An American icon and a 90s heartthrob helped propel this poetic choice into the US Top 50.
Thanks to Urban Angel for suggesting Dylan as Baby Name of the Day.
Many a Baby Name of the Day leads us back to Celtic myth. Dylan comes from that treasure trove, the Welsh myths known as the Mabinogion. His name probably relates to the sea, though some argue that he’s derived from dylanwad – influence.
Poet Dylan Thomas put the name on the map. While he’s known as a great Welsh poet, Dylan’s dad taught English and both Dylan and his sister Nancy grew up speaking English exclusively.
The early 20th century was the era of high-minded literary picks like Homer and Virgil. And Lady Charlotte Guest had made waves with her mid-nineteenth century translation of the Mabinogion a few decades earlier. So while Dylan was unusual, he wasn’t out of step.
As a poet, Thomas flourished from the 1930s into the 1950s. He became well known for his lilting Welsh accent and for his love affair with whiskey. Dylan failed to crack the US Top 1000, not at the heights of the poet’s popularity or following his untimely demise.
Then came another poet of sorts, American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, he’s said to have been thinking of Thomas’ poetry when he chose his new name.
As for the desire to change his name? He once explained: “You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.”
Dylan first surfaced in the US Top 1000 in 1966, just as the times, they were a-changin’. Those early Dylans might’ve had siblings called Rainbow, as the singer-songwriter wasn’t noted just for his musical achievements, but his status as a hippie icon, a leader in the civil rights and anti-war movements.
By the time he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Dylan had climbed steadily to reach #137. Still a hero name, Dylan had also gone mainstream, fitting right in with popular picks like Justin and Kevin.
Then came television show/cultural phenomenon Beverly Hills, 90210 with twenty-something Luke Perry playing sixteen year old bad boy Dylan McKay. The show pushed Dylan into the Top 100 at #83 in 1990. By 1992, Dylan ranked #28.
Others have worn the name, like actor Dylan McDermott, but it is the poet, the singer and the heartthrob that come to mind for most.
At the same time, a few intrepid parents were bestowing Dylan as a girls’ name. Designer Ralph Lauren’s 1974-born daughter Dylan became a candy maven. The Charlie’s Angels big screen reboot featured Drew Barrymore as Dylan in 2000. (Fellow Angels answered to the equally boyish Nat and Alex.) Yet another Dylan is damaged daughter to Desperate Housewives’ Katherine Mayfair.
None of the high visibility uses has been enough to cement Dylan for our daughters. She first charted in the US Top 1000 in the mid-90s, and ranked just #556 in 2009.
Variant spelling Dillon actually derives from a separate surname. Dillon peaked at #73 in 1992, but ranked just #292 last year.
All together, file Dylan under 20th century classics. He remains a valid Welsh heritage choice and boasts an appealing Americana edge, too.