Most Popular Names of 2015

Every year the Social Security Administration releases the latest baby name popularity information. Here’s what I think are the most interesting and salient trends from the past year.

  1. The Top 10 Names

Girls: Emma, Olivia, and Sophia maintained their rank order of #1, #2, and #3, as did Mia at #6. Ava, Abigail, Charlotte, and Harper each moved up a notch to #4, #7, #9, and #10. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s “crowning” choice to name their daughter Charlotte last year undoubtedly helped that name’s rise in popularity. Isabella and Emily each fell a notch to #5 and #8. Just like last year, Emily is the only name in the top 10 that ends in an “ee” sound. I expect Emily to quietly slip off the top 10 list in the next year or two.

Boys: The top 6 boys’ names maintained their rank order from last year, as did Alexander at #8. However, the rank order of the remaining three names changed, with James rising two notches to #7, Michael falling two notches to #9, Daniel falling out of the top 10 to #12, and Benjamin entering the list at #10. Notice that five of the top 10 names have biblical roots and five use soft consonants (e.g., Noah and Liam).

  1. The Next Ten Names

Girls: Every name on the next 10 list changed rank. Names that rose two or three positions included Amelia (#15) and Grace (#19). Names that lost two or three positions included Madison (#11), Sofia (#14), and Avery (#16). Notice that of the two names on the next 10 list that end with an “ee” sound (Avery and Chloe), only the one that didn’t feature the letter y rose in rank.

Boys: Two names on this list that had strong gains were Lucas (+3) and Oliver (+13). Notable declines included Daniel (-2) and Jayden (-5). Considering Olivia’s #2 position on the girls’ top 10 list, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oliver moved onto the boys’ top 10 list in the next few years.

  1. The Top 100 Names

Girls: The names that made the biggest gains were Hazel (+42), Aurora (+37), Alexa (+31), Quinn (+29), Mila (+19), Eleanor (+18), Violet (+17), Stella (+15), and Riley (+12). Notice that four of these names end with an “ah” sound and only one ends with an “ee” sound (Riley). The names that took the biggest hits in popularity were Annabelle (-35), Alexis (-21), Arianna (-16), Peyton (-16), Aubree (-16), Hailey (-13), Gabriella (-11), and Anna (-10).

Boys: The names that made the biggest gains were Theodore (+27), Ezra (+26), Lincoln (+21), Mateo (+21), Grayson (+16), Sawyer (+16), Hudson (+15), and Oliver (+13). The names that took the biggest hits in popularity were Ayden (-13), Brandon (-11), Jason (-11), Evan (-9), Tyler (-9), Andrew (-8), Joshua (-8), Jayden (-5), and Kayden (-5). Notice that rhyming names Ayden, Jayden, and Kayden all declined, which suggests they and all their variations are falling out of favor.

  1. The Top 1,000 Names

Girls: The fastest-rising names were Alaia (+2,012), Meilani (+1,836), Aitana (+1,721), Aislinn (+1,385), Taya (+1,107), Adaline (+1,029), Briar (+#597), Zelda (+512), Thea (+312), and Addilyn (+208). The fastest-falling names were Annabell (-500), Anabel (-500), Cindy (-343), Anabella (-333), Aranza (-324), Anabelle (-272), Elsa (-201), Annabel (-174), and Annabella (-139).Note that many variations of Annabelle—a name currently in the top 100 but whose rank change was -35—lost favor. Also of note is a name that fell off the top 1,000 list: Isis. In Egyptian mythology, Isis is the goddess of love and fertility. In 2014 the name ranked #705. Now the name brings to mind ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which likely explains why the name’s popularity has plummeted.

Boys: The fastest-rising names were Riaan (+1,360), Huxley (+392), Wilder (+360), Canaan (+271), Kaison (+251), Omari (+198), Matteo (+182), Kyrie (+172), Killian (+163), Adriel (+148), Legend (+144), and Beckham (+129). The fastest-falling names were Arnav (-666), Jayse (-257), Neymar (-240), Rylee (-228), Brenden (-187), Gannon (-120), Jase (-77), Jayceon (-63), Peyton (-50), and Jonathon (-41). Knowing that Jason was losing popularity on the top 100 list, I wasn’t surprised to see that less popular variations of that name also lost favor.

