How to Name a Baby

The first time a friend of mine had a child, it was intensely jarring.

I’d be living my normal day, and then the thought would hit me—”Matt has a son”—and my whole world would get turned upside down.

Three years and six friend babies later, I’m 32 and have numbed to the whole thing considerably. It’s still weird. But not jarring.

This new phenomenon in my life has introduced several new experiences—things like “having your feelings hurt and losing self-confidence because your friend’s toddler doesn’t like you” and “learning that talking about the baby as a ‘toy’ or a ‘pod’ and commenting on ‘it not having a brain yet’ is less funny to the baby’s parents than it is to you.” But perhaps the most frequent new experience is finding myself in discussions about baby names, both in the form of talking to the impending parents and pressuring them to reveal the candidates, and talking to other friends about the eventual name choices behind the new parents’ back.

(Note: definitely best to keep the name candidates a secret until after the baby’s born—no name will please everyone and other peoples’ opinions really shouldn’t be part of the process for something so personal. And when you announce the name after the baby is born, everyone has to pretend they like it to your face no matter what they think, so you’ll end up feeling like everyone likes it.)

You’d assume that thinking about baby names is a new thing in my life, but I’ve actually had a lifelong fascination with the topic.

My curiosity rose to a whole new level the day I discovered an amazing website called The Baby Name Wizard, and especially their Voyager tool, which lets you plug in a few letters or a whole name and see a visual depiction of its corresponding popularity trends over time. The Voyager is delicious and rents permanent space in my Dark Playground. (Of course, as soon as it was the topic of this post, putting Voyager play time in the Dark Woods for the first time ever, the monkey suddenly wanted to do other things and kept clicking away from the page. But that’s a whole other topic.)

So, for all these reasons, it seemed like the right time for a post about names, trends, and the things expecting parents need to think about as they make this decision.

After many hours on The Baby Name Wizard (and the government’s official name database), here are my thoughts (focusing on the US unless otherwise stated)—

Parents choosing a name have a few options:

1) Go Timeless

Examples: John, James, William, David, Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth

Benefits: You won’t embarrass yourself; You won’t pigeonhole the kid in any way, including generationally; It’s classy; There’s something cool about a common bond with centuries of previous humans

Drawbacks: It’s kind of boring.

These names are often biblical, or sometimes those of famous royalty, and they’re bigger than any one generation—William is not a typical old man’s name or young guy’s name—it’s just William. And they’re always popular.

But they’re less popular than they used to be. The Top 10 boys names in the 1880’s share six members with the Top 10 boys names in the 1950’s: John, William, James, Robert, Charles, and Thomas. But the Top 10 in 2012 only includes one name from that list—William.

2) Go Super Weird

Examples: Winter, Namaste, Jameliah, Stormy, Cameo, Grudzel

Benefits: No one will ever question your balls; If the kid is awesome, then it’s awesome.

Drawbacks: They’ll have to spell out their name on phone calls 2 trillion times throughout their life; They’ll have to watch people figuring out how to react every time they introduce themselves; They’ll get made fun of at school; It might hurt their chances of getting job interviews; If the kid isn’t awesome, the whole thing is awkward; If you were just in a phase and made a compulsive decision, that’s shitty cause the kid has to live with it forever.

Despite several drawbacks, it’s a nice chance to say, “P.S. We don’t give a shit about what other people think.” And again, if the kid’s awesome, a weird name just makes them even more awesome.

For what it’s worth, a lot more people are going weird now than they used to. People used to be almost uniformly conformist. In 1950, only 5% of parents strayed out of the Top 1,000 names when naming their child. In 2012, 27% of parents went weird and left the Top 1,000.

This is part of a broader trend away from conformity: In 1880, the Top 4 boys names (John, William, James, George) covered one in every four boys. In 2012, the Top 4 boys names (Jacob, Mason, Ethan, Noah) cover only one in every 26 boys.

3) Go a Little Weird But Not Too Weird

Examples: Ashton, Wyatt, Luca, Brooklyn, Delaney, Alexia

Benefits: You’re being nonconformist but without most of the drawbacks in Category 2; If it’s a really good name people will be jealous and you’ll be all thrilled with yourself; It says “My parents are cool but not too annoying.”

Drawbacks: You might be a little too pleased with yourself for someone who still let the Top 200 names dictate their choice; There’s a chance a lot of other people feel the same way about that “unconventional” name and you inadvertently find yourself as part of a Name Fad.

This category is perfect for parents who are far too thrilled with themselves and are having far too special a child for a Timeless or Top 10 Name, but who also look down upon those who go for a Super Weird Name as annoying or unclassy. (In case you’re wondering, most of my friends went with Category 3.)

But let’s focus on something I mentioned in the drawbacks: The Name Fad. It turns out that sometimes you’re not the only one who loves that fresh, oh-so-pretty name, and a Name Fad happens when millions of Category 3 couples all start to say “Wait I like that” when they hear about someone else making a great Category 3 choice (it can also be started by a famous person—e.g. the surge in Mileys in the last decade).

Suddenly, that name so perfectly placed at #137 on the list of popular names is #86. Then the next year it’s #41. Then #18. Then #5. All to the horror of the Category 3 couple.

You know when everyone calls a guy by his nickname except his parents, who use his full three-syllable name? I think part of that is trying to wrench individuality from a fad name.

The fad is heightened by another large category of parent choice—

4) Just Dive Into the Current Honeymoon, Knowing You’re Picking a Popular Name

Examples: Anything from the current Top 20.

Benefits: Safe; Hip; Bonds your child with his/her whole generation in a broad sense.

Drawbacks: There will be three other kids in the class with the same name and they’ll be referred to along with their last name initial; Your child will one day have a Middle-Aged Name, and one later day, an Old Person Name.

To me, studying Name Fads throughout time yields the most interesting information because it speaks about something society is doing as a whole at a given time. Let’s spend the rest of the post digging into Name Fads and how they work—

Name Fads

Here’s what a Name Fad looks like:

Between 1965 and 1985, everyone named their daughter Jennifer, and now, no one does. So Jennifer was officially a Name Fad. What this means for all the Jennifers of the world is that while they’ve enjoyed spending most of their life so far with a cute, hip, young girl name, they are on their way to having a Your Mom’s Friend’s Name name. A Your Mom’s Friend’s Name name happens when lots of middle-aged people have a name that no young or old people have.

A few decades after that, Jennifer can look forward to having an Old Lady Name, which happens when a name belongs to lots of old ladies, but no one under 75.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a fact that Jennifer is irreparably branded with her generation forever. Of course, Jennifer is just one of many such names.

In 30 years, the names Natalie, Chelsea, Samantha, and Lindsay will sound how Nancy, Cheryl, Susan, and Linda do today. And in 60 years, the names Ethan, Cody, Brandon, and Matthew will be Earl, Chester, Bernard, and Melvin. These are all just Name Fads—only difference is when they happened.

If you want to know if your name is a fad, type it into the Voyager (not the search field at the top in the orange—the one below where it says “Baby Name >”. If it looks like a witch’s hat, it’s a fad.

So what’s hot right now?

Sophia and Emma in particular are not just sweeping the US, but the whole Western world.

Sophia (or Sofia) is in the Top 6 baby names in Italy, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, and Chile. Emma is Top 6 in Ireland, Finland, Norway, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Emma’s popularity is also clearly caused by a wave of naming after great-grandmothers, another way people sometimes name a child:

To stress how much more popular the biggest names used to be, Mary was six times as popular in 1880 as either Sophia or Emma is now.

And looking at the other top names of 2012 emphasizes just how dead fads are once they’re over:

So to be clear, Gunner and Gael are currently more common baby names than Phillip or Scott. And Lyric, Paisley, and Brooklynn with two n’s are all more common than Lindsay, Caitlin, and Erica. We’re still close enough in time to the red name fads that they seem really common, but they’re actually just fads. And they’re over.

