The Baby Name Buff: David Bowie Edition

On January 10th, 2016, the world lost a true music legend. David Bowie was one of the most prolific musical artists of all time, with a career spanning from 1967 until just before his untimely death. He is hands-down my favorite musical artist. While Bowie is well known for his songwriting innovations, he is perhaps remembered most for his outrageous and unique stage personas, such as the Thin White Duke or Aladdin Sane.  It is therefore fitting to search his life and music for unique baby name possibilities.

So, whether you are a hard-core Bowie fan looking for a name as fantastical as Ziggy Stardust himself or a more moderate fan looking to tip your hat to Bowie without choosing a name that will give your parents a heart attack, this list of Bowie-inspired baby names is sure to deliver.

Ormen
The compelling opening line of the first and title song on Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar,” references the “villa of Ormen.” As a baby boy’s name, Ormen will work well for anyone interested in Norse heritage or parents looking for a short, strong boy’s name. Possible nicknames: Orm or Ore.

Labyrinth
A classic 80s flick directed by Jim Henson, Labyrinth is a fun fantasy romp starring David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King. And while it might seem strange to name your kid after a movie in which Bowie’s tights-clad man-package is super conspicuous throughout the film, the gender-neutral name Labyrinth has a fanciful appeal and beautiful sound. There are also many great nickname possibilities: Labby, Abby, Byri, or Rin for girls and Byrin or Byron for boys.

Canasta
While Bowie certainly wrote bawdy songs about getting it on, he was also great at capturing the deep, soul-connecting aspects of sex. One song that does just that is “Lady Grinning Soul” from Aladdin Sane. In one line of the song, the speaker talks of the “lady’s” card-playing prowess (and, perhaps metaphorically, other types of prowess…), citing how she’ll “beat you down at cool Canasta.” Nicknames for a baby girl named Canasta include Cana, Ana, and Asta.

Mandolin
Speaking of gorgeous Bowie songs about sex, “Wild is the Wind” is perhaps one of the loveliest songs I’ve ever heard in praise of the beauty of lovemaking, despite Bowie’s over-the-top moaning that I’ve dubbed as “ghost Bowie.” The name Mandolin comes from the lines: “You / Touch Me/ I hear the sound / Of mandolins.” While this name could work for a boy or girl, I tend to think of it primarily as a girl’s name. Possible nicknames: Mandi, Andi /Andy, or Dolin / Dolyn. You can also consider the alternate spelling Mandolyn, which makes this name a more unique version of the fairly popular name Gwendolyn.

Cygnet
While the song from which this name is taken, “Cygnet Committee,” has decidedly dystopian lyrics, don’t let that association dissuade you from using this interesting, gender-neutral name. If nothing else, a cygnet is also a baby swan, and that’s just adorable. Possible nicknames include Cy and Ygne (pronounced Igne).

Hessian
Bowie’s “An Occasional Dream” is a bittersweet ode to a love lost and is often thought to be about Bowie’s actual former girlfriend, Hermione Farthingale. This name is taken from the line “And we’d speak of a Swedish room, of hessian and wood.” The gender-neutral name Hessian is a newcomer to the existing fabric-inspired names that are all the rage today, such as Cotton, Jean, and Velvet.  Possible nicknames include Hess, Essi, and Sian.  

Jingo
“Oh by jingo!” This refrain from Bowie’s haunting song “After All” provides a short, cute, and very unique baby boy’s name. Possible nicknames: Jin, Jing, or Ingo.

Lodger
In 1979, Lodger joined Low and Heroes as the last album in Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy. Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a fan of any of the albums in The Berlin Trilogy; Bowie pushed the musical experimentation a bit too far for my tastes, and there are way too many instrumental pieces for my liking. (I’m a lyrics girl all the way!) That said, Lodger is an awesome boy’s name—the cooler, more quirky cousin of the overly-popular boy’s name Logan. And, to really push the Bowie influence, Lo (a tip to Low) could be a good nickname.

Rebel
One of my favorite Bowie songs, “Rebel, Rebel,”begins with the couplet “You’ve got your mother in a whirl / She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl.” As such, Rebel couldn’t be anything besides a gender neutral name. As a bonus, if you name your kid rebel, maybe when they reach the normally-rebellious teenage years, they’ll actually not rebel, just because they don’t want to do what you named them to do. (There’s layers of reverse psychology going on here…). Possible nicknames: Reb, Ree, Ebbie, or Ebel.

Brixton

Brixton is the English town where David Jones (i.e. Bowie) was born. Names ending in “ton” are some of the most popular names around, and anything with an X in it is sure to be of interest to unique-name hunters. So, the gender-neutral name Brixton fits the sweet spot of being unique enough for hipsters who want to name their kid something “before it was cool” but not so crazy as to traumatize your grandma. Possible nicknames: Brix, Brick, Rix, Rick, and Ixto.

Update: The SSA popular name tool is a bit finnicky, and it turns out this name ha has actually been in the top 1,000 since 2015! The name is all the way up to 776 as of 2018.

Stardust
From hipsters to hippies, Stardust (a la “Lady Stardust” and “Ziggy Stardust”) is the perfect name for any tree-hugging couples’ little nugget, boy or girl. Possible nicknames: Star, Tara, and Ardu.

