Harper: Baby Name of the Day was originally published on June 3, 2008. It was revised and re-posted on June 18, 2012, and again on February 8, 2016.
Today’s name was first suggested by Kayt, back when in 2008 when it ranked a mere #296. By 2012, it had climbed to #54. Today, fueled by many a high profile birth, Harper has zoomed all the way to #11. Time to revisit this Baby Name of the Day – again!
Harper: Musical Surname Name
Surname names for girls are stylish, and so are musical choices. Take two cups of Madison, stir in a healthy dollop of Cadence and Lyric, and this name is the result.
It was originally a surname for families who crafted or played musical instruments. While harps can be found all over the world, they’re especially associated with Ireland and angels.
Because it’s a common surname, Harper has some history of use as a given name, mostly for boys, in small numbers – a dozen or so each year.
In fact, Harper rose for boys and girls at the same time, starting in the 1990s, likely for the same reasons.
Harper: Impeccably Literary
Nelle Harper Lee was named for her grandmother, Ellen. But when she published To Kill a Mockingbird, she used her middle as her pen name.
Mockingbird was an instant success, winning a Pulitzer and inspired a much-lauded film adaptation, with Gregory Peck as the immortal Atticus Finch. It remains required reading for virtually every student in America.
So why did it take three decades from the book’s 1960 publication, and the 1962 movie, before this name caught on?
Paul Newman played a private detective named Lew Harper in two successful movies: 1966’s Harper and 1975’s The Drowning Pool. It didn’t move the needle on the number of boys given then name.
Tony Kushner’s 1993 play Angels in America gave the name to one of the female characters. That may explain some of the name’s early success.
My theory is: the One City One Book campaigns. Beginning in the late 1990s, the drive to promote a book across a community gained traction in the early 00s. Mockingbird was a popular choice, picked for its focus on race, justice, and courage.
Plenty of parents have cited Mockingbird as the reason for their choice, including David and Victoria Beckham. Sales of the novel surged in the UK after the famous couple announced their daughter’s name.
The first fashion magazine in the US was Harper’s Bazaar, still in print today. And HarperCollins publishing also lends a literary note to this popular name.
Harper: Celebrity Staple
Paul Simon gave the name to a son in 1972. It was his wife’s surname.
More recently, celebrity parents have chosen it for their daughters, including:
- Musicians Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl.
- Actors Tiffani Thiessen, Bill Hader, Jenna Fisher, and Neil Patrick Harris, as well as Ali Wentworth and her political journalist husband, George Stephanopoulos.
- Television’s Shonda Rhimes.
- Elvis has a granddaughter by the name, one of Lisa Marie Presley’s daughters.
- And, of course, Victoria and David Beckham’s youngest is Harper Seven.
It’s also worth noting that this name rose just as another ends-in-r choice for girls was fading: Taylor, a Top Ten pick in the 1990s.
Harper: Up to Eleven
In 2014, over 9,500 girls were given the name, and Harper soared to #11 on the US popularity charts.
Is Harper now headed for the US Top Ten? Or will the controversy surrounding Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, press parents to reconsider?
And yet, the name remains literary, current, and appealingly modern – even if it is no longer unique.
Do you think Harper will continue to rise?