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2015 Baby Names — The Other Top 100

A little belated this year, but here is the annual Sociologist Novelist name nerd reshuffling of the Social Security Administration’s new most popular American names list (past lists for 2014, 2013 and 2012 are here).

A quick scan through this list reveals a few things that are interesting to sociologically minded name nerds (whether they’re prospective parents or authors):

  • Variant spellings can push an “invisible” name much higher up the list than might be evident from the initial rankings. For the boys, Kayden jumps from the bottom of the top 100 to the top 10, while for girls, Adalynn/Adeline jumps up from #123!
  • Girls’ names are much more likely to spawn variant spellings than are boys’ names. The mean number of spelling variations for the boys’ names is 2.04, while it’s 2.78 for girls; 49 (just under 1/2) of the top 100 boys’ names have only one spelling that appeared in the top 1000 list, compared to 28 (just over 1/4) for girls. Interestingly, although people are inclined to believe that “unique spellings” are becoming increasingly common, the mean number of variations has actually gone down slightly for both boys and girls in the last 40 years.
  • Combinations of sounds, regardless of spelling, rise and fall in popularity as regularly as anything else driven by fashion. The “-ayden” names for boys (like Aiden, Jaden, Hayden, and Braeden) are a commonly cited example of this, but there are others: right now, for instance, girls’ names ending in “-lee” are on fire (constituting more than 10% of the Top 100), and long vowels are popular for both boys and girls (20% of boys’ names have a long “a” sound, like Aiden, Mason and James).

Here are the lists. Enjoy!

Boys’ Names

Combined spellings rank Phonetic variations Rank of single most popular spelling
1 Jackson/Jaxon/Jaxson/Jaxen 17
2 Aiden/Ayden/Aidan/Aden/Adan/Aaden/Aydin/Aydan 13
3 Noah 1
4 Liam 2
5 Mason/Mayson/Maison 3
6 Jacob/Jakob 4
7 William 5
8 Jayden/Jaden/Jaiden/Jadon/Jaydon 20
9 Kayden/Kaiden/Kaden/Caden/Cayden/Caiden/Kaeden 95
10 Ethan 6
11 Alexander/Alexzander 8
12 James 7
13 Michael/Micheal 9
14 Elijah/Alijah 11
15 Lucas/Lukas 16
16 Benjamin 10
17 Daniel 12
18 Matthew/Mathew 15
19 Carter/Karter 24
20 Logan 14
21 Grayson/Greyson/Graysen 47
22 David 18
23 Oliver 19
24 Joseph 21
25 Caleb/Kaleb 37
26 Dylan/Dillon/Dilan 27
27 Gabriel 22
28 Samuel 23
29 Jace/Jayce/Jase 75
30 John/Jon 26
31 Anthony 25
32 Christopher/Kristopher/Cristopher 32
33 Isaac/Issac 31
34 Luke 28
35 Henry 29
36 Andrew 30
37 Christian/Cristian/Kristian 43
38 Joshua 33
39 Wyatt 34
40 Sebastian 35
41 Landon/Landen/Landyn 46
42 Owen 36
43 Cameron/Kameron/Camron/Kamryn/Kamren/Kamron/Camren 56
44 Connor/Conner/Conor/Konnor 54
45 Nicholas/Nicolas/Nikolas/Nickolas 62
46 Jonathan/Johnathan/Jonathon 48
47 Nathan 38
48 Ryan 39
49 Jack 40
50 Julian/Julien 45
51 Hunter 41
52 Levi 42
53 Isaiah/Izaiah 49
54 Brayden/Braden/Braydon/Braeden/Braiden 61
55 Colton/Kolton/Colten/Kolten 59
56 Dominic/Dominick/Dominik/Dominique 68
57 Thomas/Tomas 51
58 Aaron/Aron 52
59 Josiah/Jasiah/Joziah 57
60 Mateo/Matteo 85
61 Charles 50
62 Jason/Jayceon/Jayson 86
63 Eli 53
64 Adrian/Adrien 58
65 Jeremiah 55
66 Jordan/Jordyn 60
67 Robert 63
68 Angel 64
69 Hudson 65
70 Lincoln 66
71 Carson/Karson 89
72 Evan 67
73 Austin 69
74 Gavin 70
75 Nolan 71
76 Chase/Chace 74
77 Ian/Ean 76
78 Miles/Myles 107
79 Eric/Erick/Erik 137
80 Parker 72
81 Adam 73
82 Cooper 77
83 Easton 78
84 Xavier/Xzavier/Zavier 90
85 Kevin 79
86 Camden/Kamden/Kamdyn/Camdyn 104
87 Jose 80
88 Tyler 81
89 Zachary/Zackary 88
90 Brandon 82
91 Asher 83
92 Damian/Damien 116
93 Bryan/Brian 166
94 Nathaniel/Nathanael 97
95 Bentley/Bentlee 93
96 Leo 91
97 Tristan/Tristen/Triston 101
98 Ezra 92
99 Kason/Kayson/Cason/Kasen/Cayson/Casen/Kaysen/Kaison 390
100 Sawyer 94