What’s the Most Popular Girls’ Name in the World ?

Go ahead and guess.

In an article in Live Science, Rachel Cruze revealed that after studying baby-name statistics from 49 countries, Laura Wattenberg discovered that the most popular baby name for girls in the whole, wide world (in it’s five most popular forms) is:

More specifically, Wattenberg discovered that Sofia and related names is the #1 name in 9 countries and either #2 or #3 in 20 other countries. Here’s what she said when she realized how dominant Sofia/Sophia was:
“It just blew me away that so many different languages and cultures would arrive at the same sound at the same time. I guess that really says something about the way culture is transmitted today.”

I suppose in about 25 years Sofia/Sophia/Sophie/Sofie/Zsófia will be considered “grandma names” and won’t be the world’s most popular girl’s names any more. For the moment, these are probably the last names you should consider for your baby girl (apart from ridiculous names like: Nutella, Cheese, Hashtag, and other names that make people wonder, “What were they thinking?”)

FYI, Sophia is a Greek name that means wisdom. This positive meaning has helped the name achieve worldwide popularity. So have famous namesakes like movie actress Sophia Lauren, movie director Sophia Coppola and TV star Sofia Vergara.


These Are a Few of My Favorite Recently Popular Names

Every year we add the latest newly popular names to 100,000+ Baby Names, so people considering them for use can look them up and learn about their meaning and origin. Specifically, we add names which have gained enough popularity to be added to the Social Security Administration’s lists of the 1,000 most popular boys’ and girls’ names.

Many of the newly popular names are new variations of names already on the list, such as Lorelai, a variation of Lorelei. Some are familiar only to people who watch  certain TV shows, like Khaleesi, a name popularized by “Game of  Thrones”. (Needless to say, the problem with names like Lorelai and Khaleesi is that they are often difficult to spell and/or pronounce.)

Some newly popular names are place names, like Maylasia and Ireland. Some are the last names of celebrities and athletes, like Anniston, Lennon and Beckham. And some are combinations of two names that just sound good together, like Lillyana.

Just for fun, I thought you might enjoy a quick look at some of the most appealing newly popular names I’ve come across over the last few years. However, instead of giving you the precise origins and meanings I use in my book, I’ll just mention the reason I think some of these names might be of interest.

Newly Popular Boys’ Names Over the Past Few Years:

Baylor (the name of a great, Texas university)
Beckham (the last name of an English soccer star)
Dash (a name that implies speed and energy)
Nash (the name an old car brand and a game-theory expert featured in “A Beautiful Mind.”)
Ronin (a feudal Japanese samurai)
Rylee (a fun new spelling for Riley)
Tiago and Thiago (a Brazilian basketball star who plays in the NBA)
Xavi (a nickname for Xavier and the name a Spanish soccer star)

Newly Popular Girls’ Names Over the Past Few Years:

Anniston (the last name of the actress who played Rachael  in “Friends”)
Elliot (a boys’ name that’s now being used for  girls)
Everly (the last name of two famous brothers who made music in the ‘50s and ‘60s)
Henley (the location—on the Thames river—of a rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge)
Journee (the French word for day)
Juniper (an evergreen shrub whose aroma can be found in gin)
Lennon (the last name of one of the most famous Beatles)
Lillyana (a combination of two names that sound great together)
Malaysia (a country that has become a name for girls)
Oakley (a sporty and cool brand of sunglasses)
Sutton (an upscale street on Manhattan’s chic east side)

9780684039992 100,000+ Baby Names is available in stores and online.


The Increasingly Individualistic Nature of Baby Name Selections in Ontario, Canada

An article in the Ottawa Citizen featuring information released by Service Ontario describes the increasingly individualistic source of popular baby names.

Diane Pacom, a professor at the University of Ottawa, specializing in the sociology of culture and change reports a trend away from naming children after grandparents. In North America, she says, people often don’t have close relationships with the past.

