What Will Be the Next Liam…and Sophia?

Cross-cultural baby name predictions

By Lisa Spira

Before Liam became the second most popular baby name in the United States, as it has been since 2013, it was a lesser-known Irish short form of William. It was distinctively Irish. Today, however, Liam is so popular that it feels more “American” than anything else.

It’s not the first name to broaden in usage this way. In past generations, names such as Sean and Nicole became simply American, dissociated from their Irish and French roots, respectively.

Which names from other cultures might be the next popular American names?

Rowan is another Irish name that sounds a lot like Liam, with a long vowel sound in the first syllable and a nasal consonant at the end. It’s climbing the charts behind other popular two-syllable names that end in “N” such as Mason, Ethan, and Aidan. As Rowan grows more popular, it’s also becoming increasingly unisex.

Mateo is the Spanish form of Matthew, a continually popular biblical name. It’s an alternative to the popular Mason, with many of the same sounds. As Leo and Theodore return to this generation’s consciousness, the previously unknown Mateo fits right in. The more popular it becomes, the more its largely Hispanic usage will diversify. Note that the Italian form Matteo is also rapidly rising in popularity.

Xavier is derived from a Basque place name. While its usage thus far has been in Romance languages such as French, Portuguese, Catalan, and Spanish, with newfound popularity will come wider appeal. Xavier brings “X” to the forefront after the letter made a comeback with the popular Jaxon. It also fits with the rising trend of “ER” endings in names like Carter, Hunter, and Parker.

For girls, the name to unseat is Sophia. This originally Greek name became the most popular American baby girl’s name in 2011 and is still in the third spot.

Eliana has two distinct derivations: one from Hebrew and the other as the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese form of the French Eliane. It is quickly climbing the charts following such other “E” names as Emma, Evelyn, and Ella. While its usage has been heavily Jewish and Hispanic, as it rises alongside the similar looking and sounding Ariana, it is already having a broader appeal.

Layla is an Arabic name that is becoming popular on the strength of the letter L, climbing on the backs of Olivia and Isabella. It also belongs with trendy two-syllable name ending in “A” such as Ava, Ella, and Mia.

Mila is a diminutive of several Slavic names – such as Ludmila and Milena – that has come to stand on its own. It shares many traits with Layla, above, and is similar to the popular Amelia. Fun fact – Mila is an anagram of Liam.

While many of the most popular names are originally Anglo, others come to the United States with immigrant communities from different parts of the world. The ones that match American trends in look, sound, and feel will eventually expand in usage beyond Irish, Hispanic, or Arab Americans, for example. Soon, they too will sound simply American.

And perhaps Matteo is the next Liam.

Lisa Spira channels her lifelong passion for names into developing marketing insights as Director of Research and Product Development at Ethnic Technologies, the leading provider of multicultural marketing software, data enhancement, and audience segmentation tools. You can visit www.EthnicTechnologies.com to learn more about E-Tech.

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