Sign for the T stairs in Pembroke College
Sign for the T stairs in Pembroke College by Dumbledad via Flickr

There’s Savannah and Brooklyn, London and Dakota, too.

But Topanga?

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

Los Angeles brings to mind movie stars and freeways, but Los Angeles County is also home to Topanga Canyon. The sprawling Topanga State Park is the largest wilderness area within a major city. 90290 doesn’t have much in common with Beverly Hills.

The place name came from the local Tongva tribe, as did Tujunga, Pacoima, Azusa, and my personal favorite, Rancho Cucamonga. Some suggest that Topanga means “a place above.” It might also refer to the sky, or even heaven.

Early twentieth century resorts were somewhat modest. In the 1920s, glamorous Hollywood types vacationed in Topanga Canyon. It’s still a popular getaway spot, but the vibe changed in the 1960s. Instead of the very famous in search of some r’n’r, the area transformed into a bohemian enclave. Woody Guthrie called Topanga Canyon home; so have Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, and members of the Eagles and Canned Heat.

Thanks to talented residents and proximity to Los Angeles, several performance venues and music festivals have thrived in Topanga Canyon over the years.

All of this makes Topanga sound like a nice place to visit, but how does it rate a spot on Appellation Mountain?

In 1993, Boy Meets World debut on ABC. Ben Savage played Cory Matthews, a sixth-grader when the series started, and a college student by the time the series ended in 2000. Topanga Lawrenece is a classmate, a long-time crush, and eventually Cory’s girlfriend and then wife.

Early days, Topanga was something of an extreme character, the child of hippies, with a big sis called Nebula. She evolved over the seasons into more of an ordinary teenage girl, but remained bright and motivated throughout the series. As for her unusual name, the story goes like this: one of the show’s writers was stuck in traffic while driving through the area and decided the name would suit the character.

From a traffic jam to a birth certificate, the name first surfaces in 1994, when five baby girls received the name. Over the show’s run, Topanga enjoyed modest success:

  • In 1995, 10 girls were given the name;
  • By 1996, it was up to 11;
  • In 1997, there were 33 newborn Topangas;
  • The name peaked in 1998, with 48 recorded;
  • The decline started by 1999, with just 44;
  • By 2000, there were 41 Topangas.

She hasn’t faded entirely. Nancy tells us ten were born in 2009. Topanga does appear in baby name guides, so some parents may have long forgotten, or never seen, the 1990s sitcom.

If you’re looking for a truly offbeat name, Topanga has some possibility. But be prepared to hear “oh, like Cory’s girlfriend?” at least some of the time.

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. My grandmother was Virginia Elisbetha Rose, born 1915 from a millionare family. My parents both have the name Robin/Robin, a bird name, and they owned their own business. My sister Summer has a nursing degree. Look at Poppy Montgomery, she is an actress. Israel, Mississippi, India were around before the 1800’s. What about puritan names? Grace Kelly became a model turned actress turned princess. Who ever thought a puritan name would go that far? I think the people who are judgemental are the older generations-baby boomers- and above… the karens, david, kathys, ect…. They are more comfortable with the traditional names unlike the younger generation. Winter was a surname, boys middle name, then a first name. Now its a famous actress chose as her baby’s middle name. Look at rose, its roots are German for Horse, how many actors/actresses/nurses/doctors ect…. have rose as a surname or first name. I don’t think unless it comes with a bad image/fairy tale, or bad meaning, then it shouldn’t be judged. Usually its the nurture/nature/enviroment that child grows up in determines a child’s success in the future.

