Popular Names Your Mom Never Heard Of

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by Pamela Redmond Satran

Any newcomer to the contemporary world of baby names may be amazed at how diverse and – to use a Mom word – different names have become. In the generation since Mom was naming you, the list of US Most Popular Name has expanded to include more ethnically distinct names, words freshly morphed into names, and newly-minted monikers. Mom might not recognize many of today’s Top 500, used for hundreds of babies now but virtually nonexistent in the 1980s.

Warning: If you choose one of these names for your baby, you should expect surprise – or possible shock – from Mom (and Dad too).

Popular baby names today least likely to be familiar to your Mom include:



Aniyah is one of those names that resembles a lot of other names, from Anya to Amaya to Aliyah, but is actually a recent invention. Used for zero babies in 1985, today it stands at Number 226. Aniyah was used for nearly 1500 girls in the US in 2014, with spelling Aniya given to another 500+. The name may be thought of as a contemporary spin on Ann.


Isn’t Lyric the words from a song? Sure, Mom, but now it’s also a popular baby name for both genders, ranking Number 271 on the girls’ list and Number 860 on the boys’. In 2014, more than 1200 girls were named Lyric along with more than 250 boys; in 1985, that count was 10 girls and zero boys.


If Mom is an astronomer or a history buff, she might have heard this celestial name. Nova, which means new and is the word for a star that increases in brightness, was used from the late 19th century until the 1930s, when it disappeared only to reemerge in 2011. Since then it’s soared all the way to Number 287, used for more than 1100 baby girls last year. In 1985, that number was a mere 38.


Many names from South of the Border have become more widely used in the US, and this is one of the freshest. Meaning “you will always be loved” in the Aztec language, it may also be related to the goddess name Yara, popular in Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking countries. Yaretzi, which didn’t appear at all on the 1985 roster, was given to nearly 900 baby girls in the US last year, placing it at Number 372. It’s Number 58 in Mexico.


Was your mom a fan of Zoe Saldana’s stone-cold killer in the movie Colombiana? We didn’t think so, in which case she probably doesn’t know this newly-popular name inspired by the character, though if she’s an orchid lover she may be familiar with the flower that inspired it. The name Cataleya was given to nearly 700 baby girls in 2014, placing it at Number 461, versus zero in 1985.


Unless your mom has been watching a lot of Disney Channel, she may not recognize this African name, popularized by a character on the show Jessie. Zuri was used for 660 girls in 2014 and ranked Number 475, but did not appear at all on the 1985 extended roster. The name is Kiswahili for good or beautiful.



To your Mom, Ryker may be the island where they keep prisoners in New York City, but it’s also a very popular baby name, given to more than 2500 boys last year and ranking at Number 151. In Mom’s baby-naming day, i.e. 1985, only eight baby boys were named Ryker.


Unless Mom is a big world soccer fan, she may not have heard of the name Iker, hugely popular in the US and internationally thanks to Iker Casillas, who plays for both Portuguese and Spanish teams. The name is Basque for visitation and is pronounced EE-keer. It was given to 1787 baby boys in the US last year, ranking at Number 215….and zero in 1985.


Tyler and Kyle were both already a Top 100 names in the 1980s, inspiring lots of variations, including combo-name Kyler, given to 64 baby boys in 1985. Today, though, that number has exploded, with over 1200 babies named Kyler last year, ranking the name at Number 288. Kyler is a Dutch occupational name that means “archer” – another trendy appellation that may not be on Mom’s scope.


Jason was a Top 10 name in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but in 1985 Kason had barely been stirred to life, given to only 15 boys that year. Today, that number has soared to nearly 900, with Kason – a hybrid of Jason and Case and Karson — ranking at Number 365.


As a Biblical name, Adriel was used quietly in 1985, when it was given to 42 boys and 14 girls. Today that’s increased to nearly 700 boys and 50 girls, with another 50 baby girls named Adrielle. Adriel ranks Number 433 on the boys’ list. If Mom was familiar with Adriel from the Bible, she may not have considered the name because of its tragic history, though other once-unseemly Biblical names such as Delilah and Cain are more acceptable now.


Of course Mom knows Jack, and she’s also familiar with Jackson, and she may even know that Jackson is sometimes styled as Jaxon or Jaxson. But Jaxton? Probably not, given that it doesn’t appear at all on the 1985 extended roster. A hybrid of Jackson and Braxton, Jaxton was given to 640 baby boys last year placing it at Number 457.