“We live in a society that is very individualistic. We’re looking for uniqueness. You want your kid to stand out. Not only because of their looks or the way they’re dressed but also because of their name.”

Increasingly in Ontario, the source of popular baby names is often:

a favorite character from a novel orTV show, e.g.:Claire (“House of Cards”), Christian (Fifty Shades of Grey), Anna (“Frozen”), Arya (“Game of Thrones”), Jax (Son of Anarchy), and  Piper (“Orange is the New Black”),

an appealing aspect of nature, e.g.:Winter, Lily, Autumn, Summer, Ivy, Raven, Sky, Rain, River, or Maple

a sports hero from North America or Europe, e.g.:Sidney (Crosby), Peyton (Manning), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams) or Christiano (Ronaldo)

an appealing political leader, e.g.:Stephen (Harper), Justin, Trudeau, Elizabeth (May), or Thomas (Mulcaire)

The article also includes a list of the top ten baby names in 2013:

  1. Olivia
  2. Emma
  3. Liam
  4. Ethan
  5. Lucas
  6. Noah
  7. Sophia
  8. Benjamin
  9. Jacob
  10. William





Brooklyn’s Rise Brings Popularity as a Baby Name, But Locals Say Fuhgeddaboutit.

A highly readable article by Michael R. Sisak of Associated Press about Brooklyn (whose rise in appeal as a popular borough of New York seems to have produced an extraordinary rise in interest in Brooklyn as a place name for girls) provides an interesting new perspective on place names.

It turns out that Brooklyn has moved up in the popularity rankings from #912 in 1990 to the top 30—where it seems to have leveled off over the past three years. The strange thing is, according to Sisak:

“Of the 41 states where Brooklyn is now the most popular girl’s name beginning with B, New York is not among them. Real Brooklynites say naming your child Brooklyn is strictly for out-of towners.”

 Sisak tells the story of a girl named Brooklyn Presta who was born in Kansas and now lives in Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn Presta says her parents in Kansas were thinking unique, not New York, when they named her. Now 26 and living in Brooklyn, Presta says she often gets questions about whether she changed her name to fit her chosen borough. ‘It’s kind of crazy to be Brooklyn in Brooklyn, Presta says.’”

Apparently, Brooklyn is an appealing name for girls—as long as you don’t live there. If you live in Brooklyn, fuhgeddaboutit. I wonder if that’s the case for girls named Madison who live in Madison, Wisconsin (or work on Madison Avenue) or girls named Charlotte who live in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

FYI, Madison is currently the most popular place name for girls. It rose from #627 in 1985 to #2 in 2001–a rise fueled by interest in the mermaid character played by Darryl Hannah in “Splash.” Twelve years later, the name is still among the top ten girls’ names, but it’s now #9.

Charlotte was ranked at #306 in 1984, the year “Splash” was released. And it was ranked #307 fifteen years later in 1999. That must have been when the “place-name” trend (popularized by Madison) caused parents to realize that Charlotte was a place name in addition to being a literary name (made famous by Charlotte Bronte, whose popular romance novel, Jane Eyre, was published in 1847). Since 1999, Charlotte has ridden the “place-name” trend all the way up to #11–and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Charlotte hop into the 1014 girls’ top-ten list when it is published by SSA next May.

Speaking of the SSA popularity statistics, my recent article about the most rapidly rising girls’ names in 2013 mentioned fifteen girls’ names that were streaking up the list. (And because both Brooklyn and Madison both seem to have peaked, the place-name baton seems to have been passed on to names like Ireland, Milan, Phoenix, Asia, Dakota and Londyn, and others.)

P.S. I’d love to hear from you if you have a place name and you live or work in that place. Is your experience like Brooklyn Presta’s? Or is it different? In my most popular article about place names, I discuss places that sound like they would be appropriate as names for people and places that might not work well for people. But I didn’t discuss what it’s like to live in a place you’re named after. If that describes you, please write a comment.




How Madison Rose from a Movie “Joke” 30 Years Ago to Top-Ten Popularity

Kevin Polowy’s article on Yahoo Movies tells the entertaining story of how the name Madison started as a joke in the movie, “Splash” starring Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah as a mermaid.

