Have You Considered Giving Your Child a Gender-Neutral Name?

I read a VOA article by Katy Weaver that changed the way I thought about naming in general and middle-naming in particular. Katy wrote about how gender identity doesn’t have to be in a name.

Parents are increasingly using gender-neutral names for boys and girls. Gender-neutral names can have the effect of giving girls a “stronger” persona and boys a “softer” persona–which can be good for both genders.

Here are the top-ten gender-neutral names from the 2016 Social Security Admin. popularity survey: Charlie, Finley, Skyler, Justice, Royal, Lennon, Oakley, Armani, Azariah and Landry.

If you’ve read my annual-trend reports you’ll know that girls are increasingly being given names with an “a”-ending (like Ava) or a soft consonant-ending (like Abigail or Harper)–and less of the most popular girls’ names have “i” or “y”-endings (like Zoey). “A”-endings and soft consonant-endings come across to most people as stronger than “i” or “y”-endings for girls.

At the same time, more of the most popular boys names use soft consonants like Liam Noah, and Mason–instead of hard consonants like Michael, Luke and Jack. It’s not surprising that parents are giving boys names that sound softer at the same time they are giving more boys gender-neutral names like Riley and Charlie (both of which have “y”and “i” endings).

So just as the trend towards stronger names for girls and softer names for boys is playing out on top-ten lists, it makes sense for parents also to consider the use of gender-neutral first or middle names for children of both genders. Not only are gender-neutral names stronger for girls and softer for boys, they also allow parents to give their children a choice about how they want to come across to others (based on how they feel about themselves).

In articles I have written about middle names, I have suggested that parents use middle names as a way to give children a choice about what they want to be called. If parents want to give their child an unusual first name, they should consider giving their child a less challenging middle name.

One of my younger brothers decided to abandon his first name, Andrew, and switch to his  middle name (Mitch) when he was still in elementary school. I waited until I was in graduate school to switch to my middle name.

Millenials are a lot more accepting of gender differences than my generation was, so it makes sense to give children a choice of names, one of which is gender-neutral. That gives children an opportunity to select a name that represents how they feel about themselves at any point their lives.

One way to provide children with gender options is to choose names for them that are rich in nickname variations. For example, Alexander and Alexandra have variations children of both genders can choose from as they grow older, including Alec, Alix, Ali, or Zander. When you’re using a baby-name book, look for names that have a long list of variations.

To help you in your search for appealing gender-neutral names, check out the latest edition of my book 100,000+ Baby Names.

One in Five British Mothers Regrets Her Child’s Name

When I read the title and reading line for the article Amelia Hill wrote in The Guardian: I guessed that the leading cause of “baby-name regret” was caused by picking a popular (e.g., top-20) name and then realizing how many other parents had made precisely the same choices.

Here are two fragments from the article that explain when and why parents begin regretting the names they have chosen:

-“The main reason for regretting the name was that it was too commonly used (25%).”
-“23% began to regret their choice when their children first started nursery or school.”

Why do so many parents fall into the trap of picking highly popular names for their children, (even though naming experts strongly recommend against that)?

Once you are pregnant, you start reading articles and books about baby names (which contain lists of the most popular names); and you also may start reading the birth announcement section of your local newspaper. Your ears are likely to perk up when friends and relatives start talking about their new babies. And when you notice new parents pushing baby strollers or carrying babies in slings, you go over to have a closer look. If you’re lucky, you might even be invited to hold the baby. Naturally, you ask the baby’s name, and say something nice about the baby and its name.

Pretty soon you realize that your interest in anything related to babies is giving you a “good feel” for names and which ones you like. Every time you meet a cute baby and “like” the name you are adding “data” to your very own baby-name “research project”—which includes your feelings about the names of cute babies you’ve cooed over or bounced; the names of babies your friends, relatives and neighbors have just announced; and the cute celebrity babies photographed in “People” and “Us.”

At some point it may dawn on you that the short list of names you are actively considering for your baby includes half of the top-10 list published every year by the Social Security Administration (or the agency in your country that publishes official name statistics).

