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popular names 2012

The most popular baby names of 2012 are officially here, with Sophia and Jacob holding onto their Number 1 spots.

Jacob remains the most popular name for boys for the 14th year in a row.  An Old Testament name that means “supplanter” and a cousin of JamesJacob has been in the Top Ten for nearly two decades.

Sophia, which took the crown as the Number 1 girls’ name last year, is a Greek name that means “wisdom.”  It entered the Top 10 in 2006.

Arya and Major were the fastest-rising names for 2012.  Arya’s popularity stems from the show and book Game of Thrones, while Major is a military name featured on reality TV show Home by Novogratz.

Second fastest-risers Gael and Perla are widely used by parents of Spanish descent.

The Social Security Administration announced the 2012 Most Popular Baby Names on their website this afternoon.

The complete Top Ten are:

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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:


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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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:


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:


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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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