Some other odd fads I observed while researching:

Demographic-related fads

Charlotte has a weird history.

After dying out as a popular name for Southern women a few decades ago, Charlotte has returned as a popular name in the most liberal states. This graph shows popularity in each state over time, with the states going from most conservative on the top to most liberal on the bottom.

So there are a bunch of middle-aged conservative women and liberal toddlers out there named Charlotte.

The only time I ever saw a dead name return in fewer than 80 years is when it caught on with a totally different demographic (Jeremiah is another one of these, which after losing steam in the early nineties in the Northwest, has now gotten hot in the Deep South).

We stole a lot of the hottest current names from Utah.

Here’s the history of the name Brooke:

Utah got into the name in the early 70s by itself, and then suddenly in 1980, everyone else decided to jump on board. The same phenomenon goes for Natalie, Aubrey, Riley (m), Jaxon, Paisley, Braxton, and Lacey. (Yes, those are all popular names right now.) Not sure who made Utah the name prophecy state, but that’s what it apparently is.

We also stole Evelyn from California.

Evelyn’s Popularity Over Time

The popular girl name Reagan is for Republicans. 

Same goes for Braxton, Brooklyn, and Jaxon.

Sophia was originally for the richest states, before it got so popular everyone got into it. Sofia is still for rich states though:

Paige is only for Northerners.

Here’s a map showing where Paige was popular in 2008.

Same goes for Alexa, Kathleen, and Nicole.

Meanwhile, Victor is mainly found in the Southwest, Colton in the middle of the country, Caroline in the East, and both Adrianna and Dominic are mostly contained to New Mexico.

Fads around specific letters or sounds

Names starting with a vowel were hottest now and 100 years ago, while many names starting with consonants were biggest in the middle of the century.

Vowel Names

Consonant Names

And F names are for old people.

Names starting with ERI, LA, and the sound CR all went through fads in the 1970s and 80s. They’re all over now.

There’s a current fad going on for names starting in IS.

People used to copy the president

Genders being dicks

Sometimes one gender is doing its thing, living its life, when one of its names is suddenly stolen by the other gender:

Another case of females committing full-fledged robbery:

Genders also get jealous when the other has too popular a name. Each of the following names has had the other gender in the Top 1,000 during some stretch of the past (click on a name to see its history with the opposite gender).

John, William, James, George, Joseph, Michael, Thomas, David, Frank, Henry, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Margaret.

And now, many of the most popular baby names are popular with both genders, as if each gender can’t handle the other one innovating without being included.

I know a lot about names right now.

I’ll leave you today with this puzzle:

If you liked this post, you’ll probably like these other Wait But Why posts:

How to Pick Your Life Partner

Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate


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  • Anonymous

    This is awesome!
    (First comment)

  • Anonymous

    WOW. That was ridiculously interesting.

    • Anonymous

      (Second comment btw)

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting.

    This made me remember how my wife and I pick up the name for our kids. As we are from Spanish/Italian background living in an English speaking country we wanted our kids name to be easy for these cultures – taking into account than in Spanish and Italian you pronounce the name exactly as it is written. So we prepare a short list of name and we had them tested with friend and people we did not know at all. The ”process’ was something like this, we show the name written to a person a would ask this person how would s/he said that name here in Australia. Well, I realised that a name I did like a lot was pronounce completely differently as it was originally thought. Ultimately we changed that name for another and my kids ended up having a ‘multi-category’ name: being in category 1 for Spanish/Italian people and category 3 for Australia.

    • Anonymous

      Interesting. What’s the name?

  • Anonymous

    [continuing my previous comment, I’d like to add …]

    I read a very good idea one day about baby names (from people that had friends a family giving suggestions on the baby name).

    They said they set up an e/mail address and asked all the friend and family to suggest names for the baby, and people should just send the mane/s to that address for it to be considered – without a need to mention it to the couple – the name being announced once the baby is born.

    Well, did what they said, they announced the name once the baby was born, happing exactly was picture one describes. And the e/mail address was checked.

  • Anonymous

    [following my post on the multi-category names for my kids]

    Well, the monkey and I went to the website to check popularity and just discovered that my kids seem to be in category 1 (for Spain and Italy) and category 2 (weird) for Australia. :-O

    Hopefully they are awesome.


    Big Balls.

  • Anonymous

    What a pity that this website has no data for cyrillic names! Was always wondering if there are fads for my Zoya as it seems to be category 3, but I know hardly anyone with the same name

    • Anonymous

      When I was little (15-20 years ago), Zoya was a typical “granny’s name”, so there must have been a fad 70-80 years ago, at least in Russia :)

    • eastern european anon

      From the corner of Eastern Europe I come from, there most certainly are dated names you associate with older generations, or even of older people of a particularly rural background. My family tree literally has the same names alternate every second generation, until my parent’s generation when a lot of people moved out of the country and discovered more varied names, or even *shock* Western ones.

      The convention of naming after grandparents we have in my culture doesn’t help, it just saddles babies with what are now obscure, hard-to-pronounce names of dead relatives. I guess it wouldn’t have been a big thing generations ago, because those names felt less dated, but now they definitely do.

      Skip forward a few generations and there’s a new dilemma touched upon by other commenters; that of multicultural parents and immigrants wanting to find a name for their children that hopefully reflects their heritage whilst not being impossible to pronounce. My parents worked hard to think of names for us, and found ones that transfer well, yet they’re still written differently in Cyrillic than in English, for all of us. We’ve stuck to the English version, reckoning that if we’re spending our entire life here, it’s easier for us to not explain how to spell our name every. single. time. But if I have kids, I wonder what route I’ll take. I think there’s much more of an acceptance of Eastern European names in the UK now due to immigration than when I was a kid, perhaps my kids would have to do less explaining than I had to…

  • Anonymous

    Love this post! I am obsessed with baby names for some reason right now. My husband and I named our son Declan last year. We chose it because we wanted an Irish name and this one meant something to us as we got engaged while hiking through St. Declan’s hermitage in Ireland. We had no idea it would start trending and one of his coworkers actually named their son Declan a few months before ours was born. We still love it though, even if it is a fad, because it has significance to us. Hopefully he will never hate it.

    • Anonymous

      I like that name!

      • Jake

        Me too. Stealing it!

    • Anonymous

      My parents almost named my brother Declan 17 years ago, but decided that it was probably not the best choice because kids are cruel and they couldn’t help but think of the nickname “Deke the Geek”. Not the being a geek is necessarily a bad thing, but…he ended up being Thomas instead, like my father, and got the middle name Patrick to honor our Irish heritage. I do like the name Declan, though.

  • Noachim

    Some social scientists have done work looking at naming fads and staying power. The article is behind a paywall and a little on the technical side, but definitely interesting for thinking about differences in fad-ish names and those that gradually increase in popularity:

    I also am in the position of having a name (Noah) that was not particularly popular when I was born (1980), but is now #4. So many little Noahs running around. Oof.

  • Erika French

    About 10 years ago, within a 6 month period, I had 3 friends cleverly decide to go with the little-known name of Ainsley. Imagine their horror when I told them about each other. Now it is even more popular… downfall of choice #3!!

  • Anonymous

    I am so glad I subscribed to your email newsletter! This is intensely captivating article! A mini research I would say! I’ve seen so many absolutely ridiculous kids’ names, and this trend is getting more outrageous every year, as if the new parents compete whose kid’s name would sound more “WTF?” on a playground.

  • AwesomelyOZ

    Very fascinating trends on names I guess some people still tried to make Adolph work but received a lot of negative remarks and stares so it phased out – I would like to think this occurrence was exclusive to Germany. My name in 2011 ranked 722 (Ivanna). :) The graphs were a great touch! Have a great one -Iva

    • Anonymous

      From the graph it looks like the name Adolph was declining very rapidly, to the point it would be non-existant by the early 50s, but then some small percentage of the world population decided it was a really good name.

