Unfairly Dated Names: Heather

Unfairly Dated Names are a subset of Spotlight Names most people don’t consider old-enough to recycle. Most of these names peaked around 15-60 years ago and are often typecast as parent and grandparent names. But their timeless and sometimes modern attributes make them stylish stand-outs for modern children. At one point these names were ahead of the trends, and likely will be again.

Unfairly Dated Name: Heather

Let’s play guess the year. We’ll step into our baby name time machine to a year when these contemporary favorites were under-appreciated:

  • Hazel ranked at #942 and would leave the top 1000 the following year.
  • Lily didn’t even rank in the top 1000.
  • Violet didn’t rank in the top 1000.
  • Willow didn’t rank in the top 1000, and had never been in the top 1000.

What year am I talking about?

If you guessed the year was 1975, you are correct. Sorry, you don’t get a prize, only the smug satisfaction of knowing you are a name-stat genius. Or maybe you are just a good guesser. Either way, your reward is smug satisfaction.

1975 was 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 series.

For those of you who are not familiar with the series, Failure to Launch names are names that had potential to become popular a few decades ago, but either remained uncommon or are just now getting popular. The series was created to prove that while specific names come and go, certain styles are timeless. It’s interesting to investigate why certain names are popular for certain decades, and not others that seemed to fit the styles of the time.

The Unfairly Dated names series was created to prove the same point, but focuses on names that were ahead of their time, that peaked a few decades before they were supposed to. Heather was ahead of its time. Heather qualifies as an Unfairly Dated name.

Heather was a popular botanical name at a time when botanical names weren’t in. They were even downright passe, but Heather was the exception. Why was Heather the exception?

Perhaps the -er ending it shares with the top 1970s girl name, Jennifer, inspired Heather’s popularity. Or perhaps the name’s Scottish and English origins made the name appealing. Scottish, English, and Celtic names are often considered stylish names today, but names with U.K. origins have been stylish for decades, only the specific names change with each generation.

Other names derived from Heather also peaked in the 1970s/80s. The Latin version, Erica, peaked about a decade later, at #31 from 1986 to 1988. The masculine version Heath also peaked in the mid-1970s, but didn’t get nearly as popular, reaching #181 in 1974.

Heather first hit the top 1000 in 1935, and slowly climbed and hit the top 100 in 1967. Once Heather hit the top 100, it soared. Within five years, Heather would reach the top 10 and stay there from 1972 until 1980 and would return from 1983 until 1987. Heather stayed in the top 100 until 1998, resulting in a three decade stint in the top 100.

Once Heather left the top 100 it dropped steeply, falling to #707 in 2011. Heather will probably exit the top 1000 within the next couple of years. This is another lovely name that suffered from overuse. Heather is the perfect strong yet feminine name. The shrub inhabits rocky, seemingly inhospitable terrains, and turns them into areas blanketed in pretty, yet anything but delicate, pink-purple flowers. To those who like Hazel, Juniper, Magnolia, and Willow, remember Heather paved the way.

Readers: What do you think of Heather?

Photo credit: macro image / fields of heather


  1. I’m a Heather. 1979 🙂


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