Category: different spellings
But there are other names that are given to more than twice as many babies as those Number One names. Not many parents realize that the names they’re choosing carry this huge degree of popularity. No states or government agencies track these names or alert people to what vast numbers of children receive them.
Why not? Because they’re not a single name but a meganame, or a cluster of names, if you like. These are names that are closely related in form and spelling, with lots of overlaps that sound exactly alike. There are many examples in modern U.S. baby names – including to some extent Jacob and Emily themselves – but let’s focus on three of the most notorious.
For boys, the premier meganame might be thought of as the Aden cluster. It includes the following names, arranged so that the relationships are most obvious:
There are undoubtedly more variations and spellings that might be included here – we didn’t diverge to Adrian or Zayden, for example – but taken together these names were given to about 480,000 baby boys in the 2000s, more than twice as many as received the name Jacob.
Of course, Brady and Jaylen feel fairly different – but Aden, Braden, and Jaden don’t, and Caden, Kaden and bros sound exactly alike. Unsuspecting parents, especially those who haven’t been around kids much since they moved up to middle school themselves, might hear a name like Hayden or Aiden and think, wow, that’s really unique. I want a special, modern, stand-out name for my son, not something everybody uses, like Jacob or Michael or Matthew.
And then they end up with a name that’s twice as common as any of those popular individual names.
For girls, let’s look at the meganame we might call Aylee (or Ayla or Kyla). It’s far-ranging, and while you might not agree that every name below should be included in the cluster, there are many we left out. This name cluster embraces:
Nearly 540,000 girls received these names this decade, compared with fewer than 200,000 who were named Emily. And again, there are many more variations that might be lumped in with this group.
Another megapopular name that crosses gender lines is the Alex cluster, which accounts for nearly half a million baby boys and girls born this decade. The names we’ve tallied in this cluster are:
The lesson: Alex might be a solid, attractive name that works equally well for boys and girls. What it’s not is distinctive.
If you end up deciding you love Hayden or Hayley or Alexa anyway, go right ahead and choose them. Just be aware that any name that’s got lots of close relatives is bound to feel far trendier than you’d guess by gauging the popularity of that name alone.
Thanks to our wonderful intern Danielle Miksza for her help with the research and math for this post.
While I’ve come to prefer Pamela to Susie, I’m still fascinated by all the variations of that early beloved name. Susannah is one of my very favorites, for example, undoubtedly inspired by my early love of Susie. If I had six daughters, I’d certainly name one of them Susannah.
Alas, I had only one daughter, and a husband who didn’t like the name Susannah – upon hearing it, he could never resist breaking into a chorus of Oh Susannah! Which, obviously, is one of the few big downsides of this otherwise beautiful name.
The original version of the name is Shoshana, Hebrew for ‘lily.’ Appearing in both the Old and the New Testaments, the name wasn’t common until the seventeenth century, when it was sometimes found in the archaic forms Susanney and Shusan or Shusanna.
Over the centuries and throughout the Western World, the name has moved in and out of fashion in so many different forms that they might comprise a chapter of a name dictionary all by themselves. The major variations include:
SUSANNAH and SUSANNA – What’s the difference between these two versions of the same name? The ‘h’ ending makes the first more properly Hebrew, and is the spelling used for the Old Testament figure falsely accused of adultery. Susanna, usually the Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, and Dutch version of the name, appears in the New Testament and as the name of two virgin martyrs. SUSANA is the usual Spanish spelling. Susannah feels more old-fashioned but also more complete, relating to such currently fashionable names as Hannah and Mariah. No form of Susannah has been in the Top 1000 for nearly ten years, though they all hold some style currency.
SUSAN – The abbreviated English Susan became the most popular version of the name in the 18th century, fell out of style in the 19th, and then came back in such a major way in the mid 20th century that it feels too much like a mom or a grandma name to be used for a baby now. It was in the Top 10 from the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s and in the Top 100 from the 1930s well into the 1980s – a full fifty years!
SUZANNE – The French form of the name enjoyed some popularity during Susan’s heyday but now has nosedived right out of the Top 1000. The German and Scandinavian spelling is usually SUSANNE. A pretty enough name, but with the more fashionable and more authentic Susannah or Susanna equally distinctive, why not choose one of those instead?
SANNE – The Dutch short form of Susanne has become a star in that country, ranking in the Top 10 for several years now. While some Americans have by now heard of the name, few have yet used it. SANNA is a related name used in Scandinavia; ZANNA is also found.
