Where all boys end up nowadays

Jul 19th 2007

As I research names I'm constantly poking into dusty corners of data and compiling arcane charts. Most will never see the light of day, but one has grabbed me so hard I just have to share. So strap on your helmets, we're going data mining!

For background, I'm convinced that that the whole baby-naming enterprise has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Part of what I'm trying to do is to demonstrate that this change is real and get a handle on what it means. One natural place to look is in name endings. As I've discussed in the past, endings do a lot of the work of giving a generation of names its trademark sound. (See the posts called "It's how you finish," parts one and two.)

So here is a graph of boys born by the last letter of their given names, back in 1906:

Only 11 letters were in common end-letter use, led by a clear "Big Four" that memorably spell ENDS (think George, John, Edward, James.) Now let's leap 50 years ahead and chart the same data for boys born in 1956:

It's hard to compare the graphs in this format, but the changes are relatively modest given the 50-year time span. The exact same 11 end letters dominate as in 1906, and the Big Four ENDS all rank among a new Big Five. This is the fundamental conservatism of the English men's naming stock, the immovable core of Johns and Jameses that endures across generations. Or did, at least. 'Cause take a gander at 2006:

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a baby naming revolution.

More on this in the months to come...


By Rachel (not verified)
July 25, 2007 1:01 PM

Name your daughter whatever you like. Jennifer is fine and refreshing for a baby. You'll be way ahead of the 80's baby name trend in 2030. Call her Enny. Call her Fifi.
Who cares what a doctor said about trendy baby names.

By nina (not verified)
July 25, 2007 1:35 PM

MD: In 2006, Jennifer was ranked #51 on the Social Security list -- more popular for girls than Avery #52, Mackenzie #53, Zoe #54, Riley #55, Sofia #56, Maya #57, Kimberly #58, Andrea #59, and Megan #60. So, it's still very much out there. If you love it, use it. And your doctor's point about unisex names seems ridiculous. I mean, if they're going to look at the baby/operate on the person, they'll probably figure out the sex pretty quickly. As far as filling out medical forms, just check "female" or "male". Simple as that.

By Tris (not verified)
July 25, 2007 2:27 PM

Speaking of -n boy names, I recently heard the name "Tavin" (prounouned TAY-vin)and am just curious what you all think. Is it trendy sounding to you? Or how about "Tavio" as a short form of "Octavio". I'm going back and forth as to whether Tavin sounds trendy -- I'm thinking it maybe does. But then, as a form of Octavio maybe not . . .

By Suzanne (not verified)
July 25, 2007 2:54 PM

MD - I do like Jennifer but, as others have said, there were SO many of them born in the 70s/80s that it seems a little tired now. That shouldn't stop you from picking a name you truly love, though. If you want to get some new ideas there are lots of books to inspire you. You might go to the library and pick up Laura's book The Baby Name Wizard. There's another one (appropriately) called "Beyond Jennifer and Jason" that you might enjoy - it's opinionated but fun to read. As others have suggested check out the Nymbler (www.nymbler.com) for more ideas. Good luck!

By molly h (not verified)
July 25, 2007 5:01 PM

i don't think there's anything wrong with jennifer. it's the name of one of my sisters (born in the early 70s) and even though it was always so popular, it never seemed that way to me. not nearly as saturated as say michael and david were for boys.
and btw, the doctor is there to provide medical services, not personal naming advice.

By Christiana (not verified)
July 25, 2007 5:21 PM

MD - Seems odd to me to have the doctor weighing in on your choice as well, but some people are simply opinionated. I like the name Jennifer, personally, though it was never on my list. You won't likely deal with what people in the 70's and 80's dealt with with the popularity, but you're also not likely to hear "what an unusual name" or "how do you pronounce that?" It's a modern classic, IMO. You like it, use it. I also like Juliana/Julia, Jillian and Jessamine for other feminine J options. Try out Nymbler. It's a lot of fun.

