Caitlin is an Irish name, variant of Kathleen or Katherine, generally believed to mean “pure” and pronounced “Cotch-leen” in Irish. Before the 1980s, almost all Caitlins were spelled with a “C”. The name first appears in the SSA database in 1955 with 5 names and remains under 100 a year until the 1970s. In 1980 it spiked, going from 255 to 648, a 150% increase. By 1985, there were 2500 Caitlin’s, 1418 Katelyn’s, and 1235 Kaitlin’s, etc. Did some research and I wonder if this has anything to do with American actress Caitlin O’Heaney, who was born in 1953 and starred in a TV movie and One Life to Live in 1979, followed by a movie with Tom Hanks called He Knows You’re Alone in 1980 (it was Hanks’ first film). In 1982 she got the lead female role in ABC’s Tales of the Gold Monkey and she was also in the Woody Allen film Zelig. So needless to say, she was becoming known in Hollywood.
Tons of variations of spellings crept in as you can see from the graph below. Caitlin was overtaken as the most popular spelling by Kaitlyn and is now the 4th most popular way to spell it. Growing up, there was a Caitlin next door to me born in the late 80s. I also went to elementary school with a Katelyn born in mid 80s, later on in college knew a Kaitlyn, vaguely knew a Kaitlin through work and just recently met a Kaitlyn born around 1990. So when I meet a Caitlin, I never assume it’s spelled a certain way. Personally, I enjoy having a name (Kelly) that is easy to pronounce and spell and most people get it right since it uses the most common spelling. These days in American society, people want their kid to have a unique name and stand out and not be one of 4 Jennifers in their class, so they are getting pretty creative. Here is a list of ways parents spelled Caitlin in 2013: Kaitlyn,Katelyn, Caitlyn, Caitlin, Katelynn, Kaitlynn, Kaitlin, Caitlynn, Katlyn, Katelin, Catelyn, Kaytlin, Kaytlyn, Catelynn, Katelynne, Katlynn, Kaytlynn, Kaitlen, Katlin, Catlyn, Kaitlynne, Catelin, Caytlin, Keitlyn, and Katelyne. Whew.
Click to enlarge.