Jayden: The Fourth Most Popular Boy's Name in America


Jayden is an invented name of recent origin that has become an absurdly popular given name for newborn baby boys throughout the English-speaking world. In both 2010 and 2011, "Jayden" was the the 4th most popular name for baby boys born in the United States, whereas nearly all of the other top 100 boys' names are traditional names. Moreover, eight other variant spellings appear in the top 1000 boys' names, including "Jaden" (#100), "Jaiden" (#186), and "Jaydon" (#592). "Jayden" was also the #292 name for baby girls born in 2011.

The origins of the name "Jayden" are obscure. It first entered the US boys' top 1000 in 1994, starting at #851. It then got celebrity boosts when actor Will Smith named his son "Jaden" in 1998 and pop tart Britney Spears named her son "Jayden" in 2006. A common speculation is that "Jayden" is a variant spelling of the name of a minor Biblical character named "Jadon" who is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:7. However, the utter obscurity of this character plus fact that the Biblical "Jadon" spelling is ranked far lower than "Jayden" (way down at #615 in 2011) and did not make its first appearance on the top 1000 until after "Jayden" and "Jaden," suggest that the new spellings came first and not the other way around. That said, the existence of a Biblical analogue, however obscure, undoubtedly contributes in some way to the popularity of the name by giving some parents a viable cover story to tell their friends and relatives.

Another theory points to a Star Trek connection. In February, 1994, early in the same year that "Jayden" first made the top 1000, a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled "Thine Own Self" featured a story in which Lieutenant Commander Data lost his memory and was stranded on an unfamiliar planet, where the natives named him "Jayden."

The most likely explanation, however, is simply a conjunction of thousands of individual couples opting to combine the initial "Jay" sound of 1980s uber-name "Jason" with the immensely popular "-den/-dan/-don" ending that dominates the boys' name rankings to this day.

Although the US Social Security Administration, which compiles the national list, does not break down names by demographic origin, an examination of state-by-state naming data from those US states that do reveals that the name "Jayden" is almost non-existent among the children of middle and upper-class whites. Moreover, despite the Britney Spears connection, it is not particularly popular among lower-class whites either. Instead, Jayden's sky-high ranking is attributable to its overwhelming popularity among Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. Hispanics, in particular, are the driving force behind its meteoric rise, as "Jayden" is the #1 or #2 name for Hispanic boys in many states. I personally find this odd, as in Spanish this name would theoretically be pronounced something like "hay-den" or "yay-den," but in any case, it doesn't seem to get pronounced that way in practice, instead retaining the "J" sound you would expect in English.

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