Playground Analysis: The REAL Top 50 Names

posted by: NameFreak! View all posts by this author

Kelli Brady, creator of NameFreak!, combined spelling variations to come up with the real top 50 names on the new US popularity list. Her results show some names vastly more popular than it seems and a new Number 1 and Number 2 for boys.

Some names might actually be more popular than the SSA list shows because it ranks each spelling of a name separately, rather than counting all spelling variations — Sophia and Sofia, for example — together. To see how popular a name actually is, I have gathered the various spellings of each name in the 2012 Top 1000 and come up with a new Top 50 for each gender!

Why do I call this the Playground Analysis? Well, when you are on the playground with your kids and you hear a name, you don’t know how it is spelled, but you do know how often you hear it.

For girls, the top 5 do not drastically change, but Zoey jumps from #20 to #7. Adalyn, Elena, Kaitlyn and Madelyn make huge gains after adding all of their various spellings.

Note: The main name listed is the spelling given to the most babies in 2012 (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.


1. Sophia (1) – Sofia
2. Isabella (3) – Isabela, Izabella
3. Emma (2)
4. Olivia (4) – Alivia, Alyvia
5. Ava (5) – Avah
6. Emily (6) – Emely, Emilee, Emilie, Emmalee
7. Zoey (20) – Zoe, Zoie
8. Chloe (11) – Khloe
9. Madison (9) – Maddison, Madisyn, Madyson
10. Aubrey (15) – Aubree, Aubri, Aubrie
11. Abigail (7) – Abbigail
12. Mia (8) – Miah
13. Madelyn (67) – Madalyn, Madalynn, Madeleine, Madeline, Madelynn, Madilyn, Madilynn
14. Lily (16) – Lillie, Lilly
15. Layla (31) – Laila, Lailah, Laylah, Leila, Leyla
16. Hailey (32) – Hailee, Haley, Haylee, Hayleigh, Hayley, Haylie
17. Addison (14) – Addisyn, Addyson
18. Riley (47) – Rylee, Ryleigh, Rylie
19. Elizabeth (10) – Elisabeth
20. Natalie (17) – Natalee, Nataly, Nathalie, Nathaly
21. Aaliyah (36) – Aleah, Aleigha, Alia, Aliya, Aliyah
22. Avery (13) – Averi, Averie
23. Kaylee (34) – Caylee, Kailee, Kailey, Kayleigh, Kaylie
24. Arianna (49) – Ariana, Aryana, Aryanna
25. Ella (12)
26. Brooklyn (29) – Brooklynn
27. Amelia (23) – Emelia, Emilia
28. Allison (38) – Alison, Alisson, Allyson, Alyson
29. Hannah (22) – Hana, Hanna
30. Kaitlyn (118) – Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlynn, Katelyn, Katelynn
31. Mackenzie (71) – Makenzie, Mckenzie
32. Kylie (59) – Kiley, Kylee, Kyleigh
33. Peyton (53) – Paityn, Payton
34. Lillian (25) – Lilian
35. Evelyn (27) – Evalyn, Evelynn
36. Leah (33) – Lea, Leia, Lia
37. Charlotte (19)
38. Sarah (43) – Sara
39. Grace (21)
40. Harper (24)
41. Katherine (64) – Catherine, Kathryn
42. Gabriella (37) – Gabriela
43. Anna (35) – Ana
44. Samantha (26)
45. Alyssa (44) – Alisa, Alissa, Elisa, Elissa
46. Brianna (51) – Breanna, Briana, Bryanna
47. Victoria (28)
48. Makayla (69) – Mckayla, Michaela, Mikaela, Mikayla
49. Adalyn (198) – Adalynn, Addilyn, Adeline, Adelyn, Adelynn
50. Elena (139) – Alaina, Alayna, Elaina

For boys, Aiden and its various spellings (there are NINE) take the top spot away from Jacob, and Jackson jumps from #22 to #2! Jacob doesn’t show up until #4 after all the spellings of Jayden. And Kayden and Dominic look like the names with the biggest gain.


