Girl Names More Popular Than You Think
Popularity can be deceiving. You can do all the research, taking care to choose a name for your daughter that’s familiar but uncommon, and still be surprised that there’s another Evie in her preschool class. Or maybe she’s the only Amora, but the other Amayas and Aminas that you meet feel uncomfortably similar. If you’re someone who cares about individuality, this can be disappointing.
Names that are a part of fashionable name families — such as Ev- or Am-a names — feel more popular than their rankings would suggest. Baby names often travel in packs and form these super-groups of names that are close in sound. If Mia is trending, so are Mila and Maya.
The official popularity statistics don’t measure this. We somewhat account for it in our Playground Analysis, but that will only tell you the true popularity of names with the same pronunciation.
Here, we’ve identified the most influential families of girl names. For simplicity, we’ve restricted our analysis to names within the Top 1000. Names are listed in order of popularity with their ranking in parentheses.
The Ads and Mads
The 25 names in this section are, for the most part, variations of the same four names — Madison and Addison, Madeline and Adeline. They’re all past their peaks but still strongly represented with various spellings and spinoffs (we see you, Adalee).
Adeline is particular is deceptively popular — according to our Playground Analysis, it actually ranks at Number 10 on the national charts if all the spellings are combined.
Double-A girl names are one of the hottest trends for the 2020s — as a group, they’ve been zooming up the charts. With three syllables, they convey strength and power while sounding decidedly romantic. The Al-a names are especially lyrical with their L sound.
That lyricality is key with this set — names like Alexa, Alondra, and Aliza, with their hard secondary consonants, don’t quite fit.
The Am-as follow the same principles as the Al-as, but replace the lyrical L with a melodious M. Amoura, which made the Top 1000 for the first time in 2019, was also the fastest-rising name of the year.
Ari is notable for being a popular name prefix and suffix, as seen in names such as Amari, Khari, and Jakari.
Among baby girls, it’s most prominent at the beginning of the name. Aria is the exemplar of this category and fits in with other trends, being three syllables and bookended by As.
A mini but mighty category, two-syllable names that end in -ella are a pervasive trend. Ella has been in the Top 25 since 2005. Currently, three out of the four make the Top 50 (that’s over 17,000 births!), and Della, though rarer, is trending up.
Under the umbrella of Ellas are all the 3+ syllable names that end in -ella, such as Isabella and Gabriella. Of particular note are the A-ellas, a subgroup populated by names that start with A and end with -ella:
Ellie is this generation’s every-girl nickname. Not only does it rank highly as-is — Number 35, more popular than ever — Ellie is used as a nickname for many of the girls who were born Eliana, Ellison, Elizabeth, and so on.
The Em- family of names has expanded significantly since the heyday of Emily, with names such as Ember, Emmeline, and Emerald joining the pool.
Between Evelyn and Everly, Ev- names have never been hotter. At Number 329, Evie may register as a sweet spot name, but if we added the number of girls nicknamed Evie, it’d be bumped much higher on the charts.
Hailey and co. were some of the defining names of the early aughts, and though still common, are slipping in popularity. The newer H-ley names, such as Hadley, Henley, and Haisley, will never reach Hailey’s heights, but there are enough of them around to convince you otherwise.
The Double Ls
This trend really started with Lily, but now Layla is the reigning queen of the double L names. It ranks within the Top 25 and has four spelling variations within the Top 1000. Another name to watch is Lyla, which usurped the more traditional Lila in 2009 and may continue to rise along with the similar name Lyra.
Lilting Hawaiian-style -lani names are a newer trend — Leilani and Alani were the only two that ranked in the Top 1000 until 2013. Many of the newer additions, such as Kehlani and Meilani, are invented names without authentic Hawaiian origins.
And we haven’t reached peak Lani yet. Khalani and Laylani are strong contenders for breaking through on to next year’s popularity chart.
The K-lani names are the sneakiest in terms of popularity. There are five (and counting) in the Top 1000, yet none rank above 200.
Mia has been a Top 10 name for over a decade — almost the same amount of time it took Mila to skyrocket from outside of the Top 1000 to the Top 20 (thanks, Mila Kunis). Add those to all the other mini M names and you’ll almost certainly find one in your child’s kindergarten classroom.
By definition, Riley is a unisex name. But just barely.
The spelling Riley alone is 80 percent female. But if you consider all the Riley variations in the Top 1000, the name becomes 90 percent female, just making our cutoff to qualify as unisex. So not only is Riley deceptively popular, it’s deceptively gender-neutral.