English: Snare drum strainer, used to enable o...
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All the talk of Kaidence Kardashian made me realize that I’ve never written about this 21st century sensation.

Our Baby Name of the Day is Cadence.

Cadence first charted in the US Top 1000 in 2002 at #958.  She moved up to #207 by 2005.  That’s pretty quick.

She’s a musical term, first used in the 1300s to refer to a pattern that indicates the end of a phrase.  It comes from the Old Italian cadenza, ultimately from the Latin cadere, to fall.

Many years later, the term was borrowed to describe pacing in poetry.

But how did Cadence become a name?

Girls have answered to Harmony.  Aria is one of the hottest names of the year.  Other musically inspired names, like Drummer and Chordhave attracted some attention.

Plus Cadence shares sounds with all of those oh-so-trendy -aiden and -aylee names, from Kayden to Hailey.  And it is tempting to shorten Cadence to Cady, a name quite close to the enduring Katie.

But Cadence was unheard of until the 1970s, and was incredibly rare until she starting gaining in the 1990s.  How did parents come to discover this name?

In 1992, Armistead Maupin gave the name to a character in Maybe the Moon.  Maupin’s Cadence stood just 31″ tall.  Despite a star turn in a hit movie, she’s a struggling actress.  Despite this unusual, potentially tragic storyline, Cady turns out to be an inspiring heroine.

But my guess is that Cadence owes much of her popularity to the third installment in the popular American Pie franchise.  In 2003, a then relatively unknown January Jones played Cadence Flaherty, sister of the bride, Michelle.  Over the course of three movies, Michelle went from geeky band camper to Jim’s bride.  One of the movie’s subplots involves two members of Jim’s wedding party vying for the attention of Cadence.

Cadence ranked #958 in 2002, #476 in 2003, and #218 in 2004.  Despite the series’ racy, even raunchy, content, it seems like American Pie pushed Cadence to the top of many parents’ lists.

But then something interesting happened.  Cadence met Kayden and Kaylee and Kayla, as well as Kaitlyn in all of her many spellings.   In 2003, the spelling Kaydence debuted in the US rankings.  By 2004, it was up to #377.  In 2011, Kaydence overtook Cadence as the dominant spelling.  Today Cadence stands at #290, with Kaydence a few paces ahead at #271 and Kadence ranking a respectable #469.

Teen Mom reality star Maci Bookout named her son Bentley Cadence, and a handful of boys have been named Cadence – 72 in 2012 alone.

Add it all up and Cadence and company are quite popular, indeed.  With all of the various spellings in use and so many similar-sounding names, Cadence in any form could feel a little too common.  It’s also worth noting that her meteoric rise could signal a fleeting name – the kind that ends up tied to a particular era, destined to be profiled on “I love the 10s” on VH-1 in another fifteen years.

And yet I’ll admit that I still like Cadence for all of her musical and poetic associations.  It strikes me as a gender neutral noun name that could end up considered a modern classic – especially since the Kardashian-Wests went another direction.

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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. This is rare one I actually like even with a couple spelling alterations… Cadence, Kadence, Caidence, Kaidence = okay to me.

    I agree with the past paragraph — it just seems like a normal music-themed name to me, and it sounds really nice on both genders.

  2. I have friends who named their daughter this in 1999. They liked it for its meaning and sound, plus the feminist nn Cady.

  3. I had a student named Caidence, and I thought her name was a really unusual and beautiful name. She was born in 1996, so well before the name hit the top 1000. I’m surprised this name is in the top 300– I’ve never heard the name before or since this student. I thought her parents had a used the musical word as inspiration for a unique and one-of-a-kind name. This just shows how “normal” unusual names are now, and how much pressure there is to pick a unique one: even top 300 names sound completely original to my ears!