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Is The Netflix Show ‘You’ Responsible For The Rise Of The Baby Name Love?

Year after year, the top 10 baby names in the U.S. include familiar picks like Emma, Noah, James and Charlotte. But things get more interesting when you look at the bigger movements lower down on the list.

The latest data from the Social Security Administration shows that Love is one of the fastest-growing baby names in the U.S.

Between 2021 and 2022, the name Love jumped up 265 spots on the list of popular names for baby girls, from No. 1,019 to No. 754.

It’s the first time the name has ever appeared in the Top 1,000 for girls, as 381 female newborns (and 32 boys) were named Love last year.

“Love carries a beautiful and positive sentiment, evoking deep feelings of affection and endearment,” baby name consultant Taylor Humphrey told HuffPost.

“In today’s quest for unique and meaningful names, Love stands out as a powerful choice, symbolising an emotional connection between child and parent.”

But sweet meaning aside, there are pop culture reasons behind the rise of Love as well.

“The Netflix show You, featuring the character Love Quinn, likely plays a role in the name’s increasing popularity,” Humphrey said.

“Television shows and movies hold significant sway over baby name trends, with names like Arya and Khaleesi soaring to fame during the wildly popular show Game of Thrones.”

Portrayed by Victoria Pedretti, the alluring Love Quinn enters the picture in Season 2 and quickly becomes a new love interest for the serial killer protagonist Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley). Interestingly, the character’s name is tennis-inspired, as she has a brother named Forty.

“The second season of You debuted on Netflix in December of 2019,” noted Abby Sandel, creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain. “By the end of 2020, the name had doubled in use, and it’s continued to rise.”

Similarly, the top-rising baby name for boys (and overall) is Dutton, the last name of the fictional family of ranchers featured on Yellowstone.

The same goes for Kayce, another character name from the show and the second fastest-rising boy name in the U.S.

“When somebody sees a less common choice used for a character, not only will it bring it into the zeitgeist, but it kind of validates that it could be used for a name,” said Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com.

“People can see the name in context. With ‘You,’ viewers see people calling this character Love, and it’s no big deal. So they can think ‘OK, I can use that for a name.’”

She believes the internet and social media have heightened pop culture’s impact on baby naming, as TV shows and movies are now more likely to remain on our minds and in our conversations throughout the day. In the case of Love, there are celebrity influences at play as well.

“This generation of parents grew up with Courtney Love and Jennifer Love Hewitt,” Sandel said. “It sounds natural to our ear.”

Looking beyond the entertainment sphere, Love also embodies bigger movements in baby names.

“Love is picking up on a huge trend of modern virtue names for babies,” said baby naming expert and Nameberry editor-in-chief Sophie Kihm.

“Virtue names are aspirational choices that convey values, often those that parents wish to imbue in their child. And who wouldn’t want their child to emanate love?”

She noted that Love is a particularly straightforward virtue name with a clear meaning and strong one-syllable sound a la True, Zen and Dream. Other notable virtue names include Grace, Ever, Maverick, Legend, Serenity and Sage.

Catherine Delahaye via Getty Images

Love is one of many so-called “virtue names” on the rise in recent years.

“While I haven’t personally had clients directly consider the name Love as a first name, I have seen an uptick in interest around names with similar meanings,” Humphrey said.

“Hartley (referring to the heart), Amias and Amare (from the Latin for ‘to love’), and Aire ― popularised by Kylie Jenner’s baby boy, meaning ‘love’ in Japanese and ‘to care for’ in Irish.”

Given Love is also a term of endearment, the name exemplifies the trend of nicknames as first names, as well as word names and virtue names.

“The internal V in Love is another selling quality — that striking consonant sound is found in many of today’s trendiest girl names, like Nova, Ivy, and Maeve,” Kihm added.

Indeed, the top 10 baby names for girls and boys in the U.S. includes several such names ― Olivia, Ava, Evelyn and Oliver. Then, there are the related names and nicknames like Liv and Olive. That’s why Kihm believes Love was always destined for increased popularity.

“For a pop culture catalyst to influence a name, the name has to already be primed for a rise,” she explained. “That’s what’s happening here — Love was going to rise as a baby name anyways, but ‘You’ probably gave it an extra boost.”

But Love fits into another category of baby name that’s seen a big rise in recent years: those with a more gender-neutral vibe.

“While traditionally favoured for girls, Love’s historical appearance in the top 1,000 for boys over a century ago showcases its timeless unisex appeal,” Humphrey said.

“As gender-neutral names gain momentum in modern naming practices, it’s no surprise that some parents are considering Love for boys, drawn to its sentimentality and unique charm.”

According to the SSA, Love ranked at No. 838 for boys in 1902, No. 972 in 1906 and No. 993 in 1909 before falling off the list.

Given the lack of comprehensive census data and smaller pool of names at that time, its presence on the list doesn’t necessarily indicate widespread popularity. In 1902, for example, only nine newborn boys and five girls were named Love.

“Back then, the boys named Love were likely given the name because Love was a family surname,” Kihm said. “It’s possible that some of those boys had Swedish origins — Love (pronounced LOO-veh) is a Swedish name related to the French name Louis. But today, Love is an equal-opportunity name for both sexes. Word names are inherently gender-neutral, although society is biased to consider love a more ‘feminine’ virtue.”

Despite that bend, she noted that Love is also on the rise for boys, as the 32 baby boys named Love in 2022 marks an increase from 21 in 2021 and 14 in 2020.

“Anecdotally, we’re seeing it a lot as a middle name for both sexes,” Kihm added.

Love falls well into the middle name zone along with short classics like Rose, Ann, Lee, Grace and James. In addition to Jennifer Love Hewitt, high-profile examples include Terrence Howard’s son Qirin Love Howard, Elvis Presley’s mother Gladys Love Smith and Robin Thicke’s daughter Mia Love Thicke.

“Love’s versatile appeal is also evident as a middle name choice,” Humphrey said.

“As parents increasingly opt for one-syllable middle names, a country-western-inspired double-barrel sound emerges ― think ‘Luna Love’ or ‘Ruby Love’ for girls, and ‘Dustin Love’ or ‘Logan Love’ for boys. This ‘preppy cowboy’ trend is capturing hearts across the naming landscape.”

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