Name Origins #1

This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of posts that explain or hypothesize why certain names came into existence or exploded in popularity.  Today’s post examines three trendy girls’ names as of late: Harper, Madison, and Peyton. Have you ever wondered where those names came from?

Click to enlarge
HarperMadisonPeyton

Madison
While I don’t have the exact answer behind Peyton and Harper, Madison as a girls’ name owes its existence almost solely to the 1984 movie Splash. Daryl Hannah plays a mermaid who ends up in NYC and upon seeing a sign for Madison Ave, decides to name herself Madison. And viola- suddenly babies across the country were being named Madison. As the below chart shows, prior to 1984, pretty much no females were named Madison.  In 1984? 42. 1985 saw a whopping 299 and it just grew from there. There are some male Madisons out there- it averaged about 34 a year from 1880-1983. There’s Madison Bumgarner, a Major League Baseball pitcher, and Madison Hildebrand, who starred as a realtor on the reality show “Million Dollar Listing.” Madison Bumgarner was born in 1989, so I wonder how he feels having a girls’ name. I would love to interview girl Madisons born before 1984 to learn why they were named that, like did their parents just like it? Were they conceived in Madison, Wisconsin? Were the parents just trying to be unusual or give their daughter a strong, masculine name? Back in the 70s and early 80s, I’m sure a girl being named Madison would have been strange to many people. I wonder what their parent’s reaction was to Madison’s exploding popularity- something they could not have predicted.

Peyton
Peyton was piddling along as a rare girl name until a movie also catapulted it into fame. In 1992, there was a drama/thriller called The Hand that Rocks the Cradle that had a female character named Peyton. I went to high school with a guy named Peyton and most Americans are familiar with NFL player Peyton Manning, who was born in 1976 alongside just 37 other male Peyton/Paytons that year, but just today while in a store I heard a woman call after a little girl named Peyton. So is it assigned more to boys or girls? Originally, it was all boys, but in 1992 the girls took the lead (719 to 448, including spelling varieties) thanks to the movie and have held it ever since. 2013’s tally: 7387 girls to 2342 boys.

Harper
On the 1995-96 season of the super popular NBC show ER, a female character named Harper was introduced and often played opposite Noah Wyle’s character Dr. Carter. The name is definitely on the rise and a few celebrities have named their daughters Harper, including Victoria and David Beckham, the Today show’s Jenna Wolfe and Stephanie Gosk, and Tiffani Thiessen (aka Kelly Kapowski from Saved By the Bell). Not surprisingly, the name is originally an English surname for a person who played the harp or made harps (source: BehindTheName.com) and is often assigned to boys as well as girls.

Madison (girl)
Year Number of Babies
2001 (Peak) 22158
1990 1408
1989 1223
1988 821
1987 750
1986 645
1985 299
1984 42
1970-83 0-6 per year
Peyton (girl)
Year Number of Babies
2009 (Peak) 5310
1996 1104
1995 588
1994 585
1993 617
1992 398
1991 67
1990 61
1989 35
Harper (girl)
Year Number of Babies
2013 (Peak) 8222
2006 597
2004 274
2002 164
2000 135
1998 93
1996 107
1994 33
1992 21
1990 12

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