Girls’ Names

Combined spellings rank Phonetic variations Rank of single most popular spelling
1 Sophia/Sofia 3
2 Olivia/Alivia 2
3 Ava/Eva/Avah 4
4 Emma 1
5 Isabella/Izabella/Isabela 5
6 Mia/Miah 6
7 Emily/Emely/Emilee/Emilie/Emmalee 8
8 Zoey/Zoe/Zoie 23
9 Adalynn/Adalyn/Adeline/Adelyn/Adelynn/Addilyn/Adaline/Addilynn/Adilynn 123
10 Amelia/Emilia/Emelia 12
11 Abigail 7
12 Madelyn/Madeline/Madeleine/Madilyn/Madelyn/Madilynn/Madalyn/Madalynn 59
13 Madison/Maddison/Madisyn/Madyson 11
14 Aubrey/Aubree/Aubrie 21
15 Charlotte 9
16 Evelyn/Evelynn/Evalyn/Avalyn/Avalyn 15
17 Chloe/Khloe 17
18 Riley/Rylee/Ryleigh/Rylie 35
19 Layla/Laila/Leila/Lailah/Laylah/Leyla 30
20 Avery/Averie/Averi 16
21 Harper 10
22 Ariana/Arianna/Aryanna/Aryana 46
23 Elizabeth/Elisabeth 13
24 Aria/Arya/Ariah/Ariyah/Ariya 29
25 Lily/Lilly/Lillie 25
26 Kaylee/Kali/Kayleigh/Kailey/Kaylie/Kailee/Caylee 61
27 Scarlett/Scarlet/Scarlette 22
28 Aaliyah/Aliyah/Aleah/Alia/Aliya 48
29 Brooklyn/Brooklynn 31
30 Allison/Alison/Allyson/Alyson/Alisson 39
31 Addison/Addyson/Addisyn 24
32 Ella 18
33 Natalie/Nathalie/Nathaly/Nataly/Natalee 27
34 Hailey/Haley/Haylee/Hayley/Hallie/Hailee/Halle 64
35 Leah/Lia/Leia/Lea 36
36 Grace 19
37 Victoria 20
38 Maya/Mya/Maia/Myah/Miya 69
39 Mackenzie/Mckenzie/Makenzie 73
40 Nora/Norah 41
41 Hannah/Hanna/Hana 28
42 Elena/Alaina/Alayna/Elaina 106
43 Lillian/Lilian 26
44 Camila/Kamila/Camilla 43
45 Kylie/Kylee/Kyleigh/Kiley 66
46 Anna/Ana 44
47 Sarah/Sara 58
48 Skylar/Skyler 42
49 Peyton/Payton/Paityn 72
50 Katherine/Catherine/Kathryn 84
51 Paisley/Paislee 45
52 Savannah/Savanna 38
53 Alexa 32
54 Penelope 34
55 Gabriella/Gabriela 54
56 Mila/Myla 53
57 Audrey 37
58 Eliana/Elliana/Elianna/Aliana/Iliana/Alianna 103
59 Lyla/Lila/Lilah/Lylah 142
60 Isabelle/Isabel 94
61 Kennedy/Kennedi 57
62 Samantha 40
63 Liliana/Lilliana/Lilyana/Lilianna/Lillianna/Lilyanna 127
64 Claire/Clare 49
65 Brianna/Briana/Breanna/Bryanna 82
66 London/Londyn 105
67 Ellie 47
68 Violet 50
69 Stella 51
70 Sadie 52
71 Kaitlyn/Katelyn/Caitlyn/Caitlin/Katelynn/Kaitlynn 197
72 Vivian/Vivienne 95
73 Lucy 55
74 Jasmine/Jazmin/Jazmine/Jasmin 112
75 Charlie/Charlee/Charley/Charleigh/Charli 207
76 Eleanor 60
77 Caroline 62
78 Makayla/Mikayla/Michaela/Mikaela 143
79 Juliana/Julianna/Giuliana 168
80 Hazel 63
81 Reagan/Raegan 99
82 Alyssa/Elisa/Alissa 93
83 Bailey/Baylee/Bailee 108
84 Genesis 65
85 Melanie/Melany 80
86 Autumn 67
87 Piper 68
88 Annabelle/Annabel/Anabelle 92
89 Nevaeh 70
90 Serenity 71
91 Hadley/Hadlee/Adley/Hadleigh 102
92 Jordyn/Jordan/Jordynn 136
93 Cora/Kora 88
94 Bella 74
95 Taylor 76
96 Naomi 77
97 Amaya/Amiyah/Amiya/Amia/Amya 212
98 Aurora 79
99 Kinsley/Kensley/Kinslee 113
100 Callie/Cali/Kallie 196
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2014 Baby Names — The Other Top 100

Another American Mother’s Day weekend, another release of the Social Security Administration’s top 1000 baby names for the previous year, another slightly-off-topic post from me collating the “real” top 100 (combining spellings of soundalike names like Aiden and Aidan, which the Social Security list does not do, and which can result in some pretty dramatic reordering of the most popular names). You can also look at past lists for 2013 and 2012.

I’ll probably have a few more posts about names over the next week or so, including 1 or 2 that are more focused on “how these lists can work for writers.” In the meantime, enjoy!

Boys’ Names.

Name Combined spellings ranking Official ranking
Jackson/Jaxon/Jaxson/Jaxen 1 17
Aiden/Ayden/Aidan/Aden/Adan/Aydin/Aaden/Aydan/Aidyn 2 14
Noah 3 1
Liam 4 2
Mason/Mayson/Maison 5 3
Jacob/Jakob/Jaycob 6 4
Jayden/Jaden/Jaiden/Jaydon/Jadon 7 15
William 8 5
Kayden/Kaiden/Kaden/Cayden/Caden/Caiden/Kaeden 9 90
Ethan 10 6
Michael/Micheal 11 7
Alexander/Alexzander 11 8
James 13 9
Elijah/Alijah 14 11
Daniel 15 10
Lucas/Lukas 16 18
Benjamin 17 12
Logan 18 13
Matthew/Mathew 19 16
Jace/Jase/Jayce/Jayse 20 68
Carter/Karter 21 27
David 22 18
Joseph 23 20
Caleb/Kaleb 24 35
Anthony 25 21
Dylan/Dillon/Dilan 26 29
Andrew 27 22
John/Jon 28 26
Christopher/Kristopher/Cristopher 29 30
Samuel 30 23
Gabriel 31 24
Joshua 32 25
Luke 33 28
Isaac/Issac 34 31
Christian/Cristian/Kristian 35 42
Landon/Landen/Landyn 36 43
Grayson/Greyson/Graysen 37 63
Connor/Conner/Conor/Konnor/Konner 38 52
Jonathan/Johnathan/Jonathon/Johnathon 39 44
Nicholas/Nicolas/Nikolas/Nickolas 40 57
Oliver 41 32
Henry 42 33
Cameron/Kameron/Camron/Kamron/Kamryn/Camren 43 53
Sebastian 44 34
Owen 45 36
Ryan 46 37
Nathan 47 38
Wyatt 48 39
Hunter 49 40
Jack 50 41
Brayden/Braden/Braydon/Braeden/Braiden 51 62
Jason/Jayceon/Jayson 52 75
Isaiah/Izaiah 53 48
Colton/Kolton/Colten/Kolten 54 65
Julian/Julien 55 47
Dominic/Dominick/Dominik/Dominique 56 69
Levi 57 45
Aaron/Aron 58 50
Eli 59 49
Thomas/Tomas 60 54
Charles 61 51
Josiah/Jasiah/Joziah 62 64
Jordan/Jordyn 63 55
Adrian/Adrien 64 59
Gavin/Gavyn 65 60
Jeremiah 66 56
Evan 67 58
Robert 68 61
Austin 69 66
Angel 70 67
Kevin 71 70
Brandon 72 71
Tyler 73 72
Eric/Erick/Erik 74 123
Parker 75 73
Ian/Ean 76 77
Carson/Karson 77 91
Zachary/Zackary 78 82
Chase/Chace 79 78
Jose 80 76
Damian/Damien 81 102
Xavier/Xzavier/Zavier 82 88
Miles/Myles 83 108
Adam 84 79
Camden/Kamden/Camdyn/Kamdyn 85 100
Bryan/Brian 86 148
Hudson 87 80
Nolan 88 81
Bentley/Bentlee 89 89
Easton 90 83
Blake 91 84
Cooper 92 86
Lincoln 93 87
Nathaniel/Nathanael 94 94
Tristan/Tristen/Triston 95 100
Brody/Brodie 96 92
Colin/Collin 97 140
Mateo/Matteo 98 106
Asher 99 93
Steven/Stephen 100 144

Girls’ Names.