1. Aiden (10) – Aaden, Adan, Aden, Aidan, Aidyn, Aydan, Ayden, Aydin
2. Jackson (22) – Jaxen, Jaxson, Jaxon
3. Jayden (7) – Jaden, Jadon, Jaeden, Jaiden, Jaidyn, Jaydon
4. Jacob (1) – Jakob, Jaycob
5. Mason (2) – Maison, Masen, Mayson
6. Ethan (3)
7. Noah (4)
8. William (5)
9. Liam (6)
10. Michael (8) – Micheal
11. Kayden (99) – Caden, Caiden, Cayden, Kaden, Kaeden, Kaiden
12. Alexander (9) – Alexzander
13. Matthew (12) – Mathew)
14. Elijah (13) – Alijah
15. Daniel (11)
16. James (14)
17. Anthony (15)
18. Caleb (32) – Kaleb
19. Benjamin (16)
20. Christopher (23) – Cristopher, Kristopher
21. Joshua (17)
22. Andrew (18)
23. David (19)
24. Joseph (20)
25. Logan (21)
26. Lucas (27) – Lukas
27. Christian (33) – Cristian, Kristian
28. Landon (34) – Landen, Landyn
29. Gabriel (24)
30. Brayden (39) – Braden, Bradyn, Braeden, Braiden, Braydon
31. Samuel (25)
32. Jonathan (35) – Johnathan, Johnathon, Jonathon
33. John (28) – Jon
34. Ryan (26)
35. Dylan (31) – Dillon
36. Nicholas (49) – Nicolas, Nickolas, Nikolas
37. Isaac (30) – Issac
38. Nathan (29)
39. Carter (36) – Karter
40. Cameron (54) – Camren, Camron, Camryn, Kameron, Kamron, Kamryn
41. Connor (59) – Conner, Conor, Konner, Konnor
42. Isaiah (42) – Isiah, Izaiah, Izayah
43. Luke (37)
44. Owen (38)
45. Gavin (40) – Gavyn
46. Dominic (70) – Dominick, Dominik, Dominique
47. Jordan (48) – Jorden, Jordyn
48. Wyatt (41)
49. Colton (65) – Colten, Kolten, Kolton
50. Henry (43)

What do you think? Does this sound about right? Are there any surprises?

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About the author


Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her eBook, Name-alytics, is a look at the history of the Top 100 names in the United States. Check it out at!
View all of NameFreak!'s articles View all Berry Juice Bloggers


49 Responses to “Playground Analysis: The REAL Top 50 Names”

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EmilyVA Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 10:05 am

I mentioned before that I think some parents used William to get to Liam. Probably not all of them but I actually think Liam is more popular. I agree with Jayden, Aidan, and Jackson. I also agree with the girls name. It’s why going with a funky spelling may not be such a good idea.

UselessKitty Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 10:18 am

Love seeing the actual math and numbers on this!

UselessKitty Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 10:27 am

I have to admit it makes the top 50 seem even more boring, predictable and cringe-worthy! I love the classics that show up on the top 50, because they ARE classics. But when you see the actual classics dropping because of super trendy names and all their misspelled variants it is very disappointing. I knew the Aiden trend was bad, but now I know just how bad it is!

ScarlettsMom Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 10:43 am

I actually think it makes it less boring. Jacob’s supposedly been the “top” boy name for 14 years… to me that’s the epitome of boring! I’d much rather see the list organized like this. Way less confusion about the popularity of a name. Imagine thinking the name Jackson was outside the top twenty when it’s really the second most popular boys name in the country!

southern.maple Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 11:34 am

Completely unsurprised by this. I did cringe seeing some of the misspellings and finding out that Aiden is actually the most popular boy’s name in the country. The Aiden trend is just so awful and overdone, and I anxiously await the time where parents realize this.

Jackson is definitely the most popular boy’s name in my area. I was surprised when it wasn’t in the top 20 on the official list.

UselessKitty Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I agree with you about Jackson, Southern Maple! It is very popular where I live. My co-worker who has a son named Jaden, is having another little boy named Jaxon. Cue the eye-roll.

alphabetdem Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

This is much more accurate I think, and thanks for going to all this work!

hldevine Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

It is much more helpful to see the names organized this way by sound rather than spelling!

dindlee Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Glad to see all the math I did wasn’t that far off! I wish the SSA combined spellings. It would give a much more accurate list. Very interesting how different the boys’ list becomes when you combine spellings.

spotlightstarlit Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

This is such an intriguing list, and I found myself agreeing with it- much more so than the SSA 50. I would love to see NB house the “real” top 1,000 somewhere as I think berries in particular would love to use it.

namefan Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

@Dindlee – The reason for the SSA not combining spellings is since it’s highly subjective they decided to show just each name’s spelling as a separate name and leave it up to folks like us to combine them however we like.

Dove14 Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Thank you for this!

loraena Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 4:10 pm

From the girls list, I also know a Reiley (pn Riley). And what about Zooey? Isn’t it still pronounced like “Zoey”?

Aurra Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 6:49 pm also does this. It usually takes a few months, because they go through ALL of the data (all names that had five plus uses) to create a top 5000.

Although Kelli Brady did a great job, with this list, even in the top 1000 there were more variants/same sounding names. For example, Miya is now in the top 1000- it sounds just like Mia (but comes from Japanese and means temple). With 278 girls named this, it could shake up the list a bit.

This is just one example. Kayden made the top 100 this year, and adds to the Caden spellings. If you take just all the alternate spellings into account for even the top 1000, the list would change. And when you combine it with all the names given to five or more baby boys or girls, the list will change even more so.

