Elon Is One Of The Fastest-Falling Baby Names

Elon appears on the Social Security Administration's list of most-declined baby names of 2022.
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Award on Dec. 1, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
Pool via Getty Images
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Award on Dec. 1, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

New data from the Social Security Administration indicates the baby name Elon is dropping in popularity. Earlier this month, the agency released its list of the most popular baby names in the U.S. in 2022, along with broader data about the favorability of thousands of other names.

Between 2021 and 2022, the name Elon fell 140 places, from the 956th most popular baby name for boys to No. 1,096 ― putting it in the list of the 25 most-declined names for boys in the U.S. While we can’t know for sure whether Elon Musk is the reason for the name’s drop in popularity, baby name experts believe the controversial CEO likely played some role.

“Elon was one of the fastest-rising names of 2021, and among names that rise sharply for pop culture reasons, it’s relatively common for them to make the list of fastest-falling names soon after,” baby naming expert and Nameberry Editor-in-Chief Sophie Kihm told HuffPost. “Pop culture namesakes tend to spike for two reasons: Either a celebrity has recently become a household name, or something has happened related to the celebrity that reintroduced or reminded wider audiences of their name.”

She pointed to the large amount of Musk-related press coverage in 2020, thanks to his COVID-19 comments, the SpaceX launches, Tesla’s skyrocketing stock price, and the arrival of the billionaire’s own baby with singer Grimes (and their unusual name choice), among other topics. Thus, the name Elon was “in the air” when parents who gave birth in 2021 were expecting, Kihm noted.

“It’s a familiar name thanks to Musk, easy to spell and pronounce, and similar to fashionable names like Elias, Eli, and all the boy names that end in N,” she explained.

“As a given name, Elon has plenty of appeal,” added Abby Sandel, creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain. “We love an obscure Old Testament name. The meaning ― ‘oak tree’ ― is very on trend for 2023, as is the vowel-heavy sound.”

Although some parents might have chosen Elon because they were fans of Musk, the experts believe most would have been drawn to the name more for those previously stated reasons. But it seems the Tesla CEO’s growing fame and notoriety have quickly had the opposite effect.

“We want our children’s names to set them up for success, so negative stories will make us think twice,” Sandel said. “After the last year or two, even devoted Tesla-driving parents might conclude that the name Elon has too much baggage.”

“Think of Miley,” she added. “It rocketed to No. 129 in the U.S. back in 2008, when Miley Cyrus was at peak popularity as Disney’s Hannah Montana. But a few years later, Cyrus shed her squeaky-clean image and parents avoided the name. It fell almost as rapidly.”

But the negative nature of Musk’s press coverage might have less effect than simply the sheer amount of attention.

“Musk had his controversies in 2022, notably his purchase of Twitter, which likely scared some parents away from the name,” Kihm explained. “But what really drove the decline of the name Elon between 2021 and 2022 is that he became an even bigger celebrity. When a mega-star has a unique name, the name’s popularity tanks rather than rises. There can only be one ― it’s hard to imagine anyone else with the name Oprah or Rihanna or Beyoncé because these names are taken already.”

Although the name Beyoncé surged in popularity between 2000 and 2001 during her rise as a member of Destiny’s Child, it quickly fell in 2002 as her star continued to soar with her first solo recording and theatrical film debut.

Similarly, the name Elon has never been a widespread choice and now has become too strongly tied to Elon Musk. In many contexts, simply saying “Elon” is enough to conjure an image of the business magnate.

“Though these associations can fade with time, it can be off-putting for parents to hear, ‘Your son is Elon? As in Elon Musk?’ every time they introduce their child,” said Sherri Suzanne, a baby name consultant and the founder of My Name for Life.

It’s important to note this steep rise and fall is mainly a phenomenon with distinctive names and superstars.

“Smaller-time celebrities with unique names, or major celebrities with unusual but familiar names can go on to popularize their names for a generation,” Kihm said. “A current example is Scarlett, originally influenced by Scarlett Johansson.”

Similarly, a bad scandal doesn’t automatically send a particular name to the bottom of the popularity list. Whether a name will suffer by association depends in large part on the name itself.

“Andrew and Elizabeth fell in popularity slightly in 2022 ― mostly due to being slightly dated classics ― but it’s not related to Prince Andrew or Elizabeth Holmes,” Kihm explained. “These classic names have many associations — no one would ever assume you named a son Andrew after the Prince, because there are so many other Andrews out there.”

By contrast, to choose the name Elon in this day and age feels like more of a statement. But will that be true for the long haul? Only time will tell.

“Based on what we’ve observed in other names with similar paths, Elon is unlikely to return to the Top 1,000 anytime soon,” Kihm said. “It’s too strongly associated with Musk for now. But give it a few generations, and then Elon may make a comeback. We’re starting to see some names like Elvis and Cleopatra ― which previously had a single, dominant association ― rise in popularity.”

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