Reese Witherspoon, 2005 -- Walk the Line
This celeb's birth name is Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, but by calling herself simply Reese, Witherspoon has influenced an entire generation of baby namers and made this once-boy's name decidedly gender-neutral. Reese, meaning "ardent" or "fiery," debuted on the girls'' name charts in 2000, just as Witherspoon's career was taking off, and, mirroring her career, rocketed up to its current position of 136.
Halle Berry, 2001 -- Monster's Ball
This star's name was inspired by a now-defunct Cleveland department store (Halle Brothers Co.). The name didn't become popular until the early 1990s, right around the time that Berry's career was starting to take off. Halle jumped more than 100 places on the baby name charts the year after Berry won her Oscar. It peaked that year ('02) at number 314, and settled at 551 in '10. The traditional spelling is Hallie.
Gwyneth Paltrow, 1998 -- Shakespeare in Love
If you want a celebrity baby name that's not too popular, Gwyneth is the way to go. Despite Paltrow's massive success as an actress, her name has been in the top 1,000 only once -- in 2004, at number 956. The variation Gwendolyn is much more popular (it's been ranked in or around the top 500 names for most of the last 100 years), and short version Gwen was popular during the first part of the 20th century.
Cher, 1987 -- Moonstruck
Like the movie star and singer, the name Cher makes a powerful statement--it means "lofty, a mountain of strength." We love that the name hasn't made the top 1,000 names since the early 1970s. A little girl named Cher won't have to worry about getting her backpack mixed up with the one belonging to the other Cher in her class.
Meryl Streep, 1982 -- Sophie's Choice
If you're a movie buff, the name Meryl is practically synonymous with the word Oscar -- the mega-talented Streep has garnered 17 nominations over her long career, making her the most nominated performer of all time. Her name, however, is far less popular (it's never ranked above 752 on the charts), which makes it a good option for parents who wish to quietly honor a legend.
Katharine Hepburn, 1932/1933 -- Morning Glory; '67--Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; '68-- The Lion in Winter; '81-- On Golden Pond
This name means "pure and innocent," and the "a" that Hepburn used to spell it makes it a little more distinctive. (This twist on the much more common Katherine is pretty popular in its own right, however.) Although it's currently ranked only number 903, Katharine climbed up to the 200s several times over the last century.
Faye Dunaway, 1976 -- Network
This sweet name -- it means "fairy" -- was popular in the early and mid 20th century. By the time Dunaway won an Oscar, her name was on its way out (it hasn't hit the top 1,000 since '79). The name Faye seems poised for a comeback, however, because it's short, pretty, and has the old-time feel that's so popular these days.
Vivien Leigh, 1939 -- Gone With the Wind; '51-- A Streetcar Named Desire
Dating from the early 20th century, the name Vivien experienced a resurgence in the 1930s following this actress's first Oscar win. The more popular variation Vivian peaked at number 64 in 1920 and currently climbing again, up to number 158 in 2010. Vivienne, another variation, received a boost of star power when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt gave it to their third daughter, who was born in 2009.
Greer Garson, 1942 -- Mrs. Miniver
This Scottish name has always been under the radar, and we think it's sleek, cool, and very modern. (So does Brooke Shields, apparently -- she named her daughter Grier in 2006.) It means "intelligent, emotionally strong, and unconcerned with others' opinions" -- all personality traits that any parent would want for their kid.
Bette Davis, 1938 -- Jezebel
Okay, time for a quick phonics lesson. Bette Davis (real name: Ruth Elizabeth Davis) pronounced her name just like the name Betty. It's a fun nickname for the popular Elizabeth, and the spelling makes what could be a stale name unusual and fresh. Pronouncing it "bet" -- as Bette Midler does -- is also an option. The name peaked in popularity about a decade before Davis took home her Oscar, and hasn't been in the top 1,000 since 1962.
Forest Whitaker, 2006 -- The Last King of Scotland
This one's a double Oscar name -- the '94 film Forrest Gump won best picture, and the actor Forest received an Oscar of his own. It was a popular name way back at the end of the 19th century, but, interestingly, fell out of the top 1,000 in '96, right after the film received its honor. The double "r" version has always been more popular, and slipped out of the top 500 only in the last few years.
Denzel Washington, 2001 -- Training Day
This name clearly benefited from Washington's influence -- it debuted on the charts at number 444 in 1990, a year after the star was first nominated for an Academy Award. The name Denzel comes from the Cornish surname Denzell, which stems from a place in Cornwall.
Dustin Hoffman, 1979 -- Kramer vs. Kramer; 1988 -- Rain Man
Dustin is a relatively new name. It first showed up on the charts at number 368 in 1968, the year after Hoffman's breakout performance in The Graduate. It currently sits at number 354. It's been dropping in popularity since the '80s, so if you're looking for an Oscar name that's not too common, Dustin's a great bet. It comes from an old Norse given name.
Marlon Brando, 1954 -- On the Waterfront; 1972 -- The Godfather
Marlon's popularity falls in almost perfect alignment with Brando's Oscar wins. It jumped 432 places between '53 and '55 (number 776 to number 344), bookending his first win in '54. The name then started to fade, but jumped back to an all-time peak of 218 in '72, the year Brando won his second Oscar. The name has the supercool meaning of "wild falcon."
Rex Harrison, 1964 -- My Fair Lady
This name has been around for a long time: It was in the top 500 for almost a century, starting when name records began to be kept in 1880. Harrison actually used it as a nickname -- his real name was Reginald.
Charlton Heston, 1959 -- Ben-Hur
If you love the nickname Charlie but aren't sure about using the formal name most commonly associated with it (Charles), Charlton could be your pick-- it's been in the top 1,000 exactly five times. (This might have been Heston's theory, as his real name was John Charles Carter.) The name peaked in the 1930s.
Humphrey Bogart, 1951 -- The African Queen
We like this name because you don't hear it every day, and it represents someone the American Film Institute calls the greatest male movie star in American history. The name hasn't been in the top 1,000 since 1894, when it ranked number 760.
Laurence Olivier, 1948 -- Hamlet
This variation of the much more popular Lawrence means "from the place of laurel trees." You might want to go with Lawrence if you're hoping for a name with a more intuitive spelling, but if you're interested in honoring a legend, Laurence is a winner. Its popularity peaked right around the time of Olivier's, and last made it into the top 1,000 in 1995.
Spencer Tracey, 1937 -- Captains Courageous; 1938 -- Boys Town
Alhough Spencer doesn't immediately come to mind as a classic boy's name, it's actually been in the top 500 for over a century. It peaked in 1998, at number 84, and currently sits at 227. Spencer Pratt makes the name trendy today. It's also starting to be used for girls, though it hasn't yet cracked the top 1,000 on the female side. We predict that it will in the next few years, though!
Clark Gable, 1934 -- It Happened One Night
Evoke not only a great movie star with this name, but also a great superhero. (Clark Kent is Superman's alter ego.) Gable's real name was William Clark Gable, but he went by his middle name, which was his grandmother's maiden name. Although it fits right in with the trendy surname-as-first-names of today, it's ranked number 694, so it's fashionable but not overused.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.