Playground Analysis 2017: The REAL Top 50 List!

with various spellings combined

By Kelli Brady

After seeing the SSA’s 2017 Popular Baby Names list, did you wonder why you aren’t hearing the #1 name as much as a name further down on the list? Do you hear a lot more “Sophia!” on the playground than “Emma!”? One way to try to explain this is the annual Playground Analysis. When you hear a name on the playground, you do not know how it is spelled and since the SSA list is done solely by spelling, it does not give a completely accurate account of name popularity. The Playground Analysis combines the different spellings of names to reveal the true Top 50 names of 2017!

Note: These are the combined spellings of the names in the Top 1000 only. When the numbers from the entire list are added, positions could change. The main name listed below is the spelling given to the most babies in 2017 (SSA Rank is in parentheses). The others are in alphabetical order. Opinions vary on how different spellings are pronounced. I went with my best judgment.


Emma still remains on the top of the 2017 SSA list for girls. But while Sophia dropped from #4 to #5 on the SSA list, it still remains at the top of the 2017 Playground Analysis. When looking at the PA’s Top 50, the largest jumps that take place after adding the alternative spellings are by Adeline (#64 to #7), Mackenzie (#99 to #48), Madelyn (#63 to #15), Elena (#67 to #28), Ariana (#66 to #31) and Kaylee (#84 to #49). Some variations of names have risen into or fallen out of the SSA Top 1000, and any differences from last year have been noted in the list below.

Birth numbers are another way of showing how this analysis explains what you actually hear around town. When combining the Top 1000 names in spelling, there were more than 3,000 girls named Sophia and Sofia in 2017 than those named Emma.

1) Sophia (5) – Sofia

2) Olivia (2) – Alivia (Alyvia dropped from the SSA Top 1000)

3) Emma (1)

4) Isabella (4) – Isabela, Izabella

5) Ava (3) – Avah

6) Amelia (8) – Emelia, Emilia

7) Adeline (64) – Adaline, Adalyn, Adalynn, Addilyn, Addilynn, Adelyn, Adelynn, Adilynn

8) Mia (6) – Miah

9) Charlotte (7)

10) Riley (25) – Rylee, Ryleigh, Rylie

11) Evelyn (9) – Evalyn, Evelynn

12) Aria (20) – Ariah, Ariya, Ariyah, Arya

13) Zoey (29) – Zoe, Zoie

14) Emily (12) – Emely, Emilee (Emilie dropped from the SSA Top 1000)

15)  Madelyn (63) – Madalyn, Madalynn, Madeleine, Madeline, Madelynn, Madilyn, Madilynn

16) Layla (26) – Laila, Lailah, Laylah, Leila, Leyla

17) Abigail (10)

18) Harper (11)

19) Aubrey (31) – Aubree, Aubrie (Aubri dropped from the SSA Top 1000)

20) Avery (14) – Averi, Averie

21) Elizabeth (13) – Elisabeth

22) Madison (17) – Maddison, Madisyn (Madyson dropped from the SSA Top 1000)

23) Chloe (22) – Khloe

24) Camila (23) – Camilla, Kamila

25) Scarlett (18) – Scarlet, Scarlette

26) Nora (28) – Norah

27) Lily (33) – Lillie, Lilly

28) Elena (67) – Alaina, Alayna, Elaina

29) Ella (16)

30) Leah (40) – Lea, Leia, Lia

31) Ariana (66) – Arianna, Aryanna (Aryana dropped from the SSA Top 1000)

32) Victoria (19)

33) Maya (61) – Maia, Miya, Mya, Myah

34) Grace (21)

35) Hannah (32) – Hana, Hanna

36) Penelope (24)

37) Lillian (27) – Lilian

38) Addison (34) – Addisyn, Addyson

39) Brooklyn (39) – Brooklynn

40) Paisley (45) – Paislee, Paisleigh*

41) Natalie (36) – Nataly, Nathalie (Nathaly dropped from SSA Top 1000)

42) Anna (53) – Ana

43) Hailey (72) – Hailee, Haley, Haylee, Hayley

44) Mila (30)

45) Sarah (62) – Sara

46) Allison (60) – Alison, Allyson, Alyson

47) Savannah (38) – Savanna

48) Mackenzie (99) – Makenzie, Mckenzie

49) Kaylee (84) – Caylee, Kailee, Kailey, Kayleigh, Kaylie

50) Eleanor (35)

*New spelling to the SSA Top 1000

Mila and Eleanor rose into the Top 50 of the 2017 PA, while Skylar and Katherine fell out of it.

For those of us who feel as though the –line names are different from the –lyn names, here is an additional note:

If the variations of #7 Adeline (Adaline) are separated from the variations of Adalynn (Adalyn, Addilyn, Addilynn, Adelyn, Adelynn, and Adilynn), Adalynn moves down to #22, while Adeline is pushed down to #49.

