Name of the Day: Piper

by appellationmountain on May 31, 2008

Piper is one of those fabulous names, long underused, that is set to soar. But even while it is racing up the popularity charts, it is far from common today. And so this musical, botanical and surname name remains a great choice for a daughter.

Thanks to Kayt for suggesting today’s Name of the Day.

While Tanner, Miller and Spencer are all reserved for sons, Piper has been exclusively female ever since Rosetta Jacobs signed with Universal Studios in the 1940s and took the screen name Piper Laurie. The actress has worked steadily since then, quietly toting up Oscar and Emmy nominations along the way.

One thing Piper Laurie never inspired, however, were namesakes. At least until the 1970s, when one intrepid pair of parents bestowed the name Piper Perabo on their daughter – who grew up to become an actress, too.

Say “Piper” to many people in the 1980s, and the name would have conjured a very unfeminine image – the professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. Roddy played the bagpipes; other Pipers have probably earned the name by playing similar instruments. As a surname, it has been worn by athletes, theologians, politicians and even an astronaut.

As a given name, Piper remained obscure, never cracking the Top 1000 until 1999. What happened then? The magic of television, of course. Three sisters – Prudence, Piper and Phoebe – debuted on the WB as the supernaturally powerful stars of Charmed. After its October 1998 debut, the show ran for eight seasons, eventually replacing Prudence with Paige.

One year after Piper Haliwell first defended San Francisco from demons, more than 300 baby girls were called Piper. Not too shabby.

The name, of course, fit perfectly with the times. Other 1999 Top Ten choices included Madison and Taylor, and Sydney, Jordan, Mackenzie, Shelby, Bailey, Lindsey and Cassidy rounded out the Top 100.

Nature names are rising, too, and while Piper is not commonly thought of as a plant, the Piper genus grows widely. In fact, you have Piper nigrum in your kitchen – black pepper.

Of course, Piper had a negative association to overcome. While the Pied Piper of Hamlin is sometimes described as a musical exterminator of sorts, ridding a peaceful German hamlet of rats, that’s only half the tale. When the townspeople balked at paying his fee, the Piper returned, whistled a different tune, and abducted their children.

But plenty of parents are willing to leave the ratcatcher to legend, and the name has steadily climbed the charts to the 240th position in 2007. It’s about as common as Veronica and Stella – distinctive, but a name with which nearly everyone is familiar.

If you’re looking for a sprightly, nickname-proof name that sounds gender neutral, but is clearly designated feminine, then Piper is one to consider.

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