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.

What’s in a Name? Answers to 7 Questions.

I recently answered some baby naming questions for Alicia at Bottle Poppin’ Mama.  Check out her questions below and feel free to leave one of your own in the comments.

  • How do you conduct your research in compiling this list of names?
  • What are your most popular Boys & Girls Names predictions for 2016?
  • What do you think of the gender neutral naming phenomenon?
  • How influential are celebrities/pop culture when it comes to naming children?
  • Why do you think we are seeing a resurgence of more classical names?
  • How do parents rate the importance of a unique name/unique spelling?
  • What is a good approach to deciding on a name for a child when family members can’t agree?

To read my answers check out “What’s In A Name?” at Bottle Poppin’ Mama.

 

Old-Fashioned (Baby Boomer) Names Are Making a Comeback

Baby Boomer names are making a comeback.

That was a conclusion Baby Center reached when they announced their top-100 list of boys’ and girls’ names for 2013. After studying Baby Center’s statistics Tom Purcell, writing for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, recalls with pleasure the names that were popular during his childhood and looks forward to the time when they make a full-fledged comeback.

Here’s a quick recap of the names he so fondly recalls—many of which were among the most popular baby names during the 40s, 50s and 60s. (Judging by the inclusion of Jeff, I’d guess he grew up in the 60s, when the top 4 girls’ names were: Lisa, Mary, Susan and Karen and Jeff was the #10 boys’ name.)

For boys: Tom, John, Jeff, Bill, Bob, Rich and Tim.
For girls: Kathy, Krissy, Lisa, Mary, Jennifer, Terri, Laura, Donna, Colleen, Karen, Susan, Janine, Holly, Sandy and Sherri.

Tom compares the way people picked names then and now.
Then, baby-naming was simple.

Parents didn’t obsess over baby names… Children were named after people their parents admired — family members or someone they were close to.

Now, baby-naming is complicated—and it can also be expensive.

A few years back, The Wall Street Journal did a report on parents who hired naming experts, applied mathematical formulas and software programs and even consulted with nutty spiritualists. One couple hired a pair of consultants to draw up a list of suggestions based on “phonetic elements, popularity and ethnic and linguistic origins.” One woman paid a “nameologist” $350 for three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing each name’s history and personality traits. Another spent $475 on a numerologist to see if her favorite name had positive associations, whatever the heck that means. One married couple really took the cake in coming up with the name Beckett for their son. “The name sounds reliable and stable,” according to the proud dad, who said “the ‘ck’ sound is very well regarded in corporate circles. The ‘hard stop’ forces one to accentuate that syllable, which draws attention to it, he droned on.”

Purcell’s article supports the only two predictions I made for 2014:
1. As Baby Boomers (born in the 40s, 50s and 60s) age and pass away, parents will want to honor them with the names they pick for their children.
2. Parents will increasingly want to pick names that inspire their children.

Tom has something to say about the second theme, too.

“My name…carries with it a spiritual meaning. There are many Christian saints and biblical heroes named Thomas. By assigning me this name, my parents… hoped to bestow on me Christian blessings and guidance. That’s why the kids I knew at St. Germaine Catholic School all had simple biblical names. In any event, isn’t it better to name children after saints and admired people than to hire a high-priced consultant to define the right phonetics?”

10 Baby Names From the ’40s and ’50s Making a Comeback

After reading 12 predicted trends from Nameberry for 2014 and 5 predicted trends from Belly Ballot, I could only find one trend I was absolutely sure about: that baby boomer names popular in the 40s, 50s and 60s would bounce back as boomers age and pass away. In that post I provided the top-10 names in all three decades to provide a forecast of the names likely to be bouncing back.

I’m happy to recommend an article which suggests 10 popular boomer names to consider. Written by Anne Donahue for Baby Post.com, it will help you start thinking about names of your parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents that might be on that list:

James, Judith, Anne, Edward, Henry, George, Evelyn, Lucy, Paul and Carol.

Of the boomer boys’ names they suggest: James, Henry and Paul don’t seem too “old-fashioned” to use in 2014. (Naming the “royal baby” George and having two recent presidents named George has made that name seem “overdone” at the moment. And I’m feeling ambivalent about Edward.)

Of the boomer girls’ names, Judith is a strong name and Lucy is a fun name; both might work for use in 2014–though Carol, Anne and Evelyn seem “old-fashioned” to me.