      • Kate

        Maybe those late breaking Adolph’s were named for their grandaddies…

      • Anonymous

        Those particular countries were more than likely to be under fascist rule, which is why Adolph was still in circulation at that time. I have a friend who was born in the 80’s whose first name is Adolpho (His parents are Columbian). He goes by Lewis instead, for obvious reasons…

  • Cat Thrasher

    This is epic. Had a good laugh. Thanks! -Cat

  • Anonymous

    I know two people about to have a child. I need them both to read this immediately. But I’m also worried they’ll already have a name picked and this will expose something bad about it. Hm…….

    Either way, fantastic post!

  • Chris Plumb

    Thank God, Brittany and Ashley are fading away. I’ve never had a good student with either of those names. Just attitude.
    And as a Chris born in 1979, I understand being one of many. Once in a 7th grade class of 27 students, there were 8 (EIGHT) different Chris kids. That poor teacher. My name was FIVE, which I thought was better than Chris-with-a-K.

    • Anonymous

      I was Amy #3. This is why both of my kids have out of the top 100 names.

  • Shan

    Type ‘Adolf’ in the voyager…

    • Anonymous

      Even Adolf spelled wrong seems like an odd thing to name your child in the late 1940s.

  • Anonymous

    Those Adolf parents are in a group called Last Adopters, which may be a sub of Category 2. I wonder how many Adolfs changed their names, and if those name changes are reflected in these results? What do you choose after Adolf? I’m grateful that your monkey has spent so much time at Voyager, now mine doesn’t have to…um, gotta go.

  • Anonymous

    Oh lord, Wait But Why is amazing week after week. Congrats (again!)

  • Anonymous

    Ok. Now I love your posts but HOW IN THE NAME OF ZEUS did you not include black names in this hot mess?!

    • Anonymous

      That’s what the “La” trend was about… what else could ‘Laq’ be?? 😉

    • Anonymous

      The LA section is all black names.

  • Anonymous

    What about naming after celebrities?? I suspect a huge correlation with Emma Watson’s popularity, for example.

    • Anonymous

      And I thought of Emma, Racheal and Ross’ baby in friends.

  • Anonymous

    We’re all about phonetically-spelled names (or made-up names) in Australia. And hyphens. As in Tay-ya, De-Lanee, Jaxson, Reebekka. Mackswell. It’s pretty awful.

    • Anonymous

      Reebekka. Australian for Rebecca.

    • EE anon

      I find these names really difficult. It means having to ask how people spell even a common name, because that particular common name can have, like 5 spellings.

      I get the desire to ‘prove’ your squidy baby is the best thing ever, but I’m a spelling pedant, so to me, gratuitously misspelled names are just painful. Also, a lot of my friends and family speak English second language, so it’s hard enough for them to spell Amy, but learning that it can be written Aimee, Aimae, Amie, Eymie, Ehmi, the list can be endless!

      Yes, there are lots of ‘variant’ names based on the same name in different languages – so Catherine or can become Katerina, or ekaterina, etc , but these names are still normally based on a spelling standard within their language. Imagine if parents in every language cared as little for spelling as English speakers seem to! Learning foreign names can be hard (and I say this as someone of immigrant heritage), so having to learn a million variations on a simple, common name on top of that feels silly.

      Ironically, I find it easier if people just name their kid Merlin, or Summer, or Daffodil, or Eisenhower, or Prudence, because these are still words, with spellings that you can normally guess.

      As someone who’s had to spell their name because of transliteration differences between my mother tongue and English, I know it’s frustrating when you have to spell your name, and chose to keep the Anglicised version for my sanity. Why would someone name their kid Sarah only to inflict a lifetime of having to spell out ‘S-C-A-I-R-A-G-H’?!?! Madness.

    • Peggy

      I know someone name Le-ia. It’s pronounced “Leh-DASH-ia”. Stop trying to be “kreaytiv.” Le-ia’s always embarrassed by her name, poor girl.

      • Leah

        I have always heard that someone knows someone who has a Le-a or Le-ia in a classroom, but have never heard someone who actually knew the person first hand. How old is your acquaintance?

  • ladyorion

    I know what you mean about old person names–never thought about the fad-ness of it. My mother was a Martha and I have an Aunt Bertha. I have a fad name, and the thought of being an old person name some day saddens me. All of my names (including my married name) are intensely popular. At least it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. =)

  • Anonymous

    Your blogs bring a smile to my face. It’s like reading my own thoughts, but you always manage to make them more interesting and funnier. I wait eagerly for Tuesday and have also gotten two of my friends addicted to it. Thank you for coming out of Dark Playground to start this blog. Kudos!!

  • Anonymous


  • Michelle Mendes

    Interesting post but I challenge anyone to beat my grandmother’s imagination for names. My aunties got Neiva and Rosemary, my uncle was named Moesio, but my granny saved the best to the end, my mum’s name is Eurideia.

    Well, considering my granny was called Rocilda, I can’t blame her.

    I’m just glad my mum didn’t carry on with the ‘tradition’ :)

    And better being a fad than sorry!

    • Wait But Why

      Done. I’m naming my children Moesio and Rocilda.

  • C-Min

    Two additional sweet graphics on the topic:

    Especially for the girls, lots of examples of one state leading the charge on a new name before the rest of the country catches on.

  • Eva

    I enjoy reading your blogs :)
    Just an interesting comparison: in Slovenia (where I’m from) Emma was No6 baby name in 2011 – it’s spelled Ema in Slovenian, though.
    I look forward to more posts …

  • Anonymous

    The charts with presidential names don’t look so much like people imitating the president so much as that name being instantly ruined, and going into immediate decline.

  • Sonya

    Thanks for your amazing work. Now I see big picture) Really interesting

  • Anonymous

    I had my first baby in July so have spent most of the year a bit obsessed with names – the first half looking for a great name that hasn’t been overused or the name of a shitty child I have taught, and the second half scouring sites to check that her name isn’t turning into a Category 3 fad. And that her name isn’t used by the next celebrity parents to have a kid. So far it’s not… long may it last. And I wish Adolf/Adolph wasn’t a no-go name now, it rocks! I would totally name a son Adlof if it weren’t for the social stigma he would carry for life.

    • Anonymous

      what’s her name?

  • Anonymous

    This was awesome! What a great job!

  • Anonymous

    Love love love. By the way, did you recently break up with someone, waitbutwhy? …Sour patch kids at 2 am.. Jack dating Today.. 10 kinds of single guys.. Being 32 and surrounded by baby makers.. just a female intuition here. I could be wrong. But if so, don’t be sad, she obviously sucks and your readers are TOTALLY on your side.

    • Wait But Why

      No I’m actually just a weird dude. No good explanation unfortunately.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting! Took me a while to figure out that what looks like a name dropping all the way to zero is really just a name dropping out of the top 1000. Once it is no longer in the top 1000, I think it appears as zero on the plots. So the “fad-name peak” distributions actually have longer tails to them than appear in the plots.


    Emily is great. It doesn’t have a peak; it has a plateau. Being born in the early 80s, even though I have a fad name I won’t feel the effects for a long time, like when I’m ancient it will still be considered a “mom’s friend” name.

  • Alisa

    Thanks for the great post! You REALLY love the voyager thing. What do you think about siblings all kind of “matching” each other? We have a Natalie, Hannah, and Emily (all traditional) but our fourth girl we are thinking of naming Cambry. Is a sudden trendier name ok within the same family? I don’t think it matters too much because once the childhood years are over, the women will be on their own and it won’t matter what the siblings’ names are….
    I am always trying to explain the “Middle Aged Name” and “Old Person Name” to people but you put it way better here.