How can newly pregnant parents avoid picking names they may wind up regretting, when they find out how popular they are? It helps to start your name search by making a list of names you like. They could be names of famous people you admire (e.g., Lincoln and Eleanor) names of characters in books or movies you love (e.g., Scout and Starbuck); names of your favorite actors or Olympic heroes (e.g., Simone and Bolt); names common in the language you studied in high school (e.g., Natasha and Ivan); names of your favorite foods or wines (e.g., Brie and Kale); names of your favorite places to vacation (e.g., Kauai and Siena); or names of relatives you want to honor.

By picking names that have meaning for you, you won’t be sidetracked by falling-in-like with names currently used by your friends, relatives and acquaintances and by the popular names in announcement lists and the media.

2016 Naming Trends, Predictions, and Warnings

Naming Themes and Sounds behind the Fastest-Rising Baby Names

When selecting names, parents often consider options that are similar in some way. For example, they may consider root names against their variations (Adeline and Adaline), names that sound similar (Aiden and Jayden), names with similar endings (Emmalynn, Avalynn, and Gracelynn), or names with the same theme (nature names, place names, trade names, or brand names). Below are some themes and sounds that help explain why similar names rise (and fall) together.

Girls:

  • Names that end in “ani”—Meilani (+1,836), Milani (+295), Kalani (+236), Kailani (+108), and Alani (+88)
  • Names that end with the sound of “rye-ah”—Ariah (+181), Ariya (+142), and Sariah (+142)
  • Names that end in “ya” or “ia”—Alaia (+2,002), Taya (+1,107), Kaya (+145), Aya (+100), and Zendaya (+91)
  • Names that end with the sound of “lin”—Aislin (+1,385), Adilynn (#329), Addilynn (+193), Roselyn (+85), Kaelyn (+54), Emmalynn (+70), Raelyn (+70), Avalynn (+66), Kaelinn (+61), and Gracelynn (+59)
  • Names that end with the sound of “lee”—Adley (+495), Heavenly (+318), Zaylee (+314), Kinslee (+175), Oakley (+154), Hadlee (+116), Tinley (+107), Everleigh (+101), Annalee (+87), Karlie (+69), Harley (+68), and Carlee (+59)
  • Names that end in “anna” or “ana”—Alannah (+189), Giavanna (+143), Avianna (+142), Aviana (+141), Lillianna (+64), Giovanna (+62), Elianna (+54), and Ivanna (+52)
  • Names associated with music, musicians, or bands—(Annie) Lennox (+416), (John) Lennon (+183), Journee (+90), and Harmoni (+89)

Boys:

  • Athletes—Jabari (+194), Kyrie (+172), Kyree (+140), Beckham (+129), and Hank (+69)
  • Brand names—Otis (+160), Mack (+145), Ford (+143), Oakley (+90), Stetson (+64), and Coleman (+60)
  • Place names—Cairo (+164), Denver (+155), and Houston (+86)
  • Pompous titles—Royal (+105), Bishop (+61), and Messiah (+54)
  • University names—Baylor (+152), Princeton (+85), and Duke (+64)
  • Biblical references—Canaan (+271), Shiloh (+149), Ariel (+143), Malakai (+127), and Eden (+97)
  • Biblical names—Jedidiah (+562), Adriel (+148), Azariah (+135), Kohen (+131), Immanuel (+105), Tobias (+103), Hezekiah (+96), Joziah (+79), and Chaim (+72)
  • Classical gods and legends—Titan (+190), Achilles (+155), Apollo (+151), Atlas (+149), and Legend (+149)

Predictions for the Coming Year

  • Girls: Last year, I picked Harper to break into the top 10. I was right—Harper was #10 in 2015. Now I’m picking Amelia (#12) to jump onto the top 10 next year and Emily to fall off the top 10 list in the next two years.
  • Boys: Last year, I picked Logan to break into the top 10. I was wrong—Logan fell a notch to #14 in 2015. Now I’m picking Oliver (#19) to move into the top 15 next year and into the top 10 the following year.

