2009 Baby Names: What Was In, Out, Hot, Not This Year

Baby Name Trends

The biggest baby name news of 2009 was Emma’s rise to the number one spot for girls’ names, becoming only the ninth girls’ name in U.S. history to claim first place.

EMMA unseated EMILY, which slipped to number three, after a 12-year-reign.  ISABELLA moved up to number two, but if taken together with sister ISABEL and ISABELLE, would have been the number one name.

On the boys’ side, the name that would be number one if the Social Security Administration counted all spelling variations together was AIDEN (and AIDAN and AYDEN, et al), which taken together account for more boys than received longtime number one name JACOB.

The only new entry to the girls’ Top Ten was CHLOE, replacing Hannah.  The boys’ Top Ten remained the same.

The names making the fastest leaps up the popularity ladder showed a strong celebrity influence, especially for girls.  The Top Ten Fastest Movers for girls were:

KHLOE – As in reality star Kardashian

MARLEE – And Me….


AUDRINA – The nouveau name of another reality star, Patridge

MARLEY – The original spelling of the name of both the dog and reggae star Bob.


JASLENE — From America’s Next Top Model.



MILEY – Teen star Cyrus

For boys, the most dramatic movers were:

JACOBY — as in Ellsbury, of the Boston Red Sox








KINGSTONGwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s son.


Other trendy names getting a boost from their celebrity associations include, for girls:

VALENTINA (Salma Hayek’s daughter)

RIHANNA – The pop singer

KIMORALee Simmons, mom of newborn Kenzo.

HAYDEN – For girls, after Panettiere, star of Heroes

MALIA – Inspired by the older Obama daughter

For boys, other celebrity-inspired hotties include:

RIVER – The name of Keri Russell’s son.

MILOLiv Tyler’s choice for her little boy.

JUDE – Actor Law.

KOBE – Basketball star Bryant.

CRUZ – Spanish choice inspired by the youngest son of Victoria and David Beckham.

Even fictional characters have an influence.  One name newly on the baby-namers’ scope is SLOANE for girls, thanks to the character on HBO’s Entourage.  For boys’, COHEN entered the mix, via the surname of the popular character on The O.C., along with SILAS, name of the older son on Weeds and DEXTER, Showtime’s lovable mass murderer.  And all the Twilight names, from EDWARD to CULLEN to BELLA to ESME, are newly in favor.

Sloane was new to the Top 1000, along with GEMMA, ISLA (as in red-headed star Fisher), MATILDA (daughter of Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger); and for boys, CALLUM, extremely popular throughout Britain but a newcomer to the U.S.

Once a name starts getting more popular, it tends to keep getting more popular, according to one new study that received a lot of attention this year. Todd Gureckis, an assistant professor at NYU, and Robert Goldstone, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana U-Bloomington, concluded that in recent decades, “names have a momentum that pushed changes in popularity in the same direction year after year.”

Other name studies of note this year included one from Shippensburg University that found that boys with unpopular names are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system than those with widely-used monikers.  And a Pew Research Study found that second and third generation Hispanic parents in the U.S. are less likely to use typically Latin names….even as distinctly ethnic names received more widespread acceptance.

Name trends around the world diverged widely from those in the U.S., even in English-speaking countries.  Names on Britain’s Top Ten for girls that are not among the U.S. Top names are RUBY, SOPHIE (Americans prefer SOPHIA), LILY, AMELIA, EVIE, JESSICA (a number one name in the late 1980s in America, but now dropping fast), and GRACE.

For boys, names on Britain’s Top Ten that are vastly more popular than they are in the U.S. include: JACK (at or near the top of the list in most other English-speaking countries but still rising here), OLIVER, THOMAS, HARRY, ALFIE, and CHARLIE (yes, in their short forms).

A number of names in the UK top 100 don’t appear in the US top 1000 at all!  These include, for girls:













And for boys:









On nameberry in 2009, the most popular names were different from those in the general population.  The Top Ten Most-Viewed, for girls were (in order of popularity):











And for boys:











Other names that ranked high on nameberry users’ favorites list included, for girls:











And for boys:










JACKSON (Michael‘s death, oddly, should propel this one upward)

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32 Responses to “2009 Baby Names: What Was In, Out, Hot, Not This Year”

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2009 BABY NAMES: What Was In, Out, Hot, Not | Ondelet Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 7:46 am

[…] Continue reading here: 2009 BABY NAMES: What Was In, Out, Hot, Not […]

leahj Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 8:45 am

What do you mean by Jackson? Oddly? :/ jk

Pamela Redmond Satran Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 9:48 am

I mean that it’s odd that a star’s tragic death might inspire baby names, not that it’s odd someone would want to name their child after Michael Jackson.

JNE Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 10:02 am

How fascinating!

Jaslene was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model a few cycles ago, so there is a reality TV link there, too.

Is Salma Hayek’s daughter Valentine or Valentina? I thought it was the latter. Either way, I guess it is likely to influence both of those names up the charts.

Wow – was Imogen really viewed 2nd most often by nameberryites?! That’s surprising.

Thanks for such an interesting post!

Pamela Redmond Satran Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 10:09 am

Thanks for the Jaslene heads up — I should have known that! And it is Valentina. It’s a typo on the list and I’m changing right now! Yeah, amazing about nameberry, right? Our choices vs. the rest of the world’s gives a good picture of what makes nameberry special.

