Baby Names LESS Popular Than They Seem
When the 2013 US Popular Baby Names list came out back in May, we ran Kelli Brady aka The Name Freak‘s wonderful Playground Analysis blog, with her count of the REAL Top 50 baby names. Kelli tallies all spelling variations of the top names to arrive at their actual rankings, which puts Aiden et al instead of Noah at Number 1 for boys, for instance, and bumps Jackson (and Jaxen, Jaxon, and Jaxson) up to Number 2.
Our focus is usually on which names are MORE popular than you’d think when you add in all their spelling variations. The idea is that parents want to be forewarned when they’re likely to hear their favorite baby names far more often than they’d guess based on the official rankings. Zoe and Aubrey, counting all spellings, are actually in the Top 10 for girls, for example, while Kayden and his many near-identical twins rank not at Number 93 but at Number 9.
But what about those baby names that are LESS popular than they seem judging by the official statistics? Parents may veer away from some names, both classic and modern, that are actually somewhat more distinctive than they appear. I’m not talking about names that are a couple of rungs further down the ladder, based on Kelli‘s analysis, but those that are significantly softer by our own subjective measure.
The point is: If you’re shying away from these baby names because you believe they’re too popular, maybe you owe them a second look. They are:
Elizabeth — Interestingly, the girls’ top names are more likely that the boys’ to be MORE popular than you’d guess, because they’re more likely to embrace lots of spelling variations. The first notable exception to this rule is the ultimate classic girls’ baby name Elizabeth, Number 10 on the official list (where it’s ranked more or less forever) but way down at Number 20 in the Playground Analysis. What’s more, Elizabeth carries a range of nicknames, from the more fashionable Lizzie or Libby to the unusual Zibby or Bets, which can make it further distinctive.
Charlotte — Charlotte has long ranked at or near the top of Nameberry’s own popularity list, and Charlotte‘s many admirers may be dismayed to see her approaching the Top 10 in the official count. And definitely, Charlotte has the potential to be the Sophia of the future. But for now, Charlotte‘s real ranking is at Number 22, not Number 11, and so you can breathe a bit more easily about naming your daughter Charlotte, especially if you DON‘T call her Charlie, Number 240 and heading sharply uphill.
Ella — Ella is short, simple, and complete unto herself, a cooler alternative to Emma or Bella. But she ranks at Number 15 on the US list after a very steep climb, which may give you pause. On the Playground Analysis, though, she’s significantly more unusual at Number 29. If you’d like to keep Ella as distinctive as possible, don’t shorten (or, er, lengthen) her to Ellie, a nickname that’s MORE popular than you’d think.
Harper — Harper may be one of the fashion hits of the decade, propelled from outside the Top 1000 to an official Number 16 in just a decade. Credit To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee, Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place character, and its choice by the Beckhams for their only daughter. While undeniably trendy, Harper is not quite as popular as she seems, way down at Number 32 in the Playground Analysis.
Grace — Classic Grace slips from Number 22 all the way down to Number 40, making it a much more distinctive first name choice than you’d think. But beware of using it as a middle name, where along with Rose, it’s quickly become overused.
Noah — By any measure, there are a lot of little boys named Noah around these days. But not quite as many as Noah‘s new Number 1 ranking would suggest. In the Playground Analysis, it’s only Number 5, and when you consider that Aiden, Jayden, and Kayden are ALL in the Top 10, Noah is going to feel far more unusual than all those rhyming variations.
Liam and William — Liam and William both still rank in the Top 10 in the Playground Analysis, but at Numbers 7 and 8 versus the official 2 and 5. Maybe not hugely significant, but for lovers of one of these two related classics, that might be just significant enough. Other high-ranking classics such as Michael, Alexander, Daniel, James, Benjamin, David, and Joseph are all similarly down a few notches from their official rankings.
Samuel and Isaac— The Biblical Samuel and Isaac are both fashionable classics somewhat less common than they seem by the official count, with Samuel at Number 32 and not 25, and Isaac at 35 versus 29.
Henry — Nameberry favorite Henry may have risen to Number 37 on the official US list, but he’s down at Number 46 in the Playground Analysis, good news for all the Henry lovers on Nameberry. An advantage that will keep Henry feeling less popular than he looks: No common spelling variations or stylish nicknames.
Owen — I admit I was personally relieved to see Owen, my own younger son’s name, at Number 47 on the Playground Analysis list, down significantly from his official Number 38. While Owen may continue to rise in the official standings, he’s kept from feeling overly popular ala Aiden and Jayden et al by the fact that there’s only one common spelling of Owen — the Irish Eoin or Eoghan homonyms being out of the question for most Americans.
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on July 23rd, 2014 at 11:29 pm
I absolutely adore the names Henry and Ella. They sound like names that belong in fairy tales.
on July 24th, 2014 at 2:18 am
I’m one of those who doesn’t think combining spelling variants makes big difference
on July 24th, 2014 at 8:08 am
Check your state data too though. Henry might seem less popular based on this, but when he’s top 10 in our state now, he’s still very popular, even if you combine spellings.
on July 24th, 2014 at 8:20 am
Something I personally need to consider is that what is popular here on Nameberry does not necessarily reflect society as a whole. Berries tend to have a different naming style (as in most are against youneek names, etc). So, if I love Imogen, and I do, but fear it’s becoming too popular, based on Nameberry stats, I should also look at the SSA stats for a check of what is actually going on.
Funny thing…I recently heard of a baby named Winnie Cate (mom’s name is Catherine) and thought it was very “on trend”…also realized I don’t really know any other people besides on here that I could mention this to. Most people wouldn’t even notice or care!
on July 24th, 2014 at 8:49 am
Being out and about I always hear Grace, Ella, Noah, Jayden, Victoria, and Emma (and Emily) from this list on toddlers and kids. I heard a grandma yell “Emma Georgette!” a couple months ago and I thought “hmm, interesting combo” because normally it’s Emma Grace, Emma Rose, and so on. My ears are always open though. I hear Jayden the most out of these names so I’d say it’s #1 around my area. I heard Charlotte was popular too but I never hear it. Sophia is popular but I don’t actually hear parents “Sophia! Get over here!” so idk. India, Paris, China, London, and Asia are names I hear all the time. And the many spelling variations of Brianna. Justice and Kayla VERY popular around here.
on July 24th, 2014 at 10:23 am
Darn, I was hoping to see Audrey on this list.
on July 24th, 2014 at 11:14 am
I would love to know where Katharine/Katherine/Kathryn/Catherine falls on the playground analysis. I picked Katharine as a solid classic but also because it falls lower in current popularity than Elizabeth, Grace, Abigail, or Charlotte on the top 100. But considering all its spelling variations, I bet it’s as popular as the others.
on July 24th, 2014 at 11:21 am
Ooops, never mind…I just found the playground analysis blog. I was right. Katharine(with her variations) goes from the 70’s to the 40’s in popularity. Darn. Oh well. I still love the name.
on July 24th, 2014 at 3:53 pm
I feel like this article is somewhat misleading, but mainly for me. I consider names that are in the top 50 pretty popular whether it’s ranked 11 or 35
on July 26th, 2014 at 8:22 am
In my area Lilly and Emma are the girls names you hear everywhere. Jackson and Owen are the boys you hear all the time
on July 26th, 2014 at 12:05 pm
Yeah, I was hoping that this article would be about names in the top 50 or 100 that are actually not in the top 50 or 100 by the playground analysis. I don’t even consider names in the top 50 and try to stay out of the top 100 (at least for first names).
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