English: Jaden Smith at The Nobel Peace Prize ...
English: Jaden Smith at The Nobel Peace Prize Concert 2009 Русский: Джейден Смит на концерте The Nobel Peace Prize в 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to believe that back in 1959, grandparents and neighbors and friends at church would sniff at the idea of naming a new son Jason.  “What’s wrong with Robert or Gary,” you can imagine them saying.  “Or why not name him after uncle Frank?”  Then Jason slowly made his way to the top of the popularity charts, and people still rolled their eyes, but only sometimes, because everyone got used to calling little boys Jason.

Today, of course, Jason is the dad, the neighbor, the pastor of the church.  And the name in the spotlight prompting wrinkled noses? That would be Jayden.

It was actually Jaden that appeared on the scene first, debuting in the US Top 1000 back in 1994.   When mega stars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith gave the name to their son in 1998, Jaden jumped from #456 in 2007 to #328 to #203 to #154 by 2000.

It quickly turned epidemic.

Jaden Christopher Syre Smith is now an artist in his own right, but his spelling is waning.  By 2002, Jayden sailed past Jaden.  In 2006, pop sensation Britney Spears gave the name to her second son, and that seemed to be the point of no return.  In 2010 and 2011, Jayden occupied the #4 spot in the US.

This isn’t just an example of a name becoming wildly fashionable.  Unlike Jacob or Jason or Mason, there’s almost no backstory for Jayden.  He is the first name of recent coinage to surge into the Top Ten.  On the girls’ side we’ve had Brittany, but she’s a time-tested classic compared to Jayden.

So where did Jayden come from in the first place?

  • There’s a powerful argument that he was born out of popular sounds recombined: a mix of the Jay from Jacob, James, and Jason, added to Aidan and all of those other ends-in-n names that have dominated for decades.
  • Aidan, of course, was racing up the charts at the same time Jaden and Jayden appeared.  But so was Hayden, the other aden name with a considerable pedigree, as well as notable bearers from Hayden Carruth to Hayden Christenson.
  • There’s a minor Jadon in the Old Testament, a figure in the Book of Nehemiah who helped build the wall of Jerusalem.  Jadon was almost certainly to be found in a few baby name books, probably with the meaning “thankful” attached, though I’ve also seen “he will judge.”  All of those parents attracted to Noah and Joshua might have liked Jayden’s claim to a Biblical origin.
  • Could there be a sci fi twist?  In the seventh and final season of wildly influential Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data – the android – suffers from amnesia on a mission to a pre-industrial settlement.  His rescuers decide to call him Jayden.  It sounds bizarre, but the episode’s February 1994 showing tracks very neatly with the debut of Jaden and Jayden into the US Top 1000.

Jayden found a ready and willing world, whether parents first encountered him on television, in People Magazine, or in the Good Book.  He came to us at a moment when our love affair with letter J was unquestionable, as was our willingness to try something just a little different for a son.  Jayden might not be your style, but he’s a good example of how much freedom American parents have to invent and re-invent appellations for our children.  That’s something to appreciate, even if the -aden epidemic makes your ears bleed.

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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 dislike all of the -ayden, -aiden, -aidan, -aden, etc. names equally. Fine for other people, but I would never use them.

  2. Jadon in the Bible is said yah-DON, so I think anyone claiming a Biblical heritage for their little Jayden is slightly delusional.

    I always wonder why people seem to reserve all their hatred of the -ayden names for Jayden; I can’t really see what’s wrong with it compared it to the other names. I’ve seen quite a few Zaydens and Draydens, and yet still Jayden is the bad guy of the bunch.

  3. I quite like Jayden, but only this spelling, not a huge fan of Jaden (for some reason is seems a tad more feminine). I also like Hayden and Kayden, but never warmed up to Brayden or Aiden (dislike both actually), so I’m weird like that.
    Also I don’t consider them trashy at all, because I’ve met some lovely kids with those names. I’m sure there are thousands of trashy Roberts’ and John’s around, but no one talks about those…

  4. The only Jayden I know is my brother’s ex-girlfriend’s 3 y.o. kid (not my brother’s son!) so from that alone Jayden feels a bit ‘downmarket’ to me. I have to agree with a lot of others though, it’s not the single name Jayden that bugs me but rather all the spawn. I know, all under the age of 5: Ayden, Aden, Aidan, 3 Aidens, Brayden, Baden, and Kayden. And I don’t even know that many kids!

  5. When Brittany Spears had her second child my history prof (he of the dry and rather awkward sense of humour) announced the fact at the beginning of our class. I don’t remember if he knew Jayden James’ name or not though. However, after I found out Brittany Spears Jr. Jr.’s name it seemed like there were Jaydens everywhere. At one point my sister was even providing childcare for two Jaydens: an autistic boy at school and a vivacious little girl on the weekends.

    Back in 2001 I remember chatting with a woman who said that when she and her husband named their son Jaden they thought they were being original. Now there were little Jadens everywhere. In fact, there’s even a [very young] adult named Jaden in the NHL (Jaden Schwarz).

    I think I can understand the appeal of the sound, but I do get tired of the rhyming names and names that don’t mean anything. I have some friends — a truly lovely couple — who named their son C@yden. I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I found out, but he’s a sweet little boy, so I’m learning to overlook my silly prejudice.

  6. I know a very lovely 7 year old Jayden at church, which makes me not hate the name. The family also have a 3 year old girl who would have been named Emmett if she’d been a boy.

    The fact that there are several different spellings gives the name minus-points for me, just because I have to double check that I have the right spelling.

    I’ve watched all of Star Trek TNG, but I don’t remember that episode. Very interesting though.

    I also do like that the Jadon spelling goes back to Old Testament times.

  7. I have a little Jadyn in my life and I’m afraid she knows it’s a bit unfortunate. She often remarks how she prefers her middle name or would rather be a Lily (and she’s only six). Methinks I have a budding namenerd; her baby dolls are very well named–I especially like her pick of Rosabelle.

      1. My sister wished for a different name at age 4. She wanted to be Crystal Rosabel. But she’s gotten over it.

  8. To me, the -aden phenomenon is much more obnoxious than any single name alone, even Jayden, which I actually don’t mind too much. But given the mind-numbing frequency of that “ay,” sound, you’d think today’s parents are a generation of Fonzies.