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.

The Latest Trends: Why The Popularity of 76 Girls’ and Boys’ Names Dropped in 2013

When parents search for baby names, they often consider several names with the same theme, such as ethnic names, religious names–or names that sound alike or have different spellings. Here are some themes and choice clusters  that explain the rapid decline in popularity of 76 girls’ and boys’ names in 2013, as reflected in the official Social Security popularity data.

 

Girls’ Names That Declined in Popularity

 

Religious & Faith-Based Names: Names that reflect religious or faith-based themes are on the decline for girls. The most common examples of this trend are the declining popularity for Faith, Trinity and Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backwards).

 

Spanish Names: Perla is the 13th fastest-falling girls’ name. Others include: Mercedes, Fernanda, Paola, Estrella, Marisol, Raquel, Carmen, and Esmerelda. (Spanish boy’s names are also in a deep decline, even though the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. is rising.)

 

Jasmine, Variations & Sound-Alikes: Jasmine became popular in 1992 when Disney produced the blockbuster movie, “Aladdin.” (If you saw the movie, you’ll recall that Princess Jasmine was Aladdin’s love interest.) Jasmine quickly became the most popular name for both African-American and Hispanic girls. Jasmine has been declining steadily since 2006, Now Jasmine is sliding more rapidly; it has just fallen off the top 100 girls’ list.

 

Kayla/Makayla: Kayla and Makayla tied for the largest decrease in popularity on the top 100 list. Also declining rapidly was Kaylee. (This trend might be connected to the decline in popularity Katherine, the root name for Kay, Kayla and Kaylee.)

 

Boys’ Names that Declined in Popularity

 

Jayden Sound-Alikes: Jaidyn is the 4th fastest declining boys’ name. I counted more than 15 sound-alikes that were declining rapidly, before I stopped counting: Jaeden,,  Aydan, Bradyn, Braeden, Aidyn, Jaydon, Aaden, Braden, Aidan, Kaden, Hayden, Braydon, Brayden, Jaiden, Jaden, Ayden and, most importantly, Jayden (which slipped from t#7 to #9 (a drop of 22%).  (I think this is the beginning of the end for the long list of names that rhyme with Aiden–which is probably why they became popular, in the first place)

 

Spanish Names: Carlos, Jose, Juan and Luis are all top-100 names that have declined at the same time as the Hispanic population of the U.S. is rising. Other Spanish decliners include Pedro, Alejandro, Joaquin, Javier, Angel, Fernando, Jorge, Andres  and more. (This suggests that  Spanish-speaking parents are more interested in assimilating than in celebrating their ethnic identity by giving their boy a Spanish-sounding name.)

 

Giovanni & Variations: Giovanny, Jovani, Giovani and the original Italian root name, Giovanni, are in a state of rapid decline.

 

Brandon & Variations: Brennen is the 7th fastest declining boys’ name followed quickly by Brendon, Brenden, and Brenton. Even sound-almost-alike Landyn is falling.

 

Amare & Sound-Alikes: Damari is the fastest-declining name that sounds like Amare. Others include: Jabari, Kamari, Jamari, Jamarion, Jamar, Amari, and Omari. Even sound-almost-alike Armani is declining.

 

Tristan & Variations: Trystan is the 19th fastest-falling name. Also declining are variations Tristian, Tristen, Triston, and the original (legendary) name, Tristan.

The Latest Trends: Why the Popularity of 89 Girls’ and Boys’ Names Soared in 2013

 

When selecting names, parents often consider options that are similar in some way. For example, they may consider root names against their variations (William versus Liam), names that sound similar (Aubrey versus Audrey), names with the same theme (such as nature names, place names, ethnic names or religious names, or names with the same prefix or suffix. Below are some name clusters or themes that explain why the popularity of 89 boys’ and girls’ names rose rapidly in 2013, as reported by the Social Security Administration

 

Girls’ Names Rising Rapidly in Popularity

 

Everly/Everleigh: Everly was the 5th fastest rising girl’s name followed by Everly, the 6th fastest riser. (I rated Everly, the name Channing Tatum gave his baby daughter, as one of the best celebrity baby names of the year 2013.)

 

Place Names: Led by Dallas (the 15th fastest rising girls’ name) and India (the 17th fastest riser), more than 15 place names increased in popularity including: Ireland, Milan, Milana, Maylasia, Maylaya, Phoenix, Asia, Londyn, Adelaide, Dakota, Catalina, Georgia, Virginia and more. (Strangely, Sydney had one of the largest declines in popularity on the top 100 girls’ list.)

