Failure to Launch Names: Juniper in the 1970s

This series is dedicated to names that had the potential to become huge for a certain decade. They represented a certain era well, but for whatever reason never made it to the top 100. Perhaps for these names, their time is yet to come.

Juniper in the 1970s

Most parents consider Juniper new! Exciting! fresh! The response to Juniper a couple of years ago was, “Wow! Why aren’t more people using this name?”

Now, more people are using this name, clear by its appearance in the top 1000 for this first time in 2011. It debuted at #968, not an extremely high debut.  There have been hit names that debuted higher. For example, Isla in 2008 hit the top 1000 for the first time in decades. Isla’s debut rank was an impressive #622, and Isla continued to soar to #268 last year. But  Juniper doesn’t seem like one of those top 1000 newcomers that will fizzle. I expect it to rise, and rise big, similar to Isla.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Juniper hit the top 300 in 5 years and that is a conservative estimate. Juniper hits people the same way super-hit Harper hits people. (Harper hit the top 1000 in 2004 at #887 and just hit the top 100 at an impressive #54 last year.) People just love Juniper, the way people just loved Harper 5 years ago. Both names seem youthful! Modern! Refreshing!

But to me, Juniper doesn’t sound new and exciting. The sound, in fact, is very 1970s. I don’t know anyone born in the 1970s named Juniper (or anyone else for that matter). Nevertheless, the name sounded vaguely familiar. There is The Bath & Body Works fragrance, Juniper Breeze, of course, but that is a product name, not a person’s name. There was another association, a person.

And then I remembered, Juniper was the full name of “Joon” in the 1993 movie, Benny and Joon. The fictional “Joon”, played by Mary Stewart Masterson, would have been born in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The actress was born in 1966. And while the name may have seemed a bit eccentric on a 20-something woman in 1993, it didn’t seem unimaginable and certainly didn’t seem unappealing.

Possibly, the public simply didn’t see Juniper as a name 40 years ago. Or perhaps the “Joon” beginning of the name made Juniper sound too old-fashioned to most people, similar to June, which has come back big-time, but back in the 1970s would have seemed dated.

The old-fashioned sound of “Joon”, may have overshadowed very obvious similarities to two 1970s hit names. Juniper is a botanical name, a family of trees, just like 70s super star Heather, which peaked at #3 in 1975, and shares the -er ending. And speaking of -er endings, Juniper has an eerily similar sound to, wait for it…

Do I even have to say it? You know what name I’m talking about.

For the uninitiated, I’m talking about Jennifer. Jennifer. The name that spawned thousands of name-nerds when it was given to nearly 600,000 baby girls in the 1970s, who grew-up vowing to give their daughters a different name. Jennifer gets a lot of flak for being overused, but how many names have had such an effect? Jennifer is rather special, but that discussion is for another day.

If you happen to be a Jennifer name-nerd looking for that different name for your daughter, a part of me is tempted to  steer you clear of Juniper. But predictions are both exciting and risky.

Remember when I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Juniper hits the top 300 in five years? I also wouldn’t be surprised if Juniper hits a plateau in a couple of years because name trends are more volatile than ever before.

Juniper is a great name. If you are considering this name for your baby, but are concerned it could become too popular, ask yourself how you would feel if you picked another name only to learn a few years later that Juniper never became as popular as the pundits (yes, me) predicted. Would you feel regret? In that case, I would urge you to name your baby Juniper.

But if you want something surprising, in a couple of decades, when the youngest generation comes of age, Heather could seem refreshing again. And that segues into the next Unfairly Dated name.

Readers: What do you think of Juniper?

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  1. I quite like it, I just don’t feel like she would fit in with Jamey and Fiona. I think she’s darling, and I would get all squealie if I met anyone of any age named Juniper.

  2. I really like it for a boy. It doesn’t seem feminine to me at all.
    Why Jasper and River are considered boys names first, but Juniper is somehow always a girls name is a little confusing to be honest. It’s not like he would have to go by June either, Perry would be wonderful!
    For a girl, I’m neutral, but I would rather see Junia or Petra or Maple.

    • I never considered Juniper for a boy, but I see your reasoning. Most of the time I slightly prefer Junia over Juniper, but I go back and forth.

  3. ugh ugh ugh. PLEASE stop putting this name out there! I have a Juniper (definitely a girl’s name!) born in 2011, and I really and truly and honestly thought that it was unique. I swear I’m not like one of the moms with a kid named Kaitlyn that says that. I really did my research and homework on this one. I really hope you’re wrong, but I’ve seen it on some name blogs recently and I’m trying to get everyone to shut up about it!!!! I was blindsided by Penelope a couple years ago, and I swore it would never happen again. (At least my Penelope is the oldest. We seriously got a lot of flack for that one, with people asking where we had ever thought of it. Now it’s a freaking kardashian) Meanwhile, Zoe (which we knew was quite popular but we chose for personal reasons) is turning out to be the most obscure of my daughters’ names! How crazy is that? I know another Juniper, like 14 Penelopes, and zero Zoes. go figure.

    • I feel your pain. While I didn’t set out to pick names that were obscure for my children (my husband, the more cautious one of us, wouldn’t let me), I hoped my children’s names wouldn’t become the next Madison or Ava.

