Piper: Baby Name of the Day

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

This post was originally published on May 31, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on November 17, 2014.

Over the past few years, this name has gone from daring rarity to mainstream darling.

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

Piper: Musical Surname Name

In 2008, I wrote: Piper is one of those fabulous names, long underused, that is set to soar.

Speaking of soaring, since the 1930s, Piper Aircraft has been known for manufacturing small airplanes.  It took its name from early investor William Piper.

It’s right on trend.  Piper is:

  • A tailored surname name, just like many a Top Ten choice and rising favorite.
  • A musical name, just like Harper and Lyric and Aria.
  • An ends-with-r choice, putting her in the company of vintage Esther and Eleanor, and modern Skylar and Taylor, too.
  • You have piper nigrum in your kitchen – black pepper – making this a spice name and a nature name, too.

It’s a recipe for success.

Piper: Pop Culture Creation

While Carter and Mason are more common for boys, this surname name has been almost exclusively feminine ever since Rosetta Jacobs signed with Universal Studios in the 1940s.

Never heard of Rosetta Jacobs?  Her screen name is Piper Laurie, and she’s worked steadily for decades, quietly scoring Oscar and Emmy nominations over her long career.

Laurie inspired namesakes almost immediately.  By the mid-1990s, this name was on the rise.

Pop culture also gives us:

  • Rowdy Roddy Piper, the bagpipe-playing professional wrestler from the 1980s.  Probably not inspiration for a child’s name.
  • Actress Piper Perabo, born in the 1970s – one of those early namesakes.
  • In 1998, Aaron Spellling’s series Charmed debuted.  Charmed focused on the lives of three Haliwell sister-witches – Prudence, Phoebe, and Piper – and their lives in San Francisco.  It was a huge success, running for eight seasons.

Credit Spelling with giving this name a turbo boost.  In 1999, Piper cracked the US Top 1000 for the first time.

Piper fit right in many a Top 100 name of the era: Mackenzie, Taylor, Jordan.

Piper: of Hamelin

If you don’t think of Laurie or the television witch, maybe Piper makes you think of a medieval legend.

The story goes something like this: the town of Hamelin was overcome with rats.  One day, a musician dressed in multi-colored (pied) clothes appeared, and promised to rid the town of its pests for a price.  The piper’s music successfully lured all of the rats into the river, where they drowned.

But the townsfolk balked, and refused to pay as promised.  So the stranger played another tune, and lured away all of the town’s children.

Piper: Top 100 and Rising

Nevermind the medieval legend these days.

Piper cracked the US Top 100 in 2012.

This time, it’s prison inmates instead of witches fueling her rise.

Orange is the New Black started out as a bestselling 2010 memoir by preppy, well-educated Piper Kerman, who fell into an international drug-trafficking ring.  You know the rest: the book became a Netflix original series, starring Taylor Schilling in the title role.

As of 2013, Piper charted at #97.  Even without Orange, the rise of Harper and other ends-in-r surname names would’ve helped the name catch on.

Piper still feels fresh in 2014 – even though this name is no longer rare.  It’s the kind of name that defines twenty-first century preferences, a name as right for our era as Betty in the 1930s or Jennifer in the 1970s.

What do you think of Piper?  Will this name continue to rise?


  1. Elizabeth says

    The only Piper I have ever met is man in his 40’s and he owns a big landscaping company. So I actually have a hard time imagining Piper on girl.

  2. Bekah says

    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). 😀

  3. Sarah says

    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.)

  4. Juliet says

    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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