The Best Popular Names–and why to pick one!
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Lots of prospective parents today are adamant about not picking popular names, quite possibly because they themselves were victims of the I-was-one of-five-Jennifers-in-my class syndrome and they don’t want the same fate to befall their own offspring.
Many not only avoid the Top 10 names, but won’t even consider anything in the Top 1000. We think that by doing that, they’re eliminating some really great choices.
After all, there’s one good reason why popular names are popular: A lot of people like them. This includes kids, who, for the most part prefer having them over ‘yuneek’ names with sometimes wacky (and embarrassing) spellings.
And if you’re worried about popular names being too common—don’t. Because in the new, more diversified namescape, far, far fewer babies are given the top names, so the chances of your toddler sharing his cubby with another Liam or Lily are getting slimmer all the time, plus a moniker with a less specific image gives a child more opportunity to make the name his own.
So here are ten of the best names in the current Top 50—all great choices that avoid the old epidemic, date-stamped, trendy feel– timeless names built to last.
A lovely Victorian valentine name that still makes a great alternative to Emily and Amanda. Kids might appreciate its tie to the wacky children’s’ book character Amelia Bedelia, while parents like its literary and royal cred. And as high as it is on the list, it still will feel fresh to most people outside the babyname bubble. Trivia tidbit: Minnie Driver was born with the name Amelia.
Charlotte is literally a Princess name—and what little girl wouldn’t like that? In addition to the current little Princess of Cambridge, it has other deep royal roots. This elegant name has also been chosen by a number of celebs—from Chelsea Clinton to Colin Hanks. And it has a great choice of nicknames—including the boyish Charlie and the vintage Lottie.
An Irish name meaning light, Nora is a lovely, graceful classic, feminine but not fussy or frilly, and still with the slight trace of an Irish accent. It’s also associated with the liberated heroine of A Doll’s House, dear to the hearts of feminists, and makes a perfect choice for the parent looking for a no-nickname name.
One of the prettiest of the vintage color and flower names, Violet began its long overdue comeback when it was picked by Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck in 2005, and yet despite its popularity, still feels fragrant and sweet. Violet is a particular favorite of children’s book authors —think Violet Baudelaire in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and also Violet Parr in The Incredibles.
Luna is a strong but shimmery moonstruck name that has modern appeal via its tie to the endearing Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood. Superstar couples Penelope Cruz and Javier Barden and Chrissy Tiegen and John Legend picked Luna for their little girls—as did Harry Potter himself for his daughter’s middle name. The name of the Roman goddess of the moon is increasingly popular in Europe–Luna charts high in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal.
A Welsh name meaning ‘well-born young warrior’, this resonant Celtic name has been zooming up the popularity charts, rising 400 places in a decade. Why so much love for Owen? It’s a classic with deep roots and an interesting history and is right on trend as a two-syllable boys’ name ending in n. Other Welsh-invasion names: Dylan, Evan, Gwendolen, Gwyneth, Morgan and Rhys.
Luke is a name that has it all—New Testament props, a cool, crisp, nicknamey sound, a laidback cowboy feel, and kid-pleasing Star Wars Skywalker appeal. The most famous bearer of the name is the first-century Greek physician, evangelist and friend of Saint Paul, the author of the third Gospel, who became the patron saint of doctors and artists. In the same family and also in the Top 50: Lucas.
The most respected, venerated figure in American history makes an awesome presidential namesake for any boy. Lincoln cracked the Top 50 list in 2016, thanks to the tall, rangy, upright image of Honest Abe, also a popular focus of fiction in recent years, as the subject of revered short story writer George Saunders‘ first novel and of an Academy Award winning movie by Steven Spielberg. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard gender-bent it for their little girl—and why not?
An English surname meaning ‘brave in war’, Wyatt has, thanks to legendary Western lawman Wyatt Earp (who was—believe it or not—christened Pearl!) and the hero in the seminal flick Easy Rider, a wonderful Old West feel. Making it more contemporary is its double-t ending, shared with such other current faves as Beckett, Everett, Elliott, Emmett, and Garrett. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell were among the first celebs to use Wyatt for their son born in 1986; more recently, singer Sheryl Crow chose it for her baby boy.
