Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 27, 2009. It was updated and reposted on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014.
The family is American royalty.
Thanks to Sara for suggesting Kennedy as our Baby Name of the Day.
It’s a recipe for success.
- From Ryan to Aiden, Irish names have been favorites with parents in recent generations.
- Surnames have been huge, from Riley to Brady.
It’s easy to imagine Kennedy catching on, even without the accomplished family.
Kennedy is an Irish surname. Legendary High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, was the son of Cennétig – another king, whose name was Anglicized as Kennedy. They reigned around the tenth century.
Cennétig means something like deformed head, so it isn’t the most appealing of meanings.
Enter the children of Joe and Rose Kennedy. Now Kennedy means American legacy.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy – Jack to his family and commonly referred to as JFK – became the 35th President of the United States in 1961. A World War II veteran and youngest president even elected, Kennedy’s 1963 assassination made him a martyr figure.
As a given name, Kennedy entered the US boys’ Top 1000 in 1960, the year JFK won the White House. It wasn’t a stretch – Kenneth was a Top 20 pick at the time. But the name didn’t stick – Kennedy peaked at #516, then fell. By 1969, he had had left the charts entirely.
The family remained very much in the public eye. Countless schools, parks, townships, streets and the like had been named in honor of the late president. When JFK’s brother Bobby was assassinated during his run for the White House in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy schools and such were added to the mix.
Despite the brothers’ memory, Kennedy fell out of use. It may be that he never quite caught on – hero names rarely end up in the Top 100. It’s also hard to gauge the impact of youngest brother Ted Kennedy’s 1969 debacle – the drowning death of a passenger in his car on Chappaquiddick Island.
By 1994, surnames were all the range A glance at the Top 100 from that year shows:
- Tyler, Cameron, Taylor, Hunter, Blake, Tanner, and Spencer in the Boys’ Top 100.
- Taylor, Kelsey and Madison all ranked on the Girls’ list.
Kennedy re-entered the charts for both boys and girls that year, partly because of our interest in surnames, and also because former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis passed away that spring.
It was also the age of MTV VJs, and Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, who answered to her middle only, was the quirky host of Alternative Nation, from 1992 through 1997. With bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana hitting it big, plenty of us were seeing VJ Kennedy on air – and thinking of it as a girl’s name.
Kennedy ranked #524 for girls in 1994 and jumped to #230 by 1995. For boys, Kennedy performed modestly – never reaching higher than #796 and leaving the rankings again after 2005.
By 2007, Kennedy was just outside the Top 100, fitting in with #65 Mackenzie and names like Kendall and Mckenna.
Today, Kennedy is still climbing. She ranked #64 in 2013, even while some of her fellow Ken- names are on the decline. Kennedi ranked #443 and Kennadi also climbed, though she’s yet to crack the Top 1000.
Overall, Kennedy is a hero name, one that feels kelly green and red-white-and-blue at once. And while it is still wearable for a boy, odds are that most Kennedys born in 2014 will be wearing pink.
As someone with the surname Kennedy I find it odd for someone to give this name to their child with no family history or irish roots. Just saying.
I’m a huge fan of surname names and I searched for more ideas and this was the first one that came up. My favorite as we just named our Daughter Kennedy a year ago and we call her Kenny for short. If she was boy we chose Sawyer, also a surname and the second name to come up after my search 🙂
Jennifer R. says
Although it seems shocking and impossible, I know first hand that there are people out there who choose the name Kennedy for their little girl without it even crossing their mind the connection to the Kennedy family, presidency, etc. If your a fan of the politics and enjoy this name, then it makes sense… but otherwise I would find it a strange choice with so many other names without the very layered history. Maybe that’s just me.
A lot of people choose Kennedy without thinking it’s a political name. People don’t have to love politics to pick nice names like Madison, Taylor, Carter, Tyler, etc so why does Kennedy have to be any different.
I guess I should mention we call her Kenna as a nickname the majority of the time…
I wonder where you got the “ugly head” meaning? My daughter has this name but it always came up as “Helmeted Chief” in name meaning searches and I rather like the strong meaning. I did spell it different than any of the spellings here but regret doing so now.
Thank you for the research. We’ve considered the name Kennedy for a girl as Kenneth is a family name. I don’t care for the myriad of other feminine “Ken” names. However, the meaning and recent, albeit declining, popularity of it is concerning to me. I think a Kennedy might be hard to take seriously. So, back to the drawing board we go.
The meaning of “ugly head” really turns me off. I think he should be left as a surname.
I would laugh, except my sister just named my niece Kennedi…and when I said like the family I just got a blank look. I will admit we are children of the 80s but I would think people would still automatically associate the name with the family..
Did you ask her why she spelled it like that?
Oh yes… her ex-best friend has a two year old who is named Kennedy and my sister apparently liked the name but didnt want to be the same as the ex-friend.
As a child of the 80’s, my first exposure to Kennedy as a first name was the VJ on MTV. Still not a huge fan of the name or surnames as first names in general – especially on girls.
And I’m with photoquilty on the yuneek spellings.
Oh yeah. She was a VJ – and a staunch Republican…which I always found weird what with her being Kennedy.
Kennedy? Or is it Kanadi? Or Kynnadee? Or Kenadee? No thank you!
Whoops, I meand Kenadi, not Kanadi. As if it matters.
I think Kenadi won a past year of the Baby Gap Model Casting Call!
Charlotte Vera says
That music video is fabulously awful! Remind me to never get that haircut.
Personally speaking, Kennedy is far too tied to JFK and his family. However, there was a time (when I was about nine) that I thought the name was rather fabulous for a young girl. I wouldn’t use it for either girl or boy now, but if someone else wants to, I think it still works for both sexes.
Charlotte Vera says
Yikes! Two uses of the word fabulous. I really must proofread.
I don’t mind it on a boy although for me it’s always followed up with “Imagine being a Kennedy? I’m glad I’m not a Kennedy”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a6hu6Z7Pkg
This song was huge in NZ and Australia and I remember my mother playing it sometimes. WARNING: Horrifying 80’s mullet, “dancing” and electro-chords. JFK soundbites/vids make up for it 😉
Thanks for the link – don’t you just love YouTube?!
The perfect illustrator of points 😉
Although I should have upped the warning. The mullet really is of the severe industrial kind.