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 Jeanette (not verified)
May 28, 2008 3:24 PM


I liked Emmett and Evan for my son - DH liked Emmett so we went with that. . so we did buck the trend but jsut barely. Wonder what the girl graph looks like we just had a baby girl we named Erin. so she got the N but he didn't. . .

his class is:
Emmett (him)

they kind of buck the trend it seems. . .

By ankara nakliyat (not verified)
September 20, 2008 3:18 AM

good article.merci az aksaye kheili ghashangetoun va saç ekimi merci az comment mirzakhan
BP az sedaghate ankara nakliyat mohsen namjoo estefadeh kardeh .. hagh har kassi ke be in saç ekimi concert miyad ine ke betoune namjoo ro bebine, baraye emza Cd, chera bayad 50$ ezafeh bedeh?? shayad kessi nakhad sham bokhore..
moteassefaneh namjoo va evden eve nakliyat amsale ou majbour hastan ke ba in adama kar konan va gar na khode namjoo besiar adame ankara nakliyat khaki hast va motmaenan mikhast ke taraftarasho baad az concert bebineh , mesle concertash dar europe ke kheili arzountar boud va hame ham tounestan ke namjoo ro dar akhar bebinand ...
gheyr az in ma hame asheghe ankara evden eve seda va music namjoo hastim .. 100000 shaghayeshe normandie baraye ou evden eve nakliyat evden eve nakliyat hizmeti verilir.

By DS (not verified)
October 1, 2008 12:02 AM

My fiance and I are thinking of boy names and having a hard time coming up with any. His last name is Shannon, and we don't like anything TOO common or TOO bizarre. We are thinking of Pierce Arthur Shannon. Any opinions?

By Michael Lerner (not verified)
May 13, 2009 10:47 AM

It has a lot to do with the fact that boys names aren't clumping at the top as much anymore:


By Michael Lerner (not verified)
May 13, 2009 11:41 AM

And, in case anybody's still paying attention, here's the same thing for the first 1000 names, normalized so you can compare the tails properly.


By Michael Lerner (not verified)
May 13, 2009 12:13 PM

Also, it's not just the frequencies of various names; the makeup of the top 1000 names has also changed. Here's what happens if I say one boy had each name:


By cak (not verified)
May 13, 2009 11:39 PM

Question: I was wondering what would happen to the distribution if you were to break down the ends-in-"e" names according to the terminating sound? George, for example--do people really choose the name based on the ending "e," or the ending "j" sound?

By DL (not verified)
May 15, 2009 6:34 AM


Your mom and her friends must've heard of this research about boys' names reported on Time .

By Guest (not verified)
May 19, 2009 11:24 PM

Another reason why the N names are so popular could be all the many ways to spell each name. I'm not sure if this graph counts Braden, Brayden, Braydon, Braeden, and Braeden as separate names. However, if it does, it makes a lot of sense why N's are so popular.

Also, I have 4 nephews with one on the way. They're names are Braden, Justin, Nathan, and Carson. The names my pregnant sister is considering are Jackson and Jason. So, I think this graph is probably right on.

By Guest (not verified)
May 20, 2009 4:06 PM

that's shocking and is it wrong that i'm slightly appalled? not because it's just looks like utter conformity but i'm not one of those classic name haters, i think there is (was i guess) something enduring about them and this is a real loss of that.

By mynameisjulie (not verified)
May 25, 2009 1:51 AM

We were going to actually name our son with the mn Trey just for that purpose...to honor him being a third without actually using the identical name. But he came on grampa's birthday so got James instead.

By mynameisjulie (not verified)
May 25, 2009 1:53 AM

-to Christiana-
We were going to actually name our son with the mn Trey just for that purpose...to honor him being a third without actually using the identical name. But he came on grampa's birthday so got James instead.

May 29, 2009 11:16 AM

Truthfully, although constructive criticism can help you weed through choices you are unsure about, when you find a name that you have fallen in love with - go with it.

Eight years ago, my "gut" told me in no uncertain terms that the baby inside was a "Hazel." Many friends and family questioned the kindness of "saddling" an infant with such an "old-lady" name.

Guess what? I stuck to my choice, and I'm so glad I did. She is her own unique brand of Hazel, strong and sweet, energetic and friendly. Sometimes the belly knows best :)

By Krichelle (not verified)
December 16, 2009 7:03 PM


Just wanting some suggestions

I have 3 children


Im pregnant with my 4th which is a boy and my husband and i like Rylan. People tell me it is to close to Kynan and i just wanted to get you opions??? Thanks

By Bree (not verified)
December 24, 2009 12:00 AM

Hi - I just stumbled upon this old post now. Interesting since we named our first son Logan, born in Dec 2007. I knew it was a popular name but it was one of the only names my husband and I could agree on (and that I liked).

My husband's last name is Shipman. So with the two syllable first and last names, along with ending in "n" on both, I wanted something else to break it up in between. So his full name is Logan Avery Shipman.

Now we are pregnant with our second, another boy, and I'm having a heck of a time trying to think of another name!! So far, we like Callum (I'd love the middle name to be Reese) and I'm also liking Evan. Interesting that Evan also ends in "n" and Callum is close. ;-)

Any suggestions on a great sibling name to go with Logan Avery's? As you can see, we also like the Irish/Scottish/Celtic heritages since that is part of our own history. Thanks!

