Favorite Name Too Popular? Here Are Some Fresh Substitutes

It’s become a truism that once a name gets too popular, no one wants to use it anymore.  (Which reminds me of the famous Yogi Berra saying: Nobody goes to that place anymore.  It’s too crowded.)

So what do they use instead?  Often, a name that’s the same but different.

Consider Emma, 2008’s Number One girls’ name.  Part of Emma’s success, I’m sure, is that it resembles Emily, long the girls’ top name, but has an individual pedigree and style all its own.

An older spin on this theme was Jessica, which took over the top spot from big sister Jennifer.  It works on the boys’ side too, with Jacob and Justin picking up where Jason left off.

More interesting, though, are the names that are just now appearing on the horizon as similar-but-different substitutes for names that are becoming overly popular.  The appeal of these names is obvious: They seem to offer fresh spins on favorites that are feeling a bit tired.

The down side is that so many people tend to flock to them, they’re often in danger of becoming – like Emma – overexposed themselves.

Here, some current favorites and the daughters (and sons) they’ve spawned.  Interestingly, some popular names inspire new choices that may cross gender lines.



Abel, Abraham, Abram, Abelia


Adelaide, Adeline, Adriel, Adele


Alexa, Alexis, Alexia, Alec, Alexei


Ashlyn, Asher, Ashira, Ashton, Ashby, Ash, Cash, Nash


Aubrey, Auberon, Auburn, Audra, Audria, Audrina, Audriana, Aurora, Auria, Aurelia, Autry


Avery, Aveline, Avis, Avalon, Averill, Avi, Aviva


Camden, Camilla, Camille, Campbell, Cambria, Cameo


Emilia (and Amelia), Emmeline, Emmalyn, Emme, Emmett, Emerson, Emory


Evelyn, Eveline, Evaleen, Eve, Evie, Everett, Evangeline, Ever, Everly


Gracie, Grayson, Gray, Gracia, Grania


Bella, Belle, Arabella, Annabelle, Bellamy


Juliana, Juliet, Julissa, Julius, Jules


Lillian, Liliana, Lilia, Lila, Layla, Leila, Lola, Leilani, Lorelei, Delilah, Tallulah


Lucia, Luca, Luna, Lucan, Lucian, Lucius


Alivia, Olive, Liv, Livia


Ronan, Rowan, Roman, Keagan, Teagan



Brayan, Braylon, Braxton, Brady, Brayson, Brannon


Cadence, Cadman, Cadigan, Cady, Kai, Kailin


Finley, Finnegan, Finnian


Jackson, Jaxon, Jax


Jada, Jaylen, Jay, Jayce


Maximilian, Maximus, Maxwell, Maxine, Maxen


Shane, Shaw, Sawyer, Sayer

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20 Responses to “Favorite Name Too Popular? Here Are Some Fresh Substitutes”

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rachelmarie Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 12:26 am

You mentioned 3 of my absolute favorite names on here:
Audra, Liv, and Luke

I’m just hoping that Audra and Liv don’t become popular, that will just break my heart.

susan Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 4:26 am

I love Audra, too! But I don’t think it will get super popular.
I love the way popular boys’ names can lead to less popular girls’ names and super hot girls’ names can lead to less known boys’ names in this blog. I haven’t seen that done before. It was really creative!

Sylvia Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 8:13 am

What is so great about “crossing gender lines?”

Let the boys keep Abel, Abraham, Alec, Alexei, Asher, Everett, Julius, Lucian, Lucius, Ronan, Rowan, & Roman. Girls have enough names without stealing them. It’s unfair and emasculating to the boys. seriously, just leave off it.

Kathy Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 8:38 am

First-time commenter and fellow baby name lover here to add my two cents to this great list. My friend just named her daughter Aven, which I’ve never heard before but think is a beautiful alternative to Ava. Also glad to see you spelled Juliana with one ‘n’. We named our oldest daughter Juliana and everyone always wants to make it Julianna (it’s still a pretty name that way, just not how I think it should be spelled!).

JustADad Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 8:49 am

Maxine for boys?

Elsa Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 12:11 pm

As a mum of a Julius, lets keep this one for the boys!

Barbara Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Abraham or Abram for a girl? AAAGH! Can we please leave the boys’ names alone? Especially ones that refer to fatherhood? Come on! Give it a rest! Boys need names, too, and once they go to the girls, they never, ever come back. Also, it just looks very silly for a girl to be named “Father.”

As to “Alivia”… that’s just a Kreeaytyv spelling. If you really want an Olivia, then forget the rest of the world and name your child Olivia. If you don’t want to do that–if you have Olivia-fatigue–then when pick something that sounds just like it and will require the child to constantly correct the spelling? If you don’t like the name PICK AN ACTUALLY DIFFERENT NAME.