Name Combined spellings ranking Official ranking
Sophia/Sofia 1 3
Olivia/Alivia/Alyvia 2 2
Emma 3 1
Ava/Eva/Avah/Ayva 4 5
Isabella/Izabella/Isabela 5 4
Emily/Emely/Emilee/Emilie/Emmalee 6 7
Mia/Miah 7 6
Zoey/Zoe/Zoie 8 22
Aubrey/Aubree/Aubrie/Aubri 9 20
Madison/Maddison/Madisyn/Madyson 10 9
Abigail/Abbigail 11 8
Madelyn/Madeline/Madeleine/Madilyn/Madelynn/Madilynn/Madalynn 11 59
Chloe/Khloe 13 18
Ariana/Arianna/Aryanna/Aryana 14 37
Layla/Laila/Leila/Laylah/Leyla/Lailah 15 29
Amelia/Emilia/Emelia 16 15
Avery/Averie/Averi 17 13
Riley/Rylee/Ryleigh/Rylie 18 47
Charlotte 19 10
Evelyn/Evelynn/Evalyn/Avalynn 20 16
Elizabeth/Elisabeth 21 14
Lily/Lilly/Lillie 22 27
Adalynn/Adalyn/Adelyn/Adeline/Adelynn/Addilyn/Addilynn 23 128
Harper 24 11
Kaylee/Kali/Kayleigh/Kailey/Kaylie/Caylee/Kailee/Kaleigh 25 52
Brooklyn/Brooklynn 26 26
Natalie/Nathalie/Nataly/Nathaly/Natalee 27 23
Ella 28 17
Aria/Arya/Ariah/Ariya/Ariyah 29 31
Hailey/Haley/Haylee/Hayley/Hallie/Halle/Hailee 30 51
Addison/Addyson/Addisyn 31 24
Allison/Alison/Allyson/Alyson/Alisson 32 38
Aaliyah/Aliyah/Aleah/Alia/Aliya 33 45
Mackenzie/Mckenzie/Makenzie 34 69
Victoria 35 19
Grace 36 21
Hannah/Hanna/Hana 37 28
Lillian/Lilian 38 25
Leah/Lia/Leia/Lea 39 35
Maya/Mya/Maia/Myah/Miya 40 74
Peyton/Payton/Paityn 41 56
Anna/Ana 42 34
Scarlett/Scarlet/Scarlette 43 30
Elena/Alaina/Alayna/Elaina 44 121
Kylie/Kylee/Kyleigh/Kiley 45 73
Camila/Camilla/Kamila 46 41
Nora/Norah 47 49
Katherine/Catherine/Kathryn 48 82
Sarah/Sara 49 50
Gabriella/Gabriela 50 43
Annabelle/Annabel/Anabelle/Anabel/Annabell 51 57
Savannah/Savanna 52 39
Kaitlyn/Katelyn/Caitlyn/Caitlin/Katelynn/Kaitlynn 53 158
Skylar/Skyler 54 48
Samantha 55 33
Lyla/Lila/Lilah/Lylah 56 140
Audrey 57 36
Liliana/Lilliana/Lilyana/Lilianna/Lillianna/Lilyanna 58 119
Paisley/Paislee 59 53
Claire/Clare 60 44
Isabelle/Isabel 61 96
London/Londyn 62 93
Brianna/Briana/Breanna/Bryanna 63 85
Kennedy/Kennedi 64 54
Makayla/Mikayla/Michaela/Mikaela/McKayla 65 123
Penelope 66 42
Alyssa/Elisa/Alissa/Alisa 67 76
Eliana/Elliana/Elianna/Aliana/Iliana 68 117
Jasmine/Jazmin/Jazmine/Jasmin 69 100
Mila/Myla 70 72
Sadie 71 46
Juliana/Julianna/Giuliana 72 157
Ellie 73 55
Melanie/Melany 74 79
Bailey/Baylee/Bailee 75 104
Vivian/Vivienne 76 98
Caroline 77 58
Serenity 78 60
Lucy 79 62
Alexa 80 63
Alexis 81 64
Nevaeh 81 64
Stella 83 66
Jordyn/Jordan/Jordynn 84 127
Violet 85 67
Genesis 86 68
Charlie/Charlee/Charley/Charleigh/Charli 87 229
Piper/Pyper 88 75
Bella 89 70
Autumn 90 71
Reagan/Raegan 91 106
Callie/Cali/Kallie 92 186
Jocelyn/Joselyn/Joslyn/Jocelynn 93 114
Taylor 94 77
Eleanor 95 78
Naomi 96 80
Lauren/Lauryn 97 94
Faith 98 81
Lydia 99 84
Hadley/Hadleigh/Hadlee 100 99

“Original, But Not Stupid”: What Modern Parents Look for in a Baby Name (Part I)

Why would I want to give them a name that everybody has? Like, I knew ten Mikes growing up. Why would I do that? … Nothing wrong with it, I guess, but it just seemed like it’s such a big deal to pick a name for somebody. It’s something that he’s gonna have forever, [something] I hope that he likes. Why not give him something that’s for him? You know. Special. — parent who gave her son a name from outside the top 1000 in the year he was born

The post I wrote last week on the alternative top US boys’ and girls’ names for 2013 was one of the most popular I’ve ever written for this blog, a fact that doesn’t surprise me a bit. As the quote above suggests, contemporary American parents are very interested in making sure that their child doesn’t have one of the top names. Even as the percentage of families using the top names continues to go down (the SSA estimates that about 8% of boys and girls received a top 10 name in 2013), parents are increasingly concerned with making sure their child has an appropriately distinctive name.

This phenomenon was the focus of my dissertation, filed at UCB last year. I came to the topic after discovering the “widening pool” of names — the smaller and smaller percentage of American kids receiving popular names — and to get more insight into what was going on, between 2010 and 2012 I interviewed new and expectant parents from 71 Bay Area families about how they chose their children’s names.

My findings would make for a great many blog posts if I were to put them all up here, but I’d say the biggest one of all was that the increasing diversity within American baby names isn’t a fluke, a side effect of immigration or urbanization or anything else. Parents are intentionally avoiding names they perceive as “too popular”: in fact, parents from 63 of 71 families (89% of my participants) listed distinctiveness as one of the factors they prioritized when considering names.

Of course, every family’s reason for wanting to avoid popular names was a bit different, but parents’ answers did fall into two major categories: they wanted their children to feel special, and they wanted them to stand out from the crowd. And whatever name they chose, they wanted it to be “unique, but not too unique.”

The “feeling special” piece was something I’d predicted, an extension of what’s variously been called intensive parenting, concerted cultivation, “helicopter parenting” (less charitably) or just “modern middle-class childrearing.” Over the last 20 years, a number of sociologists and anthropologists have documented the fact that parents are increasingly expected to spend time and effort actively developing their child, helping them to become their “best self.” Parents are bombarded with messages telling them the right way to raise their child, that every decision has the potential to cause irrevocable damage, and most of all, that their child is the most special little person in the world. I had one mother tell me that “giving a child a popular name is like telling them they’re not unique, and they’re not special.” Eleven families talked specifically about how stressful it was to pore over books and draft list after list of names: “I couldn’t believe the responsibility of naming another human being… I felt tremendous pressure. I mean, I just think that it’s an incredible responsibility, because it’s not your name. It’s somebody else’s. Somebody else has to live with it.”

As far as wanting children to stand out, this, too, reflects larger cultural trends. Teens applying to college are told to focus their essays on what makes them unique. For a while, the Toyota Scion marketed itself to consumers “united by individuality.” A few parents spoke about the practical benefits of having a name that stood out on a resume (though not too much), but more talked about the social benefits, how not being one of four people in a class with the same name would help their child better figure out who they were.