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10 Responses to “Popular Names Your Mom Never Heard Of”

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lesliemarion Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 12:26 am

Sometimes Mom knows best!

Shannon4567 Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 7:47 am

When princess Charlotte was born, my mum didn’t know that Charlotte was a name.

ashbee Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 11:43 am

lol @lesliemarion. I agree!

southern.maple Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Yaretzi does not mean “you will always be loved” in Nahuatl. There is not even an “r” in Nahuatl. I wish that nameberry would put more effort into researching the names of non-European cultures before making such nonsensical claims.

Bobcat108 Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I’m w/LeslieMarion & Ashbee… : )

Pam Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 2:23 pm

@Southern.maple, we put plenty of effort into researching all the names on the site. Every available source lists that as the meaning. If you have other information, we’d love to hear it.

laurelrobyn Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 5:25 pm

My daughter’s name is Nova, born in 2013, and my mother and mother-in-law both loved it when I told them we were considering it. Trust me, it was not the reaction I expected. We knew the name was unusual, but it really is such a lovely little name that it’s hard to dislike. And boy oh boy, does it fit her boisterous and energetic personality perfectly!

JulesBerry Says:

November 6th, 2015 at 7:20 pm

I’m a traditional name person, but I do appreciate when Nameberry finds interesting names. I like to see classic names that haven’t been used in a long time…maybe even hundreds of years and modern classics. More posts like that please!

ashbee Says:

November 7th, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Yes, Nova is a great name. I also have a distant baby cousin named Ryker and it suits him well.

Bobcat108 Says:

November 7th, 2015 at 11:26 pm

W/regard to Yaretzi: Most of the Websites I found use the definition found on Nameberry. Unfortunately, w/the amount of copying & pasting that goes on online, though, I don’t consider that the quantity of Websites means that the information is correct. My husband has ceased to be amazed at the “solutions” to computer issues that are found in multitudes of places & clearly copied (the wording is the same down to the typos). 😉

BehindtheName has no official definition, but a user-submitted definition says:

Given Name YARETZI
GENDER: Feminine
USAGE: Spanish (Latin American)
CONTRIBUTOR: Ora on 4/28/2014
LAST EDITOR: Ora on 5/18/2014 [revision history]
Meaning & History
Of unknown origin or meaning. Possibly a variant of Yaritza
Many sources list Yaretzi as being of Nahuatl origin but this is highly unlikely as the letter ‘r’ does not exist in the language. It’s possible it’s a mistranslation or mispelling of a genuine Nahuatl name, or that it perhaps belongs to another indigenous American language.

A three-message thread on Yaretzi is also on BehindtheName:

1) I have googled and have not found a good citation on the female name Yaretzi. Some say it’s of nahuatl origin. Other that it’s mayan. Most internet sites agree that it means “you are beloved.”

Is that true? and Is it Mayan or Aztec origin??

2) I checked Yaretzi a while ago for my own database and didn’t find a good source that confirms the meaning of “you are beloved” (or any other meaning). Unfortunately it does not mean much to find info like that in many places all over the Internet because there is so much copying going on.
Regarding Nahuatl I found this however:

See the posting and the answer at the end of this article about Nahuatl: That language has no “r” sound, so a name like Yaretzi as Nahuatl does not fly.

That let me personally doubt “you are beloved” as well.

3) I sorta knew it wasn’t nahuatl since my vague basic knowledge didn’t seem to feel to me that it would be a nahuatl sounding name. I did check sites from Mexico with Aztec centric themes/topics and the name does not appear there. Thanks for the post and confirming that.
Checking Facebook, there a good number of ladies named “Yaretzi”. So I am not alone. 😉

One Website does give a different origin & meaning for Yaretzi…this is from

The meaning of Yaretzi is “Water lady”.
Its origin is “Variant of the Brazilian name Yara”.
Yaretzi is a form of Jaretzy and is generally pronounced like “ya RETZ ee”.

Yaretzi is thought to be an elaboration of the name of the old Tupi and Guaraní water nymph named Iara or Yara. She was known for sunbathing on rocks in bodies of water, where she would sing to men and lure them into a happily-ever-after existence with her underwater. She is an example of a classic siren archetype.

I checked my own library of name books (about 15, half of which are Nameberry books) & Yaretzi didn’t appear in any of them. I did find Yaritza in one, under the category of Latina names, but that was just a list rather than containing any definitions. So that got me thinking: where do etymologists look for information on names? Pam, where do you look for this information? Do you have books or Websites that you find to be reputable & contain authentic information? As an academic librarian I’m all about finding solid information! 🙂

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