Don’t be surprised if boomer names don’t sound fresh to you. You may have noticed I didn’t recommend Edward. Nothing wrong with the name; but it didn’t sound quite as fresh as Henry and James. If you agree that Carol, Anne and Evelyn are unlikely to get raves when you send out an announcement in 2014, give some thought to adding a new (or old) wrinkle.

I recently got excited about Annabel because it provides a fresher vibe than Anne or Anna, both of which sound “tired” to me. (Sorry Ms. Donahue.) Watching the Olympics last night, I saw an incredibly graceful Italian skater named Carolina (pronounced: CAR-oh-LEAN-ah). However, a pronunciation like North and South Carolina would be even more pleasing and less confusing for most North Americans. And with respect to Evelyn, I think Eve sounds fresher to me.

But don’t take my word for it. Mull these names over and discuss them with friends to figure out which names sound fresh and which sound dated. I think that’s the test you should put these and other boomer names to as you try to figure out which ones will come off well when you announce them and which names are likely produce whispered comments like “poor kid.” FYI, A good friend of mine just named his baby boy Henry Alexander; I gave him two thumbs up.

If you look at a list of the most popular boomer names I provided in my prediction post (see the first link, above) many of the most popular boomer girls’ names (like Mary, Anne, Patricia, Linda, and Donna) don’t sound particularly fresh to me (no disrespect intended), so don’t hesitate to get creative when there’s someone with a boomer name you want to honor as a beloved namesake for your child. As to boomer boys’ names, the only name I’d steer you away from is Richard, mainly because a president with that name left office in disgrace and because there are too many problems with the nickname, Dick.

Two High-Odds Baby Naming Predictions I’d Bet On for 2014 (and Beyond)

Here are two baby-naming trends I think are high odds for 2014 (and beyond) because an increasing number of parents are looking for names that will have “personal meaning” for the parents and the child.

1. Baby Boomer Names Are Making a Comeback

Like Jenna Bush Hager, who named her baby daughter Margaret Laura (after the two grandmothers), millions of parents want to pick “meaningful” names for their babies which honor family members who are more than likely to be baby boomers (a term that describes babies born between 1945 and 1964). Here’s a quick list of the most popular names for girls and boys born in the 40s and 50s and 60s:

-The most popular names for girls born in the 40s were Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol, Sandra, Nancy, Sharon, Judith, Susan; with Deborah/Debra, Karen and Donna added in the 50s; and Lisa, Kimberly, Michelle and Cynthia added in the 60s.

Comment: Notice that the most popular baby boomer girls’ names come across as much less glamorous and elegant than current top-10 names like Olivia, Sophia, Ava, and Isabella. That may call for a little creativity when you honor family members with the more prosaic boomer names.

-The most popular names for boys born in the 40s were James, Robert, John, William, Richard, David, Charles, Thomas, Michael and Ronald; with Mark added in the 50s; and Jeffrey added in the 60s.

Comment: Two of these names, Michael and William, are still extremely popular. The rest of the names are reasonable options for current use with the possible exception of Richard, due to negative connotations of the nickname, Dick–which is often used with unflattering words like “tricky” or “dirty” or “head.”

Executional Tips: Keep in mind when honoring a relative that there’s no reason you can’t do what Jenna Bush Hager did: name your child after a grandparent and pick another name you plan to use every day. (Jenna Bush Hager wasn’t shy about letting everyone know that Mila was the name she would call Margaret Laura.) And, you don’t have to use the exact version of the name used by a relative. You can use Liam instead of William or Annika instead of Ann. Or, you can just use the first initial–like the “L” from Linda and name your baby Lola.

2.The Use of Inspiring Historical or Fictional  Namesakes Is on the Rise.

Another way to pick a “meaningful” name for your baby is to find a name likely to inspire your child. An effective way to do that is to find a favorite historical or fictional namesake you think would be a good influence or role model for your child. Baby Center documented the fact that names like Lincoln, Jackson, and Jack recently gained in popularity. (Those names are associated with presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and Jack Kennedy.) They also noticed gains made by names of literary characters like Scarlett (O’Hara).

