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.


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.




The Themes Behind the Fastest-Rising Girls’ Names in 2012

You may have read articles about “hot names” written before the Social Security Administration released their authoritative list of the 1,000 most popular names in 2012. Forget all about them. They were based on “clicks” on websites rather than on the names that actually appeared on birth certificates during 2012. Here is my report on the themes behind the fastest-rising girls’ names in 2012. I’ve tried to explain the rapid rise in popularity of names which seemed to be rising for the same (thematic) reason. Most reports about “hot” or fast-rising names focus on celebrity tie-ins. I’m more interested in looking for patterns that connect several fast-rising names to a particular underlying theme.

1. “-Lynn/-Lyn” suffix names
Raelynn was the fifth fastest-rising girls’ name. Also in the top 20 fastest-rising girls’ names were Raelyn, Marilyn, Adelynn and Adalyn. Not too far below those names is Adelyn. Note that Marilyn was undoubtedly helped by the popularity of the TV show “Smash.”

2. Rose and variation
Rosalie was the sixth fastest-rising girls’ name. Further down the list you’ll also find the root name, Rose (a “grandma” name which appears to be coming back into fashion).

3. Spiritual/religious names
Haven was the seventh fastest-rising spiritual and/or religious name for girls. Others include Miracle, Journey and Genesis.

4. Camila and variations
Myla, a variation of Mila, was the 20th fastest-rising girls’ name. But not far behind came Mila (popularized by actress Mila Kunis). Mila is a nickname for root name Camila and variation, Kamila. Both were also on the list of fast-rising names. Camila moved up strongly to an overall popularity ranking of No. 48 (from No. 61 in 2011).

5. Skylar and variations
Skyler was the 22nd fastest-rising girls’ name. It was followed by root name Skylar and nickname Skye. Of these names, Skylar ranked highest in overall popularity at No. 87 (up from No. 145 in 2011).

6. Charlie as a girl’s name
Charlie was the 28th fastest-rising girls’ name; it was followed by an alternate spelling: Charlee.

7. Nature names
Ivy was the 23rd fastest-rising name for girls, and the fastest rising nature name–perhaps due to controversy that promoted awareness of Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy. The only other fast-rising nature names were Willow and Iris.

8. Place names
Paris was back on the list of fast-rising place names. Much farther down the list (in the moderate-riser category) were Londyn, Charlotte, Georgia, Caroline, Brittany, Bristol and Madisyn. To put Paris into perspective, it ranked No. 274 in overall popularity in 2012, in contrast to more popular (top-100 in overall popularity) names like Madison, Charlotte, Broooklyn, Savannah, and Sydney–all of which declined in popularity from 2011 to 2012.

9. Musical names
The fastest-rising musical name for girls was Lyric. Other fast-rising musical names were Melody, Harmony and Harper. It should be noted that Harper ranked No. 24 in overall popularity.

10. Four-syllable, “-iana” suffix names
There were three four-syllable names that ended with an “-iana” suffix: Lilliana, Elliana and Jiuliana. I’m sure it will be a pleasure to call those girls to dinner, some day.