If you’ve ever doubted just how far reaching the Disney influence is in American culture, look no further than your hometown birth announcements. If you think you’ve heard of more babies being named Elsa since Disney’s Frozen hit theaters in 2013, you aren’t imagining it. In 2014, the ice queen’s was the 286th most popular baby girl name in America, rising almost 300 places from 2012. According to the Social Security Administration (where data for the 1000 most popular names for every year 1900 to present can be found), that’s the highest ranking the name has ever held!
Elsa may have caused the most recent spike in baby name rankings among Disney leading ladies, but she’s far from the first character to boost a trend. In 1991, two years after The Little Mermaid debuted, the name “Ariel” peaked as the 66th most popular name for the year. The name “Jasmine” peaked as the 23rd most used name in 1994, two years after Aladdin debuted. In the same way, two years after The Princess and the Frog premiered there was an almost 300 place leap for the name “Tiana”, making it the 387th most popular girl name of 2011. Additionally, the names Giselle and Aurora also saw big gains in use a few years following the feature length films Enchanted and Maleficent.
Does this mean then that all the Disney princesses will be able to find their names among the monogrammed bicycle license plates with the Emilys and Abigails of the world? Not exactly. Though Disney has no doubt played a factor in the rising popularity of certain names, there have also been plenty exceptions to this trend. Consider how many people you’ve met in your lifetime named “Snow White”, “Cinderella”, “Mulan”, “Merida”, “Rapunzel” and “Pocahontas”. Each of these names failed to break the top 1000 most popular any time before or after their movies hit the big screen. One might conclude then that the Disney influence only bolsters the momentum of names already rising in popularity without going so far as to resurrect any from obscurity.
With this in mind, as we look to this Thanksgiving’s release of the newest Disney princess-starring film, Moana, we can make an educated prediction as to how frequently the title character’s name will appear in hospital nurseries in years following. And for Moana, the outlook isn’t so good. Given that the name “Moana” has yet to break the top 1000 most popular names previous to the film’s release this fall, history would suggest that it is unlikely the next generation of Disney fans will owe their namesake to this Polynesian princess.
As someone who thinks the name Moana is particularly beautiful, however, I’m not completely ruling out its chances. After all, though he wasn’t a princess, Flynn Rider managed to make his name (albeit, the assumed alias and not his given name, Eugene Fitzherbert) a literal household one just a year after Tangled premiered. The name “Flynn” debuted at 939th on the chart and has risen as high as 664th place since. Surely, if a name that means “a reddish complexion” can develop staying power among new parents, Moana, which means “a deep expanse of water, an ocean” (peaceful sounding, isn’t it?) could easily catch on too.
Do you know anyone who named a child after a Disney character? Are you that someone? If you were to ever consider a Disney-themed baby name, which would you pick and why? Name your future children in the comment section!