Go check the one for last year.

Sofiyah, Olyvia, Cloe and Emaly might not be the most popular spellings for their names, but dozens of spelling variations can add up. Same with Aydn, Jden, Jaxxen and Kdyn.

sarahmezz Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 6:59 pm

This is much more meaningful than the SSA popular names list!

saraallison Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I take a teensy bit of comfort in that my Madeline isn’t prnd the same as Madelyn/Madeleine; we prn it with the long i sound at the end (like Caroline). I guess I don’t really mind having her name in the top bunch since it’s a classic, and so is my own name and it never bothered me. Also, in my state for 2011, no version of Madeline even made the top 100, so that’s kind of nice. Look forward to when the state data for 2012 comes out next week! Thanks for this list–so interesting.

skizzo Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 10:03 pm

@UselessKitty: Classics are just boring, overrated and overused, and I wish they would just sod off.

TheNameFreak Says:

May 10th, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Aurra – yes, it would be great to do the entire list beyond the 1000 and I am aware of Name Nerds awesomely doing this. It does take a while and we had to create limits to get this out quickly so we only included the Top 1000 names. About Miya… this is a name I struggled with. I even asked on my FB page how people thought it was pronounced. In my head it sounds like Mya (which I know others may see as similar to Mia), so that is where I put it. Others said it is pronounced like Mia and for a future post I may change where I place it, but looking at the numbers it would not have moved Mia up in the list. Thank you for your, and everyone’s, interest!

sarahmezz Says:

May 11th, 2013 at 1:07 am

I think it’s a crying shame that beautiful classic names like Charlotte and Elizabeth are pushed even further down the list to make way for ridiculous made-up spellings of Madeline and Madison, et al.

sarahmezz Says:

May 11th, 2013 at 1:12 am

I just read through previous comments (skizzo) and feel the need to back up uselesskitty! Classic names (like Charlotte and Elizabeth) are gorgeous and a thousand times more lovely than Alyvia, Emmalee and Rhylee and their ilk. I’d be much more excited to meet a little girl named Margaret than a little girl named Paityn.

meatburglar Says:

May 11th, 2013 at 10:42 am

Much more useful list than the stock SSA.

I have a niece named Ryeley, for yet another annoying permutation of that name.

The classics are nice, not for me, but nice. I actually really like some of the vintage traditional names (Evelyn, Abigail, Virginia) but appreciate that some people still use Sara, Anna, Patrick et al.

Kiki Says:

May 11th, 2013 at 10:51 am

@saraallison I pronounce Madeleine with the long I too. That’s the only thing I questions about this list. How do they know whether Madeline/Madeleine is being pronounced the same as Madelyn or with the long I? It’s the same with Mia/Myah/Miah. Are the parents pronouncing them as Me-ah or My-ah?

maggiefromcanada Says:

May 11th, 2013 at 11:56 am

@Kiki, I had the same reaction to Elena/Elaina/Alaina. I pronounce those all differently, though I’m sure there are some people who pronounce them the same. I also say Madelyn, Madeleine and Madeline differently. Otherwise, this list is very interesting. Thanks for the effort of putting it all together!

saraallison Says:

May 11th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

@Kiki and @maggiefromcanada, I’m just glad to know I’m not the only one who prns Madeline, Madelyn and Madeleine differently from each other. Where we live, even after I verbally introduce my daughter as Mad-eh-line, people say, “Oh, hello Madelyn!” Not a huge deal to me, but seriously, it’s like people have never heard the name Mad-eh-line (long i at end); do they think I’m saying my child’s name wrong? I guess not everyone was raised on the Madeline books, like me! Ha.

auroradawn Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 1:48 am

This list does corroborate what I hear in my area. I know quite a few Jacobs of quite a few ages, but I seem to hear Aiden, etc., and Jackson, etc., even more.

tori101 Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Really interesting! Any chance of doing a UK one??

Linz3 Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I love seeing the names like this. So, so helpful and interesting!

nowsintechnicolor Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Here it’s Michael/Mikey/Michor/Mike/Micheal and Madison/Maddie/Maddy/Madi

tenleyskye Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I really like this list! Thanks for putting all that work into it! I was just wondering if someone could make a list of all the names that are new to the top 1000 this year. Or if someone has already??

capturedcastle Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I hope you do this every year, this list is so much more helpful!!

tenleyskye Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Never mind! I found a source and made the list! It’s in the forum 🙂

MaewynMannix Says:

May 13th, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Anyone else SICK of the Aiden revolution?
(No offense to Aidens everywhere. And I do mean everywhere.)