“Splash” was released 30 years ago on March 9, 1984. According to baby-name expert, Joal Ryan,

Madison was nowhere on the radar as a girl name until 1985 — a year after the release of ‘Splash.’ So, there definitely seems to be a connection there, especially since there’s no other major female Madison, either real or fictional, who was out there as a role model.

The name took off as soon as the movie came out. It showed up in Social Security Administration popularity statistics in 1985. By 1990, it was ranked at #216. By 1995, it had zoomed up to #29. And by 2000 it was the #3 most popular girl’s name in the U.S. The popularity of Madison ranked among the top-five girls’ names from 2000 until 2008. And in 2012 Madison was still among the top-ten names for girls, ranked at #9. Madison is one of the most classic illustrations of the effect of movies (or mass media) on baby-name popularity.

Now that you know how the name Madison was launched by Darryl Hannah’s character in “Splash” and how popular it has become, here’s how Hannah explains the “joke.”

The whole point of me choosing that name was because it [was such a] silly name. Obviously everyone knew it as the name of the street [Madison Avenue]. No one really saw it as a first name and that was a joke. And now, of course it’s not funny at all. It’s just like, Oh, what a beautiful name!’ … It was funny at the time and now it’s not even ironic.

As I write this post, I’m aware of the fact that I advise parents against giving babies “joke” names, because it’s highly likely that the joke will be on the baby (and ultimately, the parents who will have to pay for the child’s therapy). Madison proves that some “joke names” can turn out well for the child (and the parents).

Dear Bruce: How Can I Talk My Son Out of a Name I Hope they Don’t Give My Grandchild?

Q: I hate a name my son is thinking of naming his baby. How can I talk him out of it?

A: If you want to have even the slightest chance of changing your son’s mind, accept the fact that naming their baby is the prerogative of your son and his wife. It’s not your call. Accept the fact that they will pick whatever name they like and that you will live with their choice. (Fighting a passive-aggressive battle about a name you don’t like is juvenile and undermines your credibility as the “adult in the relationship.”)

Next, change the way you frame the issue. Saying you “hate”‘ the name they are considering sets up a cataclysmic life and death battle. Instead, say that the name they seem high on “never would have occurred to you.” Notice how that lightens the stakes and implies that nuclear weapons won’t be used to settle the matter.

The goal of “talking your son out of” the name he likes is highly unrealistic. Lower your sights and lighten your rhetoric accordingly. Describe what you’d like to accomplish as: “introducing a different perspective,” or “planting the seed of a different idea.” See how that language is much less “win/lose”–hence much less “threatening?”

(Time for an anecdote: I had a relative who always had to be “right”–about everything. Although he was smart enough not to verbalize what he was thinking, what was running through his mind as he argued passionately for his point of view was: “I’m right. You’re wrong. You big dummy!” When he started arguing, people sensed he was trying to run over them with a bulldozer and leave them flat as pancakes in the middle of the road. So instead of considering what he had to say, most people would dig in stubbornly and cling to their initial position for dear life.)

Can you see how a “bulldozer strategy” like the one my relative used is the least effective rhetorical strategy possible? And now that I’ve told you this anecdote can you see why using language like “introducing a different perspective” or “planting the seed of a different idea” is much less threatening and confrontational and might open the door to change, if only because your son might be curious to discover what your new “perspective” or “idea” might be.

Now that you’ve increased the odds that you and your son will have a productive discussion, you are ready to provide some new perspectives and new ideas in the  form of blog posts I’ve written about a variety of issues that might be causing a conflict between you and your son. (Psychotherapists call it “bibliotherapy” when they “prescribe” books for their patients to read.  So perhaps we should call this approach “blogotherapy.”

If your son is considering a name that is highly unusual and may come across as strange, weird or uncomfortable, suggest he read “Why Unique Names Can Be a Hassle.” It describes a research project that asked people if they liked their own names. Many respondents who had been given unusual names didn”t like their names for a variety of good reasons.

