Dylan: now a popular baby name. Lennon: not so much. Why?

Granted, Dylan was a first name before Mr. Zimmerman adopted it as a last name. But it’s become a wildly popular name for babies in the last couple of decades, at least in part because a lot of parents were Dylan fans. (Also because they watch 90210, I guess.)

Similarly iconic '60s figure John Lennon’s surname has not lived on in a new crop of babies named Lennon, however. (Nor has Hendrix, or Presley, or Joplin.)

What’s so special about Dylan’s last name? What made that name take off while so many other iconic names were untapped for infants?


How do you know that those parents were Bob Dylan fans?

Dylan is a nice traditional Welsh name for boys (and for girls, lately) and I presume many people would know of it, like, it and choose it, even if Bob Dylan had chosen the field of ditchdigging instead of music. A lot of English and Welsh names have become increasingly popular; I see Dylan as one more of them. FWIW, when I hear Dylan I immediately think “Thomas.”

I bet it has to do with a popular TV character named Dylan, or an actor named Dylan (McDermott?). Nobody just names their kid Dylan without being influenced by movies or television. Look at what happened with Madison as a name for girls; virtually unheard of before Splash, but since then, every grade school class has about three of them.

I’m with CrankyAs AnOldman 100% on this. When I read the OP I thought -well because Dylan* is* a first name and Lenon isn’t, then I thought kids being called Dylan now - their parents will be around the 25 - 30 mark ? Bob is unlikely to be the root cause. Celtic names have been popular for a while now and I’d like to add to the ‘influences’ list - Catherine Zeta Jones and Micheal Douglas’ little boy.

Beverley Hills 90210, baby!

Not that I watched it, but I am 34 and it was popular when I was younger.

That doesn’t make sense to me; wouldn’t they then name the child “Robert?” Following your formula, Robert Zimmerman would’ve used the stage name “Bob Thomas.”

There you go; when 90210 started in 1990 (featuring Luke Perry as Dylan McKay), Dylan as a name for boys ranked at number 86, according to the Social Security Administration. By the time 90210 went off the air in 2000, the popularity of the name Dylan had zoomed up to number 24. After that, it just took on a life of its own, rising to number 19 in 2003, the last year ratings have been compiled. Just shows how easily influenced by entertainment American parents are.

I too think of “Dylan Thomas” whenever I hear the name. It’s said that Bob Dylan chose the name “Dylan” as opposed to “Dillion” in honor of the poet. But there is still debate on that.

Despite being a popular name in Wales now, it was quite rare when Dylan Thomas was born. His father got it from the Mabinogion.

*He’s so unhip that when you say Dylan, he thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas
Whoever he was.
The man ain’t got no culture *

-Paul Simon, “A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)”

Curse you! I wanted to make that quote! :slight_smile:
Also, I’ve never heard of someone with the first name “Lennon,” while, as said already, Dylan is a common enough first name already.

Is that the sweet scent of facts I smell? Nice work.

The facts are wonderful. The conclusion, that it “just shows how easily influenced by entertainment American parents are” isn’t so clear to me.

I suspect it was a little more roundabout than that. Let’s say one family chooses the name because they love the show. A few other parents hear about the choice and say “hmmm, I like that name” and choose it. And then people hear that THEY chose it and like it. The cycle grows. I’m not sure I’d conclude that the parents 3 sets removed from the 90210 fan was “easily influenced by entertainment.”

Crap, hit submit too soon. In short, I think the “life of its own” part of the post was pretty important. Famous people or characters in entertainment may get a name noticed and more in the public eye, but after some point it’s out there and parents may choose it without caring about its connection to a particular entertainer.

That is just third generation influence. Had it not been for the original TV influence they may not have used that name. On the other hand, I know of a couple who named their child Dante. Not after the poet. But after the title of that Pierce Brosnan movie. :slight_smile:

All right, I’ll buy it. You’re right. i think I was just rankling at the image of slackjawed Americans paging through Entertainment Weekly magazine and saying "Hey, I never thought of that name before! AWESOME! Let’s name our baby that! "

Which isn’t exactly what was said.

It’s almost like I’m…cranky. Cranky as an old man, you might say.

The parents of babies being called anything now will likely be around the 25-30 mark . . . maybe 35 . . . possibly 40.

I, however, have a son named Dylan. And I’m 54.

I cannot tell you how many people said, back in the '80s, “Oh, what a neat name!” Most of them did in fact think he was named after the singer, but that’s simply because more people have heard of Bob Dylan than have heard of Dylan Thomas.

I named all my sons after mystery writers, as a matter of fact.

Roundabout? Exactly!



The thing is, you never know what’s going to happen to a name. Case in point, a friend of mine named her baby girl Allegra. I thought that was a beautiful name and in fact it was on my list of girl names, if I ever needed one, which I didn’t.

So the first thing was, in grade school the kid was nicknamed “Yeggie.” Ugh.

Now she’s in college and all emotional about the fact that she’s named after an allergy drug!

Interestingly enough my friend’s older daughter is named Krystal. So now they’re both kinda named after drugs. (Personally, I thought “Allegra” was a big step up from “Krystal.”)

Dylan went through a whole phase where he wished I had named him Keith. (Why Keith? I dunno.)

Now my youngest son has a name which was uncommon when I gave it to him and has gotten popular recently, owing to a movie. I’ve even had recent acquaintances say, “Oh–like the kid in The Incredibles!

(RIght, I wanted until he was 9 years old and then named him after a movie character. Duh.)

He is none too happy about this and would like to change his name. He has not proposed an alternative, though. (Hey, how about “Keith”?)

What can I say, I did the best I could. (Recites parent’s mantra: Where have I failed God knows I tried.)

Y’all should check out this Slate article on the provenance of baby names. Makes an interesting case for baby names originating among the wealthy and trickling down to the middle class. I guess rich folks watched as much 90210 as anyone else.