Category: baby names study

The Reddest and Bluest Baby Names

popular baby names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

If you name your baby something traditional like Maya or Maximilian, you’re probably a Democrat, while a new-fangled choice such as Brylee or Braylen might peg you as a Republican.

Blue State parents may be more apt to vote liberal than their Red State counterparts, but their taste in baby names is far more conservative.

We analyzed which of the Top 500 names were used most often last year in Red States vs. Blue. Our findings: Red State baby names tend to defy convention in spelling, gender identity, and the very definition of a first name, while the Bluest Names toe the traditional line.

Every single one of the Top 25 Reddest Names for both genders lies outside the traditional lexicon of proper names. Red State favorites include first names adapted from surnames such as Number 1 Reddest Names Blakely for girls and Kason for boys, word names such as Haven for girls and Kash for boys, and diminutives such as Millie and Hattie used as full names. .

Parents in Blue States, on the other hand, choose relatively conventional first names for their babies. All of the Top 25 Bluest Names for girls are traditional female choices, ranging from Number 1 Francesca to Alexandra to Miriam. In the boys’ Top 25, the only name that diverges from the usual lexicon of first names is surname-name Finnegan.

The first traditional girls’ name in the Red State tally, by contrast, is Mary, all the way down at Number 51, with the first traditional boys’ name ranking even lower: Abram at Number 76.

Other markers of traditional naming in the list of Blue State favorites include girls’ names that are feminizations of male names, such as Gianna and Daniella, and Biblical and/or royal boys’ names, such as Leo, Nicholas, and Peter.

Red State parents are also much more likely to invent new spellings for baby names, with popular girls’ names including Kyleigh and Journee and four different spellings of Kason dominating the boys’ list. And the Reddest Names tend to push gender boundaries, with McKinley ranking in the Top 10 for girls and Lane in the Top 20 for boys.

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African American baby playing with the letter A

A names – those that start with the letter A – have become the most widely used in the U.S., given to over 10 percent of all babies, more than double the proportion of children who were given A names in the 1950s.

You can peg the popularity of A names to pure fashion, and definitely, A names ranging from the classic Abigail and Alexander to the trendy Addison and Aiden have been on the rise for a couple of decades now.  While this may be part of an overall trend toward vowel names, which are up across the board while most consonant-starting names are trending down, A is up the highest.

But there’s evidence that A names may be beneficial for your child in more substantial ways.  A study by researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Diego found that students whose names begin with the letters A and B earn better grade point averages than those whose names start with C or D.  And more law school students named Anna and Andrew tend to go to top-ranked universities like Stanford than those called Chris and Drew.

Even more significant, another study suggests that people with A names live longer – in some cases, as much as a decade longer – than those whose names start with the letter D.   Scary, but compelling if you want to give your child every advantage in life.

A names account for  20 entries on the girls’ Top 100, up from only five (Ann, Anne, Anna, Anita, and Alice) in 1950.  They are, in order of rank with their standing in parentheses, for girls:

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Lawyer Names


Want your child to grow up to be an attorney?  Name him John…..or maybe Elizabeth, says guest blogger Conrad Saam, who’s done a groundbreaking new study on lawyer’s names over the past 200 years.

If you have aspirations that your kiddo will someday grow up and earn his Juris Doctorate, the time to start planning may be now – with the right name. Through nameberry, you now have access to the most comprehensive analysis on lawyer names ever completed.

I run marketing for an online legal directory called Avvo where we help people make an informed decision when hiring an attorney by rating and profiling over 90% of the lawyers in the country. As such, I have access to the most comprehensive data on lawyer first names ever assembled – data culled from state bar records from across the country and reaching back as far as 1808. That’s about 1.5 million lawyers overall.

I grouped the names for each decade going back through the 1950’s. Because our data gets more sparse with age, I built two more groups, one from the first half of last century and one for the 1800’s. I then compiled lists of the top 20 names for each time period. The date associated with each name is when the attorney was accepted by the state bar – which in general is about 25 years after the baby-cum-lawyer was named (so you need to really be thinking ahead).

Obviously, these lists correlate with popularity of names over time, but the actual results are amazingly consistent and defy many overall name trends. Eight of the top twenty names show up in all the groups: every decade starting in the 1950s, the 1901-1950 group and even the Top 20 list from the 1800s. These are, in order of overall frequency:

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Lemony Snicket Names


We are honored to have as today’s guest bloggers Don and Alleen Nilsen, recent co-chairmen of the prestigious American Name Society, writing about the clever use of literary allusions in the thirteen Lemony Snicket books.

As long-distance grandparents, we are constantly on the lookout for books that we can enjoy listening to on CDs while we commute to work and can then forward to our children to enjoy with their children while they make their own commutes.  Daniel Handler’s thirteen Lemony Snicket books have been the all-time winners in this category, and one of the reasons is Handler’s skill in recycling the names of literary or pop culture figures to make playful allusions.

Humor scholars use the term Wabbit literacy (from “that wascally wabbit” in the Bugs Bunny cartoons) to describe the flip-flop process in which children become acquainted with the names of classical figures through pop culture allusions prior to meeting the  same names in “the original.”  The Lemony Snicket books are a superb illustration of this process as children meet Dr. Georgina Orwell, an eye doctor who hangs an ever-watchful eye over her door; Uncle Monty, who as a herpetologist cares for a huge python; a villainous couple named Esmé and Jerome Squalor who live at 667 Dark Avenue, c.f. J. D. Salinger‘s short story “To Esmé with Love and Squalor,” and Mr. Poe, who has a son named Edgar and is the appointed guardian of the children’s inheritance which is placed in the Mulctuary Money Management Bank.

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Unusual baby names are more, well, common these days than ever before, according to a new study.

This is not really news, and you don’t need to be a name researcher or statistician to realize it. Anyone who’s spent any time around children in the last few decades knows that you hear unusual names from Tatum to Trenton, from Delilah to D’Shawn around a lot more than you used to.

What’s surprising is the reason the San Diego State author of the latest study gives for the rise of unusual baby names since the 1940s, with the biggest rise in the 1990s. The theory: Higher narcissism among Baby Boom parents inspired the increase in unusual names.  We’re not so sure.

Jean Tweng, the author of the unusual names study, is also the author of two books on narcissism, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (Free Press, 2009) and Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled and –More Miserable Than Ever Before (Free Press, 2007).

We hate to be too, well, narcissistic about this, but we think the rise in unusual names is mostly because of us.

Our first book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, came out in 1988.  We called it Beyond Jennifer & Jason because its whole point was to encourage parents to move beyond the expected names — Jennifer and Jason, Jessica and John — that were epidemic at the time and choose something more distinctive and, yes, unusual.

That book changed the way a new generation of parents thought about baby names.  It was our book, we maintain, that propelled the shift in naming trends, not the new generation of parents.

And we have proof.

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