A 70s sitcom propelled this name to the top of the charts in the 1990s.
Thanks to everyone who suggested Mackenzie as Our Baby Name of the Day.
In 1976, the US Top 100 included Stephanie, Melanie, and Valerie. And for the first time ever, the Top 1000 included the similar Mackenzie for girls, too. She snuck into the rankings at #838.
The Scottish surname comes from a given name that meant attractive. It was originally Mac Coinneach or Mac Coinnich. Purists will insist that Mac means “son of” – and they’re correct. As for Coinneach, it is typically Anglicized as Kenneth.
Mackenzie has been in sparing use for boys over the centuries. A nineteenth century Canadian prime minister is one notable; British artist Mackenzie Thorpe is a contemporary example. In the US, Mackenzie ranked in the boys’ Top 1000 from 1985 to 2001, likely some blend of family name and nod to Scottish heritage, bolstered by the stories of Clan Mackenzie. His wider popularity came thanks to actor Mackenzie Astin, who joined the cast of The Facts of Life as Andy in 1985.
Like many surnames and some modern coinages, Mackenzie was on the rise for boys and girls at the same time.
Credit for popularizing the name for girls goes to Laura Mackenzie Phillips, better known by her middle name. The daughter of John Phillips, legendary member of the folk quartet The Mamas & the Papas, Mackenzie became an actress and household name in her own right. She made her big screen debut in 1973’s American Graffiti before starring in 1970s hit sitcom One Day at a Time.
Phillips played rebellious teenager Julie Cooper. Life imitated fiction, as Phillips struggled with a host of personal problems. She left the series more than once, and her tell-all biography reveals drug abuse and more. But none of that has tarnished the name Mackenzie.
Mackenzie debuted in the girls’ Top 1000 at #838 in 1976, and climbed steadily. Three syllable, ends-in-ee names have always been popular for girls, from Dorothy to Kimberly to Natalie to Destiny. Plenty of parents who have used the name in recent years have probably never heard of the 70s sitcom.
Mackenzie reached #198 in 1991, broke into the Top 100 in 1995, and peaked at #40 in 2001. Today she stands at #68. Like many a popular name, Mackenzie splintered. In 2001, three spellings were in favor:
- Mackenzie at #40
- Mckenzie at #135
- Makenzie at #198
All three spellings remain in the Top 1000 today. Countless more are in use: Makenzy, Mckenzi, Mackenzi, Makenzee, Mikenzie, Mekenzie, Mackensie, Makenzye, even Mkenzie, likely spelled M’Kenzie in real life. The Duggar mega-family introduced first granddaughter Mykenzie on their reality show, the spelling apparently inspired by a cousin’s name.
Today the oldest Mackenzies are moms themselves, but most are still school-aged, or even younger, as the names fades slowly from the heights of popularity. While parents are still using Mackenzie and company, it would be hard to argue that she’s fresh or inventive today. And she’s not quite classic, either. That said, if Mackenzie is a family name, it remains a great possibility – just stick to the original spelling. Mackenzie seems infinitely more sophisticated than, say, M’ahkensee.