The Age of Bold Baby Names

Bold. Powerful. Audacious. If this year’s fast-rising baby names had a theme, it was “no limits.” Parents are no longer afraid to go big, choosing names that past generations didn’t dare consider. From kings and gods to superheroes and even supervillains, we’ve entered an age of unprecedented baby name boldness.

What does that boldness look like? To start with, the names below all ranked among the top 1,000 names for boys or girls last year, all rising in popularity from the year before:

Ace (M)
Adonis (M)
Anakin (M)
Ares (M)
Athena (F)
Atlas (M)
Cannon (M)
Heaven (F)
Heavenly (F)
Kal-El (M)
Khaleesi (F)
King (M)
Kingsley (M)
Kingston (M)
Kylo (M)
Legend (M)
Maverick (M)
Maximus (M)
Messiah (M)
Miracle (F)
Odin (M)
Orion (M)
Prince (M)
Princess (F)
Princeton (M)
Reign (F)
Royal (F, M))
Royal (M)
Royalty (F)

And here’s a sampling of some fast risers outside the top 1,000:

Ajax (M)
Azazel (M)
Bellatrix (F)
Danger (M)
Dionysus (M)
Divine (F, M)
Empress (F)
Flash (M)
Great (M)
Jezebel (F)
Judas (M)
Kaiser (F, M)
Lex (F, M)
Lucifer (M)
Majestic (M)
Majesty (F, M)
Pharaoh (M)
Queen (F)
Riot (M)
Saint (M)
Sovereign (F, M)
Supreme (M)
Valkyrie (F)
Winner (M)
Zeus (M)

I’ve written before about the rise of “exalted names” that suggest royalty and divinity. I described them as names crafted to inspire and celebrate, “demanding that this child will be valued and respected.” I stand by that description, but this year’s rapid rise of power names on the dark side (like Lucifer, Bellatrix and the #1 fastest-rising boy’s name Kylo) points to a broader phenomenon.

The name lists above cast a wide net. Ace, Messiah, Dionysus, Majestic, Kal-El and Jezebel are all over the cultural and stylistic map. Individually, each represents a single family’s heartfelt decision with a personal story behind it. Collectively, they may well signal a fundamental shift in the enterprise of naming babies.

Over the past generation, parents turned away from the idea of a “normal name”: the assumption that we choose our babies’ names from an established pool of options. This freer attitude led to a flowering of new hit names. We saw more foreign imports like Giovanni; surnames like Cassidy; place names like Brooklyn; and sound-based inventions like Jayla. Each pushed the envelope gently, forging new territory while staying tethered to the traditional.

The new names break the tether. You can almost hear parents thinking, “I could actually do that. I could choose…anything.” It’s a veritable explosion of ambition, thrills, and raw id. We’re naming with the safety off. Full throttle, full bore, no limits.

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