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Younger Parents Most Adventurous Baby Namers

July 12, 2020 Emma Waterhouse
names and maternal age

Younger parents and older parents differ in many ways, but one of the most striking is their choice of baby names.

Nameberry’s exclusive analysis of our site statistics shows that young parents prefer more uncommon, less conventional names, while older parents favor more traditional choices. And that difference is borne out in official data from both the US and UK.

The Social Security Administration does not record national data on baby names by parental age, but we can use information about the average maternal age in each state to take a critical look at regional popularity charts. For both sexes, the states with the youngest first-time mothers had the most distinctive taste in baby names, with older parents significantly more likely to choose names that rank among the national Top 20.

And in the UK, where last year’s data included – for the first time – a breakdown of popular names by maternal age, younger mothers were more likely to defy convention, favoring surname names like Hunter and Harper, nickname names like Alfie and Freddie, and hyphenated names like AmeliaRose.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

Nameberry’s Top Names by Age 

Nameberry’s own site statistics reveal the most searched baby names for each age group, rather than the names parents actually used. Our data provides insight into naming tastes across the whole age group – not just those who are having babies.

The Top 10 girl and boy names for each age group we analyzed are:

Visitors aged 18-24

Girl Names

Aurora
Ophelia
Aurelia
Luna
Olivia
Eloise
Maeve
Alice
Amara
Anastasia

Boy Names

Aarav
Milo
Cassius
Aryan
Silas
Jack
Oscar
Oliver
Caius
Ezra

Visitors aged 25-34

Girl Names

Maeve
Eleanor
Aurora
Eloise
Isla
Olivia
Evelyn
Luna
Astrid
Nora

Boy Names

Aarav
Asher
Leo
Levi
Milo
Theodore
Aryan
Elijah
Jude
Arlo

Visitors aged 35-44

Girl Names

Maeve
Olivia
Genevieve
Aurora
Lucy
Elsie
Ophelia
Isla
Luna
Isabel

Boy Names

Arlo
Aryan
Milo
Aarav
Asher
Oliver
Jasper
Felix
Leo
Liam

On the whole, the girls’ names favored by the youngest age group were longer, more uncommon, and more vowel-rich than those preferred by the older groups.

The boys’ Top 10 lists were closer in style, but the youngest group included twice as many names outside of the current US Top 500 (Aarav, Aryan, Caius and Cassius) than either of the other age groups.

Even more illustrative of the differences in naming style between the oldest and youngest age groups are the names that rank highly overall for one group, but at least 100 spots lower for the other. These include:

Visitors aged 18-24

Girl Names

Anastasia (#12)
Delilah (#13)
Ariadne (#15)
Adelaide (#19)
Clementine (#27)
Persephone (#32)
Andromeda (#39)

Boy Names

Caius (#45)
Acacius (#50)
Lucius (#59)
Maximus (#60)

Visitors aged 35-44

Girl Names

Elsie (#12)
Arwen (#24)
Thea (#25)
Evie (#27)
Jane (#31)
Claire (#33)
Ellie (#39)
Nora (#41)

Boy Names

Liam (#20)
Bodhi (#32)
Zachary (#51)
Finn (#62)

There’s a clear style divide to be seen here. Names which attract the most attention from the youngest age group tend to be long, elaborate, and highly unusual – even boys’ names, which have historically been more conservative.

Names searched more frequently by the oldest age group tend to be much shorter and simpler, and – especially in the case of girls’ names – sweet and vintage in feel.

Of course, it’s likely that a large proportion of Nameberry visitors in the youngest category especially are searching names for fun or for future reference, rather than for real-life babies. But it’s still a strikingly clear pattern that we hope will be borne out by a boom of little Ariadnes and Acaciuses in the future!

US Data on Maternal Age

Unfortunately, the SSA doesn’t break its baby names data down by parental age, but we do have statistics about the average age of first-time mothers in each US state.

maternal age by state

Graphic by Chloe Effron for Mental Floss

The three states with the youngest average maternal age are Mississippi, Arkansas and New Mexico, with an average age of 23.7, while the three states with the oldest first-time mothers are Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, with an average age of 28.1. We compared at the Top 20 girl and boy names in each of those states to see if there are any patterns.

Girls’ names that featured at least twice as heavily in the Top 20 lists of the states with the oldest average maternal age were: Aria, Camila, Charlotte, Gabriella, Grace, Madison, Mila, Riley and Sofia.

And girls’ names that tended by the same ratio towards the youngest side were: Evelyn, Harper, Layla, Paisley and Scarlett.

Boys’ names that featured at least twice as heavily on the oldest side were: Alexander, Anthony, Daniel, Ethan, Jack, Jackson, Joseph, Lucas and Ryan.

And boys’ names that tended towards the youngest side were: Aiden, Asher, Carter, Elijah, Grayson, Jaxon, Josiah and Wyatt.

For both sexes, the states with the youngest first-time mothers had the most distinctive taste in baby names. Nineteen names that featured in only one Top 20 list were on the youngest side, compared to 11 names on the oldest side.

And Mississippi – the state with the lowest average maternal age – had the most distinctive taste of all for both sexes: eight girls’ names and five boys’ names in its Top 20 didn’t feature on any of the other lists.

Of course, these observations come with the disclaimer that there are many other factors which play into the popularity of different names in different states: language, culture, history, politics, religion and education, to name but a few.

But the general picture does appear to reflect what Nameberry’s own data suggests: the states with younger first-time mothers tend to favor more modern names and surname names, while older parents prefer more traditional choices.

Baby Names by Maternal Age in the UK

One country which does release official data about the influence of maternal age on baby name choices is the UK. Our friend Elea at British Baby Names produced an excellent summary of the 2018 baby name statistics from England and Wales.

The data shows that younger mothers (aged 25 and under) generally preferred less traditional names than mothers aged 35 and over.

These included surname-style choices such as Hunter, Logan and Harper – all in the Top 10 for mothers under the age of 25, but outside the Top 40 (and, in the case of Hunter, outside the Top 100) for mothers over 35. Hyphenated names for girls and nickname names for boys were also markedly more popular among younger mothers.

Our analysis of the age-segregated Top 100 lists from England and Wales also shows that the youngest parents had the most distinctive taste in names.

Overall, 11 boys’ names and 19 girls’ names that made the Top 100 for mothers under 25 didn’t feature in either the nationwide Top 100 or the Top 100 for any other age group. Examples included Nevaeh, Lexi, Aaliyah and Madison for girls and Kayden, Levi, Brody and Parker for boys.

For comparison, the total number of names – boy and girl – that met the same criteria for the other age groups was: five (mothers aged 25-29), one (mothers aged 30-34), and 12 (mothers aged 35+).

How well does our analysis reflect your personal experience? Does your age and your taste in baby names line up with our findings?

About the author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse — better known as @katinka around these parts — joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from where to find a cool vintage boy name to why some names become popular memes. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active Forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks six languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and three young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.

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