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Baby Names: Once so hot, now so not

shades

The history of baby names is littered with former stars that burned brightly for a decade or two, only to fade from view.

It’s hard to believe, from this vantage point, that Gladys or Edna ever made the Top 20, that names such as Harold or Larry were ever popular enough to dominate an entire decade.

It’s difficult to see Irene and Albert as the Isabella and Alexander of their day, to view Tammy or Tiffany as the height of cool.

Many of these once-hot names are lovely, even classic.  They’re just not as stylish as they once were (although some, especially from the earlier decades, are on their way back in).

We looked at the Top 25 baby names for each decade of the 20th century to pick out choices that were hot back them, and are not today.  Included here are Old People Names like Bertha and Clarence, Baby Boomer names such as Karen and Gary, today’s mom and dad names such as Jennifer and Jason, and names like Taylor and Tyler that are beginning to be heard much more often on babysitters than on babies.

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babygirl

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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girlhiding

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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Top Girls’ Names: Transformed!

girls-clothing-44

This week, Nameberry Style columnist Elisabeth Wilborn, of You Can’t Call It It and The Itsy Factor, waves her magic wand over the girls’ top 100 list and transforms overly-popular names with chic new alternatives.

The list of top girls’ names is brimming with gorgeousness. After all, the top girls’ names got that way because people love them.

But if you seek a more rare, chic alternative for your little one, play this game with me. Ask yourself, is it the sound that makes you fall in love with a name? Is it the fact that it honors your heritage? Perhaps it’s the meaning? Whatever the names’ deepest appeal, there may be another, less popular option that will satisfy you.

I had fun with this list, maybe even more so than with the boys’ names because there are just so many viable options to choose from.

How would you amp up the style of the girls’ names from the top of the chart, and are there any that you’re too in love with to change?

1) Isabella–>Mirabella
2) Sophia–>Louisa
3) Emma–>Alice
4) Olivia–>Ottilie
5) Ava–>Rita
6) Emily–>Cecily
7) Abigail–>Tabitha

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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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