 

Flower, Shrub and Tree Names: Rosie was the 16th fastest rising name for girls. Rosie and Rose also increased in popularity. A variety of other flower, shrub and tree names also rose, including Dahlia, Sage, Saige, Azalea, Laurel, Juniper, Magnolia and Willow. (I recently met a woman named Magnolia. She told me she was the only woman she knew with that name. Apparently, reinforcements are on the way.)

 

Amelia, Mila and Sound-Alikes: As Amelia climbed onto the Next 10 list, Mila leaped onto the top 100 list and sound-alikes Myla, Emilia, Camila, Millie and Milania also increased in popularity. (You may recall that Mila is what Jenna Bush Hager wants friends and family to call her daughter, whom she named Margaret Laura, in 2013.)

Brand Names: Though I was surprised to see Oakley, a chic sunglasses brand, show up on the rapidly rising list for girls, I also noticed Chanel, a well-established perfume and designer brand on the list. (One prominent brand name that declined in 2013 was Mercedes.)

 

Virtue Names: Also rising rapidly were a variety of virtue names including Mercy, Felicity, Serenity, Serena, and Joy.

 

Hadley/Hadlee: Hadlee was the 12th fastest rising name for girls. Also rising rapidly was root name, Hadley.

 

“Annabel Lee”: Another fast-rising cluster included Anabel, Annabell, Annabelle, and Annabella–names popularized by Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, “Annabel Lee,” which was written long before TV and movies were invented.

TV tie-ins: Daleyza (“Larrymania”) was the #1 fastest-rising girls’ name in 2013. Sadie (“Duck Dynasty”) had one of the largest percentage increases in popularity, from #119 in 2012 to #50 in 2012–a 58% increase in popularity.

 

Boys’ Names Rising Rapidly in Popularity

 

Variations of Jason: Jayceon was the #1 fastest rising boys’ name. Jayse was #4. Also rising rapidly were Jase, Jayce, Jayce and Jayson. However, the root name, Jason, declined. Apparently parents were seeking more contemporary forms of the mythological name. (You may recall that Jason led the Argonauts on a search for the Golden Fleece.)

 

Jackson/Jack & Variations: Jackson was the fastest rising name on the “Next 10 list. Related names like Jax, Jazen, Jaxon, Jack and Jaxton, also gained in popularity. (Popularity gains by these “macho” names is in contrast to gains on the top 10 list by “sensitive” names for boys with soft consonants.)

 

Pompous Titles: Duke was the 5th fastest rising boys’ name. Deacon was #19. Also rising rapidly were Royal, Major, King, Kingston, Messiah and Legend. (This trend should keep psychologists very busy.)

 

Weapons, Hunting & Battle Names: Names associated with weapons such as Remington, Gunner and Archer continued to rise rapidly, along with Gunnar, Kannon, Kayson, Kaysen, Cayson, Hunter and Killian. (This trend should please the NRA.)

 

Zane/Zayn and Other “Z “Names: Zayn was the 7th fastest-rising boys’s name. It’s a variation of root name ,Zane, which also rose rapidly along with  related variations, Zayne and  Zain. Also rising rapidly were unrelated “Z” names like Zaid, Zaiden, Zaire, and Zavier. (It seems that  “Z” names still have a “cool” and “macho” vibe.)

 

Arab Names: The most recognizable Arab names on the rapidly-rising boys’ names were Abdullah and Mohammad, followed by Ahmad, Amir, Ameer, Hassan, Mustafa, and Ibrahim, among others. (It takes courage to give your child an Arab name, because of fears people may have about them.)

TV Tie-ins:  Castiel (“Supernatural”) and Jase (“Duck Dynasty”) were the 5th and 16th fastest-rising names in 2013. Both names are associated with characters on TV shows.

The Social Security Administration’s 2013 Top-Ten Lists Are Out: Noah and Sophia Are #1

 

I’m thrilled to post this USA Today article by Sharon Jayson announcing the top-ten boys’ and girls’ names in 2013, because it contains interviews with me and my good friend, Jennifer Moss, discussing what’s up, what’s down, and why.

That said, Here are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2013:

   BOYS:                            GIRLS:

1. Noah                             1. Sophia

2. Liam                              2. Emma

3. Jacob                             3. Olivia

4. Mason                           4. Isabella

5. William                         5. Ava

6. Ethan                            6.  Mia

7. Michael                        7. Emily

8. Alexander                    8. Abigail

9. Jayden                          9. Madison

10. Daniel                        10. Elizabeth

I hope you’ll use the link, above to read Sharon Jayson’s excellent article.