By molly h (not verified)
July 25, 2007 6:28 PM

MD - out of curiosity, was there a unisex name that you were considering that prompted the doctor's statement?

By hillary (not verified)
July 25, 2007 7:08 PM

I almost was a "Jennifer Elaina" but ended up a "Hillary Susanne" because I have a cousin named Jennifer. Honestly I am glad that I am a Hillary. I have only known a few personally and then of course there is HRC too.

MD-If you love Jennifer go for it, but if you have a trendy name you like go for that instead. Who cares what your doc says? Personally if I was in love with the Jen sound I would go with Genevieve or the like because you could still end up with Gen or Ginny. Genipher? Just kidding :)

By RobynT (not verified)
July 25, 2007 8:05 PM

MD: Yeah, I'm not saying you shouldn't use the name Jennifer. I tend to like names that are from the generation above that someone could say the same thing about. I guess it's just that people might say it's a '70s/'80s name but if that doesn't bother you, then no biggie!

Tris: I think Tavin sounds trendy. Reminds me of Tevin (Campbell). I think I would've pronounced it TAH-vin if you hadn't posted the pronunciation too. Oh, how about Tobin? I knew a guy with this name and I thought it was cool. Although... I guess it might be seen as inauthentic if it's not really a name in your family.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
July 25, 2007 9:40 PM

a.c.-The Gideon I knew went by Rosie-her mn, I believe.
Allira-I vote for Leonidas, too. It's a bit much for me, but Leon and Leo are both handsome, and Leo is very in keeping with current trends.
On the N's...This is far from scientific, but I flipped through our church directory and did a count, and one thing I noticed is that they really tend to run in families. There were lots of combos. like Ethan and Logan or Dylan and Austin.
Henry's mn is Owen, and I like a lot of similar names, but I was still surprised by the graph-I can't wait to hear more from Laura about what conclusions she's drawn.
MD-It's hard for me to consider Jennifer objectively because I know so many personally. Having said that, I don't know any Little Jennifers (other than Bill Gates's daughter), so if you love it, use it! Our neighbor has a Kimberly, and I thought it was quite refreshing when I heard it. Do check back in and share!
Christiana-Any chance I can sell you on Chaz?
Best all!

By MD (not verified)
July 25, 2007 10:18 PM

Molly H - I mentioned that i was considering Tyler and Parker among others.

What's a good feminine name - i really like the suggestion of Juliet or Julianne - Kimberly might work too.

I just wish i didn't feel so overwhelmed and stressed. I don't deserve your kindness.

By RobynT (not verified)
July 26, 2007 12:26 AM

MD: i think it's hard for us to know what you mean by feminine. it seems like you are looking for sort of traditional, established girls' names, but also a bit on the cool side rather than grandma names (that are also definitely feminine). does this sound about right?

oh yeah, and don't be so hard on yourself! isn't this supposed to be fun? (i haven't been through it yet, but it seems like the fun part. haha...)

By nina (not verified)
July 26, 2007 12:50 AM

MD - You will find a name you love, don't worry! How far along are you?

What if you used a traditional feminine name and then spiced it up a bit with a cooler nickname? Some girls that I personally know have the following names/nicknames:

Caroline -- "Callie"
Catherine -- "Cat"
Carolyn -- "Linny"
Charlotte -- "Charlie"

(Hey - they all begin with C!)

By MD (not verified)
July 26, 2007 1:03 AM

Robyn that's right - "looking for sort of traditional, established girls' names, but also a bit on the cool side"

Nina - I'm pretty far along if that matters - and what about "Carrie" for Caroline?

By Penn (not verified)
July 26, 2007 1:10 AM

MD, I'm with the rest--your doctor's opinion shouldn't override your own plans on this matter. If he's made you self-conscious about unisex names, maybe use Tyler or Parker for a daughter's middle name: so, maybe Jenna Tyler, or Genevieve Parker (both of whom could be Jenny). Other Jenny/Ginnie names: Ginevra, Geneva, Virginia, Gianna, Janet, Jeannette, Jane, Jeanne, Imogen... if you like Jenny but you're not so sure about Jennifer, there's plenty to choose from!