    • Carol

      We have three daughters, Camryn, Ryanne (pronounced Ryan) and Devan.
      When I was pregnant with the last one, it was obvious to us that we had to find something a little less traditional. Who would want to be the only one with (to them what would seem like) a boring name?

      Also, once you have girls and give them traditionally boys names, you can’t name the third one Something very feminine.

      For me anyway, I like the idea of having “matching” names, or at least similar in feeling.

  • Anonymous

    Totally true on the generational name thing. Think of Edith, Rose, Betty and Patricia. All great names describing old ladies. I kind of hate the trend for “uniqueness” in today’s baby names. There seems to be some kind of disconnect with history going on with people. When did people decide that the name for a grassland ecosystem was a good thing to name their daughter, apologies to all Savannahs thus blessed. My prediction for the next big boy’s name trend: Nelson.

    • Bart Simpson


  • swopna

    I like the idea themed “A” family. You know what guys,
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  • Anonymous

    Is it possible that Utah is a leader in baby naming because they have such a high birth rate in the state?

    • Sonny

      There was a good Baby Name Wizard article about why more liberal states favor traditional names and conservative states are more trendy. Her conclusion was that the main difference is that conservative women have children younger, and that young moms are more likely to choose the newest fad name.

      Since so many Mormons get married in their late teens and early twenties, it makes sense that the names that are hot in Utah would hit other states a few years later.

  • Anonymous

    It seems that many of the presidents names were already getting popular in their time, so it creates a chicken and egg argument. Did people name their kids after presidents, or were the presidents simply named one of the names popular at that time in history.
    Another interesting one I have wondered about before is the name “Errol” which I think of as a name for an old man. I think people may have named their kid after Errol Flynn, because the swashbuckler movie star was born in 1909 which precedes the peek in the popularity of “Eerol” in the population 20 years later in the 1930s.

    • Vanessa Amundson

      I had your same thought at first about the president’s names, because they do slowly get more popular, but they definitely PEAK during the time in office…

  • Mary

    After looking at my family tree I had a theory that girls names beginning with “Z” were very popular in the years between about 1900-1920. I did wonder if it might be something to do with wanting to appear modern. The Voyager tool does bear this out as there was a noticeable rise in names like Zelda, Zola, Zelma, Zena, Zetta, Zorka around that time.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, he missed an alarming trend – Twi-hards having babies, and naming them for characters in the “Twilight” books. Both ‘Bella’ and ‘Emmett’ are currently spiking, and Jacob is is rebounding from a previously-downward trend. (Oddly, ‘Edward’ does not seem to be experiencing the same effect.)

    I caught on to this phenomenon only after we named our son. We chose a family name, Emmett. But I now fear a future conversation of the topic, “Mom, Dad – did you name me after a f@$&ing tween vampire!?”

    • Sonny

      I actually think this happened the other way around – that Stephanie Meyer named the characters based on current naming trends. Most of the character names were already rising before Twilight.

    • Sonny

      I forgot to add that Edward, one of the most famous characters, isn’t trendy now at all. It doesn’t sound “cute” or “fresh” the way Bella, Emmett, Jacob etc. do.

      And, thank god, no one seems to be naming their kid Reneesmee.

      • Ghoti

        Maybe it doesn’t make the US name stats pages, but in England and Wales there were 9 Renesmees in the most recent list and it’s on the rise every year

        • EE anon

          Now THAT’s just disturbing lol

  • Jennifer Dean

    Ahhhhh! I’m a fad name and will soon be an old lady name! Not good! But definitely can see the fad-iness of my name now and always knew that to be the case since there were 5 of us Jennifer’s in my classes all through my school years! I remember asking my mom how she came up with my name and she said my dad did because it was the name of a hurricane at the time! Yikes!
    I didn’t name my kids after any mega storms but have them very regal sounding traditional names that they could use later in life, but still had the ability to be shortened into a hip nickname for their younger years. So for instances my oldest being Victoria with a nickname of Tori. So the is flexibility for her! The same for my other children, and it had worked out well:-)
    Have always been interested in names and so freaky enjoyed this post! Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      My oldest daughter is named Jennifer (pre-Love Story which is what set off the massive rush to the name) and her oldest daughter is Victoria/Tori. Coincidence? Her second is Elizabeth/Lizzie–same reasoning you used, a good solid adult name and a good nickname as well.
      I also have an over-40 daughter named Caitlin. She will tell you she’s the oldest Caitlin you’ll ever meet!

  • Anonymous

    In my first year as a doctor in 2009, I came across several Seymours in the ER, all of them kindly but frail octa- and nonagenarians, most of whom unfortunately succumbed to the illnesses that got them hospitalized. At the time, my colleagues and I remarked it seemed like the world was slowly losing all of its Seymours, and this data explained my observations. No Seymours left these days.

  • Anonymous

    This is hilarious and solidifies me not liking “Reagan” anymore. It is too popular as well, LOL!

  • Kelly

    I’d like to add a #5 option: Use a name that suffered the fate of #4 from a previous generation, but is not common anymore. Examples: Naming a modern girl Amy or Nancy, or a boy Eric or Francis.

    Benefits: Your child will probably be the only one in his/her class with the name, while still being familiar to everyone and considered a “normal” name by the general population.
    Drawbacks: Your child may feel the name “ages” him/her and feel awkward when everyone they know with the name is much older than them, and others may likewise assume they’re older from the name. On the other hand, if the name gets revived like Emma or Grace down the road, then he/she will then experience having a name in old age that marks the person as younger than they are.

    (I know someone with a college-age daughter named Linda who did this – so far the results have been mostly positive.)

    • Brendan

      My name suggestion for that #5 category suggestion would be Gary. I find that name to be pretty classic without sounding too old-manish. I discovered at one point that I had never known anyone under the age of 30 named Gary, which seemed weird because it doesn’t sound like a Walter or Howard. Later on, I would befriend someone a few years younger than me named Gary so the life streak was broken.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t name my kid Gary but it sounds like a totally perfect suggestion for your #5 category as one of those names that inexplicably dropped off the name planet i.e. top 500.

    • EE anon

      I like to think that once a name has become so old, some of them are beyond dating you and now in a trendier place. There’s no danger of a 2 year old Violet or Alfred being mistaken for a 90-year-old, so there’s potential there for hipster parents who want to pick a name that’s unusual, but is actually still an established, respected name (and not a surname masquerading as a name or some random noun lol), because it’s existed recently enough that it doesn’t feel ancient and strange.

      • Katie

        That probably explains the great grandchild spikes as opposed to grandchild name repetitions. “Judith, Nancy” etc are names that remind us of real life old people, but names like Winifred and Alfred and Bartholomew are that generation back so they don’t seem dated but more like romantic and from a bygone era, hence the spike in popularity two generations later!

    • Jewdiful

      My name is Judy, I’m 25 and I love it. I still look like a highschooler, I’m a quarter-century old and I have a older lady, vintage name. I like that it’s somehow both traditional and unique.

      • Emily #27189748

        Your name kicks ass! I love it. So much sass to it.

  • Kelly

    I’ve also noticed an interesting pattern with unisex names and “red/blue” states: In many cases they’re more common – for both genders – in the Republican-leaning areas (your first instincts might lead you to believe otherwise). The “sexism” of using these names for girls but not for boys is most prevalent in the Northeast (and more conformity with boy’s names in general is larger there as well).

  • Anonymous

    That 1980 stripe for Brooke doesn’t just coincide with the 1980 Romance Blockbuster “The Blue Lagoon” starring Brooke Shields? Any more examples for famous name patron peaks other than presidents?

    Also ist there something like an over-popularity/trademark effect? After Shirley Temple’s peak of success in 1934 the name got apprently less generic since it got to accociated with a typecasting effect to temple? Ist there such a thing as typecasting for names?