Kiki Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 10:09 am

I love that the most loved names on nameberry aren’t even close to the general public.
I think that shows what name nerds we are.

Pamela Redmond Satran Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 10:11 am

Name nerds with excellent taste!

Kristine Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 11:31 am

Love OUR taste in names! =) Luckily, though, the rest of the world doesn’t share our taste; otherwise Lucy and Alice…Atticus and Leo…..and all our other favorites would be way up in the popularity list! The difference between between a Nameberryites’ taste and the general public’s is astounding!

namefan Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I think that study about unpopular names on boys was skewed, both mathematically and from the author’s perspective (to learn more read this post at my blog):

JLyn Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Glad to see Jacoby is getting recognition. That was our top boy pick 16 years ago! Could someone tell me how to pronounce Niamh, please!

JLyn Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I love Ryker, too. I have a 20-year old cousin with that name. It was unheard of then.

liz22 Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Niamh is pronounced Neev – like Eve with an N at the beginning.

liz22 Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Or I’ve heard it pronounced just Nev (like the ev sound at the beginning of Evelyn.)

jlyn2723 Says:

December 11th, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I’m ashamed to know this but Kardashian is spelled like so and Patridge like so.

Pamela Satran Says:

December 12th, 2009 at 8:52 am

Thank you! Two particular reality stars I don’t follow (but I do follow plenty of others).

Pamela Satran Says:

December 12th, 2009 at 8:54 am

Just a note on Ryker: That name is really problematic for New Yorkers, as Ryker’s Island is the name of the infamously terrible and violent city prison!

Wv Says:

December 13th, 2009 at 12:35 am

We are seriously considering naming our second daughter Isla. I have some concerns that she would forever be correcting the pronunciation. I would appreciate any thoughts on this. (Her older sister is Adelaide)

Sarah Rose Says:

December 14th, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I love love love the name Maisie. I think it is a wonderfully versatile name.

I see that Lilly is in the top British names. I feel like that is a name that is about to become very popular very quickly. I feel like every other little girl in the South this year is has been named Lilly. It is gorgeous and I would have loved to keep it on the list for my little girls one day, but I would hate for them to be in a classroom with 6 other Lilly’s!

Nat Says:

December 18th, 2009 at 11:08 am

Before I started visiting this blog my husband and I had picked Finn as a top contender for our baby. Since its so popular to nameberry’s, do any of you think it will become an Aiden in the next few years? I believe its in the hundreds on the SS list…but I thought it was pretty classy/not-too-popular but not-too-wierd. What do you think? becomming too popular?

Nat Says:

December 18th, 2009 at 11:11 am

WV– I think people are used to the word Island, and will assume that Isla is pronounced the same way…and if they don’t, they’ll feel silly misprouncing it once they figure it out! I also love Isla…beautiful

robynkit Says:

December 19th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

To Nat: Finn is a great name but I think there are (will be) many many out there. What about Flynn as in Errol Flynn? I think I like it better. . .

I’ve been waiting for the girls name Jacoba to take a rise up the ladder. It’s got a nice sound and is different but similar to Jacob.

jess Says:

January 8th, 2010 at 3:19 am

wow, nameberry readers have really good taste in names.
maybe there is hope for the next generation.

mollyv11 Says:

January 13th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Lilah could be from the show “Friday Night Lights”, there’s a main character named Lilah. That’s the only place I’ve really seen that name.

Ellen S. Says:

January 25th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

We named our baby girl Harriet this year after my grandmother who was born in 1901. We call her Hattie, which suits her perfectly. People respond really positively to the name and I like that it is a normal name that is still unique.

Two boy names in my family that I never ever see are Alpine (my mother’s father and brother and it goes back further) and Ellsworth (three generations of Charles Ellsworth, my grandfather went by Ellsie).

Boy names are impossible « Good Finking! Says:

February 2nd, 2010 at 11:07 am

[…] – List of what was in/out for 2009 (and also the main site) […]

beeplaysbass Says:

March 22nd, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Actually, most people mispronounce Niamh. It’s actually pronounced Nayve, or that’s how my cousin in Ireland says her name. She hates it when people say it Neeve. Nev doesn’t bother her.

QuirkFlower Says:

April 24th, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Question for Pam- This says that only 9 names in the US history have held the top spot for girls. What are the 9?

arumib Says:

May 19th, 2010 at 12:21 am

I think it’s good to name your baby a name different from anyone else baby, because there is so many people who have the same name your baby have or it’s very difficult. Also, it’s hard to name your baby a different name, because when you think that no-one have that name there will be someone who have the same name your baby have when think you have named your baby different.

Sunshinetina Says:

May 21st, 2010 at 12:25 am

Mary, Linda, Lisa, Jennifer, Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Emma and Isabella

Freya Says:

June 14th, 2010 at 12:29 am

I know I’m posting this on all the blogs, but my name is Freya! I love how its popular in the UK but hasn’t quite caught on here. 🙂 I love the nameberry list. Violet, Charlotte, and Maeve and Finn, Jasper, Henry, James, ad Atticus are some of my favorites!

christy Says:

October 10th, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I like the name Madden

Best Baby Names Says:

November 19th, 2010 at 7:21 am

Nice suggestion..I like to follow.I enjoy to refer the different ways to select the baby names….keep sharing…

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