A solid, handsome classic meaning ‘youthful’, Julian has been the choice of celebs as diverse as John Lennon, Robert DeNiro and Jerry Seinfeld. A saint’s name that is popular worldwide, Julian’s connection to the month of July makes it an ideal choice for a boy born at that time of the year. Julian has lots of historic and cultural cred. In addition to St Julian, patron saint of travelers, there are activist/politician Julian Bond, singer Julian Lennon, novelist Julian Barnes and painter/filmmaker Julian Schnabel, as well as the hero of Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and several characters on TV shows.
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on July 23rd, 2018 at 2:44 am
I’d agree on all of these except Wyatt. I think Wyatt is quite trendy and won’t age well.
on July 23rd, 2018 at 7:31 am
It is nice to see some support for ‘popular’ names on Nameberry! I am starting to despair of how often I read on the Nameberry forums that someone ‘can’t’ use a name they love due to its popularity. I do understand the sentiment, as I too grew up known by my last initial because I shared my first name with so many classmates. One of the things that changed my thinking on this was the realization that unique names are a modern obsession, a symptom of a society that places a high value on individualism.
As for the names listed, I see Luna as a very trendy name. As a measure of trendiness, I look for the steepness of the popularity curve, as opposed to the numbers themselves., and Luna has rocketed out of obscurity.
on July 23rd, 2018 at 7:48 am
I love seeing support for popular names! I actually named my son James Louis in May of 2016. I was trying to use it as a middle name because it was so popular. I took the advice from someone on Nameberry and actually talked to preschool teachers and pediatricians from the area I live in. I am so glad I did. I ended up using James as a first name and in 2 years I have yet to meet more than 1 child with the FIRST name of James under the age of 5. (Cooincidently I know 7 boys 2 and under with the middle name of James, but none with Louis)
on July 23rd, 2018 at 9:57 am
Luke was a very close second for my son. I still love it. And you can never go wrong with Amelia or Charlotte–especially with all the nn possibilities. But when she wants to use her full name, it will be a beaut.
on July 24th, 2018 at 3:03 am
I don’t think Luna will age well. It’s very trendy and definitely not a classic like Amelia or Charlotte.
on August 1st, 2018 at 5:41 pm
If your goal is to keep your kid from suffering the fate of Ashley #3, Sarah-with-an-h, or Jake B, you really don’t need to go outside the top 1000. My name was #715 when I was born, and to this day I have still never met another Aurora, though I expect I’ll be seeing some kids with the name sooner or later now that it’s up to #51. For that matter, looking at the list of names from 1990, while I do know half a dozen Jessicas and Ashleys (each), there are several top 20 names I only know one of. There are only so many names that get popular enough to actually be an issue for your kid.
But more than that, the most popular names today are SO MUCH less popular than the most popular names decades ago. If you compare the actual percentages of 2017 to, say, 1985, things look a lot different. The 0.95% of boys given the #1 name (Liam) in 2017 corresponds to the 0.97% of boys given the #24 name, Steven, in 1985, and the 1.05% of girls given the #1 name (Emma) in 2017 corresponds to the 1.08% given the #11 name, Melissa. Still pretty popular, but they’re no Jennifer or Jessica. And the #10 names in 2017–Jacob (0.67%) and Abigail (0.56%)–correspond to #34, Charles, and #31, Angela. The #25s–Wyatt (0.49%) and Riley (0.34%)–correspond to 1985’s #45, Gregory, and #50, Jenna.
Basically, a top 10 name now is more like what we think of as a top 25, a top 25 is more like what we think of as a top 50, and a Jennifer-style #1 doesn’t even exist today.
That said, if you really want to minimize the chances of your kid ever meeting someone else with their name, but also don’t want them to face a lifetime of “Really?!” every time they introduce themselves, you can’t go wrong with classic names. Even though I’m the first Aurora most people have met, it’s recognizable as a name (and even if someone hasn’t heard of it, it just *feels* like a legitimate name). There are plenty of names like this outside the top 1000 too, names that statistically are barely used but still somehow feel familiar, like Cordelia, Imogen, Saskia, Ambrose, Leander, or Stellan. I think that gives the best odds of both the desired uniqueness and the best outcome for the kid, both in terms of not being judged negatively by others and of liking the name themselves. But honestly, there’s a pretty good chance your kid won’t know many others with their name, even if it’s in the top 10.
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