10 Years, 10 Name Trends We Called

10 Years, 10 Name Trends We Called

In 2008, shortly after Pam and I moved our shared baby name expertise from the book world into the virtual universe, we inaugurated a tradition of collaborating towards the end of every year on a blog of our predictions for the following year’s baby name trends, based on the cultural shifts we observed, what was happening in society, politics, the arts, and Hollywood.

We pinpointed certain categories, such as an overall big-picture trend, greatest pop culture influence, most surprising comeback name, new trends inspired by a celebrity name, most fashionable vowel and consonant, ethnic name group most likely to rise, newest old people names, and—one of our favorites– a trend ready to jump the shark.

Here are ten trends we predicted that may have seemed outrageous at the time and how they played out. 

2009 Trend Most Likely to Cross the Ocean: Nicknames as First Names

What we predicted: The hot British baby-naming trend of using nicknames from Millie to Alfie to Dixie to Dot is coming our way in 2009, as a light-hearted antidote to tough times.

What happened: Vintage nickname names certainly have taken off in the US, a trend continuing to grow (particularly for starbabies), and with Ellie, Sadie, Charlie, Josie, Elsie, Evie, Millie, Hank. Hattie, and Maisie, all in the Top 600.

2010 Newest Retro Trend: Serious Names

What we predicted: We predict the revival of serious, no -frill names that haven’t been considered for babies in several generations: Adele, Alice, Dorothy, Edith, Evelyn, Florence, Lenore, Louise and Marion for girls; Arthur, Frank, Harold, Harvey, Martin, Raymond, Victor, Vincent, Walter and Warren for boys.  Having trouble imagining such sober names on cute little kids? We said the same thing about Moses and Matilda a handful of years ago.

What happened: We really nailed this one, especially for girls.  Evelyn is now in the Top 10, Alice is #70, and Adele, Dorothy, Edith, Florence, and Louise are all on the list as well

2011 Most Heavenly Trend: Celestial Names

What we predicted: Names inspired by the objects and creatures of the heavens. These include planet names like Mars and Jupiter, star names such as Orion; angel names from Seraphina to Gabriel; and names that reference the heavenly realm such as Stella and Luna.

What happened: This is a trend that has really rocketed. Right now, Luna is #37, Stella is at #42, and Orion is #334.

2012 Most Aggressive Trend: Badass Names

What we predicted: Our frightening times seem to have inspired many parents to give their sons names that make them seem equally frightening.  There are fierce animal names such as Bear, Fox, Wolf, Falcon, Hawk and Lionel, and there are the perhaps-even-fiercer badass names like Breaker, Ranger and Wilder.

What happened: Bears, Foxes, and Wolfs are now roaming the celebrisphere and the perhaps-even-fiercer names are growing wilder all the time. On Nameberry alone, Bear is #133, Fox is 153 and Wolf is 208.

2013 Biggest Big Picture Trend: Ancient Names

What we predicted: Russell Crowe’s Gladiator and HBO’s Rome may have kindled the trend for Ancient Roman names, but then the megahit The Hunger Games drove it into the big-time.  We predict that names of old world gods and goddesses, mythological heroes and leaders will dominate birth announcements.  Choices we’ll be hearing more of include Augustus and Atticus, Persephone and Athena, Juno and Julius, Thor and Maeve.

What happened: And indeed we have.  Atticus, Juno, Thor and Maeve are among the hottest names of 2018.

2014 Hottest Middle Names: Boy Names for Girls

What we predicted: Coming up—more and more girls will be given traditional boy names in the middle spot, whether as family namesakes or just because they have a cool edge.  Cases in point: girl starbabies named Autumn James, Gracie James, Poppy James, Agnes Charles and Lucy Thomas.

What happened: This trend has sturdy legs, along with other gender shifts. Since then we’ve seen Josie James, Eva James, Cleo James, Sally James, Madeline Robbie, Kirra Max, Caroline Boone, Olivia James, Ella Jack, Birdie Joe, Gia James, and Odette Elliott.

2015 Most Colorful Trend: Bright Color Names

What we predicted: There’s been a vibrant color explosion in the baby name world, with more extreme hues like Lavender, Lilac and Mauve joining Violet; Indigo, Azure, Mazarine and Cerulean in line to replace the generic Blue, and Magenta, Fuchsia and Crimson trailing Scarlett in the red spectrum.

What happened: Nameberry is still in the vanguard of baby namers making these bold choices: Lavender, Lilac, Indigo and Azure are in the Berries’ Top 1000, and we’re still sure the rest of the world will catch up.

2016 Biggest Big Picture Trend: Gender Neutral Names

What we predicted: The most important culture-defining trend in the year (and era) ahead will be baby names that have moved beyond old definitions of gender.  Names will no longer be designated strictly as girls’ names or boys’ names but will be used more fluidly for children of either gender. At the end of a year earmarked by the emergence of Caitlyn Jenner, we meet the newborn daughter of Max (yes, just Max), daughter of Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan.  We’ve seen other high-profile little girls named Armie, Wilder, Ryan, Andy and Jagger; boys named Indigo Blues and Rhodes, and celebrity babies of both sexes named James, Charlie, Sailor, Dashiell, Sparrow, Arlo, and Bodhi, and names such as Eden, Sasha Remy and Rory are rising for both boys and girls.

What happened: This trend is even more pronounced now than it was three years ago.

2017 Most Non-Violent Trend: Inspirational Names

What we predicted: Inspirational names have been on the rise for a few years now, and include such positive virtue names as Justice, True and Grace, along with names that suggest serenity such as Pax, Bodhi, and Zen.  The Puritans used virtue names like Mercy and Patience (both growing in popularity again) to inspire those qualities and parents today are reembracing the practice.

What happened: Yes, the more fractured our world becomes, the more parents are seeking a righteous, aspirational name for their babies.

2018 Trendiest Trend-Related Trend: Superhero Names

What we predicted: There are a lot of heavier issues we considered at the end of last year, including the rise of powerful women and strong female names, but let’s end on a lighter, more pop note.

What happened: Superheroes dominate the multiplex and their names are taking over the world.  A prime example is Kylo, the antihero of the Star Wars movies, and the fastest-rising boys’ name according to Social Security statistics. Other superhero names taking flight are, for girls, Aurora, Darcy, Harley, Ivy, Jubilee, May, Pepper, Remy, and Rey. For boys, superhero-influenced names on the rise include Bishop, Cain, Captain, Everett, Falcon, Logan, Odin, Rhodes, Rocket, Thor, Wade and Walker.

What happened: 12 of these names rank on the SSA list, with Wolverine’s Logan the 5th most popular name in the US. And we predict the Force will continue to be with them.

And tomorrow, look for Clare’s round-up of the biggest baby name news of the year!

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.