    • Katie

      Interesting theory! One could imagine that if someone becomes incredibly famous, parents would be worried about using the same name for fear that other people would assume they had lamely named their child after a celebrity.

  • Anonymous

    Unknown cycle… when it is going to be back again?

  • Goneril H.

    I named all three of my children Frank.

  • Julie

    Ok theory on Charlotte — it’s all because the popularity of Charlotte York, a main character on Sex & the City!!

    • Calvin Philips

      Haha I was reading it and imagined this occurring:
      1880s-~1940s: “Wow! The name Charlotte is so perfect!”
      1950s-early 1990s: “Meh. So old-fashioned.”
      Writers of SATC at the show’s inception: “We need a name for a super old-fashioned character. How about Charlotte?”
      Writers of SATC today: “Goodness; our entire fanbase is having kids now.”

      • Sarah

        !!! I Sarah Post This Testimony Coz Am Pregnant Thanks To Dr.Ukaka

        My name is Sarah Valdez my partner and I have been trying for a baby for over two years now, We were going to a fertility clinic for about 5 months before somebody told us to contact this spell caster who is so powerful, We contacted him at this email; , for him to help us, then we told him our problem, he told us that we will either conceive in February 2014 or March 2014,but after two years of trying we were at a point where we were willing to try anything. And I’m glad we came to Dr Ukaka, Because his pregnancy spell cast put us at ease, and I honestly believe him, and his gods really helped us as well, I am thankful for all he has done. contact him via email: if you are trying to get a baby or want your lover back. he has powers to do it, he has done mine,

    • Anonymous

      I’m 43 and was used to being the only Charlotte while growing up in the northeast. Was named after a great-great grandmother. Now I know several much younger Charlottes here in the southeast. I used to hate my name (my friends were mostly Jennifers, Amys, Michelle, etc.) but grew to appreciate having a “unique” but not bizarre name!

  • Amanda Waters

    Going super weird is probably the riskier thing you could ever do in terms of building a healthy relationship with your boy / girl. Nobody wants their kids to hate them when they grow up and have everyone teasing them about their names. My favorite choices are always “safe”, for example something among these popular baby names for 2014: Karter, Kendrick or King (apparently K- starting baby names will be hot in 2014 as reports). My all time favorite is Adelynn though, sweet and cute, ideal for pretty baby girls!

    Loved all the analysis, it was an awesome post…

    Many thanks and wish you all the best for 2014 !!!
    Amanda xx

  • Jase

    Fascinating article. Check out “Jase” when you have a chance. I call this the Duck Dyansty Effect (DDE). Didn’t even register the decade I was born. Off the charts since 2012. DDE.

  • Deb

    Debra (spelled in a couple of ways) and Jacqueline (also spelled in different ways) were big when I was growing up. I’m a Deb and I had a good friend named Deb and 2 Jackies. When we were in college, guys would never believe us and we would have to show them our licence. I haven’t heard either of these names in years until a couple of years ago a young pastor and his wife named their daughter, Deborah from the bible in our town. Also, there isn’t a lot of Jennifers but I have heard a lot of Jennas lately….

  • Lola Rogers

    As far as the Adolph phenomenon, my theory is that since the name was a popular one but decreasing in popularity due to natural shifts, people still used it for a while because it was still a common one and the sound of it reminded one of lots of other people besides Hitler. People still name their kids Joseph, in spite of Stalin (although I’d be curious to check the stats for that in Eastern Europe), because there are tons of other Josephs we can think of.

    • Lulu

      Lola, that was my theory too!

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  • Jake

    What an article! This was riveting—names are so interesting but I’ve never seen them broken down so visually before. I also didn’t know that I have the most popular baby name. Weird.

    • Jake

      Agreed re: Jake. Who knew? Great article!

  • Anonymous

    Best blog I think I have EVER read! Something you might want to post about it the popularity of parents naming their kids after the father making him a jr. I’m sure it must have been common for a long time but just from the 80’s (my age group) alone I know so many jr.s. I like to tease my husband that his mother just wasn’t creative enough to come up with a name of her own for her kids because him, his brother and step brother are all jr.s. As well as all my first born male cousins. My husband is fortunate enough to be Harold jr at age 29 :D…. so to re-cap, seriously a great read thanks!!!

    P.S. I have three boys Jacob Connor (2009) Tucker Mason (2011) and soon to be Chase ______ March of this year… any suggestions on a middle name 😉

    • Anonymous

      Perhaps Markum for a middle name? Or Marcus?

  • V

    Really interesting article, thanks for pulling this all together!

    “Name your daughter after a queen and she will rise to queenly stature” is what my mother told me (my name is Victoria) and despite trying Tori and Vicki (and now I prefer to sign things Vik or V) and have never liked my name since it’s neither ballsy enough nor conformist enough. I named my daughters gender-neutral names (or at least they will be in a few years) because my mom always used her initials in business and I liked the concept of not being gender-biased before meeting. Both girls like their names (though one of them in elementary was often “girl Ryan” or “Ryan Ann” because so many other boy Ryans were in here classes). Both also have one of their great-grandmother’s names in the middle (including Winifred for my oldest) and they like that connection.

    I like the trend toward uniqueness and don’t think it’s new. As a genealogist, I’ve found some really odd names on my tree (Deidamia I think is the oddest, but my great-grandmother’s name, “Opal Valley” is still a favorite). The uniqueness often makes it easy to find connections more easily (ala husband’s ancestor “Haven”). The opposite (James and June) continues to cause problems because there are so many in the same town that I’ve hit a brick wall.

    • EE anon

      I love the names in your family! I wish my ancestors were so original. As far back as I can trace my tree (and given shoddy Eastern European record-keeping, that’s not far), everyone shares the same 10 or so names, often repeating every couple of generations. Ugh. Nice enough names in their way, but very much a thing of their time and place so much so that even with my penchant for older names or names that reflect my ethnicity I probably wouldn’t consider them for my children. Having a ‘foreign’ name is one thing, having a near-impossible to pronounce, peasant granny name is something else entirely!

    • Mother of Rianna

      Exactly! RYAN is a BOY’s name! “Ryan” is Gaelic/Irish for “little king”. NOT little queen. Just like you are experiencing, from my quick research, anyone who names their daughter the boy’s name ‘Ryan’ is sure to set them up for confusion. Try a variant, like “Rianna”, etc.

      I literally just had a baby girl and was filling out the birth certificate form when I came across this information, and I am changing the name of my daughter to something else so that people will not start calling her a boy’s name. RYAN is for BOYS!

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  • Elizabeth

    This really was a fun post to read, including the comments. One thing parents searching for the perfect name ought to be aware of is the hassle they are letting their kids in for when they call them something other than what they are named. Not normal nicknames like Liz for Elizabeth, or Rob for Robert, but calling them by their middle name, for example. My husband and I both go by our middle names; he doesn’t mind it, but it causes all kinds of confusion in my life! Then again, I think it may be worse to be called something totally unrelated to your given name. A relative of mine goes by Steve, (from his last name, Stevens) but so do all the other men in his family! I have a cousin called Scooter – yes, by everyone, and another called Skip. Craziness ..

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  • Tracy

    This is truly fascinating! Upon a Voyager trip with my own name, I discovered that Tracy (f) was “like, SO OVER” in 1982 when my parents gave me that name, but turns out my Mother named me Tracy after one of her favorite students, who would have been born in the late ’60s or early ’70s when Tracy was wildly popular. I for one am glad – I was always the only Tracy in my class!