ZSUZSANNA – The Hungarian version of Susannah, pronounced ZHOO-zhawn-a, is attracting some notice as the name of the wife of a Canadian politician and writer. ZSUZSA and the more famous ZSAZSA are short forms. Most Eastern European forms of Susan are spelled with a Z, including the Czech ZUZANA and the Polish ZUZANNA. One of the most familiar and most winning versions: ZUZU, the name of the little girl in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
SUE – Used so often as a short form, as a middle name, and in conjunction with other names such as SUE-ELLEN and SUE-ANNE that it’s come to become almost a non-name, blending into the background without a strong identity of its own.
SUSIE – My ideal childhood name feels terminally girlish now, and most bobby-soxed Susies have long ago shortened their name to Sue or reverted to the original Susan or Suzanne. Such appellations as Susie Homemaker and Susie Q have further driven the name out of consideration. SUSI and SUZI have a similarly long time to mark before they have any chance for a comeback, though the antique SUKIE or SUKEY feels a tad fresher.
One of nameberry’s hidden wonders is its lists of names that peaked in every year from 1880 to 2007, the most recent one counted. These lists, created by our brilliant yet anonymous (ironic, huh?) software engineer, give a snapshot not of the most popular but of the trendiest names at any given moment.
It’s possible to look at the peaking names and their variations to pinpoint trends current and future. Some directions evident in the 2007 list include:
THE AD NAMES
In 2007, we see the peak of Addison: no surprise there. Also peaking are Addisyn, Addyson, Adison, and Adyson. A little further removed are Adalyn and Adelyn. And from there it’s only a quick hop to Adrian and Adriel (and not such a stretch to include all the Aidens in this group). Look for other Ad- names to follow: Ada, Adelaide, Adelia, Adeline, Adair. Adolph, not so much.
THE EL NAMES
THE DOUBLE L NAMES
THE SOFT G NAMES
Two attractive celebrities, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and chef Giada De Laurentis, might be behind this trend. The most popular of this Latinate group is Gianna, but also included are Giana, Giuliana, and Giselle, plus Giovani and Giovanni for boys. On deck: Gia and Giulia?
THE JAY NAMES
THE RY NAMES
SPIRITUAL NAMES: HEAVEN and EARTHLY
Spiritual names at their peak include Deacon, Genesis, Journey, Harmony, Haven, Messiah, Miracle, and Nevaeh, Serenity, Sincere, and Zion. But on a less heavenly note, 2007 also saw the ascendance of Cannon, Gunner, and Maverick.
Coming up tomorrow: Names you’ll be hearing a lot more of.
You’ve probably noticed that Aiden is now way more popular than the original Irish Aidan. And also that Zoey is catching up with Zoe, while other names like Isiah, Kaleb, Camryn and Sienna are either ahead of or breathing down the necks of their conventionally spelled cousins. Sometimes the reasons for these changes are clear-cut, sometimes it’s just something in the ether.
Not that this is a new thing. I remember the first time that someone asked me to spell my first name. “Huh?” “Well, is it Linda with an ‘i’ or Lynda with a ‘y’? Without my really noticing, Lynda had become a spelling alternative in the wake of the popularity of Lynn. Something similar has happened with Aidan/Aiden. When the epidemic of rhyming ‘en’-ending names erupted–Jaden, Braden, Caden et al–it was a logical development to make Aiden a legitimate member of that family. And when ‘K’-beginning boys’ names became a rage, Kaleb began pursuing Caleb up the list.
The case of Zoe/Zooey is a little different, as the spike of the latter version can be pretty much traced to a single phenomenon–’Zoey101′–the Emmy-nominated teen sitcom starring (now teen mom) Jamie Lynn Spears, which appeared on Nickelodeon in 2005. And the publicity surrounding Jamie Lynn’s big sister Britney’s second son helped spread that spelling of Brayden. The rise of the British actress Sienna Miller spurred the spelling change of the Italian town of Siena, actress Jorja Fox legitimized the phonetic spelling of Georgia, and Gossip Girl hottie Chace (originally his middle name) Crawford has the spelling of his name chasing Chase.
In terms of image, rather than spelling, Scarlett Johansson challenged the long-term connection of her name to Gone With the Wind spitfire Scarlett O’Hara, just as the charms of Jude Law have managed to erase the age-old associations of his name to Judas.
Can you think of any others?
Here are a few other exotic reversals, giving a nouveau twist to an old name. You could probably come up with some more yourself–perhaps as a way of creating a namesake for someone you wish to honor: