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Top Girls’ Names of 2012

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Our tally of the 100 most popular girls’ names of 2012 on Nameberry is in, and we have a new Number 1: Katniss.

The predominance of Katniss is more a testament to the power of the Hunger Games franchise than to baby name trends.

Our Number 2 girls’ name Charlotte, which has been Nameberry’s most popular girls’ name every year until now, is more reflective of a name that will actually be chosen by parents.  Imogen, which has moved up from Number 6 to claim the Number 3 spot, is another choice we see on the rise in the real world, though it has yet to break into the U.S. Top 1000.

Katniss is also the girls’ name that has risen the furthest on our list, followed by Penelope, propelled upward by its choice as a Kardashian baby name.

The girls’ names that have risen the most places since our 2011 count are:

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Looking Beyond Emma and Ella: Who’s next?

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It’s pretty obvious that some popular names start a daisy chain of cousins that become equally popular, as was seen most recently in the progression of a group of top girls’ names beginning with E.  First there was Emily, which was the Number 1 name from 1996 to 2007.  One year after that, Emma reached the top spot, only to be trailed by Ella, who has now been in the Top 20 since 2008.

Yet as recently as the 1980s, Ella wasn’t even in the Top 1000, seen as a rather frumpy has-been, stuck in appellation limbo.  Which leads us to wonder who will be next?  Which two-syllable E-name will escape from the lower depths to follow in this progression?

The leading contenders:

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Just like Oz, Nameberry has a Wizard: Our engineer and partner Hugh Hunter.  One of the wonderful things Hugh can do, besides creating the digital structure of the site and keeping it running, is to produce lists of names that meet certain statistical criteria: Names whose popularity peaked in 1937, for instance, or names never searched on Nameberry (hmmmmmm).

So when we recently asked Hugh if he could generate a list of names that had reentered the U.S. Top 1000 in 2011 — names that had been on the list before, dropped off, and now had reappeared — the answer was of course.  What we didn’t know was how interesting that list would be.

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It’s easy to confuse popularity with stylishness.  Many baby names feel “popular” when they’re merely stylish: We’re hearing them a lot, they’re in step with the baby name fashions, and we worry that if we choose them, our little Matilda is going to be one of many.

And perhaps if you live in some edgy, baby-centric enclave – Park Slope, Brooklyn, say, or Bernal Heights in San Francisco – that will be true.  But for the most part, the numbers tell a different story, with many of the most stylish names used by very few parents.

One note: Names can be popular and stylish, so many of those in the popular column also qualify as stylish.

Looking just at girls’ names today, here’s a statistics-based reality check on what’s stylish vs. what’s truly popular.  (Numbers in parentheses represent how many babies were given that name in the most recent U.S. count.)

Allegra (114) is stylish, though Arianna (4,797) is popular

Aurelia (209) is stylish, but Amelia (5,417) is popular

Azalea (164) is stylish while Violet (2,531) is popular

Beatrix (123) is stylish while Alexa (5,012) is popular

Blake (240) is stylish, while Payton (3,561) is popular

Carter (158) is stylish while Kennedy (2,803) is popular

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You may know Nameberry’s most popular girls’ names 2011: from Top 3 Charlotte, Violet, and Amelia down to Molly, Maya, and Mary.

You may even know our hottest girls’ names 2011, which include such celebrity-influenced picks as Pippa and Mila.

But we’ve got a quieter, less obvious, but potentially more interesting list for you: those girls’ names that don’t make the Top 100 but that are attracting a dramatic rise in interest this summer over last.

Some of the names here bear a relationship to those on the most popular list: Aveline instead of Adeline, for instance, or Indigo rather than Scarlett, or Clover as opposed to Ivy or Poppy. While not all of these names are destined for future popularity, the baby namer in search of a name that will feel as fresh in ten years as it does today should take heed.

Our list of secretly popular girls’ names 2011 (look for the boys’ list next week):

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