If your son is considering a traditional name that seems boring or humdrum to you, suggest that he read “How to Find Charming, Uncommon Names for Your Baby.”

If your son has picked a name you think is for “losers” and you would like to steer him towards a name that will help his child succeed in life, suggest he read “How to Come Up With a 5-Star Name  for Your Baby.”

If you think your son has picked an “outrageous” name similar to names selected by celebrities, suggest he read “10 Mistakes That Have Caused The Biggest, Baddest Baby-Naming Blunders.”

If your son has picked a name so popular there are likely to be more than one child with the same name in your grandchild’s kindergarten class, suggest he read “How to Pick a Unique Version of a Popular Name.”

When you realize your son has made up his mind about a first name “that never would have occurred to you,” change the subject and suggest he read “Middle Naming: How to Pick a Useful Middle Name for Your Baby.” (One of the main purposes of a middle name is to act as a “back-up name” should the first name not work out.)

By using a blogotherapy strategy, it is no longer you against your son in a winner-take-all confrontation. You really are providing a new perspective in the form of articles I’ve written which may shed some new light on the subject. And that’s really all you can hope to do.

How Baby Center’s 2013 Top-10 Lists Compare with the Social Security Administration’s 2012 Top-10 List

I must have received 10 newsfeeds (all from different sources) for Baby Center’s list of 100 most popular names in 2013. As you may know, Baby Center is one of the leading sources of information about birth and babies. They get their popularity information directly from expecting and new parents who are registered with them. It’s a pretty good source of information considering that  the 2013 “most popular names lists” are published by Baby Center about 6 months in advance of the official Social Security Administration popularity data, which the SSA releases on or around Mother’s Day every year.

But, when I took a look at the top-ten boys’ names for 2013 announced by Baby Center, I wondered: How did Jackson  jump to #1 on Baby Center in 2013 from #20 on SSA in 2012? How did Aiden jump to #2 on Baby Center in 2013 from #10 on SSA in 2012? How did Lucas jump to #4 on Baby Center in 2013 from #27 on SSA in 2012? And how did Jack jump to #10 on Baby Center in 2013 all the way from #45 on SSA in 2012?

(I should mention at this point that changes to either the boy’s or girls top ten lists (from year to year on SSA) are usually in increments of one or two ranks on the list. It is fairly typical for several names  to move up one or two ranks and several names to move down one or two ranks on the list. And every once in a while, a name will “swoop down” from #11 or #12 to #9 or #10 to provide some excitement for me and other bored commentators.)  Believe it or not, that pretty much sums up the changes, most years, to the top-ten most popular boys’ and girls lists from the Social Security Administration.)

When I looked at top-ten girls’ names for 2013 announced by Baby Center, there were only two big moves: Zoe moved up from #20 on SSA 2012 to #8 on Baby Center 2013. And Lily moved up from #16 on SSA 2012 to #6 on Baby Center 2013. But the moves I’ve just described from the SSA 2012 list to the BC 2013 list way go beyond two sigmas (even if you flunked Statistics, you probably know that’s big move).

Now use your eyeballs to compare BC 2013 with BC2012 on the chart I created below–which compares BC 2013 with SSA 2012 and BC 2012. Notice, on the boys’ side, that Jackson moved up from #2 (in BC 2012) to #1 in BCv2013). Aiden moved down from  #1 (on BC 2012) to #2 in (BC 2013). And Jack didn’t move anywhere. It was #10 (in BC 2012 and was #10 (in BC 2013). Those are the kind of small incremental moves from year to year that it is reasonable to expect when you are looking at data from the same population year after year. This tells us that data produced by Baby Center should be compared with Baby Center stats from previous years; ditto for SSA data to give you a feel for popularity trends.

Why? Because Baby Center registrations are a very different population base than the much larger population measured by the Social Security Administration. Most likely, the Baby Center list skews more upscale (higher income and education) than the American public. So it probably makes sense to accept the fact that Baby Center registrations have dramatically different demographics than the SSA database.