  • morganya

    I’m also a bit of a name geek and love the Name Voyager – and our first is due any day now. I also have a gender-neutral name, and I have to say, it’s actually been incredibly useful. When I majored in computer science, I could often safely predict that others who had only seen my name would assume I was male until I walked in the room, and wouldn’t form any sexist preconceptions about me (“I bet her boyfriend does her homework,” “she’s only here because of affirmative action,” etc. were all things I heard often enough) ahead of time. It got me in the door for interviews and other opportunities much more often than other women in the program, something I’m happy about for my personal benefit but very very sorry for on a societal level, because it’s just another indicator that sexism is still pretty darn rampant.

    But I do really appreciate the ability to hide my gender when I want to, and to subtly de-emphasize its importance day-to-day. We’re planning to name our first – boy or girl (we’re waiting to find out) – a gender-neutral name as well, and I promote them to all of my friends (though nobody has actually followed my advice yet ;)).

    Just some food for thought and a different perspective about being a so-called “dick” about gender, as you put it.

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  • “Calling All Isabellas”

    I used to work for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They have a program where if you are named Isabella, you can visit the museum for free, anytime, indefinitely. Way back when they started this program the name Isabella was very unusual. Then – BOOM – the name exploded and every 10th little baby girl in metro Boston was named Isabella. To their credit the Gardner has continued to offer this nice deal for anyone named Isabella.

  • Anonymous

    what’s “super weird” about Winter that isn’t remotely weird about Summer or Autumn? *scratches head*

  • Barbara P

    My great grandmother was named Barbara before it became really popular, and then I was named after her when the popularity had declined sharply. So SHE got to have a “young lady” name, and I got the “old lady” name. Hmph.

    • Guest

      The nickname for Bar-bar-a (roll your rrrr’s) in Polish is Basia (rhymes with Russia)…now that’s a bit too new age to be old lady 😉

  • FitAndFabBy40

    I think the author missed one more category…. Naming a kid a “safe” and “conventional” name and giving the name an unconventional spelling. I have a friend who will forever be “Stephanie with an F” (Stefanie) — and another friend who is “Jennifer with a ‘G’ in front and only 1 ‘N'” (Genifer) These kids turned adults have such a hard time with their names — and it’s getting SO old.

  • Matt

    This is really fascinating stuff. I’m particularly amazed that names have switched genders so fluidly and completely over time. For my own take on the name game, have a look at “A Boy without a Name.”
    It might make you see things in a whole new light. Cheers!

  • spencer

    spencer has to be the boy name of 1996? they are all around me..

  • Alejandro (México)

    Fantastic piece of work.
    I assume that my name “Alejandro” has gone all coo coo since lady gaga … Bitch haha

  • BMJpHA0f

    214775 163666Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch! 686744

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  • Who called my name?

    I am a 35 year old Sofia! Needless to say I didn’t meet another Sofia until my college years! Now, I am constantly hearing people yell my name, everywhere! I didn’t realize how nice it was to NOT have a fad name until it became a fad. I will share a name with my daughter’s friends I guess.

    • Jessica G.

      I feel your pain completely. I was the only Jessica I knew until I was 10. Then Bam! the Jessica era arrived. Now it’s dying. I can’t decide which is/was worse: Having the too common, fad name or the yesterday’s news name.

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  • Dana

    I LOVE data and I think this is great fun but I disagree with your statement that people copy the names of the presidents… all the images you show have a convenient point near the time of the presidency, but in fact the trends had been building to that point for some time, and they all head downward soon after (and even before in some cases)… I think the fads were just running their natural course. If people were really naming kids after presidents there would be a significant spike immediately AFTER the start of the presidency. None of the images reflect this.

    • wobster109

      Actually they might. You know how if you go to the site and hover over the graph, it will show you the ranking by year? Before 2000, it’s all by decade. So the “building up” is just connecting the dots by decade.

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  • Yolanda

    In point 2) you write, “If the kid isn’t awesome, the whole thing is awkward; If you were just in a phase and made a compulsive decision”. I think you meant to say impulsive. Compulsive doesn’t really make much sense in this context.

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  • wobster109

    I have a guess for Adolph. People naming babies not after Hitler, but after their grandfather Adolph. Later on it dies out because after a while, fewer people have a grandfather Adolph.

    • Happiest Horn

      Absolutely! I have some Adolphs, Rudolphs, Friedrichs, etc. as great uncles, born in the 1880’s and 90’s. Adolph surfaced as a middle name for a few. And my grandfather’s given middle name at birth was Friedrich, but he wrote it Frederick by the time he was in his 20’s.

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  • Brooke

    As a Brooke born in ’78 in Utah…I am glad to see I am just part of some larger trend. As always a very interesting and fun article that has been part of my dark playground this morning. Thanks!

  • Natalie

    You’re actually wrong about Natalie being a fad name, if we are to use the criteria suggested of typing it into this website, and seeing a witch’s hat. Natalie is actually still widely used for young girls today, so its use hasn’t tapered it off enough to make it a ‘grandmother’s’ name on par with ‘Linda,’ etc.

    Just found it interesting that you’d include the name when it doesn’t fit the mold you listed–maybe a bit more fact-checking next time would be prudent?

    Natalie, obviously.

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  • Mark

    Love love love this post. Funny, thorough, well-researched, fascinating. Thanks for putting in the time.

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  • rosemary

    just name it

  • Jonathan

    I was named Jonathan in 1947. I rarely encountered namesakes and appreciated having a conventional but unusual name – until sometime after 1980.

    I was reading a magazine in a grocery store when a young woman said forcefully, “Jonathan! Put that down and come with me right now!” I was puzzled until I noticed a young boy playing with something from the toy rack behind me. He was the first of a deluge. I was surrounded by them in the ’90s, so I was known as “Old Jonathan” then.

    We named our first daughter Sarah in 1976. She told me after she finished college that she had never been in a class without at least one other Sarah. Was that because of the maid from “Upstairs, Downstairs”? The Fleetwood Mac song came later. Any other ideas?

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  • John

    Shouldn’t the graph y axis be the percentage of names in order to normalize for the reported births.

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  • Emma Darwin

    This is so fascinating! And I’m intrigued by the difference on the two sides of the Atlantic. Emma is the peak baby name in the US, now, following on from great-grandmothers in the 1890s.

    Whereas in the UK it was a peak baby name in the 1960s (Guess why my username is usally EmmaD? Five in my year at school alone …), like me, named after our great grannies in the 1830s. And my sister is named Sophia!

  • Dolph

    The media killed Adolph off completely.

  • Katie

    UUUGHH totally thought we were a category 3 with our name choices and just typed them into voyager and low and behold we are right at the beginning of a huge spike in popularity. Must be the great grandchild trend happening. Tears.

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  • Jane

    I got incredibly lucky with my name. Thanks mom & dad! You’d think Jane would be pretty popular since “Jane Doe” and “John Doe,” but I’ve never met another Jane and people tell me they love my name all the time. Simple and classic. There’s somewhat of an association with Jane and older women, but I’ve never minded. Love my name.

    • Sarah

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  • Sabreen

    It gets significantly more complicated when you come from an immigrant background (South Asian & Muslim). Some names are Category #2 for the average American, but Category #1 for Arabic speakers and/or Muslims. As long as the name is easy to say and doesn’t have unfortunate implications, I think it’s fine.

    I like my name. It’s unique. Most people just assume it’s a variant of Sabrina.

    • Dženan Zukić

      While my name is easy to read for Slavic speakers and easy to recognize by Arabic speakers when spoken (جنان), in English it belongs to class 2 squared (class 2, and then some)!

      • Shayan

        Dženan, is your name pronounced “Je-non”? I can read Arabic. My name is South Asian and everybody always thinks it’s pronounced as “Cheyenne”. I can’t fit my name in any category, but I don’t care because my name is awesome!