By MD (not verified)
July 26, 2007 1:17 AM

Penn - thank you - i hope you all can help me with it. I know i have to choose a good name - i owe it to the school aged kid and the grown woman as well as the baby - one person told me that gets forgotten a lot.

By Elizabeth T. (not verified)
July 26, 2007 1:27 AM

It's funny--I love names so much that I didn't even want to make a decision until right before the birth because I so enjoyed thinking about all the different possibilities. And even now I enjoy thinking about my kids' separate identities--what they could have been had we chosen a different name. Don't worry, MD, you'll find a great name and within hours will be on to stressing about something totally new! :),

It sounds to me like you've got a lot of great choices. Best of luck with the delivery.

By nina (not verified)
July 26, 2007 1:48 AM

MD - I was just curious about your due date...very exciting for you!

I think Caroline nn Carrie is a great choice. And I don't hear of many little Carries these days. Do you love it? That is what matters most!

I personally love many unisex names for girls. I think they sound fantastic on an adult woman: Parker, Avery, Emerson, Peyton, Eleri, Finley... I envision very cool, intelligent women running businesses or funky, creative types in a band or displaying their artwork somewhere. (I'm very tired right now, pardon the rambling.)

And actually, I think many of the cutesy girl names that are being used today ONLY work for young children. Sure, they're feminine, but they still sound slightly dippy for an adult woman.
I'd rather be named Hayden than Millie any day of the week.

By nina (not verified)
July 26, 2007 1:53 AM

MD- Also wanted to add that I love Penn's suggestion of Genevieve Parker. I know a little Genevieve who goes by "Vivi" so that could be an option as well.

Best of luck to you!!!

By MD (not verified)
July 26, 2007 2:46 AM

Nina well do you think a classic feminine name can work - can she be as strong and respected as Julianne or Jessica as well as if she was Parker or Hayden?

By Beth (not verified)
July 26, 2007 2:49 AM

MD, I have a little Caroline. I really wanted to call her Carly because it's a bit girly and unexpected, but my mom, after whom Caroline is named, would have been quite upset. So she is Miss Goose to me, Caroline to the world. So you can have Carly if you want!

Genevieve Parker (nn Genni, Neve, or Vivi?) is gorgeous. But if you like androgynous names or Jennifer, go for it. No doctor should be telling you what to name your child, unless you want to name her Bailin, Janslie, Kayriana, Shauniana, or Shenden, in which case it's a civic duty.

Let us know what you decide!

By MD (not verified)
July 26, 2007 3:10 AM

I want your help that's why I'm asking. Thank you all for caring

By mnicic (not verified)
July 26, 2007 9:13 AM

That is amazing...

By nina (not verified)
July 26, 2007 12:49 PM

MD - Oh, of course a Julianne or Jessica can be just as strong and respected as Parker or Hayden! That's not what I meant at all. It's the person that makes the name. I was more disagreeing with your doctor's ridiculous comment about unisex names. I was just saying that some of the cutesy girly nicknames out there today may not give off the greatest first impression. But that's not to say that a little Mitzy can't become the next president once you get to know her.

Incidentally, my name -- Nina -- means little girl in Spanish, and I've often hated that. Who wants to be a "little girl" forever? :)

By nina (not verified)
July 26, 2007 12:54 PM

Beth -- I love Carly as a nickname for Caroline. Love it. My cousin is having a girl next month and he wants a more unisex name, and his wife wants a classic. This might be the perfect compromise! Thank you!

By Elly (not verified)
July 26, 2007 1:09 PM

Nina- I like your name! Always thought it was a nn for -ina names that became a name on its own (like Jack for John and all that)

MD- I don't think a woman needs a man's name to be strong and well-respected, but do make sure whatever you choose is something that you love. I think Genevieve is beautiful. Others that might fit- Eve, Zoe, Claire, Vivian?

