Star Wars gave us the baby name Anakin, a hero-turned-notorious villain. But what’s the story behind the name?

Thanks to Clio for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Even if you’re not a science fiction fan, you probably know the Star Wars story. 

It begins in 1977, somewhere in a galaxy far, far away.

Young Luke Skywalker learns that he’s a Jedi, capable of wielding The Force for good and saving the world. 

By a twist of fate, he becomes part of the rebellion, challenging an evil Empire. Along the way, he discovers that Darth Vader – the ruthless leader he opposes – is actually his father.

Another twist? Luke’s ally, Princess Leia, is also his twin sister. Along with smuggler-turned-reluctant hero Han Solo, the three go on to star in the original Star Wars trilogy.

But the story doesn’t end there. Three prequels followed, and then three sequels, along with countless television series, novels, comic books, and two additional movies set in the Star Wars universe. 

The prequels are where we learn that Darth Vader was born Anakin Skywalker, taken away to train as a Jedi knight when he was just a kid. 


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Anakin Skywalker’s story set a fictional universe in motion. While the name’s origin is debated, it’s become an increasingly mainstream choice.


#606 as of 2022


gaining in use


Possibly from the anakim, a race of giants in the Old Testament, known for their strength. It may also be a surname.


George Lucas wrote the Star Wars story. So where did he find the name of one of cinema’s greatest villains?

In a 1997 interview, the filmmaker explained that he chose names that “telegraph a bit of the character” and that “sound unusual but not spacey. I wanted to stay away from … science fiction names like Zenon and Zorba.”

He’s never mentioned exactly where he found the name Anakin, though, and that’s left us all guessing.


In early drafts of the story, Luke’s name was Annikin Starkiller. The first name eventually leapt from son to father, and was respelled in the process.

One theory for Anakin’s origins? In the Old Testament, the anakim were powerful giants, known for their towering height and strength. 

They were eventually banished by Joshua. 


The Old Testament tale of David and Goliath suggests that some giants survived. David was an ordinary man; Goliath, a powerful warrior who had already defeated many others in combat. 

David is clever, though, and finds Goliath’s weakness. He fells him with one, very accurate shot, launching a pebble at Goliath’s head.

Luke was very much David to Darth Vader’s Goliath. Even the way Luke destroys the Death Star – with one perfectly aimed proton torpedo – recalls the story.

It’s a bit of a stretch to say that Annakin means strength, but it’s plausible.


Another persistent rumor is that Anakin comes from a friend of George Lucas, fellow director Ken Annakin.

The British filmmaker got his start making propaganda films during World War II, and went on to direct many hits, including Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson and 1965’s Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. 

As for his surname, it’s not unknown. More than one spelling appears in various records.

In fact, the -kin ending is common. In the Middle Ages, adding -kin (or sometimes -ken) was a common way to form a diminutive.

For example, John led to Jan which became Jankin, and eventually Jack. Robert shortened to Hob, which became Hop and eventually Hopkins, which survives as a surname.

Annakin could have started out as Annikin, likely from Agnes, which was typically Annis in Medieval English – and very popular. 

There’s also Hankin, which could’ve been whispered down the alley into Annakin. Hankin came from Hann, which is a form of Johan – or John.

Lucas has never confirmed that his fellow director’s surname was the inspiration. In fact, he’s denied it. But the similarity is hard to overlook.


It’s difficult to imagine pop culture in the 2020s without Star Wars

Gen X and Millennials were raised on the original three movies. The first of the prequels debuted in 1999, in step with Gen Z. The sequels launched in 2015, in the early days of Gen Alpha.

Annakin might’ve been an antagonist to huge Star Wars fans from early years. But today? His story is part of a long, complicated world. 

His name was first spoke in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, but back then, the character was exclusively called Darth Vader. 

Expectant parents didn’t pick up on the name until later, when the prequels were in the works and books based on the movies were popular.

The numbers bear this out:

  • Anakin debuted in the US popularity data in 1995, with five births. 
  • In 1999, the year The Phantom Menace hit theaters, 114 boys were named Anakin. 
  • The name slipped as the promising Jedi Kinght turned to the dark side. But by 2005, when the third prequel, Revenge of the Sith, hit theaters, 133 boys were named Anakin.

The name continued to rise. 

In 2014, the baby name Anakin debuted in US popularity data at #957. That equates to 220 births. 


There’s one more appealing thing about Anakin. When we first meet the young boy, he answers to the nickname Ani. 

Pronunciation varies slightly, but it’s generally close to the traditionally feminine Annie. 

It’s a built-in nickname, and a sweet way to shorten a longer, more serious name.


Parents have always borrowed from pop culture. 

But in our anything goes naming culture, it’s more common and less stigmatized. New favorites like Khaleesi from Game of Thrones catch on in a way that might’ve felt impossible even thirty years ago. 

Like Khaleesi, Anakin succeeds on style and sound. Top 100 favorites like Adrian and Sebastian, Cameron and Anthony all feel reasonably similar in some ways.

As of 2022, the baby name Anakin ranks #606 – about as common as Roland, Scott, or Bruno. It’s possible to imagine a future in which Anakin is more than a Star Wars name.

What do you think of the name Anakin? 

First published on March 15, 2016, this post was revised on May 2, 2024.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I think I saw a spelling variant of Anakin in some 18th-century records. I would have spotted it the same day I spotted all the entries for women named Sith.

    1. Ooh … well, there is a some history of the surname, so it’s very possible, right? That’s such a find!

      Is Sith a twist on Seth? I always think of Sethe from Toni Morrison’s Beloved. There’s not really a well known feminine form of Seth, right?

      1. No, I don’t think Seth does have a commonly known feminine form! I posted about Sith and other early names back in August, and that was a suggestion. Nancy Man guessed that it was a nickname for Elizabeth. Unfortunately, it’s still a mystery.

        1. Tucking away in the back of my brain … if I ever stumble on anything related to Sith as a given name, I’ll share with you.

  2. I have a kid in my class with that name (different spelling). He has…challenging behaviours (!) so it might not help the association too much. Still, when I hear the name now, I think first of the kid and not Star Wars.

  3. Such a coincidence, my husband and I rewatched Episode I – The Phantom Menace tonight! We’ve seen all of the films together, but he didn’t really ‘get into’ Star Wars until we saw Episode VII – The Force Awakens in the theatre in December, and we’ve since decided to watch all of them again so he could get reacquainted with the storylines. He said that he could definitely see calling one of our sons Anakin. I’m much more of a Star TREK person, so at first I wasn’t sure if I could use it — it felt a little blasphemous 😉 — but I do love the sound of it, so it’ll go farther down on our list.

    1. Three months after I wrote that, my husband’s 1st cousin-once-removed had a son named Anakin! The baby’s half-sister’s name is Brooklyn — IMO it’s obvious that a different person was involved in the naming this time around. 🙂 Sad that it’s off our own list now, but happy that someone got to use it.

  4. Someone I work with has a grandson with this name. She didn’t know anything about Star Wars and I’m not sure the child’s mother does either. They may have just liked the name. Hearing my co-worker talk about doing the usual things with this little boy makes the name sound a lot more ordinary. In another two decades, Anakins will be paunchy, thoroughly ordinary looking farmers, tax accountants, school board members, etc.