17 Years Ago, The ‘Twilight’ Saga Helped This Baby Name Boom. It's Still Going Strong.
One vampy name blew up in the aughts. We think we know why.
In 2006, an unassuming baby girl's name found itself unexpectedly — and explosively — popular in the United States. Although the name itself — Isabella — had been around for a while, and was solidly popular for a century, it quickly rose to the top in just a few short years. Very quickly. In 2000, it was only the 48th most popular baby girl name in the U.S. By 2006, it was comfortably in the top five.
This deluge of baby Isabellas might have been a surprise to the uninitiated — that is, the non-fans of Twilight. But for Twilight super-fans of main character Isabella ‘Bella’ Swan — and there were and are millions of them! — the name’s ascendance into the mainstream was nothing more than divine, unstoppable, and dare we say, irreversible and irrevocable?
But is Twilight really the reason this baby name blew up? It’s hard to say. What’s not hard to say is that pop culture undeniably impacts many areas of our lives, including the world of baby names. For example, the names of characters in the HBO TV show Game of Thrones, such as Arya and Tyrion, saw a massive surge in popularity in the years following the start of the series.
Twilight seemed to be surrounded by the same phenomenon — even before the movies were released and it was just a multi-book cult-classic young adult vampire romance between 17-year-old Isabella "Bella" Swan and Edward, a teenage-looking vampire who is really over 100 years old. Isabella has long been more popular than, say, Khaleesi, however, so it’s hard to draw the same conclusions.
According to nzherald.co.nz, the first print run of the first novel installation of Twilight was only 75,000 copies. The sequel, New Moon, which came out in 2006, debuted at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list, quickly hit #1, and spent 11 weeks as the bestselling novel in the U.S. When the fourth novel came out in 2008, 1.3 million copies of the book were sold in one day alone.
The subsequent adaptations also did gangbusters. The first Twilight movie, which came out in 2008, earned more than $400 million at the box office. The final installation, which released in 2012, made almost $850 million.
In the midst of this-is-the-skin-of-a-killer-Bella mania, the name Isabella — Bella Swan’s full given name — saw a significant boost in popularity. It only got more popular every single year after 2006, in which it ranked as the 4th most popular baby girl’s name, per Social Security Adeministration data; in 2007 and 2008 it was the 2nd most popular girl’s name in the U.S. In 2009 and 2010, it was the number one most popular baby girl’s name in the country.
For the past 12 years, the name has bounced around the top 10 of the most popular names for girls in the U.S. It’s currently the 6th most popular name.
Is it a mere coincidence? Maybe. The name was clearly already popular before the novels came out. But the long-term popularity of the name, the fact that it was the most popular baby girl name at the fever pitch of Twilight-mania, and the fact that it was attached to the most it-girl of the most it-couple of Hollywood at the time — R-Patz and K-Stew! — lead us to believe, as any rational person would, that the teenage vampires had something to do with it.