Arya Stark, First of Her Name, Slayer of the Night King, The End of House Frey, Mistress of Needle, Faceless Defector, Destroyer of Gender Norms, and Lover of Lists. While that long title might be a bit much for most families to name their child, the simplified "Arya" has been steadily rising in popularity over the past few years as the character has gained notoriety. It's such a strong, fierce storyline, and it makes you wonder, what does it mean that tons of parents are naming their babies Arya? Will the strength follow suit?
Arya Stark is almost universally loved by every fan of Game of Thrones. There are few characters that garner so much admiration. There was Hodor, of course, but that's really a better name for a basset hound than a child. Lyanna is a great name, and even works as a middle name with Arya. But it hasn't caught on in the same way as Arya, which the BBC reported has cracked the top 200 list for popular names in the past few years. That's higher than Cersei, Khaleesi, and even Tyrion, in terms of Game of Thrones baby names. Jon and Rob are still perennial favorites, as is Caitlin (Catelyn, Katelyn), but Arya is burning up the charts.
In a few years, there will be a flood of preschoolers and nursery schools flooded with little Aryas. A good friend of mine who is a giant fan of the series named her little one Arya, and when she got to pre-K this year, the teacher started calling her stuffed dog her direwolf, and I imagine something like this has already played out across many classrooms where Thrones fans are present. (To be fair, her parents also call her stuffie her direwolf, because she will 100 percent lose her mind if something happens to it. Don't worry, backups have been purchased.)
I contacted Dr. Tapo Chimbganda, psychoanalyst and founder of Future Black Female, an organization that supports and encourages the amplification of the voices and visions of Black/African girls and young women globally. She tells Romper that names have power. "A name is a signifier, meaning it stands in the place of the person, even in their absence. So when one mentions Obama, he doesn't need to be there because his name conjures his essence." It can be positive or negative. Most of us hear "Arya," and think "bada*s" or "survivor." In our patriarchal society, that's not a bad thing.
Chimbganda notes that what we name our children it is especially important for the children themselves. "Children always ask about their name and other people's names because it helps them orient to their inner self as well as their connection to others," she says. And it's true. My siblings and I all grew up with fairly unique names, and in the '90s, that was less common than it is today. My name was never found on a mug or tee, and eventually that became a point of pride for me as a kid. I had a unique name and I was a unique child. I asked a ton of questions about it, and I knew that my parents chose it because they didn't want me to be like the other kids.
What does it mean that tons of parents are naming their babies Arya? On the surface, it means that the parents probably enjoy the show and like the name. However, you can't divorce what her name means from what she represents. Chimbganda says that names have meaning and power to those who are named and to those who are doing the naming. Names give context and community, and in that, Arya is strength and intelligence, and a won't-stop attitude. Honestly, we could use an army of Aryas rising up just about now.