And yet — no one wanted to be “weird.” In their work on culture and identity, UCB sociologists Ann Swidler and Claude Fischer draw a distinction between individualism and individuation; the first means that you’re completely removed from everyone else, while the second means that you fit comfortably as a distinct entity within the group. By that marker, the parents I talked to were seeking individuation for their kids. Parents from 30 of 71 families expressed some version of this binary: “not super-popular, but not so out there,” or “a little less common, while not being insane,” or “unusual, but not too weird.” Everyone wanted to be different; no one wanted to be strange.

When I was conducting interviews, like a good researcher, I didn’t offer much to the conversation to avoid biasing people’s responses. If parents didn’t talk about the fact that the top boys’ and girls’ names in 2010 were each given to less than 1% of babies, I didn’t bring it up; if someone misremembered the main point from the names chapter in Freakonomics and explained how Dubner and Levitt pointed out that your child’s name has a HUGE impact on their life chances (not actually true, but that’s probably a different post), I let them talk. But now that the project’s done, after talking to lots and lots of parents and doing lots of analysis and reading far too many books, my semi-professional advice to nervous parents would probably be this: pick a name you like. Don’t worry too much about whether it’s a popular or an unpopular name (because even the popular names aren’t that popular). Realize that your child will be special no matter what you name them — and rest secure in the knowledge that no matter what you do, you will never be able to really get out ahead of cultural trends. You want the perfectly distinctive name, and in that, you’re just like everybody else.

2013 Baby Names — 101-250

Since my first post on this has been getting so many hits, I thought I’d throw together the rest of the interesting “alternate combined spelling” (up to #250; beyond that, you don’t get very many names that are jumping significantly, although if you’re considering a name with obvious alternate spellings I might consider doing the math yourself to see where it falls…)

Boys’ Names 101-250, Combined Spellings

Spelling cluster Spelling cluster’s combined rank Highest individual SSA rank Total number of babies given the name
Lincoln 101 95 4010
Luis 102 96 3976
Giovanni/Giovani/Jovanni/Giovanny/Jovani 103 128 3964
Silas/Sylas 104 116 3874
Alan/Allen/Allan 105 153 3868
Juan 106 100 3864
Vincent 107 101 3829
Ryder 108 103 3750
Cole/Kole 108 114 3750
Asher 110 104 3663
Carlos 111 105 3657
Jesus 112 106 3648
Marcus/Marcos/Markus 113 160 3639
Micah 114 107 3631
Maxwell 115 108 3607
Sean/Shawn/Shaun 116 185 3606
Emmanuel/Emanuel/Immanuel 117 171 3596
Bryce/Brice 118 117 3584
Alex 119 110 3519
Max 120 111 3492
Leo 121 112 3473
Elias 122 113 3472
Kason/Cason/Kasen/Kayson/Casen/Cayson/Kaysen 123 365 3445
Brantley/Brantlee 124 119 3405
Xander/Zander 125 219 3273
Sawyer 126 120 3142
Declan 127 121 3097
Braxton 128 122 3078
Zayden/Zaiden 129 192 3053
Timothy 130 125 3016
Santiago 131 126 3015
Antonio 132 127 3007
Elliot/Elliott 133 241 2951
Hayden 134 129 2933
Diego 135 130 2905
Leonardo 136 131 2891
Zane/Zayne/Zain/Zayn 137 215 2885
Miguel 138 133 2874
Roman 139 134 2858
Jonah 140 135 2857
Ivan 141 137 2846
Jesse/Jessie 142 158 2838
Derek/Derrick 143 205 2835
Jameson/Jamison 144 181 2822
Wesley 145 139 2819
Weston/Westin 146 163 2812
Richard 147 140 2770
Malachi/Malakai 148 177 2751
Riley/Rylee 149 156 2740
Emmett/Emmitt 150 173 2728
Victor 151 142 2715
Ezra 152 143 2708
Joel 153 144 2697
Edward 154 145 2679
Preston 155 148 2636
Ezekiel/Ezequiel 155 186 2636
Ashton 157 152 2597
Luca/Luka/Lucca 158 202 2570
Patrick 159 154 2566
Kyle 160 155 2563
Mark/Marc 161 184 2557
George 162 157 2522
Jeremy 163 159 2504
Harrison 164 161 2491
Jude 165 162 2486
Devin/Devon 166 210 2463
Ryker 167 164 2462
Alejandro 168 165 2457
Gage/Gauge 169 188 2444
Jake 170 166 2430
Axel 171 167 2413
Grant 172 168 2401
Maddox 173 169 2399
Theodore 174 170 2397
Corbin/Korbin/Corban 175 217 2390
Reid/Reed 176 259 2388
Peyton/Payton 177 208 2334
Brady 178 174 2320
Bradley 179 175 2305
Gael 180 176 2296
Muhammad/Mohamed/Mohammed/Mohammad 181 422 2248
Gunner/Gunnar 182 239 2246
Oscar 183 178 2225
Abel 184 179 2221
Tucker 185 180 2220
Abraham 186 183 2190
Cash/Kash 187 243 2188
Kenneth 188 187 2159
Everett 189 189 2128
Kingston 190 190 2114
King 191 193 2085
Graham/Graeme 192 203 2072
Bennett 193 194 2061
Cody/Kody 194 214 2051
Calvin 195 195 2044
Avery 196 196 2036
Tanner 197 197 2029
Paul 198 198 2017
Kai 199 199 1956
Jaylen/Jalen/Jaylin 200 290 1955
Amir/Ameer 201 216 1943
Maximus 202 200 1913
Braylon/Braylen 203 318 1903
Rylan 204 201 1882
Omar 205 204 1873
Jorge 206 207 1835
Peter 207 208 1833
Andres 208 212 1786
Jeffrey/Jeffery 209 256 1785
Keegan/Keagan 210 248 1780
Francisco 211 218 1688
Eduardo 212 220 1684
Javier 213 222 1671
Jax 214 223 1669
Brendan/Brenden/Brendon 215 326 1625
Rafael/Raphael 216 287 1619
Phillip/Philip 216 364 1619
Griffin 218 225 1613
Iker 219 226 1612
Beau/Bo 220 270 1607
Garrett 221 227 1605
Skyler/Skylar 222 306 1596
Kellan/Kellen 223 367 1593
Simon 224 229 1592
Seth 225 231 1578
Travis 226 232 1571
Charlie 227 233 1551
Lane/Layne 228 303 1543
Trevor 229 235 1520
Zion 230 236 1514
Cade/Kade 231 376 1501
Lorenzo 232 237 1498
Dean 233 238 1497
Chance 234 240 1494
Rhys/Reece/Reese 235 489 1480
Manuel 236 245 1457
Israel 236 245 1457
Quentin/Quinton/Quintin 238 406 1449
Josue 239 247 1445
Jasper 240 248 1443
Spencer 241 250 1440
Finn 241 250 1440
Louis/Lewis 243 315 1438
Fernando 244 253 1424
Ricardo 245 254 1421
Mario 246 255 1410
Shane 247 257 1384
Rowan/Rowen 248 295 1379
Clayton 249 258 1374
Amari/Amare 250 337 1370

