The Biggest Baby Name Trends of the Year
The brand new baby names data for the US packs a double punch this year. Not only does it give us our first glimpse at the new decade of baby names, but it also shines a light on what new parents were thinking, feeling and hoping during a year like no other.
Many of the fastest rising names of the year were tributes to the famous figures who tragically passed away in 2020. Others were inspired by lockdown escapism: fantasy series, music, and, yes, even YouTube and Instagram. Read our full report on the hottest celebrity-influenced names of the year here.
We analyzed the new 2020 baby name data to identify nine further top trends that defined the year, and will go on to shape the new decade.
Jazz Age Revivals
The coolest vintage baby names now come with extra pizzazz! Jazz Age baby names, last popular during the roaring twenties and thirties, are among the fastest-rising vintage baby names of the moment.
These old-school cool names are defined by their sharp, spiky sounds and high-energy appeal. Among them are the names of Jazz Age icons like Zelda Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, as well as later jazz legends such as Etta James and Chester “Chet” Baker.
Sparky Etta, which peaked in 1920, returned to the Top 1000 for girls this year after a one-year break – up 89 spots on last year. And it brought with it two related names, both absent from the list for decades: Violette and Loretta. We think the Etta sound is one to watch!
Here are some of the Jazz Age baby names which rose up the charts last year.
Super-short baby names are on the rise, especially for boys. Nano names have no more than three letters, and just one or two syllables, but they really pack a punch!
Spanish nature name Rio debuted on the boys’ list in 2020, and Cal, Zev and Avi (plus Ila for girls) re-entered the Top 1000 this year. Other rapid risers in and out of the Top 1000 included Koa, Noe, Bo, Ace, Zen, Isa and Ren for boys, and Ari, Noa, Gia, Kai, Rae, Lua and Aja for girls.
Several more hot nano names, like Tru, Lux, Sol, Kit and Sky, made popularity gains on both sides of the gender divide. Here are some of the coolest nano names climbing the charts right now.
Snappy S-Ending Boys
N-ending boy names may still dominate the top of the charts, but S is the hot new consonant on the block. There’s something so smart and snappy about stylish S-ending picks like Brooks and Hayes, and it’s a trend celebrity parents are loving as well.
Hilary Duff and Matthew Koma’s choice of Banks for their 2018 daughter put the name on the charts for girls – but sent it rocketing for boys. It rose over 160 spots last year alone. Other S-ending celebrity baby names from 2020 included Keats, Ames, Atlas and Rhodes. Expect to see them rise further in 2021!
The hottest S-ending boy names are short, snappy and surname style, like new Top 1000 names Riggs, Jones and Harris. Other rapid risers last year included Anders, Wells, Briggs, Hayes, Brooks, Hollis and Kross.
Here are some of the trendiest S-ending boy names of the moment.
Fresh Surname Names
S isn’t the only surname-style suffix on the rise. Surname names remain big for both sexes, but we’re seeing more variety among the fastest-rising names in this category – beyond the standard -son, -ton and -er ending surname names that have been popular for decades.
The hottest surname names of the year included Truett, Bryant, Marley, Ford, Shepard, Callahan and McCoy for boys. For girls, Marlowe, Adley, Lennox, Fallon, Blair and Monroe made big gains. And Murphy and Bellamy were among the fastest rising for both sexes, leaping over 100 places on both lists.
Here are some of the fresh surname names gaining ground right now.
Wholesome Word Names
The new parents of 2020 were faced with a very different set of circumstances than the generations who went before. No playdates, no snuggles with grandparents, economic uncertainty, and, too often, loss and grief.
The word names trending upwards this year reflect parents’ hopes and aspirations for their children, and for the world. They include strong and steadfast nature names like new Top 1000 boy entrants Everest and Ocean, powerful virtue names like Legacy, Creed, Love and True, as well as words symbolizing hope and renewal, like Olive, Phoenix and Zen.
These wholesome word names are one of the biggest gender-neutral trends of the year. Many of them climbed for both sexes, including Reign, Royal, Salem, True and Sage. Others that have proved more popular for girls in recent years, like Genesis, Nova, Lyric, Shiloh and Wren, saw significant gains especially on the boys’ side.
Below, some of the wholesome word names that have risen during the pandemic.
Scandi Style Statements
We love a bit of Scandi chic in our homes and closets, and now it’s making its mark on American baby names, too. Steely Scandinavian picks like Anders, Leif, Bjorn, Niko and Soren were among the rapid-rising boy names of the year, while on the girls’ side Maren, Astrid and Alma made particularly big gains.
Also climbing are Scandinavian names which call to mind Nordic landscapes, like icy nature names Glacier and Fjord, which both made their debut this year. And character names including Lyra and Iorek from the His Dark Materials trilogy and Niklaus, Henrik and Freya from The Vampire Diaries also saw an uptick in use.
Here are some of the Scandi chic baby names which rose in the US last year.
Glide Girl Names
The fastest-rising girl name of the year was Avayah, the daughter of YouTubers Makaela and Ronnie Banks, born at the end of 2019. The name leaped over 1500 spots to break the Top 1000 for the first time in 2020.
A shot of well-timed publicity never hurts a name’s chances of stardom, but Avayah owes its meteoric rise mainly to its super-fashionable sounds: the vibrant V, the long AY vowel sound, and especially the semivowel or “glide” sound Y, which is a booming trend for baby girl names right now.
Other glide girl names on the fastest-rising list for 2020 include Naya, Aarya, Amaia, Zoya, Kamiyah, Raya and Kataleya, which all rose at least 100 spots last year. With so many opportunities for invention and reinvention, this is a trend we expect to see continue across the coming decade.
Here’s a selection of the hottest glide girl names right now.
Punchy Biblical Boys
Biblical boy names – once the epitome of calm, classic, conventional taste – are getting quirkier! The coolest Biblical names for boys right now are those which contain spiky consonants like Z and V, high-energy sounds like -er or -o endings, or an edgy old-school feel.
Four punchy Bible names for boys made a comeback to the Top 1000 this year: Avi, Zev, Abner and Eliezer. Of those, Abner had been gone the longest, last ranking way back in 1938!
Other high risers for 2020 included Aziel, Amias, Shiloh, Ira, Jaziel, Izaiah and Hezekiah, which all gained at least 50 spots.
Below, some of the coolest punchy Biblical names for boys now.
Old School Cool Nicknames
Retro nicknames are a special subset of cool vintage baby names that aren’t so tightly bound by time and trend constraints as their formal counterparts.
You’ll find plenty of peppy Jazz Age revivals in this category too – like Etta, Rosie and Millie for girls; Archie, Louie and Ray for boys – but there are also scores of old school nicknames that are coming back ahead of the curve.
Midcentury nicknames on the rise include Margo, Bonnie and Nancy for girls, Mack, Jerry and Bobby for boys. Even later revivals include Stevie, Sonny, Benji and Beau. And there are also several cool and quirky nickname names rising that sound a little bit retro, even if they’re actually fairly recent adoptions – like Ace, Ziggy, Jovie and Scout.
These are some of the funkiest old school cool nicknames on the rise right now.