Sunshine.10 Says:

May 14th, 2013 at 6:29 am

This was fascinating! These numbers make more sense than the “official” top 50. Thanks for the analysis!

dieselsmomma Says:

May 27th, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I knew Aiden had to be number one…..I think we have an Aidan/ Ayden/ Aiden in every classroom at the school I teach in. And a Breyden/ Kaedyn / Jaden.

benjamelissa Says:

June 10th, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Thanks so much for this list. I loved reading all the names. Some are more popular than I thought. Once upon a time I loved Alyssa. Then it kept dropping and I thought it would drop off the charts. But here it seems to be holding it’s own. I am surprised Austin is not on the boys list. It seems I meet one everywhere I go.

artshark Says:

July 3rd, 2013 at 11:00 am

Great list- thanks! I will admit, at one time in my life I really loved the name Aidan. Thankfully, it was well before I actually thought about actually having kids (my tastes have changed quite a bit since then), and I now realize how overwhelmingly popular it is thanks to sites like this. I hated being among the million Megan/Meaghan/Meghan/Meggan/Megyns when I was in school. I was thinking that McKenzie and McKayla seemed like they should have been higher on the list, since in my extended family alone there are two of each, and another couple friends’ kids- I seem to hear them constantly. Now I know why!

Krista4477 Says:

July 9th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Oh My! The Aiden thing drives me bananas, my son is almost 10 and we have taken to naming his Aiden friends; Aiden1, Adein2, AIden3, etc. We are up to 5 at the moment. I jokingly told him I can’t handle anymore Aidens. I am sure they all spell it differently too.

scribe Says:

July 15th, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I’m curious about how the data was collected and where exactly. I guess this must be a representation of a specific area?

Gummibear Says:

July 16th, 2013 at 12:51 am

too bad about the number one boys name. I absolutely love the original spelling Aidan

mrskatking Says:

July 20th, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Everyone here is so judgmental about names. Do you really think anyone cares how much their kids name spelling annoys YOU? Its really irritating, There is NOT one way of doing things. Classic names are just that, CLASSIC….old….been used. By choosing a unique spelling you are differentiating your child from someone else. I say, Name your kid what you want and spell it how you want! Just remember THEY have to live with it. BY ALL MEANS- feel free to name your kid the 30,803,589th Jennifer, Anna, Jessica, George, Michael, William in the world if that’s what you want. I personally would rather see an Aubree, Addisyn, Rylee, Kameryn, Kaiden, Vaughn or Jadyn. To each their own!

NameLady Says:

September 2nd, 2013 at 6:17 pm

I love this list but I’ve akways considered Leila and Layla different names

SarahGies Says:

September 26th, 2013 at 11:55 am

I think the most alarming thing, on the namenerds list, is that Neveah, a made up name of heaven spelled backwards, has 23 different spellings.

RainbowBright908 Says:

October 4th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I like the idea of the “Playground” list of common names. However, Leila should not be considered with Layla. My mom has a good friend Leila, and I went to school with a Leila- both pronounced their names Leela. I suppose Leila could also be pronounced Layla, but I think most people would pronounce it with a long e, not a long a.

My given name is one of the top 10 from my birth year, only my parents chose a less common spelling and I *HATED* having to correct people all the time. In fact, extended family often sends me birthday cards with my name spelled wrong. Having the less common spelling made filing taxes with my first job hectic, because my employer had my first name spelled incorrectly.

This list certainly helps parents who want to find a less popular name.

AppleTime Says:

October 23rd, 2013 at 2:43 am

Are these first names only or are middle names included? Some names are much more popular in the middle spot but wouldn’t be called on the playground, particularly the “classic” names.

chigley Says:

March 13th, 2014 at 11:11 pm

I’m so surprised that Emily is still so popular, I’ve never liked it (no offense to the Emily lovers) and I feel like it has ALWAYS been popular!

I was actually a little surprised by this list. I have actually never met a baby Olivia or several others on this list. I think difference areas/regions have different name patterns…. Where I live, old fashioned names are what I hear the most (Stella, Vivien, Edith, etc.) which I LOVE! My baby’s name is Vivien, everyone spells it wrong (even some family members) but I pronounce it Viv-ee-en not Viv-ee-ann!, so that’s why we went with the spelling that we did!

rebekah83 Says:

March 18th, 2014 at 5:56 am

What about Ellie??? I hear that all the time in play groups and at the playground!

jessieo Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 8:41 am

Great job. Totally not surprising and sounds very accurate. So many cre8tiv spellings…hmm.

2013 Playground Analysis: How combined spellings change the rankings – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

May 11th, 2014 at 10:37 pm

[…] Unlike in 2012, the Top 5 girl names in 2013 do not change at all after combining the spellings.  The rest of the list varies, sometimes greatly. Zoey again jumps from #24 to #8, but the largest jumps are by Adalynn (#173 to #34), Kaitlyn (#134 to #43) and Elena (#132 to #46). […]

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