Popular Names 2012: The new top baby names!

Popular Names 2012: The new top baby names!

The most popular baby names of 2012 are officially here, with Sophia and Jacob holding onto their Number 1 spots.

Jacob remains the most popular name for boys for the 14th year in a row.  An Old Testament name that means “supplanter” and a cousin of JamesJacob has been in the Top Ten for nearly two decades.

Sophia, which took the crown as the Number 1 girls’ name last year, is a Greek name that means “wisdom.”  It entered the Top 10 in 2006.

Arya and Major were the fastest-rising names for 2012.  Arya’s popularity stems from the show and book Game of Thrones, while Major is a military name featured on reality TV show Home by Novogratz.

Second fastest-risers Gael and Perla are widely used by parents of Spanish descent.

The Social Security Administration announced the 2012 Most Popular Baby Names on their website this afternoon.

The complete Top Ten are:


1. Sophia2. Emma3. Isabella4. Olivia5. Ava6. Emily7. Abigail8. Mia9. Madison10.Elizabeth


1. Jacob2. Mason3. Ethan4. Noah5. William6. Liam7. Jayden8. Michael9. Alexander10.Aiden

For the full Top 1000, see our popular names 2012 page.

Liam is the upset entry to the Top 10, climbing to the top echelons of the list for the first time.  An Irish short form of William, Liam only entered the US Top 1000 in 1967 and was Number 15 in 2011.  Its popularity has been spurred by celebrity Liam Neeson.  Liam replaces Daniel in the Top 10 and ranks right behind William.

Elizabeth climbed back onto the girls’ Top 10, unseating Chloe.

Classic Emma, once Number 1, climbed higher on the list to the Number 2 spot, while Kardashian-inspired Mason held onto the Number 2 ranking for boys it claimed last year.

The fastest rising names for 2012 were Arya and Major.  Arya is a character on Game of Thrones, while Major is the name of the youngest son of reality TV’s Novogratz family.

The second fastest rising names were Gael and Perla, popular with families of Spanish descent.

Other fastest-rising names include Catalina, Elisa, Raelynn (and Raelyn), Rosalie, Haven, and Briella (2011’s fastest-rising) for girls; Jase, Messiah, Brantley, Iker, King, and Rory for boys.

Notably, both Messiah and King were on the recent list of names banned in New Zealand.

In the Top 20, names making significant rises include, for girls:

Avery, at Number 13 up from 18

Aubrey, at Number 15 up from 20

Charlotte. at Number 19 up from 27

Zoey, at Number 20 up from 28

Notable increases on the boys’ side were seen by:

Ethan, at Number 3, up from Number 7

James, at Number 14 up from 17

Benjamin, at Number 16 up from 19

Though Sophia has been on the U.S. Top 1000 every year since the beginning of recorded baby name history in 1880, the year the American government began keeping statistics on infant names, it nearly fell off that list in 1956 before beginning a new ascent.

Sophia entered the Top 100 for the first time in 1997 and hit the Top 10 in 2006.  Evidence of parents’ taste for strong feminine names with significant history for their daughters, Sophia shares much with other top girls’ names IsabellaOlivia, and Emma.  Sophia is the name of an early saint, royalty, and classic literary characters.

Contemporary namesakes include Sophia LorenSophia BushSofia Vergara, and Sofia Coppolla.  The Latinate Sofia spelling and short form Sophie are also popular, though counted separately by the Social Security Administration.  Sylvester Stallone is the father of a Sophia.

Jacob is an important Biblical patriarch, the youngest son of Isaac and Rebecca and the husband of both Leah and Rachel.  The twelve tribes of Israel evolve from his twelve sons.  Jacob and short form Jake also have a Western flavor stylish today.  Variation Jacoby is also rising through the ranks.

Though Jacob was tops on the list of popular baby names before the advent of the Twilight books and movies, that series has helped keep the name at Number 1.  The most famous real-life contemporary Jacob is actor Jake Gyllenhall.


Congratulations to Cristinamariane who came closest to predicting the most names in the most correct order and will be receiving the beautiful charm necklace.  Runner-up  is Skizzo, who wins an advance copy of our forthcoming eBook. The Nameberry Guide to Off-the-Grid Names, which will soon be available in our store.

Thanks so much to all who entered–and hats off especially to those whose lists came so close!

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby 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. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.