Baby Names: Solving the Popularity Puzzle
They’re looking for an unusual baby name for their son, and they’ve found a favorite. The only trouble? Their top name might be the next big thing.
I have two concerns with this name.
I keep reading that in 2016 it could be popular, because of Disney and Hollywood parents. I had a unique name growing up and loved it! I felt bad for all the Brittanys and Ashleys of my generation. I dread accidentally giving my son a trendy name, and having him go through life as Arlo H. We’re in Canada, so we’re looking for relevant statistics here.
The Name Sage replies:
For years, parents blithely selected names without regard to popularity. They knew that their Mary wouldn’t be the only one, but didn’t mind.
It’s the complete opposite of how we name today, preferring our children’s names be distinctive. If possible, we’d love for them to be the only one – at least in our immediate circles and their grade school classrooms.
As much as I understand the impulse, it’s easy to go too far in the other direction. We reject many names we love, only because they might be too popular.
Let’s talk about Arlo. The name is, indeed, becoming more common throughout the English-speaking world. Some of it might be thanks to The Good Dinosaur, featuring a friendly Apatosaurus named Arlo. (He helps out a human boy called Spot.)
It’s also because o-ending names for boys have become stylish choices. Leo is a go-to favorite, and romance language names like Mateo are also trending. This has opened the door for Milo and Marco and Theo – all sorts of o-ending names for boys. Arlo definitely makes that list!
But here’s the good news: the most popular names are given to fewer children than ever before. For example:
- In British Columbia in 1965, the most popular name was David. It was given to around 675 boys. In 2015, the number one pick in British Columbia was Oliver – with just over 200 newborn boys receiving the name. (Note: Canada does not publish names data on a nationwide basis, though the provinces do make information available.)
- The numbers for the US are similar. In 1965, there were over 81,000 Michaels, the top name for that year; the current top name, Noah, was given to around 19,500 boys last year.
But it doesn’t mean you’ll never meet another Arlo. Our daughter’s name is not in the current Top 1000, but we know two others. As soon as you settle on a name, you’ll listen for it more closely – and perhaps become anxious if you hear it too often.
As for a nickname, I think your instincts are right. Arlo is short and complete and therefore very unlikely to require – or attract – a nickname.
If Arlo is the name that you love, I would use it with confidence.
Let’s have a poll, because I know it will be helpful to hear from others.
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on September 27th, 2016 at 11:11 pm
I’ve never met an Arlo and have only met one Aldo.
It is a nice name, strong yet gentle sounding.
I’m a big believer in choosing THE name you love, not choosing alternates because they might be…. fill in the blank. More or less popular, longer or shorter, more or less unusual.
Arlo is a great choice!
on September 27th, 2016 at 11:58 pm
Do not worry. The truth is, there will never be another name like Jennifer in the 80’s. For example Jennifer, in 1982, was given to over 57,000 girls. That’s about three times the number of babies named Emma, the top 2015 name with only 20,000 girls being given the name. Not only that, but Jennifer remained the #1 from 1970 to 1984 – that’s a lot of Jennifers! These days parents are WAY more looking for different things – there are more babies named outside the top 1000 and less babies being given a top name. Arlo for 2015 was given to 572 boys (#502 in rank), alongside Arjun, Darius, Eden, Tony, Dustin. Are those names you hear everyday? You will be completely fine with Arlo. Another thing you could do if you’re worried about popularity is go to pre-school / kindergarten classrooms in your community and look at class rosters. Sometimes names are only specific to a certain area – Arlo could be disproportionately popular in your area if people are looking for the same style name. Also, the SSA website gives out name lists of each state so you can look at that as well. Basically, name popularity isn’t what it used to be and even if Arlo does skyrocket: #1 your baby will be ahead of the curve, #2 your child still probably won’t have to go by a last initial.
on September 28th, 2016 at 6:59 am
I completely agree with thorn144. The “popular” names are not nearly as common today as they once were. Around here, the “o” ending is trending, and I’ve met Theos, Leos, and Milos, but never an Arlo. It actually sounds like a “sweet spot” name to me–it’s very “today” without being overheated.
Our oldest has a name that surprised us by becoming trendy after-the-fact (up 250 slots in the past decade), but even then, I wouldn’t change it. We loved the name first, and we still don’t hear it that often. I guess we’re trend-setters. LOL Don’t let perceived popularity keep you from using the name you have year heart set on. 🙂
on September 28th, 2016 at 8:53 am
I’d be more concerned about Leo, Theo, and Luca becoming uber popular – not Arlo.
on September 28th, 2016 at 9:45 am
I live in Canada and I’ve never met an Arlo or baby Arlo. Oliver yes, like a thousand, but never Arlo. If you love it, I say: use it.
on September 28th, 2016 at 11:22 am
I live in Canada (in the greater Toronto area), and I have never met an Arlo. I’m a kindergarten teacher, so I know lots of young childten, so I’m especially sure that it’s not at all a common name.
Bitsy Poet Said
on September 28th, 2016 at 7:29 pm
I think Arlo is a perfect name. I know of two little Arlo’s, one boy and one girl, both are under four. But I’m also in America, so I can’t speak for your area.
My main advice would actually be about his middle names. The 2-1-1 syllable pattern of Arlo John Wayne sounds very stilted and choppy to me. I think the 2-3-1 of Arlo Jonathan Wayne sounds much better.
A couple other names similar to Arlo but less popular would be:
on September 28th, 2016 at 8:53 pm
I’ve seen a few birth announcements for Arlos in the UK…but where I currently reside in the US, I’ve never met an Arlo or heard anyone even think of it and consider it.
on September 30th, 2016 at 8:24 pm
I think Arlo is great, but if you are at all concerned, one potential alternative could be Tycho. It has a similar sound to Arlo, and is quite unique, in spite of being worn by some pretty cool historical figures. It doesn’t require a nickname, but if you can’t picture youself shouting “let’s go Tycho!” from the sidelines of a soccer field, it shortens easily to Ty. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Best of luck to you!
on December 11th, 2016 at 6:24 am
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