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Is This Baby Name Too Popular?

November 1, 2016 Abby Sandel

Their favorite girl names have raced up the charts of popular baby names, sending this couple back to the drawing board for their December daughter. Let’s help them find a vintage, traditional name – that isn’t headed for the Top Ten!

Megan writes:

My husband and I are at a name standoff. I like sophisticated, vintage names and my husband likes traditional, common names.

We have a son named Nathaniel, called Nate, which we came to pretty easily. We both tend to like longer formal names that have a shorter option.

We are now expecting a little girl in December and have gone through about 100 names that we cannot agree on.

My favorite name since childhood has been Evelyn, which is now so popular. Our backup name, Layla, has also reached peak popularity with two of them in my son’s preschool class of ten!

The other top names we have right now are Gabrielle/Gabby and Josephine/JoJo. I do not love either of these but they are the only ones we both sort of like that we don’t hear everywhere.

The middle name will either be Jean or Margaret. Our last name is a common Italian surname that starts with a P.

Please help!

The Name Sage replies:

When you’re trying to narrow down a long list of maybes to The Name, it can seem like you’re miles apart from your partner. But when I look at your list, it sounds like you have plenty in common.

And that’s good news. Because the stumbling block isn’t necessarily finding The Name – it’s recognizing that sometimes The Name doesn’t come with lightning bolts and angels singing. Sometimes it has drawbacks. Sometimes it’s just a little different from your style. Or maybe it breaks every single one of your rules, and it seems like it can’t possibly be The Name because you want X, and it is so Y.

Which is all a long way of saying this: Are you sure you don’t want to use Evelyn for your daughter?

About a hundred years ago, Evelyn hovered just outside the US Top Ten. Today, the name is back, coming in at Number 15. Similarly popular names include Grace, Chloe, Charlotte, Madison, and Amelia. I know children with most of those names, but not so many that they seem too popular.

Here’s where math is really on your side: fewer children receive the most popular names today than they did thirty or fifty or 100 years ago. The Number Fifteen name in 2016 is given to around the same percentage of children that received the Number Forty name in 1916. In other words, yes, Evelyn is popular – but that’s no guarantee that she’ll go through school as one of three in her class.

But if I can’t talk you into Evelyn, and Josephine and Gabrielle still don’t feel like a fit, let’s look at some other options.

Caroline Caroline is Charlotte’s bridesmaid. She’s every bit as lovely, but hasn’t moved into the spotlight. That’s good news for you, though. Like Nathaniel, Caroline has ranked in the Top 100 for years. Nicknames Carrie, Carlie, and Callie all work, but if you named her Caroline Jean, she could also be CJ.

Genevieve Genevieve gives you the ‘v’ from Evelyn, has vintage style with to spare, and feels a little less common.

Lydia – Antique Lydia reminds me of Layla. Bonus? It shortens to Liddy, and comes in at Number 81, similar to Nathaniel in terms of use.

Julia – Traditional and ancient, Julia is easy to overlook. But it’s truly a timeless choice. Nicknames Jules is especially appealing.

Mariel/Marielle – If you like Gabrielle, maybe Mariel or Marielle will appeal? While it is a very unusual name, it’s a spin on the evergreen Mary. Nicknames include Ella and Ellie, but also Mari and Mimi.

Gemma Gemma is originally an Italian name meaning jewel. It’s not nearly as Italian as Gianna or Francesca, but it should pair well with an Italian surname, and hits the familiar-but-different sweet spot.

Lucy – I hesitate to suggest Lucy – it’s popular and it’s nickname-proof. Except if you do like Lucy, you might consider longer forms, like Lucille and Lucia. And Lucy and Nate sound great together!

Eleanor – I can imagine Eleanor and Evelyn as sisters – feminine names, but strong, too. Nicknames like Ellie and Nell make it very wearable for a child. It combines the –elle sound from Gabrielle with a vintage, traditional vibe.

Overall, my favorite for you is Caroline Jean, especially with the potential nickname CJ. But it still seems like a shame to abandon your long-time favorite choice, so I’d suggest Caroline only if you’re sure that Evelyn is off the table.

Let’s add a quick poll about how other have dealt with this issue.

Readers, have you abandoned a favorite name because it was too popular? Did you regret it?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

View all of Abby's articles

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