In the chart below, you can compare Baby Center 2013 with both SSA 2012 and BC 2012.But to avoid getting too excited, remember that the best way to look at the Baby Center 2013 most popular names lists is to compare them to the BC 2012 list to find out, directionally, what’s going on. (As you can see, I’m not very good at lining up data so it looks vertically straight. Sorry about that.)

Top Boys’ and Girls’ Names for Baby Center 2013 (vs. SSA 2012 and BC 2012)

1. Jackson  #22 SSA 2012    #2 BC 2012                 1. Sophia      #1 SSA 2012      #1 BC 2012
2. Aiden     #10 SSA 2012    #1 BC 2012                 2. Emma       #2 SSA 2012      #2 BC 2012
3. Liam        #6 SSA 2012     #4 BC 2012                 3. Olivia        #4 SSA 2012      #3 BC 2012
4. Lucas     #27 SSA 2012     #7 BC 2012                 4. Isabella    #3 SSA 2012     #4 BC 2012
5. Noah       #4 SSA 2012     #6 BC 2012                  5. Mia           #8 SSA 2012     #9 BC 2012
6. Mason     #2 SSA 2012     #5 BC 2012                  6. Ava           #5 SSA 2012     #5 BC 2012
7. Jayden     #7 SSA 2012     #9 BC 2012                  7. Lily         #16 SSA 2012     #6 BC 2012
8. Ethan      #3 SSA 2012     #3 BC 2012                  8. Zoe         #20 SSA 2012     #7 BC 2012
9. Jacob       #1 SSA 2012     #8 BC 2012                  9. Emily       #6 SSA 2012     #8 BC 2012
10. Jack     #45 SSA 2012   #11 BC 2012                10. Chloe    #11 SSA  2012  #10 BC 2012

I should probably mention that Baby Center’s report on popularity changes in 2013 calls attention to popularity gains by names associated with the following TV shows and celebrities:
-“Duck Dynasty”
-HBO’s “Girls”
-Bad Boy (Kanye West)
-Bad Girl (Miley Cyrus)
-Triple Threat Indie Girls (Lena Dunham and Lake Bell)
-Funny Guys (Alec Baldwin, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Vince Vaughan and Jason Sudeikis)
-and American Presidents (Jack Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson and Barack Obama)

I found this information to be helpful, but I was surprised to discover that Baby Center didn’t also echo trends mentioned by a variety of US and UK commentators, to the effect that popularity gains were also made by names associated with some other popular TV  shows: “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad, “Game of Thrones, and “Downton Abbey.” It’s possible these trends didn’t show up in Baby Center’s data or perhaps their analysts missed them–I have no idea which. It’s one of the confusing aspects of having two very different sources of popularity information based on very different populations which are published 6 months apart.

I also think there’s more to analyzing changes in the popularity of names than concern with the influence of TV shows and celebrities. Surely that’s not the only factor that affects the popularity of names. Here are just a few things I noticed:

– On the top-ten Baby Center (2013)  boys’ list, there are currently 4 “J”-names. That’s a rare happening. Notice also that the  4 “strong” “J”-names combine with Lucas, which has a hard “c” sound to give the top-ten list 5 “strong” names and 5 “soft” names which (like Ethan and Noah) use softer vowel sounds.  By contrast, last year on the SSA 2012 top-ten boys’ list there were 7 “soft” names and only 3 “strong” names. And, notice also that there are only three names with biblical ties on the 2013 Baby Center list.  (In recent years there have usually been 6 or 7 boy’s names with biblical associations on SSA top-ten lists.) FYI, Biblical names suggest values or good character–which is why they have been so popular for boys in the past.

– On the top-ten Baby Center (2013) girl’s list, the first six names all have “strong” “a”- endings. But notice that the last four names have “weaker” endings with the “y” or “ee” sound. On the 2012 SSA list there was only one name (Emily) with a “y” ending, and there were three names with neutral-consonant endings (Abigail, Elizabeth, and Madison.) Finally, on the 2012 SSA top-ten list, there was one name on the list which made a “smart” impression: Abigail. Parents will have to look farther to find a “smart” option and/or a biblical name that connotes “good character” for their daughters.