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Did Dakota Fanning kill Dakota for the boys?

December 1, 2011

It is said that kids say the funniest things, but adults can too. I was talking with a guy named Dakota once who told me that someone had asked him whether he was named after Dakota Fanning (who would be about five years his junior)… yeah right!

But that’s just a little aside into this post for today. I believe that the media has a huge influence on our perception of names, and even name choices. For example the rise in popularity of the name Madison for girls is often associated with Splash, and the same is true for Ariel and the Little Mermaid. Then we have more recently Elliott being used on girls and the character in Scrubs of that name (I guess Elliott in Law and Order doesn’t cancel it out). But just as there can be a positive influence on names, I wonder if there can be a negative influence too, and looking at this from a name and gender perspective which is the main theme of this blog, does a name with an iconic figure of one gender adversely affect the name being used on the opposite gender? Perhaps the name Dakota gives a little insight into this.

Let’s take a look at the popularity of the name Dakota for boys and girls (a link to behindthename is given here)

For convenience the boy’s rankings are listed here:
1985 – 864
1986 – 487
1987 – 421
1988 – 363
1989 – 296
1990 – 195
1991 – 121
1992 – 103
1993 – 85
1994 – 69
1995 – 56
1996 – 58
1997 – 66
1998 – 72
1999 – 77
2000 – 88
2001 – 93

2002 – 107 (Dakota Fanning’s break out year)
2003 – 126
2004 – 137
2005 – 149
2006 – 172
2007 – 203
2008 – 226
2009 – 251
2010 – 293

Looking at the rankings it appears that Dakota as a boys name peaked several years before Dakota Fanning’s break out year. But has her recognition helped with the decline of Dakota as a boy’s name or was this going to be a trend that continued anyway? I’m not sure and I’d be curious as to what others think. Also, any suggestions for other names to test against would be interesting too. (I can say very quickly that Elliott hasn’t gained enough traction for the girls yet to even show up in the top 1000 names for girls and as a boys name it is continuing to rise in popularity).


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  1. Skurinksi permalink

    I think she has helped feminize the name, although her real name is Hannah Dakota Fanning. She didn’t go with Hannah Fanning because someone pointed out how weird that sounded. Apparently she hates the name Dakota and wants to change when she’s 18, we’ll see…

    On the other hand, that kid on Real Steel is named Dakota Avery Goyo. He seems to be getting hyped up a lot, so who knows, that may change.
    I think Dakota was already going down in popularity before Fanning’s breakout, state names overall are no longer that cool. I even knew about boys named Montana, Indiana, Nevada…

  2. Skurinksi permalink

    Other names you can check out:

    Quinn (Daria, and now Glee)
    Daryl (Daryl Hannah, who played Madison is Splash)
    Cassidy (Kathy Lee daughter, said her name almost daily during her show)
    Shelby (Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias)
    Reese (Reese Witherspoon breakout)
    Addison (Grey’s Anatomy character)
    Mackenzie (thanks to Mackenzie Phillips)

    Curious case: Bailey
    Exclusively used as a male name in the early 20th century. Then dropped off in popularity. Bailey was in the early 80s popularized by a female character in WKRP in Cincinnati. The name seemed doomed until it was used by a male character in Party Of 5 during the 90s – this sparked its popularity for boys. However unlike what happens to the majority of boy names when it increases in usage for boys, girls didnt stop getting named Bailey when it peaked for boys, and in the end girls won the fight and Bailey plummeted for boys. However, in the UK Bailey is still used predominantly on boys, and is a popular top100 name.

  3. Thanks for those suggestions Skurinksi, I will definitely look into those. Two others that I have in mind are:

    Drew (Drew Barrymore)
    Cameron (Cameron DIaz)

    Regarding your comments on Bailey; do you think an increasing usage of a name for boys would correspond to a decrease in the usage of the same name for a girl in general? Or is the effect more pronounced as a name becomes more used for girls and then less used for boys (this would seem to be the sense that I have from message opinion boards).

    • Skurinksi permalink

      I think when a boy name starts getting used on a girl it is a red flag, however it has to become considerably popular for girls for it to plummet for boys. Its probably why names like Blake or Logan havent really stopped getting used on boy, they arent too common on girls.
      The opposite doesnt happen that often. I think a name would have to reach an enormous popularity level for it to start decreasing on girls – Jayden is a good example.

  4. Emily permalink

    I think Dakota is girly but it could work 4 boys nn Cody (taken from Koti)

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