"This is actually a big deal in the baby-name landscape," says Laura Wattenberg, the creator of BabyNameWizard. com.
In 2009, 8,171 U.S. babies received key "Twilight"-related names (Bella, Cullen, Jasper, Alice or Emmett), compared with 3,516 in 2005, Social Security data show.
"The interesting thing is, this follows perfectly in a tradition" of naming trends stemming from shows with supernatural themes and attractive young women, Wattenberg says. "The TV show 'Bewitched' had a huge effect. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' - huge effect. Even the TV shows that didn't become such big cultural phenomena like 'Charmed' spawned hit baby names."
Yes, she did say "Charmed." The show's heroines include Piper, a good witch with great hair portrayed by Holly Marie Combs.
When the show debuted in 1998, Piper wasn't even in the top-1,000 girls' names in the U.S. The next year, it appeared at No. 700; now it's at No. 147.
"Piper is an interesting one because it really is an example of the phrase I always repeat, 'It's not the fame, it's the name,' " Wattenberg says.
It's difficult to pinpoint the precise degree of "Twilight's" influence on the more than 4 million baby names chosen annually in the U.S., in part because Meyer chose names for her characters that were either already high on the hot list (Jacob), rising (Bella, Alice, Jasper, Emmett) or related to those that were. Isabella was already a top-10 girls' name in 2005, and Bella was at No. 208 and rising at a nice clip.
Cullen was at No. 727 in 2005 and falling, but using last names as first names was already a powerful trend. Emmett, at No. 594 but rising in 2005, is now at No. 332.
"Most of those names were ready stylistically for the public - or rather the public was ready for them," Wattenberg says.
Still, there are exceptions:
"If you want [to find] the really hard-core 'Twilight' fans who were really inspired by the book and not just the name, there were 17 baby girls last year named Renesme (pronounced Ruh-NEZ-may)," Wattenberg notes.
"That's not a name that you say, 'Oh, yeah, I've always liked that name.' "
The same might be said for Carlisle, a name chosen for precisely zero U.S. boys in 2005. In 2009, 12 male babies got the name. The reasons Carlisle might not be as hot a name as, say, Cullen, are complex. But Cullen fits several modern naming trends, including the popularity of boys' names that end in "en" (Jayden, Aiden).
Carlisle may sound feminine to an American ear and contains consonants unseparated by vowels (think Gertrude) - a definite negative for modern parents.
Wattenberg sees "Twilight" less as a touchstone for parents and more as a successful delivery system for some very stylish names.
"Name ideas have to come from somewhere, and when a name is presented to a million people at once, if it's a name that fits current styles and sounds good to parents, it becomes a hit," Wattenberg says.