Category: most popular baby names

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Why is Alexandra up but Alexis down?

popular baby names

Linda and I have spent a lot of time over the years tracking the ups and downs of baby names and making sense of the movements.  Often, it’s possible to divine trends in the popularity lists: Girls’ names that end in a are marching up the ladder in seeming unison, for instance, while New Testament names for boys are moving down.

But sometimes, the patterns are not so easy to discern.  Sometimes, in fact, the shifts seem downright contradictory, undercutting any attempt to identify a trend.

Sure, sometimes you can credit a celebrity for a name’s rise or blame a slide on the fact that a name has been around so long that people have gotten tired of it and are turning to a new flavor.  We do get, for instance, that Britain‘s newest royal is responsible for the predominance of Kate over Katherine, and that Oliver is simply a fresher name than the long-popular Christopher.

Still, even with those examples, the rise of one name at the same time another, very similar name drops can be amusing.  Some notable pairings from this year’s list:

girls

Alexandra is up, but Alexis is down

Aria is up, but Cadence is down

Bella is up, but Isabelle is down

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states

There was a time when we thought—rightly or wrongly– of regional names in terms of stereotypes—prim and proper appellations in New England, sweetly feminissima Southern belles, Tex-Mex cowboys out west. Now, though, it sometimes seems that baby names have become more and more homogeneous across the United States, but if we really peruse the popularity figures for states’ local baby names we do find some regional differences and state eccentricities.

First, a look at which names were in first place and where they ruled:

girls

AvaLouisiana, South Dakota

EmmaAlabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Wyoming

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baby rider

So you think you’ve found a secret baby name.  One that nobody has ever discovered before.  Or a sleeping gem neglected by other baby namers.

And maybe you have.  But the distressing news is that a lot of the names that parents think are secret finds are really being scoped out at the same time by a lot of other parents.

How do we know? Because we’ve analyzed which names are spiking the highest in nameberry views at the start of 2011 compared with 2010, and among the biggest risers are obscure picks and long-neglected classics.

What makes these names suddenly so hot?  For the most part, it’s hard to say.  All we can tell you for sure is that they are hot — a lot hotter than you might guess.

Here, the 50 hottest obscure names and how high their traffic has jumped:

Girls

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vintagebabybook

Popular baby names change every year, but here we bring you the top names in the U.S. of all time — or at least since the government started keeping count.

A week or so ago, we presented to you Nephele‘s lists of the most popular baby names for each letter of the alphabet over the 130-year period from 1880 to 2009.  Though you all found these stats fascinating, and, as always, made some perceptive observations, there was a shout-out for the overall, cumulative list of most popular names no matter what their first initial.

So Nephele went back to the drawing board (aka the U.S. Social Security Administration’s complete names lists) and generously offers now a list of the Top 100 names given to babies over the whole period, for your perusal and commentary.

Again, you might be surprised to find Patricia in the second spot—a name that is not even in the Top 500 today.  Of course, Social Security counts every spelling separately, so that if we were to add together Katherine and Catherine, she would jump up to seventh place, and then if Kathryn were factored in, the total would be 1,692,290— beating out Patricia for the second spot.

As the list of popular baby names stands, there are only a dozen girl millionaires, compared to 27 boys, showing once more the gender disparity in popularity. (Please note that due to a computer glitch, the last number is left off the boys’ column, so that the names from James to Timothy are all over a million.) It’s also interesting to note that today’s top girl, Isabella, has not yet reached Top 100 status, and nor has Number Two boy Ethan, so we can be sure the list will gradually morph in coming years.

Here now the list of the top names over time:

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socialsecurity2

 Since the Social Security site showing the rankings of baby names is the bible for so many nameberries, we thought we’d turn to webmaster Jeff Kunkel to give us some insight into how it developed–and his instrumental part in it.

Soon after Social Security joined the internet, I became webmaster for my office, the Office of the Chief Actuary.  A high priority in those days was providing the public with information on cost-of-living increases and other things that affected Social Security beneficiaries.  The lists of baby names begun by Michael Shackleford, who was then a co-worker, were decidedly a low priority.

However, the popularity of the baby name web pages soon became apparent.  Dissatisfied with simply presenting the baby names as lists of the top 1000 names by sex for each year of birth, I wrote an interactive computer program that would allow people to select the year of birth, select the number of names to display, and select whether to display the number of occurrences of each name.  In essence, the program allowed people to generate their own customized lists.

My desire to see how the popularity of my daughter’s name changed over time, coupled with the success of that list-generating program, inspired me to write another program that would provide a way to see time trends in the baby name data.  The resulting new program proved to be even more popular than the list-generating program.

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