Stylish vs. Popular Names: Do you know the difference?
It’s easy to confuse popularity with stylishness. Many baby names feel “popular” when they’re merely stylish: We’re hearing them a lot, they’re in step with the baby name fashions, and we worry that if we choose them, our little Matilda is going to be one of many.
And perhaps if you live in some edgy, baby-centric enclave – Park Slope, Brooklyn, say, or Bernal Heights in San Francisco – that will be true. But for the most part, the numbers tell a different story, with many of the most stylish names used by very few parents.
One note: Names can be popular and stylish, so many of those in the popular column also qualify as stylish.
Looking just at girls’ names today, here’s a statistics-based reality check on what’s stylish vs. what’s truly popular. (Numbers in parentheses represent how many babies were given that name in the most recent U.S. count.)
Tune in for the boys’ rundown tomorrow!
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on March 6th, 2012 at 12:46 am
Loved the post, but I also have to say that baby in the picture is possibly one of the cutest I’ve ever seen. 🙂
on March 6th, 2012 at 1:18 am
No, I can’t tell the difference all the time – at least for the States! I’m from New Zealand and our taste in names differs dramatically. Payton, Kennedy, London, Serenity and Faith are hardly on the charts here, while Imogen, Esme, Rory, Carter and Poppy are a lot more popular.
on March 6th, 2012 at 1:21 am
Oh no, don’t tell me Quinn is popular for a girl!? That is on our boy’s list! 🙁
on March 6th, 2012 at 2:31 am
I was pleased to see that my top two girl names (Susannah and Allegra) made the list as stylish but not popular! I’m just hoping they stay that way for a little while because I’m not planning to have kids for a few more years!
on March 6th, 2012 at 3:56 am
This was very interesting as well as helpful. It offers many alternative options to the generally popular choices.
Milasmama – I am also from New Zealand but I live in the UK and the names you listed are also fairly popular here in England. Poppy, Clementine, Imogen…
I’m expecting our first baby and am finding it difficult to choose a name my husband and I both love that isn’t classed popular in England or NZ – difficult from afar but we intend to return to NZin a few years and I’d be disappointed to go back and discover Imogen was one of dozens!
on March 6th, 2012 at 7:13 am
With the exception of Isabella, most of the popular names aren’t that popular. Consider there were 20 times more Isabella’s than Cecilia’s.
on March 6th, 2012 at 7:40 am
Nice to see Cecily up there as stylish. She’s easily our top pick for another girl (should we have one).
I like a fair number of these, Clementine, Beatrix, Imogen, Susanna(h). Can’t wait to see the boys! 😀
on March 6th, 2012 at 8:18 am
Oh, my parents will moan when they see that Tessa (my little sister’s name) is “popular.” The same thing happened with my name (Mia)- they gave it to me when it was relatively underused and now everybody has it! I guess they are just hopelessly ahead of the curve.
The other names I really shuddered to see on the popular list were Cora and Penelope. Why oh why!
on March 6th, 2012 at 8:22 am
Great advice. Being on nameberry so much, I start to think that the names often discussed must be getting popular, but that’s not always true. We just love the stylish names!
on March 6th, 2012 at 8:25 am
It is all relative, Crescentmoon. As Afmastro points out, there are names like Isabella that are relatively so much more popular than Cora and Penelope. But I hope that seeing the actual numbers of babies given the names, at least in 2010 in the US, will offer a reality check.
on March 6th, 2012 at 8:34 am
And Whit32, I am sorry to tell you that yes, thanks to the female Quinn on the TV show Glee, that name is getting a lot more popular for girls. On the boys’ side, look toward Quentin or Finn.
on March 6th, 2012 at 8:47 am
Really enjoyed this article. So much perception of names IS relative, and having the numbers right there was so helpful in evaluating real-life use of the names. Looking forward to seeing the boys’ list!
on March 6th, 2012 at 9:12 am
I’m sorry but Blake, Payton, Carter, Devon, London, Sawyer, and Scout are all very much boys name imo. I would hate to name a girl any of those names! And I am annoyed at the fact they are being used for girls. I know names switch sides and it’s easy to see it’s happened throughout history (Alice, Tracy, and Stacy, for example) but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!
