Name Sage: Is This Name Too Popular?

Name Sage: Is This Name Too Popular?

Sarah writes:

My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in late September. September 25th! His great-grandpa is Ezra and mine is Matthew. Ezra Matthew. Great, right?

However, I was one of four Sarahs in my graduating class of a small town high school.

Will Ezra become a super popular name? Like, Top 20 popular?

When do you think Ezra will peak? I realize this is a guess, but it’s the kind of thing I wonder about.

Do you think there’s any chance that Ezra will be mistaken for a girl?

We’re also considering other names, including Abraham and Ezekiel.

I would love to hear what others think!

The Name Sage replies:

Ezra Matthew is such a handsome name, and how perfect that it honors both families! Ezekiel and Abraham are great, but it’s hard to imagine a better choice than Ezra Matthew.

Plenty of parents share your concern about popularity, especially if they went through school as Jennifer M. or Mike T. While I can’t promise that Ezra won’t be a future Top Ten name, I don’t think you’ll regret choosing it for your son.

Ezra is on the rise, and for good reason. It’s vintage and literary, with just enough of an edge. From poet Ezra Pound to children’s author-illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, there are plenty of appealing namesakes.

That said, I don’t think Ezra is going to be everywhere before your son learns to walk. And even if you feel like you’re meeting lots of baby Ezras as your son grows up, I don’t think you’ll regret the choice.

In short, I’d encourage you to use Ezra Matthew. Here’s why:

Very few names are overnight sensations. The current Number 1 name, Noah, entered the US Top 100 in 1995. It didn’t reach the Top Ten until 2008. Ethan first ranked in the Top 100 back in 1989, and reached the Top Ten in 2001. That’s over a decade for both! Newer names, like Jayden, do tend to climb (and fall) faster, rising in just five or six years.

But I’d expect Biblical, traditional Ezra to trend more like Ethan than Jayden. If your main concern is Ezra having lots of other boys with the same name in his kindergarten or graduating class, that’s just not likely. Even white-hot names like Mason and Liam didn’t go from Number 119 to Number 8 in a single year.

Ezra might never be a Top Ten name. Sarah spent over twenty years in the US Top Ten. When you were born, the name had already been very popular for years.

Right now, Ezra is climbing, but relatively few names will ever reach the US Top Ten. Over the past century, only 24 boys’ names have reached the Top Five.

The most popular names are less popular than they were in the 1990s. Sure, Number 1 is still Number 1. But in 1990, the top name for girls was Jessica, given to around 2.3% of all girls. Fast-forward to 2014, and only a little over 1% of all girls were named Emma – but that was still enough to make Emma the Number 1 name. Even the most popular names are less likely to repeat today than they were twenty-five years ago.

Ezra aces the Playground Analysis. There’s really only one way to spell Ezra, and that matters so much when it comes to popularity.

Tally up Jackson, Jaxon, and Jaxson – all Top 100 names – and the combined total is enough to make Jackson and company the most popular name in the US for 2014. Since I doubt we’ll be seeing many (or any?) boys named Ezzra or Ezrah, Ezra will probably feel less popular than names with multiple spellings.

Personal meaning makes up for a lot. You haven’t mentioned if the other names on your shortlist also have personal significance. Even if Ezra does become more popular, I suspect that the meaning will resonate, and make the name feel special – even if your son has a classmate with the same name.

Because here’s the kicker: Ezra could remain relatively obscure, and you might still meet other Ezras. That’s partly because your ears will perk up when your neighbor mentions that her college roommate’s sister-in-law just had a son named Ezra. But it’s also because we tend to have a lot in common with our friends, colleagues, and neighbors – so it’s no surprise when we share the same taste in baby names.

Now, let’s look at your final question: will Ezra be mistaken for a girl?

Here’s where Ezra’s rising popularity helps you.

In 2014, there were 155 newborn girls named Ezra, compared to 3,372 boys. Even if the number of girls named Ezra tripled, this name would remain squarely in the boys’ camp.

I wouldn’t be surprised to meet a girl named Ezra. But I think it would be relatively rare to meet someone who didn’t recognize Ezra as a masculine name.

Overall, I think Ezra hits the right note. It’s a name with lots of meaning for your family. And while it’s a fairly familiar boy’s name, it’s still far from being too popular.

Readers, what do you think – will Ezra become too popular? Should they choose another name?