 

Girls’ Names 101-250, Combined Spellings

Spelling cluster Spelling cluster’s combined rank Highest individual SSA rank Total number of babies given the name
Molly/Mollie 101 102 3446
Amaya/Amiyah/Amiya/Amya/Amia 102 235 3439
Sydney/Sidney 103 98 3429
Naomi 104 87 3400
Faith 105 89 3349
Nicole 106 92 3325
Ruby 107 93 3269
Maci/Macy/Macie/Macey 108 236 3252
Lydia 109 96 3220
Jayla/Jaylah 110 174 3181
Piper 111 97 3159
Maria/Mariyah 112 112 3140
Morgan 113 100 3094
Hadley/Hadlee 114 111 3093
Kimberly 115 101 3084
Kaydence/Cadence/Kadence/Kaidence 116 274 3065
Mariah/Moriah 117 114 2997
Mckenna/Makenna/Makena 118 216 2991
Eleanor 119 106 2986
Ariel/Arielle 120 146 2951
Carly/Karlee/Carlee/Carlie/Carley/Karlie/Karly 121 317 2946
Kaelyn/Kaylin/Kailyn/Kaylynn/Kaylen/Kaylyn 122 441 2932
Cora/Kora 123 127 2923
Alice 124 107 2915
Trinity 125 108 2895
Keira/Kira/Kiera 126 203 2889
Callie/Cali/Kallie 126 226 2889
Natalia/Natalya 128 120 2867
Jade/Jayde 129 126 2822
Kendall/Kyndall 130 130 2809
Andrea 131 110 2808
Brooke 132 113 2736
Aniyah/Anaya/Aniya 133 217 2675
Brielle 134 116 2674
Quinn 135 118 2634
Alana/Alanna/Alannah 136 182 2633
Mary 137 121 2602
Amy/Aimee 138 139 2576
Delilah/Dalilah 139 135 2574
Paige 140 128 2560
Destiny/Destinee 141 137 2554
Malia/Maliyah/Maleah/Maliah 142 334 2543
Valentina 143 129 2542
Daniela/Daniella 144 222 2523
Elise/Elyse 145 159 2493
Clara 146 131 2486
Jada/Jayda/Jaida 147 248 2428
Marley/Marlee/Marleigh 148 209 2425
Rebecca/Rebekah 149 177 2422
Kinsley/Kensley 150 161 2409
Juliet/Juliette 151 238 2391
Rachel 152 138 2271
Emery/Emory/Emerie 153 194 2266
Ashlyn/Ashlynn 154 254 2246
Gabrielle 155 141 2188
Alina/Aleena/Alena 156 251 2175
Kamryn/Camryn/Cameron 157 375 2137
Aurora 158 145 2108
Emerson/Emersyn 159 211 2104
Angelina 160 147 2101
Kinley/Kenley 161 205 2092
Vanessa 162 149 2085
Ivy 163 152 2079
Willow 164 154 2055
Reese 165 156 2052
Hazel 166 157 2039
Eden 167 158 2022
Josephine 168 160 1996
Cassidy/Kassidy 169 250 1965
Cecilia/Cecelia 170 223 1960
Ximena 171 162 1951
Jessica 172 163 1935
Gracie 173 166 1924
Allie/Ally 174 220 1901
Isla 175 167 1900
Lexi/Lexie 176 246 1887
Michelle 177 168 1881
Valerie 178 169 1862
Melody 179 171 1843
Raelynn/Raelyn 180 283 1839
Journey/Journee/Jurnee 181 334 1820
Brynn/Bryn 182 213 1814
Alexia 183 175 1813
Valeria 184 176 1807
Jaelyn/Jaelynn/Jaylynn/Jaylin 185 579 1773
Brynlee/Brinley 186 269 1766
Nyla/Nylah 187 312 1754
Margaret 188 180 1749
Kate 189 184 1726
Luna 190 185 1725
Kendra 191 187 1713
Summer 192 188 1711
Diana/Dayana 193 270 1710
Jennifer 194 191 1682
Hayden 195 193 1674
Annabella/Anabella 196 274 1668
Stephanie 197 194 1664
Christina/Kristina/Cristina 198 303 1659
Angela 199 196 1630
Fiona 200 197 1625
Daisy 201 198 1620
Presley 202 199 1619
Sienna/Siena 203 263 1618
Eliza 204 200 1603
Harmony 205 201 1602
Melissa 206 202 1576
Giselle 207 203 1559
Alicia/Alisha/Alayshia 208 320 1557
Alexandria 209 207 1546
Talia/Taliyah/Thalia 210 351 1535
Arabella 211 210 1512
Teagan/Tegan 211 264 1512
Lola 213 214 1473
Kiara/Ciara 214 309 1465
Athena 215 218 1445
Genevieve 215 218 1445
Gemma/Jemma 215 315 1445
Leslie/Lesly 218 284 1421
Rose 219 224 1407
Jenna 220 227 1402
Esther 221 228 1398
Leilani 222 230 1381
Ainsley/Ansley 223 332 1378
Maggie 224 231 1373
Hope 225 233 1359
Brylee/Briley/Bryleigh 226 437 1355
Jacqueline 227 239 1319
Lucia 228 241 1313
Tessa 228 241 1313
Camille 230 243 1308
Katie 231 244 1302
Miranda 232 245 1296
Kyla/Kylah 233 317 1275
Kara/Cara 234 375 1271
Delaney 235 249 1265
Lena/Lina 235 331 1265
Gracelyn/Gracelynn 237 407 1264
Georgia 238 252 1250
Zariah/Zariyah/Zaria 239 520 1242
Iris 240 253 1238
Emmalyn/Emmalynn/Emmaline 241 455 1234
Kenzie 242 255 1231
Megan 243 256 1230
Paris 244 257 1229
Anastasia 244 257 1229
Shelby 246 259 1224
Mariana/Marianna 246 340 1224
Danielle 248 261 1220
Josie 249 265 1206
Angel 250 266 1204

 

2013 Baby Names — The Other Top 100

So, in addition to Mother’s Day, this weekend marks another annual holiday (at least for my name-nerdy household): the release of last year’s Social Security Administration baby name data. This is the dataset I’ve been messing with since not long after it was first released to the public in 1998, and it’s one of the core pieces of my dissertation research (first bit of that discussion here; I’ll likely write another post with the second bit in the next few days) — but it’s got some problems. Not least of these is that because of the sheer volume of data being collated, the SSA dataset doesn’t take alternate spellings into account: Aiden, Aidan, and Aydin are all recorded as different names.

That makes a lot of sense from a data perspective, but it makes it more difficult, if you’re a parent concerned about avoiding the most popular names (which my research suggested a LOT of parents are), to suss out which names might cause six other heads to turn on the playground. In that spirit, here’s my list of the “real” top 100 names for 2013.
More baby name blog posts undoubtedly to follow in the next couple weeks — but for now, enjoy!

Edit (5/9/14): Because of the popularity of this post, I’ve added a second post that lists the combined spellings of names #101-250, which is about as far as things stay interesting.

