20 Baby Names That Were Totally Ruined for the Rest of Us

Genny Glassman | Dec 5, 2019 Pregnancy
20 Baby Names That Were Totally Ruined for the Rest of Us
Image: iStock/Sasiistock

baby girl
iStock/Sasiistock

Sometimes it just can't be helped, a baby name can have everything going for it -- popularity, a cool meaning, ranking high on the baby name charts -- and then boom: One bad pop culture reference turns it sour. Or sometimes a name becomes so trendy that it starts to lose favor with new parents who get tired of hearing the same name again and again. We've seen this happen repeatedly and there doesn't seem to be any way to turn the tides once we've all collectively sensed that a name has seen better days. Just take the name Ursula for example -- it's almost impossible not to think about the villain in The Little Mermaid.

Using a little help from a recent Twitter thread started by comedian Jessie McLaren, which posed the question "What piece of pop culture has ruined a first name?" we've compiled a list of the top 20 names that can't seem to shake their negative connotations. Whether that be the names ruined by the internet (think Daniel which has been straight-up ruined by the viral "Damn, Daniel" internet meme) or pop culture (think about every poor girl who has to grow up post-Amazon Dot with the name Alexa). While we can't change the course of history, but we can identify the names that make us roll our eyes or have bad connotations, so that parents can go into the naming process with a little clear-eyed perspective. Take a look at the top 20 names that have been completely ruined for us. Try your best not to cringe.

  • ELSA

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    We hate to say it, but we can't let it go -- Elsa will pretty much exclusively bring to mind the powerful lead character from Frozen. But if that hasn't scared potential users off, the name does hold some special meaning. Elsa was actually the pet name of Elizabeth before becoming a name in its own right. Cute variations are Elsie, Elizabeth, or Else.

  • ARYA

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    iStock/mapodile

    Blame the inarguable lackluster series finale of Game of Thrones for this one. Arya was on its way to being a top baby name when a few bungled plot points on the hit HBO show have seemed to get in its way. Other girls' names from the show have also taken a hit, think Sansa or Dany -- but Arya was an unusual name that seemed like it could have had staying power. Sigh.

  • ALEXA

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    iStock/fotostorm

    Alexas born pre-2010s would surely agree, the advent of the Amazon Alexa has sullied their good name. While the electronic assistant has helped most of with say, predicting the weather for the day or turning on our smart home accessories, it hasn't helped the real-life Alexas who have to put up with some gentle teasing. Otherwise, Alexa is the shortened form of Alexander (or Alexandra), which means "to defend" or "defender."

  • JON

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    Besides the fact that it seems like there are so many Jons in the world (perhaps too many Jons?) this name also got tarnished by Game of Thrones. Just ask any adult Jon who must constantly get told that they know nothing. As a baby name, Jon is derived from the Hebrew Yonatan, a short form of Yehonatan, which means "Yaweh [God] has given."

  • KAREN

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    iStock/cws_design

    The internet is to blame for this one. Karen has become synonymous with a certain type of woman who would immediately ask to see a manager at a retail store or restaurant if the interaction wasn't going her way. But if the jokes about Karen online aren't a barrier, the name is actually the Danish form of Katherine, which root word kathos, means "pure, unsullied."

  • DANIEL

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    iStock/jaswinder1911

    Back at it again with the white vans, huh? Another name ruined by the internet, Daniel has become ravaged by the Damn, Daniel meme which took over in 2016 and has unfortunately not stopped in being a source for countless jokes. Daniel is actually derived from a Hebrew name and means "God is my judge."

  • DONALD

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    No matter which side of the aisle a person falls on, Donald has become a lightning rod name due to its political affiliations with the 45th president of the United States. On its own, the name isn't actually so bad -- it's actually the Anglicized version of the Gaelic name Domhnall and means "world ruler." Some variations might be Don, Donny, or Donal.

  • FELICIA

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    iStock/Linda Raymond

    Hi, Felicia. Or should we say Bye, Felicia. Poor, poor Felicias who had to live through the thousands of internet jokes and memes that came from the revival of one snappy line from the classic '90s movie Friday. But as a name, Felicia is derived from the word "felicity," which means "happiness."

