Category: Baby Names Popularity
Legions of expectant parents search for that “underused classic” name each year.
But what exactly is an “underused classic” name? Do underused classic names even exist? Are they some impossible standard like names that are universally appealing and forever-guaranteed-to-stay-unique?
“Classic” can be interpreted differently by different people. Instead of describing a name as “classic” I usually use “traditional” or “timeless” instead.
Semantics aside, a working definition of how I decide what makes a name “classic” might be useful. And in my world there is more than one type of classic name:
Authentic Classics – Evergreen names like Elizabeth and James. Ideally these names have never left the top 50 since 1880, the earliest year name rankings are available from the Social Security Administration.
Once upon a time, most parents would have never imagined naming their children Arya, Iker or Major. Now these are some of the fastest rising baby names in the U.S. With formerly unusual names hitting the mainstream, some parents are left wondering where to find under-the-radar names.
The trick is to stop looking for unusual names. That’s right. Instead of resorting to increasingly offbeat choices, consider some names that are right under your nose.
There are many names that seem on-trend yet remain under-the-radar, and many are familiar. Here are some names that are uncommon (most are outside the U.S. Social Security Administration’s top 1000 baby names for 2012) but don’t seem all that unusual. Next to each name is the number of babies given the name last year.
Aida – 164
Calista – 195
Cassia – 45
Flora – 124
Lavinia – 52
Lucinda – 181
Marcella – 166
Oona – 39
Ramona – 197
Rhea – 224
Sally – 205
Soleil – 177
Sybella – 11
Sylvie – 169
Vada – 157
Viola – 162
Clive – 65
Conan – 54
Ewan – 140
Fritz – 30
Gordon – 194
Guy – 138
Murray – 42
Niles – 44
Olin – 80
Orson – 31
Tobin – 138
Viggo – 29
Arden – 221 girls / 76 boys
Darby – 117 girls / 39 boys
Kelby – 32 girls / 59 boys
Remy – 195 girls / 233 boys
Name trends can be inexplicable and unpredictable, otherwise most of these names would show up on more parents’ baby name lists.
Okay, so at first glance some of these names, like Viggo, may come across as eccentric. But when compared to other names on the rise, Viggo isn’t that eccentric. Consider that another Norwegian name, Soren, has recently crept into the top 1000 and seems to be trending upwards, and Viggo has the trendy o-suffix. When these things are considered, Viggo seems like it should have been given to more than 29 newborn boys last year.
Another name that may appear eccentric at first is Soleil. And maybe thirty years ago, when a young Soleil Moon Frye entertained children as Punky Brewster, the child star’s name, the French word for “sun,” was unfamiliar and difficult to say. Fast-forward to 2013, however, and celestial names like Luna and Stella are taking off, and thanks to the actress, the name is no longer unfamiliar.
Most of these names seem like they should have caught on by now. But they haven’t. This is good news for anyone seeking that elusive different but not too different name.
Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022. She is also an avid runner, wannabe foodie, and devoted mom of two.
Every decade or two the name landscape transforms. New names are on the way in. Old names are on the way out. But as names rise and fall, the qualities parents seek in baby names remain constant. As a result, today’s top names share subtle similarities with yesterday’s top names.
While there will always be names that are undeniably dated, and should stay in old year books, others are unfairly dated, often overlooked, typecast as names of parents or grandparents. This is unfortunate. These names, because they peaked during a certain decade, may not generate short-term excitement but, in the long-term, their timeless and sometimes modern attributes make them stand-out.
There were dozens of stories in the baby name news last week, but they all shared a common theme: the Social Security Administration’s release of the 2012 baby name data
We talked about Titan and Briggs, Landry and Geraldine. About how Jacob remained number one, but only if you didn’t tally up the many spellings of Aiden, Jackson, and Jayden. Television’s influence was clear – Arya and Aria, Litzy, Major, and Jase. Movies, sports, and music shaped our choices, too, as did faith. Nevaeh’s little brother might just be called Messiah.
But what about the quiet classics, the names that rise and fall, but still appear in nearly every generation? Hemlines change. We graduated from the party line to the iPhone, the horse to the Prius. And yet these names remain, worn by men and women, boys and girls of every age.
Hyperlocal is a word you hear a lot today. There’s hyperlocal news and hyperlocal food, hyperlocal weather and hyperlocal — yeah, baby names.
What are the name trends where you live? Which popular names ring through every playground and crowd every class list? What kinds of names are considered cool, and what names do you NEVER hear?
In my diverse liberal suburb of New York City, for instance, names that are ethnically distinctive and unconventional when it comes to gender identity are definitely cool. Names you hear a lot include Henry (there are three on my short block), Zoe, Izzy, and my younger son’s name, Owen.
Please tell us where you live to help put your hyperlocal baby names report in context. If you’re not comfortable revealing your exact locale, you can say “a gentrifying neighborhood of London” or “a prosperous town in Silicon Valley.” But something vaguer like “a conservative small town in New England” works too.