Second Edit (5/11/14): A fellow name nerd pointed out an error in my calculations: Aiden, not Jackson, is the “true” most popular boys’ name. Thanks for catching that!

Top 100 Boys’ Names, Combined Spellings

Spelling cluster Spelling cluster’s combined rank Highest individual SSA rank Total number of babies given the name
Aiden/Ayden/Aidan/Aden/Adan/Aydin/Aydan/Aidyn/Aaden 1 12 25,162
Jackson/Jaxon/Jaxson/Jaxen 2 16 24,934
Jayden/Jaden/Jaiden/Jaydon/Jadon 3 9 19,705
Jacob/Jakob/Jaycob 4 3 18,885
Noah 5 1 18,090
Mason/Mayson/Maison 6 4 18,088
Liam 7 2 18,002
William 8 5 16,495
Kayden/Kaiden/Kaden/Cayden/Caden/Caiden/Kaeden 9 93 16,134
Ethan 10 6 16,127
Michael/Micheal 11 7 15,714
Alexander/Alexzander 12 8 15,073
Elijah/Alijah 13 11 14,149
Daniel 14 10 14,140
Matthew/Mathew 15 15 13,894
Jace/Jase/Jayce/Jayse 16 66 13,720
James 17 13 13,416
Benjamin 18 14 13,373
Lucas/Lukas 19 23 12,932
Caleb/Kaleb 20 33 12,333
Logan 21 17 12,270
David 22 18 12,226
Anthony 23 19 12,164
Joseph 24 20 12,095
Joshua 25 21 11,680
Andrew 26 22 11,568
Christopher/Kristopher/Cristopher 27 26 11,500
Christian/Cristian/Kristian 28 35 11,183
Gabriel 29 24 11,112
Dylan/Dillon/Dilan 30 28 11,085
John/Jon 31 27 10,968
Samuel 32 25 10,957
Carter/Karter 33 32 10,680
Landon/Landen/Landyn 34 39 10,670
Isaac/Issac 35 29 10,590
Jonathan/Johnathan/Jonathon/Johnathon 36 42 10,240
Nicholas/Nicolas/Nikolas/Nickolas 37 54 10,080
Ryan 38 30 9,808
Connor/Conner/Conor/Konner/Konnor 39 56 9,699
Nathan 40 31 9,620
Brayden/Braden/Braydon/Braeden/Braiden 41 48 9,544
Luke 42 34 9,497
Cameron/Kameron/Camron/Kamryn/Camren/Kamron/Camryn 43 59 9,213
Hunter 44 36 8,887
Isaiah/Izaiah/Isiah/Izayah 45 44 8,858
Henry 46 37 8,802
Owen 47 38 8,702
Jack 48 40 8,506
Wyatt 49 41 8,490
Dominic/Dominick/Dominik/Dominique 50 68 8,260
Grayson/Greyson 51 78 8,130
Colton/Kolton/Colten/Kolten 52 64 8,125
Jason/Jayceon/Jayson 53 79 8,107
Eli 54 43 7,867
Julian/Julien 55 47 7,865
Gavin/Gavyn 56 49 7,608
Jordan/Jordyn/Jorden 57 53 7,598
Aaron/Aron 58 51 7,568
Sebastian 59 45 7,495
Levi 60 50 7,339
Oliver 61 52 7,209
Adrian/Adrien 62 60 7,082
Evan 63 55 7,070
Thomas/Tomas 64 61 7,052
Charles 65 57 6,955
Jeremiah 66 58 6,888
Josiah/Jasiah/Joziah 67 69 6,817
Robert 68 62 6,641
Tyler 69 63 6,590
Austin 70 65 6,441
Brandon/Branden 71 70 6,379
Angel 72 67 6,320
Zachary/Zackary 73 73 6,148
Bentley/Bentlee/Bently 74 81 5,974
Kevin 75 72 5,892
Damian/Damien/Damion 76 98 5,794
Chase/Chace 77 77 5,742
Eric/Erick/Erik 78 118 5,683
Xavier/Xzavier/Zavier 79 83 5,630
Parker 80 74 5,622
Ian/Ean 80 80 5,622
Blake 82 75 5,601
Jose 83 76 5,579
Bryan/Brian 84 132 5,504
Carson/Karson 85 90 5,468
Camden/Kamden/Kamdyn/Camdyn 86 99 5,240
Adam 87 82 5,193
Tristan/Tristen/Triston/Tristin 88 97 5,106
Miles/Myles 89 115 5,004
Nathaniel/Nathanael 90 91 4,924
Cooper 91 84 4,843
Colin/Collin 92 124 4,838
Justin 93 85 4,827
Bryson/Brycen/Brysen 94 102 4,794
Nolan 95 86 4,715
Brody/Brodie 96 94 4,633
Hudson 97 87 4,628
Easton 98 88 4,615
Mateo/Matteo 99 109 4,341
Steven/Stephen 100 136 4,286

 

Top 100 Girls’ Names, Combined Spellings

 