        • Dženan Zukić

          Using English spelling rules, Jennaan Zookich would be probably the closest to what my parents envisaged, but the first name’s spelling is super-weird and confusing for an American 😀

          Anyway, I will not change my name now, so pondering options is useless 😉

  • Peter

    Very nice information in details. Choosing name is not so easy. Have to brainstorm. I picked a name for my 3 months baby Linda from

  • LaDawn Davis

    Very interesting. My interest was especially piqued by Utah as the prophetic name state since my name is particularly Utahn. I wonder if it’s because their family size tended to be 3-6 kids so they had name choice 1 and 2, but also 3 and 4 actually getting assigned to people. Utah families are shrinking to more 2-4 kids typically. I wonder if that means they’ll lose their prophetic status.

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that the presidents were elected based on the then-current innocent baby-sweetness of their names.

  • Ashley

    If I have a son, I’ll name him Joe. If I have a daughter, I’ll name her Margret. I want to stay timeless.☺

  • Mike_NL

    Surprised to see that Michael or Mike was not in one of the top lists mentioned by you. I’ve always been around a lot of Mike’s and Michael’s.. every class and every job I had there was at least 1 or 2 other Mike/Michael’s.

    I still feel special though :p

  • Claire

    That was actually really interesting! We went with names we liked without paying too much attention or getting invovled in the #s, though I did look at them. Now I see that the “IS” names are becoming popular and my son, Isaac, is 4.5. Guess it cannot be avoided!

  • The monkey took over

    Tryied the name Adolf in the baby name wizard, I was not surprised it kind of plummeted around 1940’s XD.

    • NextDoorNonna

      I read these stats differently, not a surprise Adolf plummeted as expected after WWII but that it persisted at all. Probably a tribute by fascist sympathizers and sins of the father stuff.

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  • Myra

    I have a theory for the Adolph thing: Hitler’s name was spelled Adolf, not Adolph, so perhaps some still thought it acceptable to give their child that name since it wasn’t the *exact* same as Hitler.

  • Karina

    My name is a category 3. My older sister is named Charlotte, which was a category 3 when she was born but is now becoming a category 4. I love my category 3 name because when I introduce myself people are like, “What a pretty name!” This probably wouldn’t happen if my name was more common, since people would already have heard the name ten thousand times. And if I had a totally weird name (category 2), and I introduced myself, the response would likely be “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” So if you want people to tell your daughter she has a pretty name, pick a name from category 3.

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  • Baakus

    I’m naming my kids John and Mary. Take that, fads.

    • Daria

      I’m naming mine Beavus and Butthead.

  • skallagrim

    Nice post!
    An interesting trending trend in some countries over the last 10-15 years is that names with local characters are disappearing since they don’t work in online communication (especially in email addresses). For example names with å ä ö ø ü in Scandinavia and Germany.

    • Dženan Zukić

      I myself am affected by that. That’s why my children will have name easily pronounceable and non-problematically written in English.

  • SteveB

    I just started reading and this is an excellent site (and articles.) I am usually subject to the whims of the monkey and several times as I was starting to get distracted I could scroll down and see that you already anticipated my distraction and documented. It feels like I am wandering all over the Internet on loosely connected thoughts without having to leave a single article (a newly self-satisfied procrastinator!)

  • Lori

    My daughter was born in 2003 and my husband (a huge LOTR fan) wanted to name her Arwen. I held out for Anna, and that’s what we named her instead. So glad we didn’t go with Arwen! Anna is a name that kinda sorta fits in the first category (classic and timeless) but isn’t too popular. That’s exactly what we were going for.

    • Tiffany

      …and the frozen happened…
      PS. I am a kid with a middle-aged name D:

  • Jacob

    I’m in a weird situation. In my country, my name is one of the timeless ones, with a more or less steady popularity during the last 300 years. But then, 10-20 years after my birth, it suddenly became a huge fad name in the USA, where it used to be uncommon. This means that in only a few years, in the US, I will be an adult with a kid name (like people called Noah trying to be taken seriously). And in a few decades, in the whole English-speaking world, I will be a middle-aged man with a young-person name (imagine someone called “Brooke” running for office). Then I’ll be an old person with a middle-aged name, which I guess is okay.
    And my parents are not to blame for any of this.

    • Jebediah

      If it helps, I always think of Noah as an old-man name because of the Bible, no matter the age of the person who has it.

  • Jennifer

    Well, being one of the zillions of Jennifers in the world (and having my name used as one of the examples), I read this a while back (and now again) feeling kind of bummed out. I’ve never appreciated my name because no matter where I was my entire life, there were always at least three other people with the same name. My mom told me that the name wasn’t even that popular when I was born but not long afterward, two things happened: a popular soap opera character had the name and then some popular commercial came out with a song about a baby named “Jenny.” Suddenly the entire USA was naming their kid that. By time I was two, there were so many Jen/Jenny/Jennifers, it was like an epidemic more than a trend. So my mom asked me if I’d like to change my name, just to something different but still similar, like Jenna. Being the little bitchy toddler I was, I responded, “my name is Jennifer and that’s what you’ll call me.”
    To this day I wish I had changed it. Sighhhhhh.

    • Ingrid

      Don’t beat yourself up. Most toddlers don’t want unique names. I didn’t, even though my mom tried hard to let me know how special she thought I was. And then, around age 8, I loved it. My 16 year old daughter, who now loves her unusual but not outlandish name, spent ages 3-6 wishing her name was Sarah.

    • Encryption

      It’s not too late to change it now. I think its popularity spike was from the book and movie, Love Story.

  • Alexander

    Read aloud the name of the baby in a focused group containing 10 children with an age range of 7-10 years of age.
    If any of them laugh, don’t use that name.

    • Earl Halfabee

      That’s how I decided against the name Turd Ferguson.”

    • mahbarzin

      Hi Alex. Good technique, is used. I always in the classroom, cautiously, I use names.تور چین

  • Nicholas

    I got a name that was immensely popular in the 1990’s, but I prefer being called a name what was popular in the 1910’s (Nick). I’ll stick with the older one 😀

  • Megan

    I’m a pre-k teacher. Between my two small SPED classes and the two regular ed classes next door, we had 47 kids at the beginning of the year. I believe 17 if them had a name ending in the ‘uh’ sound (Jaleigha, Zy’Nasia, Jeremiah, Josiah, Katarina, etc.). I wonder how much of a trend that is?

  • Brennan

    I love my name, even if I often have to correct others that there’s no ‘D’. The Utah thing is easily explainable: Mormons have weird names. It’s just by chance that some go on to become fads. I had a roommate named Desert. All of his siblings were named after geological features. A sister named Maysa, brother named Rydge. His father is named Vally, so I guess that’s where it comes from.

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  • shadii

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  • sarvenaz

    The main role of parents is to give the best name for your child. Thank you for good information.
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  • nitya

    Thanks for re-sending this post, Tim! This was the first time I read it and I enjoyed it a lot!

    Not sure if other readers have said this (I’m thinking some probably have), but I’gm wild guessing that the reason the name Charlotte came back from the fad was due to a popular TV Series which I think is mostly enjoyed by liberal women called Sex and The City. The show started at 1998 and that name started to resurfaced in 2000.

    Just a guess.

    Thanks again for the interesting post! I don’t have kids and not planning to have one anytime soon, but really found the post fascinating AND funny!

  • HartAttack87

    My personal favorite fad name in recent years is Khaleesi. Largely because most of the parents that deemed it a great pick for a name didn’t pay enough attention to catch the character’s actual name, Daenerys.

    • PatriciaINS

      My cousin named her daughter Khaleesi Daenerys. Everyone calls the kid Dani–and my cousin an idiot.

