How Famous Names Influence the Popularity of Baby Names

We’ve seen it happen many times. A seemingly uncommon baby name suddenly rises to the top of popularity charts. Meanwhile, an all-time favorite unexpectedly gets the cold shoulder from parents-to-be.

How does that happen?

Let’s explore how well-known people affect a name’s trendiness.


The Prestige Phenomenon

We admire famous people. We want to know what clothes they wear, the food they eat, and what they name their babies. There are probably hundreds of websites dedicated to celebrity baby name watch and thousands documenting their lives.

But why is that?

British anthropology expert Dr. Jamie Tehrani proposed that our brains became wired to look up to and copy people who are well known to survive. Prestige permitted our ancestors to identify and reward people with superior skills and knowledge. These people became role models in society. Their influence helped breakthroughs and new techniques — how to use plants as medicine or improve the design of hunting weapons — spread fast within the community and even beyond.

However, these days, we consume products and services that celebrities and other famous people endorse even though these have nothing to do with their skills, knowledge, or success.

We have been programmed to pay more attention to them than other members of society. That goes with these famous people and their children’s names. Just as we want to mirror their lifestyle, we want to name our kids after theirs.

Famous People Can Boost A Name’s Popularity

Celebrities and Their Babies

While we’re noticing this generation’s fascination for celebrity names, it has happened in the past. From Hollywood to Bollywood-inspired baby names, many parents want their kids to have a connection to their famous namesakes. Whether it’s their magnetic charm or success, many parents are drawn to celebrity names and their kids’ names.

One of the best examples would be the name Shirley. In 1915, the name was not in the US Top 20, according to the records of the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, when Shirley Temple became an internationally popular child star in the 1930s, the name became the second most popular baby girl’s name. In fact, 229,359 babies were named Shirley in that decade alone.

Famous Brands Named After People

Sometimes parents may take name inspiration from brands they love. Some of these popular brands have been named after their founders. For instance, Chanel, a high-end brand of haute couture and luxury items, is named after Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.

Another example would be Ford, a multinational motor company named after Henry Ford. The name Ford is quite popular as a boy’s name. In 2018, it ranked #635 in SSA’s Top 1000.

Royalty and their Heirs

We have this fascination with royalty, especially the British royal family — their life of privilege and wealth. We regard them highly that we want our little prince or princess named after them. From the traditional Philip and Victoria to the modern Archie and Zara, there’s no question that these famous people contributed to pushing these names up the popularity charts.

As a matter of fact, several royal names — Elizabeth, William, George, Elizabeth, and Edward have always been in the Top 100 baby names since the early 20th century, according to the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics. In the US, the name Elizabeth has always been in the Top 20 since 1900. Meanwhile, the other royal names mentioned have consistently been featured in SSA’s Top 1000 in the last decade.

Historical Figures and their Legacy

Many parents want to name their children after important historical figures. They may feel inspired by these people’s outstanding achievements and admirable character.

For example, some parents may name their children after the great Abraham Lincoln to show their patriotism. The name Abraham has been popular since 1900 and has continuously been in the US Top 500 names for boys.

Baby Names Plummet in Popularity with Controversial Personalities

If famous people can help baby names become more sought-after by parents-to-be, the opposite is also true.

In the 19th and early 20th century, the name Adolf was a popular baby boy name in German-speaking countries. In the US, the peak of its popularity was in 1906 when it ranked #852.

However, by 1940, during World War II, only five (5) boys in the US were named Adolf. Also, its French variant Adolphe and Italian variant Adolfo have ceased to be used by parents.

Interestingly, a white supremacist family hit the headlines in 2008. At that time, they complained that a ShopRite supermarket had declined to write their seven-year old’s name Adolf Hitler on a birthday cake.

Famous Names Pedia: Get to Know About the World’s Most Famous People

So, we’ve established the connection between famous people and baby names. Now, we’d like to share with you a new and exciting section about popular people by BabyNamesPedia called Famous Names Pedia.

Curious about the lives of your favorite Hollywood celebrities? Interested to learn more about the world’s top entrepreneurs, musicians, and athletesFamous Names Pedia has got you covered.

With Famous Names Pedia’s smart filter, you could look them up depending on their profession, age, birthplace, or nationality.

You’d know interesting facts about them, including their famous works, their family members, and awards they’ve received.

Moreover, you’d pick up some fascinating naming-related facts (how their parents chose their names, how they name their children, etc.). These could help you choose the perfect name for your baby.