Baby Names Are Getting 'Spookier' -- Here's Why

baby pumpkin costume

Can you guess which of these Halloween-ready baby names made America's official name popularity stats last year?

  • Belladonna
  • Chaos
  • Dragon
  • Grimm
  • Leviathan
  • Lucifer
  • Nyx
  • Riot
  • Shadow

The answer is all of them. A generation ago those names were unheard of, but now they show up every year. Names are getting spookier.

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On both the boys' and girls' popularity charts, you can see a new willingness to name on the dark side. Once upon a time, American parents liked to name their daughters Dove. The bird of peace was a top-1,000 baby name in the 1800s, and the diminutive Dovie was even more popular. Not anymore. For the past generation America's favorite bird name has been Raven, the bird of ill omen.

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What's more, parents shopping for fresh names are now willing to look in the villain aisle. Dark, violent antiheroes like Draven (undead vigilante of The Crow) and Kratos (from the God of War video games) have soared. The X-Men films made villainous Mystique a hot name, and the Death Eaters of Harry Potter inspired scores of babies named Bellatrix and Draco. Even Vader showed up in the baby name stats for the first time in 2012.

It's not just new names that show the effects. The name Alucard ("Dracula" backward) has been a staple in vampire tales for generations. The monster master himself, Lon Chaney Jr., played an Alucard in the 1943 film Son of Dracula. Since then the name has been steadily used for bloodsuckers in movies, TV series, comic books, and video games. But it wasn't until the past decade that parents started giving the name to real-life, warm-blooded children.

You can see traditional namers turning darker, too. Biblical villains used to be mostly out of bounds as baby names. Today, Delilah is soaring toward the girls' top 100. Even biblical names that are negative words in English have risen: Judas, Lucifer, Jezebel.

More from The Stir: 25 Halloween-Inspired Baby Names for Girls

For the record, I don't believe that American parents are raising a generation of vampires and supervillains. I think that the rising tide of sinister names reflects the rising triumph of style in baby naming. We're drawn to names that sound fresh and intriguing and have an eye-catching edge to them, regardless of where they come from. And let's face it, a good villain can be awfully stylish.

When Disney decided to give Sleeping Beauty's nemesis Maleficent her own film, they hired Angelina Jolie for the role. A cosmetics company stands ready to help you capture her look, or that of sisters in evil like Cruella De Vil, with their "Disney Villains" makeup collection. Even in the realm of names, the lure of the dark side isn't entirely new. Demon spawn from horror movies have been baby name hitmakers for years. (Damien from The Omen, Regan from The Exorcist, Gage from Pet Sematary, et al.)

As long as the shadowy depths are filled with such stylish names, parents are going to be lured in. And if the names happen to come with a curse attached, so be it.

Would you ever use one of these spooky baby names?

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