious Alfred (Aidan Quinn), and the younger, naïve Samuel (Henry Thomas) — all fell in love with the same beautiful woman, Susannah (Julia Ormond).
Released at the very end of 1994, the “big, robust Western love story” ranked #1 at the box office for four weeks straight in the early months of 1995.
Regarding Tristan Ludlow’s first name, one incredibly prescient reviewer noted that we should “look for [it] to be given to more than a few babies over the next few years.”
Tristan Ludlow didn’t end up with Susannah, but he did get married — to a Native American woman named Isabel (Karina Lombard). The name Karina saw it’s highest-ever usage in 1995, and the usage of Isabel also increased — though it was already on the rise, so there’s no telling how much of the increase was due specifically to the film.
Speaking of Isabel’s rise…
The fact that Legends of the Fall featured both a character named Isabel and an actor named Aidan, and that forms of these names (Isabella and Aiden) went on to reach the U.S. top 10 — peaking almost simultaneously a decade and a half later — is very interesting to me. It makes me wonder whether the movie’s impact on U.S. baby names wasn’t substantially greater (but also more complex?) than what the mid-’90s data would have us believe.
|Isabella ranking, U.S.||Aiden ranking, U.S.|
(I began wondering about this after a friend of mine, who has a son named Aiden, mentioned that she’d had the name in the back of her mind ever since seeing Legends of the Fall as a teenager.)
What are your thoughts on this theory?
And, do you know anyone with a name that was inspired by Legends of the Fall?
- Ebert, Roger. “Legends Of The Fall.” Chicago Sun-Times 13 Jan. 1995.
- Hicks, Chris. “Film review: Legends of the Fall.” Deseret News 17 Jan. 1995.
- Legends of the Fall – Wikipedia
- List of 1995 box office number-one films in the United States – Wikipedia