By Jill C. (not verified)
July 26, 2007 2:32 PM

Because I am also a nerd :), I combined the different spellings of the same name for the top 1000. Obviously, this involves some assumptions as to how people pronounce these names, but here are the N names I came up with in the top 30:
#1 Aidan/Aiden/Ayden/etc.
#7 Ethan/Ethen
#14 Jayden
#16 Christian
#17 Jonathan
#19 Ryan
#22 Caden/Cayden/Kaden/etc.
#23 John
#25 Logan
#26 Dylan/Dillon/etc.
#28 Nathan
#29 Benjamin

By MD (not verified)
July 26, 2007 2:34 PM

Good ideas Elly - I'll think on them. I just wish i could contact you and Nina off-blog!

I know you all can help me find the right name.

By Rebekah (not verified)
July 26, 2007 2:58 PM

Jill C.-That is brilliant. How do you do that? I have been wanting to do that for the name Lily. To combine every name that has Lily in it, such as Lillian, Lilianna, Lilliana,and so on. I really want to know what the popularity would really be.

By Meegan (not verified)
July 26, 2007 3:44 PM

MD - I also love Caroline, with the nn Carly, as well as Imogen and Genevieve (which sound similar to Jennifer but feel much fresher). I also really like Gemma.

Here are some other ideas that might fit into the traditional/cool category:
Josephine (Jo)
Alexandra (Alex)

Good luck!

By b (not verified)
July 26, 2007 3:52 PM

hey guys, i just want to get your opinion on something. do you think it's ok for a sister to use her sister's daughter's name for her daughter too? also, it isn't a family name or anything.

By Meegan (not verified)
July 26, 2007 3:58 PM

b -- my first thought is no! Could you tell us the name? I'm sure someone on this board could come up with something just as great as the name in question.

By Rebekah (not verified)
July 26, 2007 4:03 PM

b-I would say no. If my sister did that I would be very upset. Plus, it would get VERY confusing for relatives and at get togethers.

By molly h (not verified)
July 26, 2007 4:23 PM

b - i too would say no. especially if it's not a family name. i knew of a family where two female cousins were both named after their grandfather - greorge. one was named goergia nd the other georgina and that was confusing enough.
if you (or whomever) really love the name, i say use it as a middle name (and with the other sister's blessing).

By nina (not verified)
July 26, 2007 4:33 PM

Elly - Thank you for the compliment re: my name. I've met two other Ninas my age (late 30s) and they were indeed nicknames: one was Antonia and the other Giovanna. (Lots of Italians in my neck of the woods.) I was jealous that they had more formal names to fall back on. It would have come in handy during the "Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria" chanting in grade school. :)

b - I would not be too happy if my sister used any of my daughters' names. Maybe for a middle name, but not for the first name! Just my 2 cents... what is the name, anyway?

By nina (not verified)
July 26, 2007 4:36 PM

Rebekah - I'm interested in the specifics of the Lily-craze as well. I'd add Lila to that mix as well. Actually, I'd add all the "L-heavy" names into a category just to see the numbers. It's probably insane.

By Penn (not verified)
July 26, 2007 4:55 PM

First cousins with the same first name? ONLY if the family is completely estranged, so you'd never run into each other at holidays or whatnot. Or if it's a family tradition that, say, all the first-born girls are named Mary--and even then, I'd be thinking it's time to start a new tradition. Middle names, variations on the same name, that would be a better solution to the "we love the same name" problem.

By C & C's Mom (not verified)
July 26, 2007 5:11 PM

I think first cousins could have the same name in certain circumstances. It could work if they were both named after opposite sides of the family. For instance, I have a friend who has a nephew William. She also happened to marry a man named William (who goes by his mn), but strongly considered William when she had a son. I think a direct namesake could trump the "don't steal someone else's name" rule.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
July 26, 2007 5:14 PM

On l's...I was wondering the other day why Sally hasn't come back in style yet. Maybe not old enough?

