Why is Alexandra up but Alexis down?

Linda and I have spent a lot of time over the years tracking the ups and downs of baby names and making sense of the movements.  Often, it’s possible to divine trends in the popularity lists: Girls’ names that end in a are marching up the ladder in seeming unison, for instance, while New Testament names for boys are moving down.

But sometimes, the patterns are not so easy to discern.  Sometimes, in fact, the shifts seem downright contradictory, undercutting any attempt to identify a trend.

Sure, sometimes you can credit a celebrity for a name’s rise or blame a slide on the fact that a name has been around so long that people have gotten tired of it and are turning to a new flavor.  We do get, for instance, that Britain‘s newest royal is responsible for the predominance of Kate over Katherine, and that Oliver is simply a fresher name than the long-popular Christopher.

Still, even with those examples, the rise of one name at the same time another, very similar name drops can be amusing.  Some notable pairings from this year’s list:


Alexandra is up, but Alexis is down

Aria is up, but Cadence is down

Bella is up, but Isabelle is down

Elise is up, but Alyssa is down

Ellie is up, but Leah is down

Harper and Piper are up, but Taylor and Paige are down

Kate is up, but Katherine is down

Kendall is up, but Jada is down

Molly is up, but Gracie is down

Naveah is up, but Makenna is down

Scarlett is up, but Zoe is down


Asher is up, but Austin is down

Bentley is up, but Brady is down

Clark is up, but Kent is down

David and Henry are up, but John and Robert are down

Elijah and Isaiah are up, but Nathaniel is down

Grayson is up, but Carson is down

Jace is up, but Chase is down

Jackson is up, but Jack is down

Levi is up, but Devin is down

Oliver is up, but Christopher is down

Parker is up, but Hunter is down

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11 Responses to “Why is Alexandra up but Alexis down?”

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Flick Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 9:27 am

I think it’s because people want something a little “different”, so they go with something similar and that “similar but different” name because the popular one.

Alexandra sounds sophisticated and classy right now where Alexis sounds dated.Same with Elise / Alyssa, Harper, Piper / Paige, Taylor – Paige and Taylor are sounding outdated while Harper and Piper have the same feel, but are “different”.

On the boy’s side, Austin, Devin, Hunter and Chase are really starting to sound dated, so people moved on to something similar.

Wildsyringa Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 10:30 am

I agree with Flick. Most of the “down” names sound dated, particularly Taylor, Paige, Alyssa, Austin, Chase, and Devin. Those sound like my teenage niece’s classmates, not newborns.

Alexandra.Iseult Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 11:42 am

I am obviously biased, but Alexandra is a long historically established royal name that is extremely versatile in a sense of finding a nickname to fit, and has successful and strong connotation to it. I am not surprised that Alexis is down, since I agree with Flick.

Also, If I liked Alexandra but was wary of its popularity, I would go with another equally ‘royal’ and established name that was less popular such as Eugenie. Alexis shares next to nothing with Alexandra, since it is trendy, short, and less feminine (but not worse, I really like Alexis) however I can assure you that there is a whole other crowd considering Alexis than Alexandra.

One that surprised me is Katherine. Along with that same reasoning, it is very interesting that a cute but shortened version would be rising over the original, because Kate can come from Katherine, but not the other way around.

rachel27 Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Yes. like everyone has said, the names that are ‘down’ almost all feel dated to me. maybe those will be the names my children will want to use that will grate on me.

mipsy Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Most of the names moving down do seem a little more stale than the ones moving up.

I’d name my son Alexis, but not a daughter. (It’s a saint’s name, and that carries some weight with me.)

moxielove Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I am completely blinded to all the other names by the fact that Clark is up! I would almost laugh out loud — with surprise, joy, disbelief — if I met a baby named Clark!

Clark! Clark! Say it enough and I actually like it! For the first time ever, it sounds crisp and not fuddyduddy.

nameobsessednichole Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Because Alexis is a very unappealing name.

miloowen Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I wonder where colour is in all of this. Alexis is a very popular name in African American circles, much more so than Alexandra, although I have met girls named Alexandri(e)a….It would be interesting for an intrepid statistician to look at that, but perhaps I’ve lived in the South too long, where everything is still decided by colour.

However, Alexis (Alexei) is very much a royal name, just as Alexandra is. It’s just not a British royal name.

The odd thing about “Kate” is that the Duchess of Cambridge prefers Catherine. So it’s media influence, not reality.

I still meet many, many of my students whose babies’ names are simply made up. They bear little to no resemblance to anything “normal”. My latest student child is Amarichantal Neveah, named after two perfumes and all smooshed together. On the other hand, the two teacher babies were Cora Layne and Cameron Ross (boy).

katybug Says:

June 6th, 2012 at 8:42 am

Totally agree with moxielove about Clark! Wouldn’t it be great to meet a baby Clark?

Scrambledmegs Says:

June 6th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I have met a baby Clark, and he was absolutely adorable!

Funny about Kent, because I was just thinking it would be a fresher way to honor my grandfather, Kenneth. But maybe it sounds appealing because of DH’s long last name.

originofnames Says:

June 27th, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I don’t feel that some of the names that are down right now are not in style some like: Isabelle, Alyssa, Leah, Carson, Christopher and Hunter are names that still have a nice feel to them and don’t sound too out dated if at all.

Then again I personally like names that are classy and traditional. I don’t like names that make people ask “How do you spell that again?”

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