Popular Girls’ Names: The Real Top 10 (or 12 or 13)

January 14, 2010 Pamela Redmond

What are the most popular girls’ names in the U.S.?  If you consult the official Social Security list, or most of the state lists, you’ll get one version.  With each name counted individually by spelling — Sophia and Sofia are counted separately, in other words — the national list of most popular girls’ names (I’m going to include the Top 15, for reasons that will become evident) is:





5. AVA











But to Katharine Hales — aka nameberry’s k_lareese — this didn’t look quite right.  Hales, an attorney who is studying to be a law librarian, wanted to name her first child Lillian, with the nickname Lily.  But when researching the name, she noticed that both Lily and Lillian were in the Top 30.  If you added all the spelling and variations of the name together, she wondered, mightn’t you end up with a true popularity number that was significantly higher?

You would indeed, as Hales discovered when she set out to devise the true list of most popular girls’ names.  (Of course you can do the same thing for boys’ names too, but aside from the Aiden/Caden/Jayden clusters, there isn’t all that much spelling adventurism that would skew popularity standings.) Considering simply names with different spellings that are pronounced the same, Hales came up with the following list.  The number in parentheses represents how many children received all those variations of the name in 2008, the last year officially counted.  Hales included the Top 12 because of potential discrepancies in pronunciation and because the numbers are so close at the bottom of the list.

1.  Sophia/Sofia (21,783)

2. Isabella/Izabella/Isabela (20,398)

3. Emily/Emmalee/Emilee/Emely/Emilie (19,807)

4. Ava/Eva (20,047) (although, not everyone pronounces Eva and Ava the same)

6. Olivia/Alivia/Alyvia (18,927)

7. Emma (18,587)

8. Abigail/Abbigail/Abigayle/Abagail (16,108)

9. Hailey/Haylee/Hailee/Haylie/Haley/Haleigh/Hayley/Hailie (15,353) (did not include the Halle/Hallie names)

10. Madeline/Madelyn/Madalyn/Madilyn/Madeleine/Madilynn/Madalynn/Madelynn (14,626) (again, obviously not everyone pronounces these exactly the same)

11.  Mia/Mya/Myah/Miah (14,501) (yet again, prounounciation may vary a little)

12.  Katelyn/Kaitlyn/Caitlin/Caitlyn/Katelynn/Kaitlin/Kaitlynn (14,250)

The big news here, of course, is Sophia/Sofia‘s ascendancy to Number 1, bumping official top girl Emma all the way down to Number 7. Hailey, Madeline, and Katelyn et al, names with many spelling variations, appear on this list but not the overall one, while Elizabeth, Samantha, and Chloe, with far fewer variations, fall off.

When Hales took spelling variations and sister names — grouping Isabel with Isabella, for instance — into account, the results were more radically different.  Here, that Top 13:

1. Isabella/Isabelle/Isabel/Izabelle/Isabela/Isabell/Izabella (28,026)

2. Sophia/Sofia/Sophie (25,797)

3. Lily/Lillian/Lilly/Liliana/Lilliana/Lilian/Lillie/Lilyana/Lilianna/Lillianna (22,920)

4.Kaylee/Kayleigh/Caylee/Kaylie/Kaleigh/Kailee/Kayley/Kaley/Kali/KaileyKayla/Kaila/Kaylah/Kaliyah/Kaylin/Cailyn/Kailyn/Kaylynn/Kaylyn (22,623)

5. Emily/Emmalee/Emilee/Emilie/Emely/Emilia/Emelia (20,876)  (This name would be number 2 if you included Amelie and Amelia and number 1 if you included Emma)

6. Ava/Eva/Avah (20,047) (Hales did not include Evelyn, Evangeline or Eve because they did not seem close enough in relation, though if she had, this group might reach #1)

7. Madison/Maddison/Madyson/Madisyn (19,563)

8. Olivia/Alivia/Alyvia/Olive/Livia (19,489)

9. Emma (18,587)

10. Abigail/Abigayle/Abbigail/Abagail/Abby/Abbey/Abbie (18,163)

11. Alexis/Alexus/Alexia/Alexa (16,765) (Note that Alexandra and Alexandria, although clearly related, are not included here. The upshot: there are lots of little Alexes running around.)

12. Hailey/Haylee/Hailee/Haylie/Haley/Haleigh/Hayley/Hailie/Halle/Hallie (16,563)

13. Natalie/Nataly/Natalee/Nathalie/Natalia/Natalya/Nathaly/Nathalia (16,048)

The Isabellas reach Number 1 here, and, as Hales suspected, Lily and her sisters are an impressive number 3. That discovery didn’t stop her from choosing the name, which she loves. Lily‘s popularity didn’t bother her, she explained. She just wanted to know what she was really dealing with.

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles


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