The Way We Name Today: 9 Baby Name Trends
By Abby Sandel
When it comes to baby name trends, it’s tempting to declare that the classics are back, or that originality is the new rule. And some weeks, it does feel like everyone is sticking with tried-and-true names, or turning to the dictionary, or just drawing letters from a bag of Scrabble tiles.
But baby name trends are often subtle. It’s not always about a name. It’s about a letter, a sound, or a style. Or maybe trends are about where we find our inspiration for our children’s names, even how we think about them.
The baby names in the news this week represent some of the biggest trends at work today. Let’s take a closer look:
Pop culture counts – Comedian Jeff Dunham and wife Audrey recently welcomed twin sons. Jack Steven’s name was influenced by fictional hero Jack Bauer, of 24 fame. While there are plenty of fictional Jacks (Sparrow, Harkness, Skellington), Bauer seems to have been part of the reason the name rose from to its most popular since the 1930s, reaching as high as Number 34 during the show’s run. Steven honors Audrey’s dad.
We skip the nickname – Jack’s twin brother is James Jeffrey. The couple emphasized that it’s James – not Jimmy or Jim. Not so long ago, every Robert was Bob (unless he was Rob), and all of the Williams were automatically Bill. But in recent generations, we’re meeting more and more parents who prefer to skip the nicknames for their kids.
We skip the formal name – It sounds like the opposite trend, but it isn’t. Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker have announced their son’s name: Hank. Writing the preferred nickname on the birth certificate, instead of Henry or Harold or Harrison, ensures that Hank will always – and only – be Hank. Whether it’s Isabella-not-Bella or Jake-not-Jacob, parents increasingly want to be clear what their child will be called.
Double middles have gone mainstream – Once the only people with bonus middle names were royals. But now, it’s downright ordinary for children to have two middles. Sometimes they honor loved ones, but sometimes it’s just because. This Names for Real post rounded up some great examples of double middles: Wyatt Liam Fender, Elodie Ember Violet, Axel Everett Eugene, Abel Alexander Cruz.
The death of filler middles – How many girls were named Jennifer Ann in the 1980s? There was a blank space to fill out on the birth certificate form, and parents tended to play it safe, repeating go-to middles like James and Marie. Today, that spot is just as likely to be used for completely unexpected names. Names for Real recently posted a list that included Ace, Love, Zeb, and Glade.
Everything must be spelled – Quick, what’s the most popular spelling of Madeline in the US? It’s the modern Madelyn. Survivor alum Christa Hastie recently welcomed a daughter with my favorite spelling – the French Madeleine. Nameberry’s annual Playground Analysis demonstrates the impact of multiple spellings on name popularity. But it also means that you’ll be asked if that’s Katherine with a K. And even names that seem straightforward can lead to multiple spellings – is that Brooklyn, Brooklynn, or Brooklynne?
Place names remain popular – Speaking of Brooklyn, place names remain popular. A recent Names for Real round-up included the familiar Brooklyn and London, but also the less familiar Holland and Charleston.
Family names are less common, but family patterns are popular – Gone are the days when our firstborn son was automatically named after grandpa or dad. But it’s increasingly common to hear things like, “We all have M names, so the new baby has to be Mason or Miles.” Teen Mom’s Vetzabe Torres – known as Vee – recently passed down her initial to daughter Velisse. They’re calling her Vivi.
We love, love, love the letter V. Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford kept their daughter’s name quiet for a few weeks, but we recently learned that she’s called Evelyn. Five of the current Top 20 names for girls include the letter V: Olivia, Ava, Victoria, Avery, and Evelyn. Yes, Evelyn is a tailored name with vintage style. But the real reason we’re hearing so much of this name? It has to be the V.
What are your favorite – or least favorite! – baby naming trends?