Likewise, if the variations of #15 Madelyn (Madalyn, Madalynn, Madelynn, Madilyn, and Madilynn) are separated from the variations of Madeline (Madeleine), Madelyn moves down to #34, while Madeline is pushed down to #90.


Jackson and its alternate spellings stay firmly at #1 on the 2017 Playground Analysis, moving up from #20 on the 2017 SSA list. Probably the biggest news when comparing last year’s PA and this year’s PA is the fact that Aiden has moved down again, from #2 to #3. Liam has not only unseated Noah as the SSA #1, it has also moved Aiden down and taken over the #2 spot on the PA. When comparing the 2016 PA and 2017 PA, Greyson jumped from #16 to #9. Mateo also jumped from #43 to #29. The biggest movers from the SSA list to the PA list continue to be Kayden (#98 to #15) and Jace (#87 to #41).

While the overall numbers have decreased from 2016 to 2017, the Jacksons continue to be a dominant force on the playground… more than 4,500 boys were named a variation of Jackson over Liam in 2017. This number is no doubt aided by the addition of the variation Jaxxon to the SSA Top 1000.

1) Jackson (20) – Jaxen, Jaxon, Jaxson, Jaxxon*

2) Liam (1)

3) Aiden (17) – Aaden*, Adan, Aden, Aidan, Ayden, Aydin

4) Noah (2) – Noe

5) William (3)

6) Lucas (11) – Lukas

7) James (4)

8) Mason (7) – Maison, Mayson

9) Grayson (34) – Graysen, Greysen, Greyson

10) Logan (5)

11) Elijah (8) – Alijah

12) Benjamin (6)

13) Jacob (10) – Jakob

14) Oliver (9)

15) Kayden (98) – Caden, Caiden, Cayden, Kaden, Kaiden

16) Michael (12) – Micheal (Mikael dropped from the SSA Top 1000)

17) Alexander (13) – Alexzander

18) Ethan (14)

19) Jayden (26) – Jaden, Jaiden

20) Matthew (16) – Mathew

21) Carter (24) – Karter

22) Daniel (15)

23) Henry (18)

24) Joseph (19)

25) Samuel (21)

26) Sebastian (22)

27) David (23)

28) Dylan (29) – Dilan*, Dillon

29) Mateo (42) – Matteo

31) John (27) – Jon

31) Wyatt (25)

32) Owen (28)

33) Isaac (33) – Issac

34) Caleb (50) – Kaleb

35) Luke (30)

36) Gabriel (31)

37) Julian (36) – Julien

38) Anthony (32)

39) Connor (56) – Conner, Conor, Konnor (Konner dropped from the SSA Top 1000)

40) Christopher (38) – Kristopher

41) Jace (87) – Jase, Jayce

42) Christian (52) – Cristian, Kristian

43) Jack (35)

44) Levi (37)

45) Joshua (39)

46) Andrew (40)

47) Lincoln (41)

48) Nicholas (68) – Nickolas, Nicolas, Nikolas

49) Josiah (51) – Jasiah*, Joziah

50) Cameron (60) – Camron, Kameron, Kamryn

*New spelling to the SSA Top 1000

Levi, Lincoln, and Josiah rose into the Top 50 of the 2017 PA, while Landon, Ryan, and Jonathan fell out.

Does this reflect what you are hearing on the playground? Let us know in the comments.

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14 Responses to “Playground Analysis 2017: The REAL Top 50 List!”

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ElsaAnne Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 4:12 am

It’s also worth considering how many of the little William’s running round go by the nickname Liam.

emmievis Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 5:10 am

Very interesting list! The boys’ side surprised me a bit
By the way, I don’t think Emilia is another spelling of Amelia, it’s a name on its own that’s pronounced in a similar yet different way. They also have different meanings

hermioneameliastyles Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 5:30 am

I totally agree with both comments above. I adore the names, Mason, Lincoln, Liam, Levi, Benjamin, Matthew, Greyson, and Elijah for boys and Adeline, Amelia, Victoria, Norah, Savannah, Grace, and Madeline (Mad-a-line) for girls.

jaygeekay Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 9:24 am

It would be really interesting to do this type of analysis with groups of names that either sound alike or often have the same nickname. Emmaline is 896 this year – but if we grouped her in with the Emma/Emmie sounding names that likely go by one of those nicknames, she would FEEL a lot more popular. Similarly, boys names beginning with Car. I feel like everywhere I go someone is shouting for Carson or Carter or some variation. I don’t distinguish between them in my mind, they all sort of blend together. It’s tons of work, of course, but I’d love to read it 🙂

jaygeekay Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 9:24 am

I should also say that I look forward to this analysis every year and really enjoy it, so thanks!