Warnings

  • Don’t be the last family on your street to pick a name that rhymes with Jayden—whether you’re expecting a boy or a girl. Most names that rhyme with Jayden (such as Ayden, Hayden, and Brayden) have been dropping in popularity for the last few years. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Jayden fell five notches on the boys’ list from 2014 to 2015 (#15 to #20). But did you know Jayden fell 117 notches on the girls’ list from 2014 to 2015 (#540 to #657)?
  • Naming children after young, attractive pop stars and athletes is fraught with danger. Most parents sensibly lose interest in naming their child after a favorite child celebrity when that star morphs from a cute, clean-cut adolescent to an awkward adult. Most people familiar with the careers of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan understand that the cutest and cuddliest celebs are likely to go off the rails at some point—if only because they have more disposable income than you ever did at the age of 20. For this reason, it’s a lot safer to stick to historical figures—about whom unpleasant surprises rarely pop up.
  • Names that create the impression of perfection or excellence are likely to cause unintended consequences, including disrespectful back talk. Some of the fastest rising names for boys could be accurately described as “pompous titles,” such as Royal. If you’re not the Duke or Duchess of Cambridge, your child isn’t royal. Also, in the “Star Kids” section of this book, you’ll notice that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian named their son Saint. No child behaves like a saint for long on any given day—even a child named Saint.

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:
Sofia
Sophia
Sofie
Sophie
Zsófia

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.

 

12 Names That Convey Class and Character in 8 Letters or More

I was surprised to find an  article about baby names in Travel and Leisure. It was called “25 names that make character count.” Although Laura Woods’ commentary about the names she selected focused more on popularity rank than character, I found 12 names on her list worth considering for parents looking for dignified names likely to make a positive impression. (Sorry to say I was more impressed by the girls’ names Wood’s suggests than the boys’ names.)

If you want to consider all 25 suggestions, use this link to find them.

Girls’ Names

Katherine is a name of English origin that means “pure.” Several saints and members of the royal family have held this distinguished name that is currently ranked No. 83 for baby girls in the U.S. Give your daughter a name that’s fit for a queen!

Alexandria is a form of Alexandra, which was originally based on the Egyptian city that was founded by Alexander the Great in 322 BC and named in his honor. Beautiful, elegant and historical.

Elisabeth means Sabbath and is etymologically defined as “God is my oath.” It is the spelling of Elizabeth that’s used in the Authorized Version of the New Testament and in most modern European languages. The name was also held by many biblical characters.

Jacqueline is a French name that originated as the female form of Jacques, but became very popular in the 1960s due to the glamourous Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Give your baby girl this elegant name that simply exudes class.

Gwendolyn is of English and Welsh origin. It was most popular in the 1950s, when it had an average rank of 126, but has been trending up during the last decade. This is yet another name that offers an easy nickname, if you decide to take that route.

Evangeline is a fanciful name derived from the Latin word for Gospel “evangelium.” It means “good tidings” and is also the title of a narrative poem by the famed American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. There’s nothing sweeter than giving your baby girl a poetic name!

Boys’ Names

Christopher is derived from the Greek name Khristophoros and was commonly used by early Christians, as it means to bear Christ in your heart. It is the 30th most popular name for baby boys in the U.S.

Maximilian is derived from the Latin name Maximilianus, which was the name of a 3rd-century saint who was noted as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The name is very popular in the U.S. and has also made the top 200 lists in England and Wales, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden.

Francisco is the Spanish and Portuguese equivalent of Francis. It is occasionally used in reference to the U.S. city of San Francisco, similar to a host of other city names, including Brooklyn, Chelsea, and Rio.

Broderick is a transferred use of the surname, which is derived from the Welsh personal name Rhydderch. It has been trending up over the last decade in the U.S., earning the rank of 973 in 2014.

Zachariah reached peak popularity at a rank of 338 in the 1990s and has maintained steady popularity over the last decade. This is another name that offers plenty of options, as you can nickname your son Zach or keep things more formal.

Demetrius is the Greek form of Dēmētrios, meaning follower of Demeter, the classical goddess of fertility. The name is hugely popular in Eastern Europe, but has been trending way down in the U.S.