      Every time I saw my daughter’s name go up in popularity these past few years I would cringe just a little. Whenever a baby name blogger would suggest my daughter’s name to a reader, I would resist the urge to comment, “Noooooo, hands off my daughter’s name!” (Okay, sometimes I didn’t resist the urge, despite a part of me knowing I was being unreasonable.)

      When both my children’s names went down – just slightly – in popularity last year I did a little happy dance! In time I learned to accept that I have no control over my children’s names popularity, and I know you will too. I write more extensively about obscure names becoming trendy overnight and how I learned to accept this here:

  4. Juniper says:

    I’m one of the few named Juniper born in 1971…..I have grown to love the name but it was rough in school….with an odd last name I was called Jupiter Porky…I believe it has made me a stronger woman today. It has also helped me professionally….my clients always remember me and its a great icebreaker when meeting new people since I usually have to correct them after calling me Jennifer.
    Donovan’s song was my parents’ inspiration apparently he wrote it after meeting Jennifer (patty Hurst’s sister) who he fell madly in love withher and she had a boutique in London named Juniper-he’s the king of alliteration so he wrote the song. Gin is made out of Juniper berries so sometimes I get the question of “Are your parents gun drinkers?” I respond with no….just hippies 🙂

    st saw Mud last night and Reese Witherspoon plays Junipef.

    • Juniper says:

      Typo in that last sentence…darn kindle 🙂

    • I was born in the early nineties and my mom had been planning to name her daughter juniper since the 70’s when she was in college. I was teased a lot about my name, people could never pronounce it and I hated being called Jupiter or junifer or Jennifer so I ended up being called June. And guess what? So will all these kids whose parents are trying desperately to find a “unique” name. Maybe I’m just irritated that I finally got comfortable with my name as an adult and NOW everyone likes it. If anyone out there is seriously considering this name I want to point out 2 things, your kid will most likely end up with a lifelong nickname of June or junie because little kids in kindergarten and elementary school find Juniper too hard to pronounce, and also that a friend of mine says in her daughters class there are 3 junipers in one room alone so it’s not even that “unique” anymore. But if u still like it go for it, but your daughter will definitely not be the only Juniper in school.

      • It sounds like Juniper becoming more popular might lessen some of the issues you had with the name–namely pronunciation and teasing. You had a lot of problems with the name because it was so unusual for your peer group, but if the name becomes more common, it will become very familiar to people.

        You make a good point about nicknames. I usually suggest to people that they avoid picking any name for their child where they love the formal version but hate the assumed nicknames. Avoiding the assumed nicknames might be easy until the kid becomes old enough to decide on their own that they want to be Sam, not Samuel.

  5. We named our daughter Juniper a few years ago and it has been nothing but problems. People just can’t seem to hear Juniper, they ALWAYS say, “Jennifer”? Who knew we’d actually be naming our kid Jennifer. From teachers to kids on the playground, no one gets it. Also, kids love space stuff, and so they know Jupiter before Juniper, and think that’s her name, and treat her weirdly. Talking to kids she meets we always end up explaining, like the plant, and it never works, nor mean to go down that road. As well…. ugh, we didn’t really think of this for some reason, but it does have a strong hippie association, so we kind of randomly attract really, umm, spacey parents…

  6. Our daughter is also Juniper, in hungarian: Boróka. We love this name, and we have no problems because of it. In the last years many girls are named Boróka in our country. Is a special, fresh name, and it seems to be more popular each day.

  7. juniper here , female and born mid 1960s before donovan recorded the song jennifer juniper
    perhaps one could say my parents were reflecting the hippy times in their choice.

  8. My 7 yo daughter is named Juniper. She prefers to go by her full name, despite being called “Junie” most of her life. Kids and teachers haven’t had any issues with the name, I’m guessing Juniper B Jones helps a bit. Many people love and compliment her name when they hear it, yet I don’t think it will ever be hugely popular. It’s one of those middle ground named, old but uncommon names, most people seem to either want classic (Lauren, Emma, Charlotte, etc) or unique (Jadalyn, Kacee, Delaney, etc). Either way, I don’t care if her name is unique or not, it fits her well, and makes perfect sense.

  9. Jerrika says:

    I love the name Juniper. Our last name is Stark, and we wanted something strong, vintage sounding and went well with the family name. We’ve never met another Juniper, and I believe love the way it sounds. I have three daughters. Zaida, Evelyn and now Juniper. I can see it gaining popularity but not to the extent of names like Ella, Isabella, or Ava.

  10. We have a Juniper (female), people are always confusing it for Jupiter. And I’m kinda bummed I didn’t think of that one myself. Juniper is named after my favorite childhood book “Juniper” by Monica Furlong and my favorite adult beverage Gin. We love calling her June and Junie, you get the traditional vibe along with something a little diffrent. I still haven’t personally met any other Junipers but I’m sure it will become more popular. People are a little overly crazy about having a 100% unique name, like chill out. It’s not the end of the world. People also seem to be obsessed with telling you how many other people with your supposed unique name there are, like in a trying to hurt and burst your bubble way. I love her name.. it fits her perfectly and thatsee all that matters.


  1. […] With their numbers in the millions today, many Jennifer’s born back in the 70s, swore they would spare their daughters their fate, a ubiquitous name. The name even has a pop song dedicated to its sheer numbers: 27 Jennifers, by Mike […]

  2. […] the same year Heather peaked at #3. This name for a small shrub was compared to top 1000 newcomer Juniper in the latest installment of our Failure to Launch […]

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