Spelling cluster Spelling cluster’s combined rank Highest individual SSA rank Total number of babies given the name
Sophia/Sofia 1 1 30,183
Emma 2 2 20,788
Olivia/Alivia/Alyvia 3 3 20,323
Isabella/Izabella/Isabela 4 4 19,681
Ava/Eva/Avah 5 5 18,859
Emily/Emely/Emilee/Emilie/Emmalee 6 7 15,200
Mia/Miah 7 6 13,547
Zoey/Zoe/Zoie 8 24 13,534
Aubrey/Aubree/Aubrie/Aubri 9 18 13,482
Abigail/Abbigail 10 8 12,672
Madison/Maddison/Madisyn/Madyson 11 9 12,506
Chloe/Khloe 12 14 12,368
Madelyn/Madeline/Madeleine/Madilyn/Madelynn/Madilynn/Madalyn/Madalynn 13 68 11,650
Layla/Laila/Leila/Leyla/Laylah/Lailah 14 30 11,321
Riley/Rylee/Ryleigh/Rylie 15 45 10,328
Avery/Averie/Averi 16 12 10,303
Arianna/Ariana/Aryanna/Aryana 17 44 10,248
Lily/Lilly/Lillie 18 27 10,098
Amelia/Emilia/Emelia 19 17 9,958
Elizabeth/Elisabeth 20 10 9,800
Kaylee/Kayleigh/Kali/Kaylie/Kailey/Caylee/Kailee/Kaleigh 21 41 9,557
Hailey/Haley/Haylee/Hallie/Hayley/Halle/Hailee/Haleigh 22 43 9,499
Addison/Addyson/Addisyn 23 19 9,459
Charlotte 24 11 9,232
Natalie/Nathalie/Nataly/Natalee/Nathaly 25 21 9,139
Aaliyah/Aliyah/Aleah/Alia/Aliya/Aleigha 26 36 9,080
Brooklyn/Brooklynn 27 28 8,977
Evelyn/Evelynn/Evalyn/Avalyn 28 20 8,676
Hannah/Hanna/Hana 29 23 8,386
Ella 30 15 8,370
Allison/Alison/Allyson/Alyson/Alisson 31 34 8,228
Harper 32 16 8,222
Mackenzie/Mckenzie/Makenzie 33 62 8,115
Adalynn/Adalyn/Adelyn/Adeline/Adelynn/Addilyn 34 173 7,752
Lillian/Lilian 35 26 7,618
Maya/Mya/Maia/Myah/Miya 36 72 7,612
Peyton/Payton/Paityn 37 51 7,559
Kylie/Kylee/Kyleigh/Kiley 38 61 7,509
Leah/Lia/Leia/Lea 39 33 7,326
Grace 40 22 7,296
Aria/Arya/Ariah/Ariyah/Ariya 41 40 7,185
Victoria 42 25 7,155
Kaitlyn/Katelyn/Caitlyn/Caitlin/Katelynn/Kaitlynn 43 134 6,810
Camila/Kamila/Camilla 44 39 6,739
Katherine/Catherine/Kathryn 45 77 6,700
Elena/Alaina/Alayna/Elaina 46 132 6,699
Sarah/Sara 47 48 6,690
Anna/Ana 48 35 6,642
Gabriella/Gabriela 49 38 6,611
Samantha 50 29 6,453
Scarlett/Scarlet/Scarlette 51 42 6,164
Makayla/Mikayla/Michaela/Mikaela/Mckayla 52 94 6,015
Savannah/Savanna 53 37 5,880
Brianna/Briana/Breanna/Bryanna 54 71 5,761
Liliana/Lilliana/Lilyana/Lilianna/Lillianna/Lilyanna/Lillyana 55 122 5,687
Audrey 56 32 5,567
London/Londyn 57 85 5,364
Annabelle/Anabelle/Annabel/Anabel/Annabell 58 81 5,345
Lyla/Lila/Lilah/Lylah 59 153 5,228
Nora/Norah 60 83 5,197
Alyssa/Elisa/Alissa 61 57 5,192
Jasmine/Jazmine/Jazmin/Jasmin 62 103 5,068
Isabelle/Isabel 63 115 5,046
Claire/Clare 64 49 4,998
Eliana/Elliana/Aliana/Elianna/Iliana 65 125 4,803
Juliana/Julianna/Giuliana 66 149 4,787
Bailey/Baylee/Bailee/Bayleigh 67 105 4,745
Alexis 68 46 4,741
Nevaeh 69 47 4,716
Skylar/Skyler 70 73 4,630
Kennedy/Kennedi 71 64 4,618
Sadie 72 50 4,614
Mila/Myla 73 78 4,605
Jocelyn/Joselyn/Joslyn/Jocelynn 74 99 4,494
Serenity 75 53 4,412
Reagan/Raegan/Regan 76 104 4,353
Genesis 77 55 4,280
Penelope 78 56 4,258
Bella 79 58 4,135
Melanie/Melany 80 84 4,122
Taylor 81 59 4,108
Alexa 82 60 4,077
Paisley/Paislee 83 80 4,027
Caroline 84 63 3,955
Lauren/Lauryn 85 91 3,928
Autumn 86 65 3,924
Jordyn/Jordan/Jordynn 87 132 3,923
Lucy 88 66 3,914
Ashley 89 67 3,913
Violet 90 69 3,895
Stella 91 70 3,880
Gianna/Giana 92 86 3,825
Charlie/Charlee/Cherley/Charleigh/Charli 93 240 3,772
Vivian/Vivienne 94 119 3,753
Ellie 95 74 3,739
Julia 96 75 3,715
Sophie 97 76 3,710
Kayla/Keyla 98 95 3,569
Alexandra 99 82 3,486
Adriana/Adrianna 99 151 3,486

Less Popular Popular Names: The Widening Pool of American Baby Names

“In the last half-century, the most popular names given to American children have become less common than ever before.” — the first sentence of my dissertation abstract.

Given the wild popularity of my baby name post from a few weeks ago (61 hits as of today, including 40 unique visitors in one day — eep!), I figured it would be well worth my time to write another post or two on the subject.

Since I started working on my dissertation (in 2009), I’ve had several friends and friends-of-friends who’ve asked me for baby name advice — and although I usually end up offering them more information than they want, my opening line is generally pretty well-received. I tell them that if they want to choose a popular name, they shouldn’t worry about their child being one of three Isabellas or Sophias in her class, because the most popular names aren’t as popular as you’d think.

Basically, beginning around WWII, the percentage of kids getting the most popular names began to decline pretty dramatically. In 1940, the #1 most popular names (James and Mary, if you were curious) were given to about 5% of boys and girls born that year; by 2010, the #1 names (Jacob and Isabella) were given to only 1% of kids. You see the same declines in the percentage of kids getting the top ten, top one hundred and top one thousand names; in fact, by 2010, almost 10% of American kids received a name that was given to 5 or fewer kids in the whole country.

A handy graph to explain this (click to embiggen):

Top 10 Most Popular Boys’ and Girls’ Names Nationally as % of Overall Births, 1940-2010*

The percentage of children receiving the top ten most popular American boys' and girls' names declined drastically over the latter half of the 20th century.

The percentage of children receiving the top ten most popular American boys’ and girls’ names declined drastically over the latter half of the 20th century.

This graph shows us a few interesting things besides the decreasing percentage of kids receiving top ten names, most notably that popular boys’ names have historically been significantly more concentrated than girls’ names. There are a few things that could explain this, including the fact that parents are more likely to use legacy names (family names) for boys than for girls, and that girls’ names tend to move in and out of fashion more quickly than boys’ names do (between 1880 and 2012, the Social Security top ten lists encompassed 45 boys’ names and 83 girls’ names). However, as you can see, in the last 15 to 20 years, popular boys’ names have finally started to catch up with popular girls’ names in terms of declining density. This suggests that boys’ names might finally be starting to be seen as a “fashion” in the way that girls’ names have been for a long time.

There are a lot of folk explanations you could offer for the declining popularity of popular names: that immigrants to the United States are more inclined to choose “ethnic” names for their kids now than they were in the past, or that parents from different racial backgrounds are increasingly choosing names very different from one another. However, looking at birth certificate data from California, I found evidence suggesting that the trend toward more unique names was present across all demographic groups: regardless of whether I looked specifically at white or black parents, American-born or immigrant parents, or college- or high-school educated parents, I found that those naming babies in the 21st-century were choosing more distinctive names than their counterparts from a few decades before.

This was a surprise to me, not least because, as far as I could tell, no one in the “baby name world” was really talking about it. Popularity rankings are all over the place in the name-o-sphere these days — when I sat down to try to pull together some numbers, I found that almost every book and website I investigated (including most of those I linked to in my previous post as sources for fellow name nerds) included rankings — but no one anywhere pointed out that if you named your son Jacob in 2010, statistically he’d have to be in a classroom with 100 other boys to end up with another Jacob in his class (by comparison, if you were born in 1975 and your name was Jennifer or Michael, statistically you would’ve only needed to be in a group of 25 kids of your gender to have another with your name).