  • HARRY

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    We don't know when it will happen, but there will be a time when the name Harry does not evoke the thought of spells, wizards, and potions class -- but unfortunately that day is not today. As a name, Harry is the English cognate of the French Henri and means "home ruler" or "ruler of an enclosure."

  • LINDA

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    iStock/Yagi-Studio

    Linda has gotten a bad rap from the viral video of a little boy trying to defend himself after he was caught getting cupcakes from his grandma after his mom told him no. Or perhaps it was this video of a little girl who is upset for being put in time out that did the trick. Either way, Linda is a Spanish name that means "beautiful" or "pretty."

  • AUSTIN

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    iStock/Asia-Pacific Images Studio

    It might be hard to believe, but it has been over 20 years since the first Austin Powers movie came out -- but that doesn't mean this name won't evoke the words Yeah, Baby! from fans of the Mike Myers' comedy trilogy. As a baby name, Austin is the contracted form of Augustine, which means "great" and apparently, pairs well with the middle name Danger.

  • AARON

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    A popular sketch from the comedy duo Key and Peele has changed the trajectory of this popular boys' name, as most Aarons can probably attest. Aaron is derived from the Hebrew name aharōn which means "the exalted one" and was also the name Moses' older brother, and spokesman, in the Bible.

  • SABRINA

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    iStock/fotostorm

    Sabrinas in the '90s must have thought the bad days were over once the popular teen comedy Sabrina the Teenage Witch came to an end. But a recent Netflix re-boot -- albeit with a darker edge -- The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, has brought back those witch connotations. Fittingly, Sabrina actually is believed to have Celtic origins, which probably won't help detract from its spooky vibes.

  • ARCHIE

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    We're not sure if this name ever had a chance after the Archie comics became big in the '40s, but the recent CW adaptation, Riverdale, hasn't helped one bit. Now, the name is more closely tied to the teen drama and while it's probably not as bad as naming a baby Jughead, we do think that parents should think carefully before choosing it. Now that England's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have named their baby Archie, things may change.

  • JOLENE

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    As the woman who stole Dolly Parton's man (and then got a song out of it), a Jolene would be hard to shake the connotations associated with this name. The name was popular in the 1970s before falling off for a bit and has recently spiked again on the top baby name charts in 2017. 

  • ROSS

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    iStock/kate_sept2004

    Fans of Friends might understand this one. Calling someone a Ross might not be a compliment. It's not that Ross is a bad character, he's just...Ross -- a little goofy and a bit of a dork. If the paleontologist who loves Central Perk isn't a turn-off, the name actually was once a Scottish last name that meant "dweller on the peninsula."

  • BECKY

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    Beyoncé did not hold back on her last album Lemonade when she called out her husband Jay-Z for cheating on her with "Becky with the good hair" and sparked a nationwide frenzy to figure out who would dare cross Queen Bey. Becky, a shortened form of Rebecca, is derived from the Hebrew name ribbqāh, which means "noose." Yikes.

  • GARTH

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    A Garth could not go through life without hearing, Party on, Wayne! Party on, Garth! so future parents, beware. Although it's been many moons since Wayne's World came out, the name is still pretty much known because of Dana Carvey's head-banging character, but originally Garth was a Middle English name that meant "an enclosed yard or garden."

  • MARIO

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    It's-a me, Mario! See that? That's why Mario has become a completely unpopular baby name. No offense is intended to all the Marios out there, but the Super Mario videos games have completely changed the perception of this name and it would be pretty hard for a kid to shake this Mario's hardcore video game connotations. 

  • ADRIAN

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    iStock/mapodile

    There is no greater movie moment that has changed the course of a name's trajectory than when Rocky Balboa calls for his wife in the first Rocky movie. That moment has sparked thousands of parodies and jokes for years to come. But as a baby name, Adrian could be used for either a boy or a girl, and we think that this name might be due for a comeback.

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