  2. Well, Mississippi, India, Israel was popular before the 1800’s, and think about floral names during the Edwardian era, did the parents have high expectation? Poppy Montgomery is an actress today? What about puritan names? In the T.V. serious Bones, Temperance has a Masters and works at a collegiate level museum, and detective. It shows that society thinks that names alone doesn’t define you, but character of a person. Sorta of a nature/nurture aspect, not just name alone. If people like the person, they consider the name pretty. I’ve met many Rebekka’s/rebecca’s, mary’s or Kathy’s who were horrible people and ruined the name for me. My grandmother, Virginia Elisabeth Rose came from an uppercrust family who were in the millionaire bracket. And Samantha is a witch name, but she is my cousin and works as a nurse. My parents, Robin and Robin, they own their own business.
    grandmother, is related to pocahontes. Pocohantes married a whiteman and had three daughters. I don’t think she ever expected to go from a tent to a house.

    1. My name is Kelvin. Its scottish for Scottish River and I have a B.A. in English. Lord Kelvin was a mathmetician/Scientist who created the Kelvin thermometer…Tapanga/Topanga doesn’t have a bad meaning or image with it. Think of Phrynne. She was was known as whore or cortesean, who posed nude of the Athens senate. Not exactly a great image. Look at Collin, it means from the bent-nosed clan, or clan of thieves. Yet, there are plenty of suscessful collins out there. I know a percephone, and her name means death or rebirth from death. I think bad spelling like la-a (pronounced laDashA) are horrible and anything with hirrible images or representations that are passed down from generation to generations like fairy tales, then its timeless in meaning and image. Who hasn’t heard hansel and gretal?

  3. My favourite show is “Boy Meets World” and I really want to name my daughters Topanga, Emmyline, Rosalie (Rosie for short) and Scarlet. I know to most people Topanga is a really weird name…. but I LOVE it.

  4. my name is Tapanga its spelled different but i love my name! it fits me perfectly. some of my nicknames are T, T.J., and little kids in my family call me panga because they cant pronounce the whole thing. I think Tapanga is a beautiful name for a girl.

  5. I only saw this name on For Real Baby Names, and Sarah directed me here to read all about it. I guess I can see the appeal if you know the place or the character, but wow it looks weird.

  6. I worked with someone who named their daughter Topanga in 2004. It raised a lot of eyebrows in our small town. She was named after the character on “Boy Meets world”.

  7. Oh my God, Topanga! ‘Boy Meets World’! Ah, this is fab. Years ago, when we were naming our larger koi fish, my mom chose Topanga for our big red one – naturally, it was after ginger Topanga on ‘Boy Meets World.’ Ha!

    I would never, ever use Topanga for a “real” child, though. It shocked me then and it shocks me now. It’s so much name! And, what can you really shorten it to? To, Tope, Topy, Pan, Panga, Anga, maybe Angie if you’re lucky? Yuck. It’s fun to say, though…

    Other ‘Boy Meets World’ names: Cornelius “Cory” Matthews, Shawn Hunter, Eric Matthews, George Feeny, Alan and Amy Matthews, Stuart Minkus. Okay, Cornelius and Topanga take the cake.

    1. Cory’s name was Cornelius?! I had no idea. Though, I quite like it.

      Topanga will always bring to mind ‘Boy Meets World’, I suppose it could make a great choice for someone who was bold enough. It is quite a mouth full and there’s nothing to really shorten it to.

      1. There really isn’t a satisfying short form isn’t there? I’m not feeling Tope, Topi, Panga, Panna, Tee, Tee-gee … anything that might work is too far removed from the name. Tango, maybe …

    2. Haha, so the sibset was Eric, Cornelius and Morgan (girl)? I never knew his name was Cornelius! That’s a terrible sibset! They also have a baby brother named Joshua at the end of the show.

      Boy Meets World started when I was 8, and I always watched it, and still watch reruns sometimes. I loved that show and I loved Topanga. I actually always thought it was an awesome name, and I can definitely see the appeal of it. I would enjoy being named Topanga, honestly. I wouldn’t actually use it, one reason being that all I can hear is Cory saying it all sorts of different ways.

      Topanga, Tallulah, Delilah, Savannah, Sophia… I don’t really see why Topanga is considered so strange…