“Trainwreck Alert”: Baby Center’s report went on to document the effect of TV shows, like “Duck Dynasty” on naming trends. But not long after Baby Center published their “2013” trend report, “Duck Dynasty” started receiving negative national media attention due to highly unpalatable comments verbalized by lead actor, Phil Robertson. This illustrates why it is so risky to pick names associated with current TV shows and current celebrities–as opposed to historical or literary namesakes. Here’s a brief list of celebrities whose image has recently changed for the worse as a result of “bad news ” that has come out about them: Paula Deen, Lance Armstrong, Amanda Bynes, Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Phil Robertson (which also casts a dark shadow over “Duck Dynasty” character names). Why risk burdening your child with a name connected with a current celebrity or TV show whose image could easily go from “cute,” “all-American,” or “squeaky clean” to “DUI,” “doper,” or or just plain “out to lunch”?

People who named their babies Lance a couple of years ago (when Lance Armstrong was perceived to be an “all-American” athlete who struggled against cancer to become one of the greatest bikers of all time and was viewed as one of the few uncorrupted bikers on earth) seemed to have picked a terrific name for their baby boys. Now, Lance is not just like all other bikers; he’s much worse. How can Lance possibly be an inspiration for your son?

Which is why Jesse (Owens), Lincoln (aka Honest Abe) or (the biblical) David are better choices than Lance by far. You know what you’re getting when you pick an inspiring historical (or literary) name (rather than the name of a current celebrity or TV show character).

More Questionable Predictions: Five 2014 Baby Name Trends from Belly Ballot

Because it takes time for trends to develop, it’s more probable for trends to continue from year to year than for trends to stop abruptly—to be replaced by new trends which reverse previous trends. Here’s a quick list of Belly Ballot’s predictions with some background info to help you see how plausible (or implausible) their predictions might be:

1. Unconventional Spellings. Examples: Izak, Karder, Riyan, Kooper, Mykel, Emhily, BrookeLynn, or Meeya

Comment: This is the trend that led me (in 1978) to publish  the Best Baby Name Book (which became the #1 name book in North America within 6 months, because it included “unconventional spellings” not found in any other books). So this is not, remotely, a new trend.

2. Show Biz Names. Examples: Hayley, Camille, Piper, Ichabod, Katrina, Milan, Lincoln, Everly, and Autumn

Comment: Not a new trend, either. There’s nothing new about characters from TV shows or celebrity baby names influencing name choices. I suppose Belly Ballot might suggest we keep our eyes on specific “show biz names” they cited as examples. OK, will do. FYI, I commented favorably about Everly (Tatum) and Autumn (Hallisey), so I’d be happy to see those names do well. I enjoyed reading Orange is the New Black and like the classic preppy name, Piper. And Lincoln is on my list of “inspirational names.

3. Hispanic is Caliente. Examples: Lola, Maria, Carmen, Sierra, Ernesto, Diego, Santos, Miguel, or Luis.

Comment: Hispanic names are cold (aka declining). When Belly Ballot sent out a post claiming Caucasians were increasingly giving their children Hispanic names, I countered by pointing out that the use of Hispanic names in the U.S. was declining, overall, due to the fact that Hispanic parents were increasingly selecting “American” names for their children. Apparently the use of Hispanic names by gringos wasn’t strong enough to offset naming trends by Hispanic-Americans. FYI, I commented favorably about Carmen (Baldwin) and Lola is on my top-10 list of Cool Names for Girls, while Cruz and Matteo are on my top-ten list of Cool Names for Boys.

4. Return to the Bible. Examples: Caleb, Levi, Luke, Isaiah, Naomi, Shiloh, or Judith

Comment: A highly improbable prediction! The number of biblical names in the latest top-ten boy’s list from the Social Security Administration is down. Abigail is the only biblical name on the SSA’s top-ten girl’s list (and it wasn’t in Baby Center’s top-ten. I strongly doubt this trend will materialize. FYI, I like biblical names, because they create a positive impression for values and character.

5. Mythological Names. Examples: Luna, Camilla, Gaia, Tristan, Damon, or Thor

Comment: I haven’t seen much evidence of this trend, yet. You may recall that Uma Thurman used Luna as a nickname after the first 5 (mostly unspellable and unpronounceable) names she came up with for her daughter self-destructed. I hope, for Belly Ballot’s sake that at least one of their predicted trends takes off. This trend isn’t a complete non-starter; though it seems like a low-odds Hail Mary pass at the end of the “prediction season” to me.

Summary: Seems to me we should call December the “silly season” for trend articles. Most of the “trends” proposed by both Belly Ballot and Nameberry seem highly unlikely to pan out; unless of course they are not remotely new and have (like “unconventional spellings”) been in a long-term uptrend for decades.