My dissertation attempted to explore the “why” behind this question — why more and more parents are avoiding the most popular names and seeking out distinctive names for their kids instead — and I’ll get to that part in another post. But in the meantime, fellow name nerds, know this: if you’ve always loved the name Sophia (#1 in 2012) or Noah (#4), you should feel free to go ahead and use it. Your kid will certainly meet other people with their name, but the days of Jennifer and Michael (each topping out at over 4% of the population at their peaks) look like they’re gone.

* Data assembled from the Social Security Administration website and the CDC record on numbers of recorded births.

The Other Popularity List: Top American Baby Names of 2012, Reframed

In the United States, this weekend is Mother’s Day. And while this means a number of different things to different people, in my dissertating household for the last few years, the biggest news of Mother’s Day weekend has been that it’s when the Social Security Administration releases the lists of the most popular baby names from the previous year.

I’ve been a name nerd for a long time, but recently, I actually acquired the credentials to call myself an official one. As I think I’ve mentioned here before, my dissertation (now officially filed! Hip hip hurrah!) was on baby names. Between 2010 and 2012, I interviewed 71 families about how they chose their children’s names; I looked at a subset of California birth certificate data from 5 years between 1970 and 2008; and I spent a lot of time with the SSA popularity lists. All that goes to say that in the next few weeks, I’ll probably be adding my voice to the clamor of analysts of this new popularity dataset, and maybe talking a bit about the specialized knowledge I’ve picked up in the last few years, too (I’ve linked to a few of the sites that I like most at the bottom of this post, in case y’all are interested enough to want to hear other people’s voices on this whole affair).

But for this first post, which will be relatively short (I’ll probably have a longer non-baby-name-related one in the next few days; have had all kinds of crazy life stuff going on recently, of which filing the dissertation was only a part), I figured I’d keep it simple, and take advantage of the platform to pose a cautionary tale to those parents who take the SSA list as gospel: the official “Top Ten” list may not be the Top Ten you’re most interested in.

As the SSA analysts themselves point out in a website disclaimer, their list records each unique phonetic spelling as an individual name. In other words, Catherine and Katherine (or Aiden and Aidan) each receive their own entry. I can’t argue with this strategy from a validity standpoint; when all you’ve got is printed names, there’s no way to determine whether Leila is pronounced like Lila or Leela, or whether Keira, Kyra and Kira are the same name. But I’ve always found it useful to ALSO draw up a list that combines (probable) homonyms, just to see the difference.

So I here present you that list: the Top 25 boys’ and girls’ names for 2012, in both original SSA and “recalculated” combined-spelling format.

Boys’ names: 

Rank Official SSA list Combined spellings list (most popular spelling first)
1 Jacob Aiden/Ayden/Aidan/Aden/Aydan/Aydin/Aidyn/Aaden
2 Mason Jackson/Jaxon/Jaxson/Jaxen
3 Ethan Jayden/Jaden/Jaiden/Jaydon/Jadon/Jaeden/Jaidyn
4 Noah Jacob/Jakob/Jaycob
5 William Mason/Mayson/Masen/Maison (which, as a French-speaker, I know is not “supposed” to sound like Mason, but I suspect often does)
6 Liam Ethan
7 Jayden Noah
8 Michael William
9 Alexander Liam
10 Aiden Michael/Micheal
11 Daniel Kayden/Kaden/Caden/Kaiden/Cayden/Caiden/Kaeden (the biggest jumper; Kayden’s “official” rank on its own is #99)
12 Matthew Alexander/Alexzander
13 Elijah Matthew/Mathew
14 James Elijah/Alijah
15 Anthony Daniel
16 Benjamin James
17 Joshua Anthony
18 Andrew Caleb/Kaleb
19 David Benjamin
20 Joseph Christopher/Kristopher/Cristopher
21 Logan Joshua
22 Jackson Andrew
23 Christopher David
24 Gabriel Joseph
25 Samuel Logan

 

Girls’ names: 

Rank Official SSA list Combined spellings list (most popular spelling first)
1 Sophia Sophia/Sofia
2 Emma Isabella/Izabella/Isabela
3 Isabella Emma
4 Olivia Olivia/Alivia/Alyvia
5 Ava Ava/Eva/Avah
6 Emily Emily/Emely/Emilee/Emilie/Emmalee
7 Abigail Zoey/Zoe/Zoie (the second year in a row that a “non-traditional” spelling of this name has beaten out the traditional one)
8 Mia Chloe/Khloe
9 Madison Madison/Maddison/Madisyn/Madyson
10 Elizabeth Aubrey/Aubree/Aubrie/Aubri
11 Chloe Abigail/Abbigail
12 Ella Mia/Miah
13 Avery Hailey/Haley/Haylee/Hayley/Hallie/Halle/Hailee/Haylie/Haleigh/Hayleigh (a slightly problematic category, I know, because some of these are undoubtedly pronounced to rhyme with Allie rather than Kaylee; jumped up from #32 for Hailey on its own)
14 Addison Madelyn/Madeline/Madilyn/Madeleine/Madelynn/Madalyn/Madilynn/Madalynn (jumped up from #67 for Madelyn on its own)
15 Aubrey Lily/Lilly/Lillie
16 Lily Layla/Laila/Leila/Laylah/Lailah/Leyla
17 Natalie Kaylee/Kayleigh/Kailey/Kali/Kaylie/Caylee/Kailee/Kaleigh
18 Sofia Addison/Addyson/Addisyn
19 Charlotte Riley/Rylee/Ryleigh/Rylie
20 Zoey Elizabeth/Elisabeth
21 Grace Natalie/Nataly/Nathalei/Natalee/Nathaly
22 Hannah Aaliyah/Aliyah/Aleah/Aliya/Alia/Aleigha
23 Amelia Avery/Averie/Averi
24 Harper Arianna/Ariana/Aryanna/Aryana
25 Lillian Ella

Even those of you who haven’t spent years poring over these lists probably see a few things here, right? Girls’ names are more likely to spawn lots of alternate spellings. “Y” is often seen as a way to make an androgynous name like Riley or Addison more “girly.” Biblical names (especially Old Testament names) are in for boys, but there are a few of the less traditional multiple-spelling sets in there, too.

The fact is, girls’ names have been “trendy” for a lot longer than boys’ names; although things like the numbers of names with multiple spellings haven’t increased that dramatically over time, there’s always a LOT more turnover in girls’ names than there is in boys’ names. Case in point: looking at the entire set of Social Security Administration data, starting in 1880, there are 5 boys’ names that have appeared in the top 50 every single year (David, James, John, Joseph, and William). There’s only one girls’ name that claims the same honor: Elizabeth.

There’s LOADS of other stuff I can say about all this, but I think I’ll let this post stand on its own for now as an ambassador from the land of name-nerdery. If y’all want more like this, just say so!

Other tested sites of name-nerd-dom (which will surely have LOTS on the new popularity list in the next few weeks):

  • Nameberry: Put together by the 2 women who wrote Beyond Jennifer and Jason in the late 1980s and talked about fashion in baby names before anybody else.
  • Appellation Mountain: Does daily linguistic histories of different obscure and not-so-obscure names.
  • Name Candy: A blog that covers everything from pop culture and celebrity baby names to baby name advice.
  • The Baby Name Wizard: Another pop culture baby name blog.