But there’s one source of geographic inspiration that parents often overlook: street names.
If there’s a road that has special meaning to you (say, if you met your future spouse on Melrose Avenue), using a street name could be a fun way to share that history with your baby.
But you have to be a little careful. There’s an old gag about how you can generate your porn-star name by combining the name of your pet with the street you grew up on. In other words, street names have a the potential of possibly sounding a bit trashy.
To figure out the street names that work the best, I compiled a list of the most obvious options. Then I checked them against the Social Security Administration database to see which ones have actually been used as genuine human names. After all, even if you’re looking to get creative, you probably don’t want to go totally off the beaten path.
I started with the most common street names in America, relying on data from the National League of Cities. I took out numbered monikers such as First, Second or Third. (Interestingly, Second Street is the most common street name in the U.S. That’s because many towns either use First or Main for their No. 1 thoroughfare, splitting the ticket.)
Then I counted how many times they were used as baby names in the U.S. in 2015, the most recent year with SSA data available. Those that weren’t used at all were excluded from the list.
Here is the tally of the most common American street names, with the number of namesake babies in parentheses:
Park (2 males)
Oak (25 males)
Maple (72 females)
Cedar (59 females, 109 males)
Washington (11 males)
Lake (48 females, 64 males)
Now let’s take a look at some of the most famous street names in the English-speaking world. Again, I’ll exclude the numbered ones since I don’t think they’ll work as baby names (sorry, Harper Seven Beckham).
The best-known streets include London‘s Abbey Road, New York‘s Madison Avenue and San Francisco‘s Lombard Street — along with names that would make no sense on a baby, such as Wall Street, the Las Vegas Strip and Broadway. (Well, Broadway Joe Namath did manage to make that last one work.)
In this area, there isn’t much of a contest: Madison is far and away the most popular baby name among the ranks of famous streets. It went to more than 10,000 girls in the U.S. in 2015, along with 72 boys and reached the #2 spot in 2001-2.
To be sure, most parents naming their daughters Madison probably don’t associate it with the street in Manhattan. But they probably should. The movie Splash popularized Madison as a girls’ name, and it very much used the avenue as inspiration.
During a scene in which Daryl Hannah‘s mermaid adapts to life in New York, Tom Hanks’ character suggests names for her: “Jennifer, Joni, Hillary…” As they pass Madison Avenue, she seizes on it and wants to call herself that.
“I like Madison!” she says.
Few other famous street names work as well. Abbey went to 163 girls last year (but Americans generally prefer Abigail and Abby). And sixteen girls were called Melrose. I coudn’t find any record of babies with other iconic street names in 2015.
That brings us to our final category: fictitious street names.
My favorite pick would be a place that melds fiction with reality: 221B Baker Street. The street number didn’t exist when Arthur Conan Doyle created it for his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes. But it’s a real street in London, and the address now serves as a museum.
Taking all of this into account, here is my master list for the most usable street names, measured by total namesake babies in 2015.