I know it’s been brought up in the forums before but I think when the reason people name their girls with boys names is to “give them an advantage” or “to make them seem more equal with boys” it shows there is still a fundamental problem of a society that undervalues female traits and attributes and femininity. I understand sometimes it’s to honor a relative and that’s fine. But if the reasoning is anything along the lines of trying make you girl seem more “boyish,” I think it’s time you reassess yourself as a woman and realize you are more valuable than you may think.
on March 6th, 2012 at 9:14 am
Can you do one of these for boy names?
on March 6th, 2012 at 9:17 am
I’m surprised that Tessa is more popular than Tess. I teach a class of 5 and 6 year olds that has 2 little Tess’s and a Tessa.
Every other woman in my town having a baby girl seems to be naming her Lily, Madeline or Charlotte.
on March 6th, 2012 at 10:16 am
I love this post! All of my favorites are on the stylish side. It’s only a matter of time before they are popular 🙁
on March 6th, 2012 at 10:52 am
I loved this post!!! It was very illustrative!!! I can’t wait for the boy’s post tomorrow 🙂
I am so happy that Allegra and Flora are stylish names and NOT popular. Now I feel more secure of using this names 🙂
on March 6th, 2012 at 11:44 am
The issue, for me, is that what is stylish today will be popular tomorrow. I named my daughter Amelia before it showed up on any popularity lists. Within just the last 3 or 4 years, the name has shot up in popularity. It is very hard to determine if a name will become overly popular when you are among the name’s trail-blazers. I’m very annoyed at how mainstream and common the name has become and fear the same will happen with my son’s name. Guess I’ll tune in tomorrow to see if I’m disappointed…
on March 6th, 2012 at 1:17 pm
Hmmm. What was the cut off for “popular”? Personally, I would say the top 100 or around 3,000 or more babies is popular. And even that seems like very few babies. For sure, anything below 2000 out of all 4.3 million born in the US does not seem “popular” to me (unless it is moving up pretty quickly). This is especially true when you look at the % of kids named Jennifer,Mary, etc. in earlier decades. The top 100 names are a very small percentage compared to previous decades. So a lot of the names considered popular on this list, do not at all seem popular to me. Just my opinion, of course.
on March 6th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
I’d be curious on your thoughts on the difference between “stylish” and “trendy”.
If a name is perceived as being much more popular than it really is, does that matter? I guess I’m asking if the perception of the popularity of a name is as important as the actual popularity of a name?
You may never actually meet another little girl with the same name as your daughter but do you mind if everyone feels like it’s popular? Or can instantly peg the decade during which she was born?
And I have no answer for these questions myself.
on March 6th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
And for the record, I can’t believe there are so few Susannahs and so many Savannahs!
on March 6th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
These are all good points about stylish vs. trendy, the definition of popularity, and the potential for the names that are stylish today to be popular tomorrow.
On the stylish vs. trendy issue, it’s one that Linda and I have always discussed/struggled with and obviously one with no hard-and-fast answer. There’s a lot of crossover between the two, though to me a classic name like Charlotte can be stylish without being trendy, while a celebrity-pegged one like Miley is trendy but not stylish, and then a name like Seraphina is both.
It’s true that some of the names we call “popular” are not really given to THAT many babies; they’re just popular relative to the similar names that are given to dramatically fewer babies. And so while we’re calling Penelope and Aurora popular, they’re not really popular in the context of Top 10 or even Top 100 names.