    • mehrazar

      Hi Hart. Khaleesi, what does it mean?کرکره برقی

  • Marta

    Can I just say that your reference to the dark playground while I’m on it reading this article is just annoying. Much thanks, back to work now! :)

    • sofia

      Hello, Marta. Why do you think such negative? Why playground dark??? I do not think this much this article be annoying!!سایپا

  • Lizzie Miller

    I never had a problem with people saying anything negative about either of my kids. Both their names were announced when their genders were announced. No one ever said a thing. So while I imagine some people have heard flack after announcing a name before a child is born, otherwise why would the stigma exist, it was never my experience. The closest thing was the question of my son’s middle name being frank, but I felt the same way. And explaining it was a family name, including his father’s middle name, generally quieted the naysayers. Personally my kids having their name cemented before they were born at least for us helped make them part of the family from the start. I’d you like a name, it’s your kid, go with it and stop worrying about any ones reaction. They can name their own kids.

  • PatriciaINS

    I was born in 1966, which was apparently the year of Patricia’s last hurrah as a popular name. However, I was named for my aunt, who was born in 1930 as the name was gaining popularity. If I meet a young person named Patricia, which is pretty rare, she’s almost always named after a relative. I went to school with one other Patricia–we were both nicknamed Patty but my mom spelled mine Patti–but almost every other Patricia I’ve met has been at least ten years older than me. I’m also one of the few who uses my full name; most are either Pat, Patty, Trish or Tricia.

  • Madame Blue

    l’m Bobbi, and apparently it was a small fad in the 1970’s; I was born in 1967 and I’ve met a handful of others. My kids, Nicholas and Alexandra, were born in the early 90’s, the same time that interest in the Romanovs rekindled. We chose the names based on our favorites, though. The Russian thing was purely coincidental.

  • jessie

    i’m slightly, unhealthy also obsessed with names and this just made my day. thanks for that! :)

    my parents named me Jessie (not jessica) so everyone assumes i’m jessica and i’m not! it’s obnoxious…

    • Cardinal7477

      Yep. I’m named Sam (male). Not Samuel, just Sam. I went to high school with a girl also named Sam, and she had the same frustrations. People would just assume she was Samantha and I was Samuel. Very frustrating.

      • parmis

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        • Cardinal7477

          I don’t want to change my name. There is nothing wrong with my name. It’s just irritating that people make the assumption that it is something else.

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  • Clara

    I see it as a personal positive that popular names now have more international, less Anglo tendencies (the fact that America is less of a monoculture than 50 years ago might account for the relative drop in popularity of the most popular names). I am non-white but culturally and linguistically American and my husband is a first generation American with strong cultural ties to his Eastern European background. We didn’t want our children to be saddled with names that were difficult for an English speaker to pronounce or that didn’t reflect the culture that they’ll grow up in, but WASP names like William and Elizabeth felt wrong, misappropriated. I’m glad that it’s a lot easier now to find a name that’s both relatively common everywhere in America and also reflective of a non-WASP background.

  • Michelle

    In the mid 80’s I taught a class of 35 students, leaning female, with either 4 Heathers and 3 Michelles, or 3 Heathers and 4 Michelles (or Michelles called ‘Shelly’).

  • Earl Halfabee

    If my last name was Tyler and I had a girl kid I’d name her Liz. That way when she introduced herself as “Liz Tyler” people would think she was a southerner saying her name was “Liz Taylor.”

    • behshid

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  • ichosethisnamejustforthisthrea

    The democratization of names is interesting. Take Daniel for instance. It’s on WBW’s list at #11 in 2012. Voyager has it at #5 in the US right now. It has been in or right around the top 10 in every decade. It’s a classic, biblical name. But enter it into Voyager and you get a witch’s hat. That means that either Daniel was so immensely popular that even on it’s downswing into a dead fad it’s still the 11th most popular name, or that the witch’s hat structure is just a product of every name becoming less popular as more and more people go for option 3. That’s the interesting takeaway that I’d love for someone to explore while they are procrastinating.

  • Stormy

    Wow – I’m just seeing this, and have to say, it’s actually great to see my name on a list for once (even if it’s classified as weird). It’s a horribly disappointing thing to never see your name amongst the rack of personalized truck stop key chains, you know.

    My name is Stormy and I’m from Utah. I was born in the early 70s and named after the weather I was born into. I guess my parents helped start that weird name fad.

    I hated my name as a kid. As you say, it is a challenging thing to have a weird name…is that your real name? how did your parents come up with that – what are they, hippies? were you named after that Santana song? My [insert animal type here] is named Stormy. Oh, Stormy, I’ll remember that (but next time they call me sunny or thunder). Ha ha, you’re the storminator, stormtrooper, storm drain!

    As an adult, I am actually really glad to be named Stormy. I like to think I carry it off well, but if not, at least it’s unique, it’s a nice ice-breaker, and it has a story behind it.

    • maziar

      Hi Stormy. You have imposing names. Why do you would hate it? But why your parents, the name you have chosen. Have you asked for it?راهبند اتوماتیک

      • Mary Hannigan

        Thunder might be an ok name for a boy, especially if he farts a lot!

  • heshmat

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  • gita

    I think naming a child, a job is hard because you have to consider all aspects. The name should have a good meaning.کرکره برقی

  • sayan

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  • DanF

    Hi Tim et al., perhaps You would be interested in checking Freakonomics by Levitt/Dubner. They have a chapter on names and how they move across generations/classes. The rest of the book is a good read as well.

  • Fudge

    I like the name Sakura because of what it means in English (it’s Japanese), it means cherry blossom. Since I find cherry blossom to be a beautiful, delicate part of nature, it seems like a fitting choice. Plus I could nickname them Cherry as an inside joke.

    • aroosha

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      • Fudge

        No, I’m not Japanese although I’m attempting to learn the language. Since I’ve been young, I’ve liked the name Sakura so it hadn’t just came with the language. Do you know any unusual names?

    • Mary Hannigan

      Don’t call your daughter Cherry. She’ll be teased to death, and when she reaches her teens she’ll have all kinds of suggestive remarks made to her by boys, (asking her if she still has her cherry etc.) Also don’t name your daughter Harley – the boys will say “I’ll ride ya!”

      • Fudge

        In not sure where you are in the world, but where I live there is incredibly little bullying. Plus, their name would be Sakura so they wouldn’t really say that unless they knew Japanese. (Where did you get the idea of Harley!??)

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  • Peter

    Tim, I think you have left out couple of important points. This would be impression, and impact that a name leaves on a person. You have touched on this indirrectly in the fad concept, but did not pay it enough attention.

    For impression, many names just don’t seem to fit many roles in life, i.e. can yo imagine someone running for leadership positions with the weird names you have listed? I’m not saying that they can’t get the role, but someone reading a notice of an application with such a name does not get feeling of a strong leader.

    Well and impact is more of a parren’ts feeling towards the name. People will meet all kinds of individuals in life. Some will leave found memories and some bitter ones. As such, the impact the name leaves on a person is very different.

    When choosing the name for my boy, I follwed a balance of social and personal impact and impresion the name will instill.

  • Unclever title

    Option 4: Pick a name (of someone awesome), intentionally multiple centuries out of date to encourage your child the to pretend to be a time Traveler. The history of the name may inspire them to grow up to be awesome.

  • Unclever title

    Option 5: Pick names with meanings that work well together or make a descriptive statement or paint a picture. My parents managed to do this accidentally with me.

    While my first name, Derek is technically a “fad name” centered around the 80s it never reached a high popularity. But as far as names go it’s not weird, seems to me as rather timeless though, just not in the top 1000 before the 1930s

    James, my middle name, is far more common and is pretty solidly timeless.

    Naturally I don’t think that surnames really fit Name Voyager’s parameters but apparently Bowen is on the rise as an uncommon baby name since 2011. Weird.

    Put the name meanings together:

    King Usurper (Son of a) Warrior

    And my name paints a rather AWESOME picture.

    Which is good, because I am likewise awesome.

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