Two and a half million people call Brooklyn home, and in 2011, more than 7,000 baby girls were given the name. I’m guessing that none of those 7,000 girls reside in New York – or at least not in Flatbush.
The Hated Names series continues with a very popular place name. Our Baby Name of the Day is Brooklyn.
The Dutch founded Breuckelen back in the 1600s, naming it after a place in the Netherlands. More information than that is open to debate. Some connect Breuckelen to broek – marsh. Or maybe a word meaning broken land. Either way, the spelling was probably influenced by the English word brook. The settlement grew and grew, and Brooklyn has been part of New York City since 1898.
But how did Brooklyn become a girl’s name? Besides the 7,115 girls named Brooklyn, we also find:
- Nearly 2400 called Brooklynn
- Almost 200 named Brookelynn
- Nearly as many named Brookelyn
The spellings give it away: to find the secret to her success, we need to first look at Brooke.
Socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor made her name famous – though she was born Roberta Russell. Brooke was her middle name, and Vincent Astor her third husband. She was tremendously generous with the Astor fortune, and kept the name in the spotlight in an almost entirely positive fashion through the decades. Then along came Brooke Shields, with her Calvins and her successful, scandalous movies – in which she somehow managed to still seem smart and together, unlike many a child star.
At the same time, Lynn and Lynne were wildly popular middle names for girls. No doubt that some girls were named Brooke Lynn by parents who realized the joke only afterwards.
Of course, ends-in-lyn names for girls have always had some currency, from Evelyn to Marilyn to Carolyn. Brooke entered the US Top 100 in 1987, and Brooklyn was right behind her, joining the rankings in 1990.
Other -lyns of the moment included:
- Caitlin at #50, soon to be eclipsed by more phonetic Katelyn, at #75 and Kaitlyn, at #78
- Jaclyn and Jacklyn, though the authentically French Jacqueline was more popular than her simplified sisters
Brooklyn as a name was boosted by two high profile uses:
- The Brook Lynn connection reached pop culture in 1996, when a General Hospital character was given the name. Rebellious teenager rock star wannabe Brook Lynn Ashton was supposedly named after her mother’s birthplace.
- In 1999, Posh and Becks named the first of their four starbabies Brooklyn Joseph, giving the name to a son. Apparently the new mum was in Brooklyn when she learned she was expecting.
Countless fictional and real figures keep the name in the spotlight, like actress Brooklyn Decker – born in 1987, when the name could still be called original.
Today, while the New York borough has its passionate devotees, few imagine it as a beauty spot, likely to inspire a child’s name. And that’s not really what’s happening, either. Her sound is feminine, but frills-free, making her a successor to Lauren, Allison and Erin. Few parents are wandering around Williamsburg or Park Slope with Brooklyn on their short lists – but lots of parents likely embrace her sound and don’t mind her association with a part of the world that while gritty, seems edgy, artistic, and cool, too.
New Yorkers might not like this name, but it is easy to see why she’s caught on nearly everywhere else.