There are millions of names out there, and surely, it’s possible to come up with one that has both personal and universal meaning, which both parents like. Raid your family trees. There are a good number of fabulous old forgotten names in them. Like that “O”–how about Ora? The L? Maybe Lydia. just grabbing one random page from one of my genealogies (looks like early 1800s), I find Signora, Violette, Theresa, Antoinette, Josephine, Larana, May, Harriet, Martha, Lydia, Vienna, Beta, Attebella, Catherine, Ann, Lois, Betsey, Polly, and Abigail. Now, Signora is very silly, and Abigail and Josephine are currently popular. Attebella… neh. And Beta would have to grow up to do lab work, so things could be “beta tested.” But Lois, Betsey, Larana, Violette… all very usable. In fact, if you like the V in Olivia, what’s wrong with Violet?


susan Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I’m noticing a lot of frustration in some of the blogs above. I think people are frustrated because they think the writer of the blog, who is probably Linda, is saying to give less popular boys’ names to girls instead of popular names and vice versa. I don’t think that this is what she’s saying. I think she’s saying that if you love the name Julia for example, you could name your son Julius and have the pleasure of using a name whose sound you really love. That is what is so creative about this blog. I would never name my daughter Julius! I hope what I’m writing is making sense. It is a very complicated idea. Let me know if I’m not making sense, and I will give it another try. Maybe Linda could explain what she’s trying to say.

Pam Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Yes! Thank you, Susan, that is what I was trying to say. It is a confusing concept and obviously I didn’t convey it clearly. This kind of relates to the boy-girl name equivalents post from Beyond Ava & Aiden that we put up the other day. The point is that very popular names spawn lots of similar names, including ones for their “own” sex and for the opposite sex. Does that makes sense?

redriding Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Ooh, yes, a lot of tension here! Thank you Pam for clarifying this.

I have noticed over the last twenty years or so, the growing trend in America for parents to “poach” traditional boys names for girls – it is far less common in the UK, and I think it is a more satisfactory arrangement. We all know where we are with it! Again, it is all a very personal choice. Personally, I like a name to clearly convey gender without explanation, but I am probably “old-fashioned” on this one. I have to admit, though, that I have a son called Douglas, which was after all traditionally a name for girls centuries ago!

I also think that if a name is considered too “overused” for you, it would be better to go for another name completely rather than find a variant on your original choice. If I wanted a girl called Julia (which I have, incidentally), then a boy called Julian or Julius just would not cut the mustard. (For me, obviously).

This blog just goes to show how feelings can run high on the seemingly innocuous subject of naming!

PS are you a counsellor or something, Susan? You are always good at pouring oil on troubled waters.

SORRY FOR ALL THESE METAPHORS! It is gone midnight over here in Wales, I have work in the morning, the kids start back at school, and I must go to sleep now.

redriding Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 7:21 pm

PS Kathy – yes, I agree with you about Juliana, I had a friend called this in school, and I think she was named because her mother admired the Dutch Royal family (Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, etc).

Julianna is a different name, but nevertheless a name in its own right.

susan Says:

September 1st, 2009 at 8:48 pm

I’m not a counselor, but I’ve had a lot of therapy. Plus I have a disgruntled teenage daughter and all her disgruntled friends who I have to interact with very gingerly. Plus my son had an extremely grumpy girlfriend named Jessica, but thankfully, he broke up with her. Now he has a lovely and nice girlfriend named Lea. I don’t think I will ever be able to like the name Jessica any more although I used to love it many years ago.

Jenmb Says:

September 2nd, 2009 at 12:18 am

Barbara, in case you’re still reading I’d love to know what meets your standards for a legitimate name vs. a “Kreeaytyv” one as you put it. Why does Alivia make you so angry, but not Audra? Both are variants of other names (Olivia and Audrey) and I personally would pronounce Alivia differently than Olivia. Is it because Audra is an older name than Alivia? Someone had to start a trend, doesn’t matter if it was in 1808 or 2008. Just curious….

Tracey Says:

September 4th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

What about Gemma for Emma? Meaning’s nowhere near, but the sound is there.

Catherine Says:

September 19th, 2009 at 8:53 am

I think Calla would make a great addition to the Lily list.

Jenmb…I’m not Barbara but my take is “once a name appears in a novel for a university English reading list, it’s no longer kre8tiv”. Maybe I’m a name snob…

LilacaRose Says:

November 30th, 2009 at 6:43 pm

My daughter’s name is Gracelyn…shouldn’t that be a variant of Grace? Its quite high on the SSA chart for 2008.

Kristin Says:

April 19th, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I’m guilty, I admit it. I always like a name and once it becomes too popular, I try to find a substitute for it that is less popular. Loved Ava, it became too popular so I started liking Avery, which is now getting popular where I live. Love Olivia but it’s so popular that I thought Alivia would be a better bet, but now I can see that it’s really not. I think now I’m learning to stand by the name you love, even if it is in the top ten.

Tori Says:

July 26th, 2011 at 4:38 am

I agree with Barbara!
Abigial a fresh alertnative is Abraham and Abram for goodness sake! Abel/Abraham/Abram are biblical boys names they’ve been boys names for centuries. That just stupid nameberry! I love you guys and your amazing blog keeps me entertained at work but that I totally disapprove off. Leave some names for boys please! This is the same for many of these new alernatives for popular names. I’m totally confused by this blog! How can one use the gorgeous Roman/Rowan for a girl!
Maybe I’m just totally missing the point of this blog and getting the whole gender idea muddled up?! I’m thoroughly confused nameberry!

RitaPumpkinina Says:

November 3rd, 2011 at 11:54 am

It’s odd but Rowan has always been a predominantly female name in my head and I’ve known 2 Rowans, one of each gender. Hm.

benjamelissa Says:

July 8th, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Rowan also seems girly to me. Maybe because we pronounce it “Row-anne”? As in Rowan County, NC.

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