Star Wars is everywhere. With the latest installment of the film series about to be released, there are Star Wars toasters, Star Wars tape dispensers, and Star Wars soup.
There are even Star Wars babies.
Our analysis of the Social Security Administration’s data on American baby names shows that the film franchise has definitely moved the needle on naming trends in the US. Star Wars created hundreds of Lukes, Leias, Hans, Landos, and even, yes, Darths.
Because “Luke” is already common outside of the series, it is on a completely different scale from other Star Wars names. Still, the popularity of Luke exploded after the first film, Episode IV: A New Hope, was released in 1977. That’s true even after adjusting for the growth in overall births per year. And while the raw number of Leias is much smaller, it jumped to 156 baby girls in 1978.
Zooming in on the chart and ignoring the outlier of Luke, it’s clear that Star Wars inspires pretty obscure names, too. Some of these had rarely or never appeared in the data previous to the release of the original Star Wars trilogy.
“Han” and “Lando” show up occasionally before the Star Wars films come out. Lando, for example, is an Italian name: Five American babies were given it in the year 1911, the data show. Many Landos fought in the Second World War. But it rises precipitously with the 1980 release of the second film, in which the character Lando Calrissian makes his first appearance.
More surprising in this chart is undoubtedly the rise of “Darth,” a name given to 13 boys in 1978. That’s a small number, but without Star Wars, it would surely be zero.
Several Darths were identified through LinkedIn, Facebook, and other online services where people use their real names. But Darth Newman, Darth Coots, Darth Davis, and others did not respond to our inquiries. There are no instances of “Chewbacca,” “Boba,” or “Yoda” in the dataset, but it only counts names given to more than five babies in a year, so there may be some out there. We did, however, track down Chris Pirillo, maker of geeky parenting videos on YouTube, who named his daughter “Jedi.”
Traveling through time to look at the more recent films, we can see some more Star Wars-inspired babies. Recall what happened in the 1999 film Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which introduced the boy who became the real Darth, “Anakin” Skywalker.
Other characters that feature prominently in the prequels start to appear in the name data only after the films come out. There’s Obi, as in Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as Padme, Luke and Leia’s mother.
The unconventional names in the latest Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens, promise to bring about further changes in American baby names. Don’t be surprised if there are dozens of little Kylos, Reys, and Poes running around in a few years.
How will these names affect kids later in life? “The problem isn’t someone’s name, it’s the bully who lacks respect for themselves and others,” says Pirillo, father of Jedi Pirillo, who is just one year old and will be serving the light side of the Force for years to come.
Michael Tabb contributed reporting.