90s Week continues with Kayla as our Baby Name of the Day.
I first heard Kayla on NBC’s soap opera Days of Our Lives. It’s probably the first place you heard Kayla, too.
Good girl Kayla Brady debuted on daytime television on January 1982. Like many of her family members, she was a doctor, the daughter of Shawn and Caroline Brady – though she’s a nurse in those early seasons.
That was the year that we really started naming our daughters Kayla. In 1981, there were 318 newborn girls given the name. In 1982? That number skyrocketed to 2,275.
Miss Brady left the show briefly, then came back and fell into love with bad boy Steve Johnson – known as Patch thanks to his, well, eye patch. Because he lost an eye in a fight with another Brady.
Very Romeo and Juliet.
The pair became a supercouple, dealt with the trials and tribulations any soap opera romance demands, and generally pushed the show’s ratings into the stratosphere.
Patch and Kayla first fell in love in 1986. More than 4,600 girls were given the name that year.
There are three possible histories for Kayla pre-soap opera:
- The name is often listed as a variant of Katherine – or at least given Katherine’s meaning “pure.” That’s because Kay started out as a short form of the classic name. I’ve always had a hard time seeing Kayla as a variant of Katherine – it seems like Kayla emerged independently, and the two were grafted together for convenience’s sake later. Nonetheless, and some girls called Kayla were probably named after a grandmother Katherine.
- Then there’s Kelilah, a Hebrew name meaning crown. Kaila is a form of Kelilah. I’m not sure it follows that Caylah is also a form of Kelilah, but it isn’t out of the question.
- Lastly, Kayla’s rise coincides with the popularity of Makayla, and lots of other ways to respell Michaela, a traditional – but little-used – feminine form of Michael. Since Chaela doesn’t quite represent the sound – even Caela isn’t super-intuitive – you’d be forgiven for respelling it to the phonetic Kayla.
And yet it is tough to argue that parents embraced Kayla in order to honor loved ones named Katherine or Michael. It’s unlikely that over 4,000 families were looking for a stylish, but traditional, Hebrew name.
This is a name that was made on pure sound. Kayla’s peak year was 1991, when she ranked #12, and was joined in the rankings by:
- Kaila was also climbing.
- Kaitlyn was still a Top 100 name.
- Kaylee ranked #199 and was climbing fast, as were Kayleigh and Kaylie.
- Don’t forget Makayla and Mikayla, both on the rise, even as the more traditional Michaela fell.
- Other Kay- names were having their moment, too, like Kaylin. (Or Kaylyn, or Kaylynn …)
Like many a name with a meteoric rise, Kayla’s fall could be equally quick. While she’s been in the US Top 100 since the 1980s, and still charted at #95 in 2013, Kayla feels like a waning name.
Kayla won’t age any worse than Linda or Barbara, Jennifer or Melissa – or many a name that was once heard everywhere for little girls. Even as I write, those 80s Kaylas are starting families of their own, bringing this one into mom-name territory.
And who knows? Maybe in another hundred years or so, Kayla will top the list of vintage gems ready for revival.
Do you think Kayla is one of the defining names of the 1990s? Do you prefer Kayla, Kaylee, or Makayla?