Magic
Bowie has many common motifs in his music: love, space, dystopias, and…magic! “Magic Dance” from Labyrinth is one obvious example. But one of my favorite Bowie songs with the term “magic” in it is “The Supermen” from The Man Who Sold the World. The song opens “When all the world was very young / And mountain magic heavy hung…” Beautiful! Though the (male) basketball player Magic Johnson (real name Earvin Johnson) is perhaps the most famous person to adopt this moniker, Magic is a gender-neutral baby name. Possible nicknames; Magi or Agi / Aggie.

Bowie
After Bowie’s death in 2016, this name had an uptick among true and poseur Bowie fans alike. Yet I was surprised to find that Bowie still has not broken into the top 1,000 names in the United States. (I wouldn’t be surprised if it is more popular in England, though.) While Bowie is most often cited as a boy’s name, in the true spirit of Bowie’s own gender-bending ways, I think this name would be great for girls as well.

Update: 5/15/19–as anticipated, Bowie broke into the top 1,000 boys’ names in 2018, at #982. But I’ve seen Bowie floated around as a girls’ name much more often lately, so be on the lookout for this name to bust onto the girls’ top 1,000 scene sometime in the next few years.

Ziggy
Speaking of Bowie-inspired names that I was shocked have never made it into the U.S. top 1,000, I couldn’t believe that Ziggy hasn’t made the list. “Ziggy Stardust” is my all-time favorite Bowie song, and Ziggy Stardust is probably my favorite Bowie album as well (though it is hard to choose)! And, once again, while Ziggy is largely known as a boy’s name, I’d love to see some little girl Ziggys running around in the future. (Fun fact: Ziggy was actually my first pick for my son’s name, but my husband wasn’t having it…boo!)

Ibiza
In the hit Bowie tune “Life on Mars,” Bowie references “…the mice in their million hordes, from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads.” Ibiza adds some Spanish flair to all of today’s popular place names like London, Berlin, and Cairo (all of which, uncoincidentally, have ties to Bowie as well). While this name could work for a boy or girl, I’m feeling Ibiza as a girl’s name, with possible nicknames of Ibi / Ibby, Biz, and Biza. Shout out to my uncle, Tom Gundling, for finding this Bowie-inspired name gem. (Uncle T is an even bigger Bowie freak than I am, if you can believe that!)

Wonder
Bowie’s 90s music was a step up after some of his questionable albums from the 80s. One of my favorite of his albums from the 90s, I’m Afraid of Americans, boasts the earworm “Little Wonder.” Given that many new parents are often in awe of the arrival of their little one, Wonder is a cool name possibility. This name would be especially meaningful for parents of a rainbow baby or those who struggled to conceive.  

Disco
In my opinion, Reality is one of Bowie’s most underrated albums, and “Bring Me the Disco King” is just one of many fantastic, funky tracks from this glorious compilation. And while Disco might seem like a really out-there name, even for unusual name enthusiasts, other musical-genre names like Jazz have been in the public eye for a while now. I mean, Cisco is a great name, so why not Disco? This name would work well for a boy or a girl. And, if paired with a middle name that starts with a J, you could use the cutesie nickname D.J. (which is also the title of a Bowie song from the aforementioned album Lodger).

Blue-Jean
Another burgeoning trend in the baby-name world is hyphenated first names. One of Bowie’s most popular hits, “Blue Jean” could work very well as a girl’s name, with B.J. as a nickname (though I’m not unaware of the possible sexual connotation of that nickname, so maybe not…)

Amlapura
Amlapura, a city on the Indonesian island of Bali, is the focus of the song of the same name by Tin Machine, a band Bowie fronted in the 90s. While Amlapura is a beautiful island getaway destination for many today, the Tin Machine song deals with some heavy and disturbing topics. Even so, and not to diminish those issues, Amlapura is a gorgeous-sounding girl’s name with many great nickname possibilities, like Ami, Amla, Lapu, and Pura.

Ricochet
This song from Let’s Dance is one of the few 80s Bowie songs that I really love (though I was only introduced to this tune fairly recently by my aforementioned Uncle T). This name could work for boys or girls, though I’m feeling it as a boy’s name. Possible nicknames: Ric / Rick / Ricky / Ricki, Rico, or (my personal favorite) Chet / Shea.

These are only 20 of about 200 Bowie-inspired names I’ve found, so look out for some more David Bowie name editions in the coming months. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what your favorite names are from this list.

Photo Credit: Ron Frazier







Welcome!

Welcome to The Baby Name Buff (TBNB)! This blog is for all the baby name lovers out there. More specifically, this blog is devoted to discussing truly unique baby names, meaning that almost all the baby names on this site are names that have not been in the top 1,000 names in the U.S. Social Security name database any time between 1900 and the present. So, if you’re looking for that one-of-a-kind name for your little one, or even if you’re not expecting but just love discussing unique baby names, you’ve come to the right place.

Each week, I’ll post a new TBNB edition, taking my inspiration from a variety of sources, including music, movies, TV, nature, and more. Stay tuned for the first edition, coming soon!

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”  — Anne Shirley, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

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