And it’s true that a name that’s stylish today has a much better chance of zooming up into the popular category than a name that ISN’T stylish. Really, no such thing as a name that’s stylish and widely admired that’s going to remain obscure! Unfortunately….
on March 6th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
Why would you discourage against using Quinn for a boy? Makes no sense.
Whit32, I say keep Quinn on your list for a boy. Yes girls are using it, but so are boys. Its not like you’re naming him Susan for crying out loud. Keep Quinn, ditch Quentin and Finn…
on March 6th, 2012 at 8:35 pm
Ha ha ha ha! Thanks Skizzo! I’m not a fan of Quentin and I can’t use Finn. (the initials would be FC) My husband’s name is Jordan, so I think there are some names that can work both ways fairly well. Hopefully Quinn is one, because it is one of the few names that my hubby and I can agree on!
on March 6th, 2012 at 9:06 pm
Just have to say that because a name fits both categories of stylish and popular does not mean that it is not worth using. How sad it would be if all the Amelia’s, Evelyn’s, Madeline’s, Ruby’s, Faith’s, Charlotte’s and several others mentioned disappeared when they are all so lovely and have stood the test of time!
on March 6th, 2012 at 9:14 pm
What is this, a mutiny? Listen, Quinn is a wonderful name for either gender, but it’s trending toward the girls’ side not because I say it is but just because it is (with a lot of help from Glee). But the unisex names issue is a heated one and one on which everyone needs to make their own decision.
And AmandaJordan, I DEFINITELY agree that names that are both stylish and popular can still be worth using. In fact, they tend to be both the most well-liked and the most durable of names, and kids tend to love having them. It’s parents who sometimes shy away from popularity, and we’re here to deliver the facts (along with quite a few opinions).
on March 6th, 2012 at 10:11 pm
You crack me up, Pam.
I remember Quinn as a girl’s name from Sada Thompson’s Family on TV….
on March 7th, 2012 at 10:46 am
I know a family of three girls – Scout, Wren and Finley.
on April 14th, 2012 at 5:56 pm
Whenever I ever have or adopt a little girl, I thought I would possibly name her Cadence Aurora and her nickname would be Rory. Now I am wondering if the name is too popular. Should I find something a little more unique? I have other names on my list, such as Chloe Sage and Céline (haven’t thought of a good middle name yet.), but those are also pretty popular. Could anyone suggest sensible, yet unique names?
Boy names I am considering are Chandler Phoenix and Courtland Zephyr.
Yes, I know, all my first basically start with C, but I am flexible if I like a name. 🙂
on June 23rd, 2012 at 4:14 pm
I share your sentiment. Aurora with the nickname Rory has been my favorite for years. I had first and middle name picked out since I was a teen but now that the name is rising in popularity I’m wondering if when I have a daughter I want something more unique. I think what matters most is how you like the name and if it’s the right name for your daughter. My mom was going to name me Maria until she “meet” me and decided instantly that I just wasn’t ever going to be a Maria. So she found the name on her fav list that she thought fitted my personality.
Never thought uniqueness would be so important but after sitting through a photography class which included 14 girls and an Alexa, Alexis, Alexandra and myself (Lexie) I did get a little frustrated by sounding almost like everyone else.
Hope that helps some. Though I’m clearly as confused as you are.
on August 19th, 2012 at 12:53 am
I don’t really mind if Ruby is getting popular. I’ll be naming my daughter Ruby in honor of both my maternal grandmother and great grandmother. It’s a way to express my love to them, so I’ll have an even better reason than just because I liked the name. (Which, of course, I do) 🙂
on February 16th, 2013 at 7:59 pm
I usually get them confused. Now I understand.
on March 10th, 2013 at 10:53 pm
I love the name Seraphina!
I also like Persephone and Azalea (but spelled Azaleigha).
on May 24th, 2013 at 1:43 pm
Awesome list! I love Tess, Esme, Maisie, Azalea, May, Pearl, Ida (EE-da), and Winter. And I hope Savannah isn’t too popular!
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