How Long Do Popular Names Stay Popular?
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A Nameberry reader recently asked: How long do baby names in the US Top 10 tend to remain in the Top 10?
Good question, we thought, and so with the help of our commando researcher Esmeralda Rocha, we did some investigation.
The short answer: It’s complicated. While girls’ names in the current Top 10 have been there fewer years on average – 12 years versus 14 for the boys – those numbers are skewed by the amazing durability of Emily at 24 years and, even more dramatically, Michael at 72. Take Emily and Michael out of the equation and the balance reverses, with girls’ names staying on top an average of 10 years versus only 7.5 for the boys!
But this doesn’t tell the whole story either, given that classic boys’ names such as William and James have been in the Top 10 for most of the 135-year history of the data, though they dipped out and returned only recently. And on the girls’ side, Elizabeth had been in the Top 10 most of those years, only to slip out in 2014.
Here, a closer look at the popularity durability of all the names of both genders in the current US Top 10.
A Top 10 name since 2001, Olivia‘s rise has been marked by two big leaps. The first was from Number 492 in 1973 to Number 232 in 1975; the second leap was from Number 248 in 1985 to Number 72 in 1990, the year it entered the Top 100.
Sophia has been a Top 10 girls’ name since 2006. Sophia experienced three big leaps over 50 years to get to its current position: from 1956 to 1962, the heyday of actress Sophia Loren; from 1978 to 1981; and finally vaulting into the Top 100 in 1997. Sophia held the Number 1 spot from 2011 through 2013.
A Top 10 girls’ name since 2009, Mia‘s climb has been more sure and steady, rising from Number 463 in 1984 to the Top 10 a quarter of a century later.
Emily is the sturdiest female name on the current Top 10 list: It’s been in the Top 10 since 1991 and has rarely been outside the Top 200.
The Biblical Abigail rose mostly steadily over 50 years, although a significant jump occurred between 1966 and 1976, when it climbed 450 places. It’s been in the Top 10 since 2001.
The girls’ name Madison was unheard of before it was popularized by the movie Splash in 1985, when it entered the Top 1000 at Number 628. Madison‘s popularity increased quickly over the next 12 years, entering the Top 10 in 1997.
Though a newcomer in 2014 to the Top 10, Charlotte is a perennial favorite and has rarely been outside the Top 250 in the past century. However, it owes its current Top 10 status to a significant jump between 2002 and 2011. With the naming of the British princess this year, Charlotte is likely to remain popular for years to come.
Although it has been increasing in popularity since the 1960s, Noah experienced a marked jump between 1992 and 1996, when it climbed to Number 50. It’s been in the Top 10 since 2009.
Liam has been in the boys’ Top 10 since 2012. Pretty much unheard of before the mid-1970s, Liam (like Noah) experienced a particularly steep rise in popularity between 1992 and 1996, with the growing fame of actor Liam Neeson.
A Top 10 name since 2011, Mason experienced a significant increase in usage in the 1980s and vaulted into the very top ranks when it was chosen for her son by a Kardashian.
Jacob, always a popular name, has been in the Top 100 for more than 40 years and the Top 10 for more than 20, including 13 years at Number 1.
The question with William is not so much when it entered the Top 10, but when it’s ever been out of it? William has been in the Top 10 for 90 of the past 120 years, slipping at its lowest point to Number 20 in 1995. It’s been back in the Top 10 since 2006.
The Biblical Ethan disappeared from the Top 1000 for the first half of the 20th century, but since reappearing in the mid-1950s, it’s steadily climbed the popularity ranks. Ethan’s big boost came in the late ’80s when it catapulted into the Top 100; Ethan reached the boys’ Top 10 in 2002.
Winner of the longevity contest, Michael has been in the Top 10 since 1943, and spent at least 40 consecutive years at Number 1.
Alexander dropped just outside the Top 200 in the early 1960s, but by the 1990s it had reached the Top 20. Since then it was a slow climb to reach the Top 10 in 2008, where it peaked at Number 4 in 2009.
Technically, Daniel has been in Top 10 only since 2012. However, it’s been in the top dozen since 1982, and has rarely been outside the Top 50 in the past 135 years.
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on October 27th, 2015 at 9:15 am
Fascinating! So, it would seem that some of the top ten should be cycling down the list soon.
on October 27th, 2015 at 3:03 pm
Interesting how long these names have been popular. Over half of the boys’ names seem to have never really spent any time outside the top 100. I’d love to see Nameberry’s predictions on what the next one or two girls’ and boys’ names will be to enter the top 10…and what names they will be replacing.
on October 29th, 2015 at 12:40 pm
I look forward to all predictions it names. It is interesting though that for some names that a very popular start to use their luster.
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