By Guest (not verified)
April 17, 2010 11:18 PM

I very seldom find another person around me with my name. Thank you Mom, and thank you Alan Ladd!

By Amy6 (not verified)
December 1, 2011 1:15 PM

Oh my goodness. I have 4 sons named, Steven, Nathan, Brandon, and Austin. I had no idea I was part of a naming revolution!

By Michelle Bramer (not verified)
December 1, 2011 2:28 PM

When I thought about it, this 50 year trend als ofollows the '3rd Generation' trend. When a family moves from Europe to America, the children from the 3rd generation finally wish to trace back their ancestry to their homeland. It looks as if the 50 year trend you found follows suit with this. Kind of neat!
So it looks to me like every 50 years or so names get so 'out-there' and non-traditional that parents finally seem to go back to their own heritage in naming their newborn, the next generation.

By Mackenzi (not verified)
December 1, 2011 2:46 PM

I go back and forth hating my name and loving it. While I'm the only one I know that doesn't have the -e on the end I have seen so many different spellings in younger children that I hate it's one of "those" names that parents throw all the letters in a hat and see what comes out.

Sometimes I wish I was something simple like an Anna or Elizabeth.

My middle name is original as well but it has meaning. "Bray" was a family surname. Both have Irish backgrounds.

I'm not pregnant, nor do I plan on being so anytime soon but like most women, I fantasize about my future children's names. Just as most women dream of their wedding day.

Ava, Blair, Aubrie, Ella, Hadley (after Hemmingway's wife)

Avery, Axel, Blaine, Emmett

Of course I haven't put TOO much thought into it but there ya go. I know that a few of those are an up & coming trend but I just hate the
Aidan, Brayden, Cayden, Jayden, etc.

I also like the European names so maybe when the time actually comes I will look further into that.. but for now.. it's just daydreaming.

I always have liked names. I've always taken a great amount of effort into naming pets. So much that we had a cat that was never officially named, she was forever known as "Kitty" because by the time we decided on a name it was too late. But of course, in Breakfast at Tiffany's her cat was just "Cat".

By Jessica765 (not verified)
December 1, 2011 4:02 PM

I really like Leonidas. I've got kind of the same problem. We picked out the name Apollo Thomas for our baby boy that is due in a week now. My mom hates it and for a while I stopped liking it too after hearing all of my boyfriend's family members call him Apollo all the time. That was really early in my pregnancy when we chose that name. After a while I started to like it again so we decided we would switch the names around to Thomas Apollo. We love it and it's perfect. I'm 20 and I was also afraid that I would regret it after a while but Leonidas is a beautiful name that I think anyone would love being able to carry. What I think you should do is just feel it out for a while. Also, feel out switching it to a middle name so that when he's older he either has the choice to hide his middle name or be called by it. That's exactly what we decided to do :] Hope that helped a little.

By b201908757 (not verified)
May 14, 2012 11:06 AM

I'm not too surprised that the Ns have it for boys.  It's a very strong, solid sound.  Lots of classic and lots of trendy names end in N (including my son's - Stephen - born in '94) 

By deva (not verified)
May 14, 2012 11:43 AM

My son is Gideon and people either love it or hate it. When we were pregnant a lot of people made faces, but now that he is here, they aren't as rude :)

By Sara Blackwood-Ortega (not verified)
May 14, 2012 4:50 PM

Hi. My three boys' names end in n. I just like the way n names sound, I didn't realize how popular they are. They're names are Kevin and Kierin, who are twins, and Tristen.

By Jessica F. (not verified)
May 15, 2012 12:10 PM

Im not pregnant at the moment but I have been thinking of names for when I plan to get pregnant again in the future.

If I have a son, his middle name has to be Ryan. At first we were thinking Nolen or Austin Ryan, but now Im not really sure if I like Nolen. I think I really like Luca. But my husband is very picky. what are good names to go with .. Ryan Fullerton (our last name )

By Jessica F. (not verified)
May 15, 2012 12:11 PM

My daughters name is Alexis Heidi btw.

By Jessica F. (not verified)
May 15, 2012 12:18 PM

What about Raylin? Its close to Rylan and it sounds different.

By Jessica F. (not verified)
May 15, 2012 12:19 PM

Sorry didnt realize the post was so old till now..

By Shenden's Dad (not verified)
May 15, 2012 6:02 PM

What is wrong with the name Shenden?  Pretty sure I have the only one, or one of only a very few, and his name is perfect for him. 

By Susan Quinn (not verified)
May 18, 2012 7:55 PM

What a wonderful historic study about first names that end with the letter "n". As a result of having read this, I felt compelled to share my story of how I noticed, after the naming of my third child, that ours was the family whose names end with the letter "n". My son is Ryan..Then there is Lauren...Next is Kirsten. Their father's name is Donald, however he goes by Don. Lastly, there's me!! My first name is Susan and my middle name is Lynn. The final kicker...our last name ends in "n". Five years after the birth of my daughter Kirsten, I was contemplating naming my fourth child with a name that ends with the letter "a". Well, I went with my gut feeling and decided that it wouldn't matter if she would be the only one whose name did not end in "n'.

So, Jenna Lynn is unique, but I still tell people we are the "n" family because as one can see she has more n's than the rest of us!!


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