By C & C's Mom (not verified)
July 26, 2007 5:31 PM

The only Sally I know is in her 20s. And her given name is Sarah. I think that Sally is one of those old-fashioned nicknames that don't seem to match the name they come from (like Jack:)

Maybe people still associate it with Sally Field? not old enough to be hip again, but too old to sound fresh

By kristi (not verified)
July 26, 2007 5:37 PM

You can copy & paste name data from the SSA website into a spreadsheet such as MSExcel. Then sort and sum to your heart's delight. (Be sure to include Number of Births in your SSA query.)
Perhaps you can serve as our substitute number cruncher when Laura goes on vacation :)

By kristi (not verified)
July 26, 2007 5:53 PM

About the Minnesota sextuplets, only one is still living - Sylas Christopher. Still needing a great deal of care and prayer as the babies were born so early. What an ordeal.

By RobynT (not verified)
July 26, 2007 5:55 PM

MD: Since you mentioned Jennifer I started thinking about other names from my generation or ones that are sort of common but maybe less dated:
Elizabeth (tons of nns)

By Jessica (not verified)
July 26, 2007 6:36 PM

b - In general, I have to agree with everyone else about the same name idea. However, I have an agreement with a brother of mine that we may both use the same name. We also have a cousin by that name and his mother is thriiled that we both want to use it.
By the same token, my brother and I have an agreement that I will not use a certain name and he will not use a certain name.
Also, I did wonder... Would these children have different nn?
Are you telling what the name is? May the guru's here help you find a comprimise?? :)

By Rebekah (not verified)
July 26, 2007 7:07 PM

Kristi- Ok, thanks for the info but that sounds like way to much work for this mother of four. (Including a newborn) I will file it away for future use.
If anyone else has the time I would greatly appreciate it!

By b (not verified)
July 26, 2007 7:25 PM

don't worry, it's not me that wants to reuse a name in the same family!! I just heard about it the other day and thought it was extremely rude and wanted to make sure I wasn't the only one who thought this too! the name is christina. the only thing i can think of is they want to use it for religious reasons? christina/christian either way I find it very unoriginal and i don't believe the sister has the other sister's blessing! thanks for the input. i don't think suggestions are necessary since i won't be talking to the mother-to-be about it.

By Wendy (not verified)
July 26, 2007 7:26 PM

MD. -- you asked if a traditional girl name can be as strong as a Parker or Hayden.

I am a Wendy... yeah, surfer girl sixties. I am also an attorney. My father(also an attorney) wanted me to go by Gwendolyn when I became a lawyer since it sounded more professional.

Gwendolyn isn't my name, so I stuck with Wendy. And I am taken seriously. Given today's world where more than 50% of college graduates are women, I don't see a girl's name being a challenge.

Unless of course you insist on naming the child Princess, Fifi or Precious.

And I know a lot of Jennifers in law too... it is a good name. They can be Jenny at home and Jennifer at the office.

Personally, I like the names Jenna and Genevieve if want something a little different.

By Catharine (not verified)
July 26, 2007 7:28 PM


I agree with previous posters. With 4 nephews and a niece already, I can't imagine naming a child the same as one of them...sounds like it might get very confusing at Christmastime!

I can imagine being very upset if I were your sister. A lot of folks look for a name that is unique and your sister may feel upset that you "stole" her daughter's name, especially since it isn't a family name.

I also agree that there are always excellent naming suggestions on this site, and if you'd like some advice, let us know the name you like and we'll go to work finding a wonderful alternative! :-)

By Catharine (not verified)
July 26, 2007 7:29 PM

Oops! Should have refreshed!

By Allira (not verified)
July 26, 2007 8:34 PM

Hi again. I just wanted to thank you all for the advice... It's really appreciated.

I'm confident enough to stick with Leonidas now... Because I've really tested the name out (muttered it under my breath for a few days) and find that most people here (Including myself) don't seen to like my Mum's pick for a name, Jayden.

Oh, and he would be named after Leonidas I of Sparta. I'm a history nerd.

Thanks again!