Baby name trends tend to evolve gradually over time. But there are some names that experience precipitous drops in popularity or just completely fall off the map. The reason usually has to do with the news.
Often, big news events can cause a name to rise in popularity. But, as these examples show, associations with controversy, disaster or mass murder can also cause a name’s popularity to tank.
Katrina is one of the most well-known examples of a baby name that plummeted in popularity following a major news event. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, the name achieved a certain level of infamy.
According to the Social Security Administration, 1,327 baby girls in the U.S. were named Katrina in 2005, and it was the 246th most popular name for girls.
In 2006, only 853 Katrinas were born, and the name dropped down to 379th most popular.
The last year it appeared on the top 1000 names list was 2012, when it ranked at 941st. In 2016, only 190 baby girls were named Katrina.
Interestingly, a 2012 New York Times report found a 9 percent increase in names that begin with the letter K following Hurricane Katrina.
When the Social Security Administration released its baby name data for 2016, one notable finding concerned the name Caitlyn.
The year after Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, the four names that decreased in popularity the most were variations on the same name: Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn.
The name Caitlyn’s ranking fell from 598th to 1,060th. Caitlin dropped from 609th place to 1,151st, Katelynn fell from 652nd to 1,054th, and Katilynn went down from 994th to 1,375th.
“It was inevitable,” Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabynameWizard.com, told The Associated Press. “Caitlyn was already falling in popularity. Now it is suddenly controversial.”
The name Monica peaked in popularity in 1977 at number 39 on the Social Security Administration list. That year, 6,366 baby Monicas were born. Over the next 20 years, the name slowly dropped down the list.
In 1996, Monica was ranked at number 81, with 4,325 baby girls named Monica that year. In 1997, it was at number 79, with 4,223 baby Monicas.
But after the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal came to light in 1998, the name took a sharper dive. That year, its popularity dropped to 105th place, with 3,229 baby Monicas born that year. In 1999, its ranking fell to 151st, with 2,133 babies named Monica that year.
The name’s popularity has continued to decline, and in 2016, it ranked at number 589, with only 515 newborn Monicas.
The name of Egyptian goddess Isis first appeared in Social Security Administration data in 1960, when five baby girls were given that name. A superhero show from the mid-1970s called “Isis” gave the name a bump in popularity ― in 1976, 124 newborn girls were named Isis.
Isis again rose in popularity throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, peaking in 2005, when it was ranked the 522nd most popular name for girls in the U.S. with 561 babies named Isis born that year. Even Gabrielle Union’s character in the 2000 cult classic cheerleader movie, “Bring It On,” was named Isis.
But as the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gained notoriety, the name’s popularity took a dive. In 2014, it had dropped from number 575 to number 704 in the rankings.
By 2015, it had completely fallen off the top 1000 list. Only 53 baby girls were named Isis in 2016.
For obvious reasons, you aren’t likely to meet anyone named Adolf these days. But the name’s decline in popularity happened more gradually than you’d think.
The name Adolf appears in the Social Security Administration’s earliest public data from the year 1880. From that year on, the agency compiled lists of all the baby names that had been given to five or more newborn boys or girls. In 1880, six baby boys were named Adolf. (The alternate spelling, Adolph, was given to between 80 and 120 children per year in the late 19th century. It peaked at 673 babies in 1917 before dwindling in subsequent decades.)
The number of babies named Adolf for the most part remained in the single digits over the next three decades, but the number of baby Adolfs climbed up into the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s in the 1910s. The name hovered around that level of popularity until the 1930s, when the number of baby boys named Adolf in a given year dropped into the teens.
Nearing the end of World War II in 1944, only five U.S. newborns were named Adolf. The name did not appear in the data (meaning it was chosen for fewer than five baby boys or girls) in the years 1946, 1953, 1967, 1974, 1977 or 1978. It did appear in all the years in between, but never for more than 12 newborns.
From 1984 to 1989, Adolf did not appear in the data. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the name didn’t truly fall off the list for good until after 1990, when five newborn boys were named Adolf.
In the 1950s, the number of baby Adolphs born annually ranged from 117 to 153, but over the subsequent decades, that number dwindled until it reached the single digits in 2002. In 2016, seven newborn boys were named Adolph.
So though the name was never particularly popular in the U.S., today it is incredibly rare. Still, a white supremacist family did make headlines in the new millennium after naming their son Adolf Hitler Campbell.
The name Ellen didn’t completely tank per se, but it saw a sharper decline in popularity after comedian and actress Ellen DeGeneres (and her sitcom character with the same first name) came out as lesbian.
Between 1991 and 1996, the name Ellen dipped from the 209th most popular name for baby girls to the 245th most popular name.
After DeGeneres came out and the famous “Puppy Episode” of “Ellen” aired in April 1997, the name saw a larger decline.
In 1997, it dropped to number 346 and then down to 426 in 1998.
The name Ellen bottomed out at number 742 in 2012, but in recent years, it’s gotten a little more love ― perhaps in part to DeGeneres’ return to prominence and beloved daytime talk show.
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