What were the names that most commanded our attention this year? Our notable names of 2011 are inspired by heroes and heroines real and imagined, contemporary and historic, all grown up and newborn. Their names are zooming into focus and disappearing from view, newly-minted and freshly revived.
The most notable names of 2011, one of them perhaps right for your brand-new baby, are:
PIPPA. Runner up: Kate
When it comes to the Middleton sisters, Kate may have the title of Countess, but Pippa has the title of most influential name holder. Though her full name of Philippa may not have made any inroads yet, her peppy, perky nickname has definitely impressed American baby namers – it’s already in the Nameberry Top 50.
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ASA. Runner up: Asher
Attractive British “Hugo” star Asa Butterfield is sure to do a lot to rejuvenate this underused, short but strong biblical name, which is also the name given to his son by Radiohead’s hip Colin Greenwood. The Old Testament hit name Asher is also zooming straight for the top.
HARPER. Runner up: Atticus
The beloved novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” provided inspiration for two of the most notable names of the year. Author Harper Lee (born Nelle Harper), whose name was an early gender bender, inspired the choice of Victoria and David Beckham. Parents of boys have been stirred by the book’s noble hero, Atticus Finch, to revive this ancient Latin name.
VIOLA. Runner up: Octavia
The two actresses who have been winning acclaim for their roles in “The Help” – Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer – both have names with great potential that relate to current faves Violet and Olivia.
SIRI. Runner up: Mac
For better and worse, it was Apple’s year, with news of the sad passing of founder Steve Jobs as well as the introduction of virtual PA Siri, whose Scandinavian and Swahili name can mean victory or secret. Other Apple names worth considering: Mac, along with Apple itself.
MITT. Runner Up: Newt
Politics aside, if you had to choose between the name of a piece of athletic equipment or that of a slimy aquatic amphibian, what would it be? We rest our case. In all fairness, Newt was born Newton, while Mitt has Willard Mitt on his birth certificate.
ROONEY. Runner up: Katniss
With her starring role in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Rooney Mara (born Patricia Rooney) has become an instant icon, and we see her appealing, buoyant Irish surname taking off for girls a well as boys. “The Hunger Games’” Katniss may be an equally tough and appealing heroine with an equally unique name, but we don’t see Katniss finding the same widespread appeal.
HADLEY. Runner up: Gatsby
It’s been a “Midnight in Paris” kind of year, from the Woody Allen film of the 1920s literary set to the hit novel “The Paris Wife” to the new movie version of “The Great Gatsby.” Hadley, the name of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, is enjoying a turn in the spotlight nearly a century after her heyday in Paris.
RORY. Runner up: Rafael
Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy made headlines this year when he won the U.S. Open at the ripe old age of 22, drawing attention to his spirited Gaelic classic name. Coming in second is the attractive Latino name of tennis star Rafael Nadal, now ranked at World No. 2.
GABRIELLE. Runner up: Gabby
The incredible courage and strength of valiant Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as she recovered from her gunshot wound impressed everyone this year. As a result, both her full name and nickname Gabby have been revived by admiring parents.
ELVIS. Runner up: Presley
Might The King really and finally be dead? Elvis was notable this year for vanishing from the Top 1,000. But all was not lost – Presley is still ascending, now at No. 274 – but for girls!
Nameberry is a baby-naming site produced by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, co-authors of 10 best-selling baby name guides, including the newest, “Beyond Ave and Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby.” See more at nameberry.com.