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Celebrities can significantly influence baby name popularity, but not in the ways that you expect. Let’s consider a few examples.

Our first example is the name Elvis, which spikes both in 1956, the year of Elvis Presley’s first hit single, Heartbreak Hotel, and following his death in 1977:

Elvis timeline

Elvis

Popular Presidents can also influence naming trends, as seen by the rise on popularity of Franklin following F.D.R.’s elections. The first election (1933) has the greatest impact, but small bumps can be seen for later elections, too.

Franklin timeline

Franklin

However, not all celebrities influence naming trends. For example, the name Michael declined in popularity since the 1970’s, despite Michael Jackson’s enduring fame:

Michael timeline

Michael

With Nameclouds, you can discover, for example, that Madonna’s success caused only a short-lived increased in the popularity of her name, and that Michael Jackson, after all, may have helped the popularity of the name Jackson.

In conclusion, it seems that celebrities can influence naming trends if their name is not too common (Franklin, Elvis), but not if their name is too odd (Madonna), or too common (Michael). In this last case, more powerful social forces are at play, partly because a common name is not associated with a single person. For example, there will always going to be a famous Kate (Kate Middleton, Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, and so on), so it is unlikely that a single Kate has a big effect.

In the Nameclouds app, you can see the history of more than 35,000 names, and draw connections to your favorite celebrities. Try it for free or subscribe!