Investigating the Meteoric Rise and Fall of the Name Heather
Today, the English name inspired by a flowering shrub has become a kind of endangered species.
Heather. No name has burned so brightly or burned out so quickly.
Today, the English name inspired by a flowering shrub and immortalized by a flaxen-haired Locklear has become a kind of endangered species.
A recent analysis by Quartz of U.S. baby-name data going back to 1880 found that "no name in history has become so popular and then flamed out quite like Heather."
The data, it turns out, tells a uniquely American story.
The moniker reached peak popularity in 1975, when more than 24,000 baby girls were named Heather. At that point, it was the U.S.'s third most popular girl's name, after Jennifer and Amy. But by 2017, it had slipped significantly. Last year, Heather was the 1,129th most popular name in the country and was given to only 219 girls.
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Wattenberg explained that the rise and fall of Heather is a perfect example of "the faddish nature of American names."
"When fashion is ready for a name, even a tiny spark can make it take off," she told Quartz. "Heather climbed gradually into popularity through the 1950s and 60s, then took its biggest leap in 1969, a year that featured a popular Disney TV movie called Guns in the Heather. A whole generation of Heathers followed, at which point Heather became a ‘mom name' and young parents pulled away."
It was then that a whole generation of Caitlins, Jessicas and Ashleys were born, and a new crop of future "mom names" along with it.
Like Olivia, Charlotte, Abigail, and other vintage names before it, it seems that Heather will just have to wait for its comeback.