By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
What do Bob Dylan, Harry Potter and Netflix have in common? They're influencing baby names today
Data on trends in baby names highlight both predictable and surprising facts about culture. Influencers like Bob Dylan and Audrey Hepburn swaying parents on what to name their children might seem believable, but other trends aren't as much. - photo by Payton Davis
The likes of Bob Dylan, Audrey Hepburn and John F. Kennedy probably didn't set goals to have droves of newborns named after them, but because of culture's influence on baby names, that's what happened.

For Nameberry, Pamela Redmond Satran wrote about the biggest figures in culture parents name their children after, and it's a varied bunch.

"The most important baby name influencers are a fascinating mix of actors, writers, sports stars, musicians and historical figures," Satran's piece reads. "What they all share: A charismatic and sometimes heroic image that can inspire parents.and their young namesakes."

For example, before Dylan really named Robert Zimmerman acquired acclaim in the '60s for his folk albums, babies named Dylan were a rarity, according to Satran. The name Dylan first popped up in the top 1,000 boy names in 1966, though, and in 2014 alone, the name was given to 10,000 baby boys and 1,000 girls.

Satran also noted Kennedy's ascent up the girl's chart because of the former president and his son.

"President John F. Kennedy certainly helps burnish the image of this name, but what turned it into a hit name for girls was the gorgeous, romantic JFK Jr., whose emergence in the national spotlight in the mid-90s was directly tied to the emergence of the name," Satran reported.

If Dylan and the Kennedys don't surprise you as name influencers, what about Netflix?

No, parents aren't opting to call their babies "Netflix," but as Eliza Berman wrote for Time, the streaming company's original programming is tied to 2014's top baby names.

Berman reported prevalence of Frank, Remy and Zoe all names of characters in Netflix's "House of Cards" jumped between 10 and 20 percent from the previous year. "Orange is the New Black" character names (Nicky, Alex, Dayanara and Larry) all "enjoyed a greater share of this year's baby name pie," according to Berman.

And fictional figures often influence what parents call their newborns especially when that bit of fiction is "Harry Potter."

Tessa Boyce wrote for the Arizona Daily Star about MooseRoots, a historical record site, looking back to see if J.K. Rowling's series affected the name popularity for well-known "Harry Potter" characters.

That wasn't always the case. In fact, the name "Harry" dipped in popularity between the first book's release and now. But because of Americans' fondness for the series, one in Harry's group of best friends was a source of inspiration for parents, according to Boyce.

"It is important to note that Hermione (pronounced her-my-oh-nee) is not a name that J.K. Rowling invented; the name was actually quite popular in the U.S. around WWI," Boyce's report read. "The name came out of obscurity in 2003 when the fifth book, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' was published, and the film series gained notoriety as fans anticipated the premiere of 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.'"

"Harry Potter" isn't the only case of seeking names from other regions or cultures, according to co-founder and name expert Mallory Moss called Latino pop culture "one of the strongest influences on rising baby name popularity."

The piece indicated Moss found from Social Security Administration data 30 percent of the 10 names increasing in popularity are rooted in Latino origin. Daleyza was 2013's fastest growing name, and Frida, Amia, Naya, Nova and Amina also made the list.

Jo Craven McGinty wrote for Wall Street Journal (paywall) finding how culture influences parents' name choices whether it be from Netflix, books or abroad might be a bit more telling than people assume. It helps us understand ourselves.

Something considered trivial could tell us something important about human behavior, Giorgio Parisi, a theoretical physicist at Sapienza University of Rome, told WSJ. If you have a trained eye to look for correlations, you see something more.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters