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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna February 4, 2014 at 4:37 AM

Piper is Latin for ‘pepper’. (The Latin pronunciation sounds like “pea pear.”)

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Bekah January 11, 2013 at 9:17 PM

I LOVE the name Piper. The only negative connotation I have with it was an antagonist in the Inkheart trilogy called the Piper. I would probably use it as a middle name, only because my friends would think I named her after Piper Mclean, a character in the Heroes of Olympus book series (I’m pretty addicted to reading). :D

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Sarah June 18, 2012 at 5:35 PM

I love the name Piper. It reminds me of a song we sang in choir about a piper. However, I have axed it from my list because I’m afraid it’s getting too popular. It shot up a lot on the SSA list after Sarah Palin ran for VP. (She has a daughter named Piper.)

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Melissa July 9, 2011 at 10:20 AM

I absolutely love the name but I am worried about “Peepee” taunts.

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Juliet December 26, 2009 at 5:45 AM

I ADORE Piper. It is one of those names I have loved for years. It is musical without being over the top. I think in the next ten years this name will increase in popularity. The nickname Pipes is adorable as a family nickname or for a little girl. Piper is bohemian, non-mainstream and fabulous. I don’t know how people can say the name is not feminine. I love it.
It’s a normal name that is spunkier because of its lack of extreme popularity. However, it i in the 200s , so it isn’t unheard of

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appellationmountain December 27, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Friends of ours have a 4 y.o. Piper – it wears very nicely!

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UrbanAngel March 10, 2010 at 2:57 PM

I am SO glad you think so as well!

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