SparkleNinja18 Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 9:37 am

While Emilia is a different name, and is pronounced slightly differently, it’s not distinct enough (at least in my accent) for it to be obviously different from Amelia when said aloud.
I wish there were data for nicknames. I’m not sure how one would go about finding that but it would give an even better idea of popularity.

ARead Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 1:26 pm

Always such an interesting read! Thank you for including the breakdown of Adeline vs. Adelyn and Madeline vs. Madelyn—I pronounce the those names pretty differently and in my mind they are certainly distinct names. Amelia and Emilia, though, are pronounced so similarly around here (eastern US), that I couldn’t tell the difference if they were shouted on a playground—and that is the whole point of a playground analysis!

brittanyanitarose Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 2:06 pm

The playground top is definitely more reflective of what I’m seeing in my area. I know an Elena (with a big sister Brooklyn), an Emilia, a Nora, a Laila, 2 Evelyns, an Eleanor, an Arianna, a Penelope, a Rylee and an Adeline all under the age of 2. And that’s just from my friends/former school accquaintances.

Surprisingly folks in my circle are more adventurous with boy’s names, mostly staying out of the top 50 and some by a wide margin (I do know at least one Liam and one Mason under a year old).

Names popping up for boys among people I know over the last year or two have been Alistair, Fox, Zayne, Hunter, Miles, Nolan, Ajax, Loki, and Arthur.

I have seen a few outliers for girls as well:
Margaret, Pepper, Ria, Zelda, and Opal.

JH Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 4:07 pm

I have three little boys, so I don’t know too many little girls, but of the top 10, I only know a few Charlottes. Others I know, but only one with the name are Grace, Hannah, Evelyn, Abigail, Madeleine, and Eleanor.

For the boys, I know a Jackson, William, Benjamin, (a few) Daniel, Henry, Sebastian, David, and Jace. There aren’t too many names repeated in my son’s class. None of my three boys’ names are in the top 50 either (playground or actual list). I think it’s great that people are choosing from a wider variety of names!

The names that are interesting/unique spellings always perplex me. You say a name much more often than you read it, so if you want your kid to have a unique name, give your kid a unique name. I know not everyone feels this way, but I just don’t get it.

Bobcat108 Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 5:00 pm

I’m in the eastern US & I pronounce Amelia differently from Emilia/Emelia. Of course, I’m also part of the tiny population that hears a difference between Mary, marry, merry, & Murray…

tp b Says:

May 15th, 2018 at 8:59 pm

I’ll second the request for a PA of nicknames.
But grouping every name that can have the same potential nickname would be a huge task (Emily, Emma, Emilia, etc)

You could do a simpler version of an extended PA.
You could group together given names that can be nicknames of each other.

So count Charles and Charlie as the same name, for the PA.
And with Adeline, also group Addie.

Jane2010 Says:

May 17th, 2018 at 11:45 am

#24 Camila — ca MEE la — is not *heard* the same as Camilla –ca MILL a. I would not group them together. While both are from the same source, they are pronounced differently. Two girls in the same classroom called Camila and Camilla would not have to use the first initial of their surnames to set them apart. We have a little Camilla in our extended family; her older sister often calls her Milla (not Mila).

Kellen_Claire Says:

May 19th, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Working in childcare, this list definitely reflects more of the names I hear often. We have a lot of Addie (Addison, Adalyn, and Adalea), Carter, Connor, Rylee (as well as Rylie), Olivia, and Max (Maximus and Maximilian). And yes, we have to refer to them by first and last name so they know who we are talking to (Two Olivias are Olivia L, so last initial doesn’t always work).
But overall, separated by age range, I haven’t heard a ton of repeating names in classes recently. And that’s not to say that we have a lot of wacky “kre8tiv” names either. Parents are finding different names to use. Dara, Abram, Autumn, Cole, Isaac, Lucy, and Owen are a few we have that I haven’t heard a ton for younger kids recently.

alleigh76 Says:

May 22nd, 2018 at 2:30 pm

The spelling/pronunciation thing is further complicated by the fact that even if you (or I) feel a particular spelling is obviously pronounced a particular way, the kid’s parents might pronounce it differently.. So even if someone here pronounces Madeline with a long i and Madelyn with a short i, I’d bet the Madelines are fairly split on pronunciation. The one that really made me wonder on that was Mia/Maia. Some spellings are pretty obvious, but Miah and Miya could easily be either (I would probably guess Mia for both, but not with much confidence).

I don’t see any names besides Adeline, Madeline, Mia/Maia, and Camil(l)a that jump out at me as ambiguous, though (maybe Aaden/Aden/Adan could be Auden instead of Aidan, but that’s a much less popular name), so I don’t think it’d make a *huge* difference.

I don’t know how often Leia would be pronounced as Leah, though.

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