Predicting the Year's Hottest Baby Names: My Ballot

Apr 27th 2015


Our annual Baby Name Pool is a great test of trend-spotting skills, and an even better reminder of how mysterious name trends can be. Hundreds of pool participants try to guess the names that rose and fell the fastest. Yet as often as not, the biggest movers catch all of us by surprise.

Nobody had a clue that Cataleya, an assassin from the movie Colombiana, would be the hottest girl's name of 2012, or that the reality tv series Larrymania would send Daleyza to the top in 2013. Spotting fast-falling names is even harder. Scandals don't kill off names as quickly as we expect, and a trend that's fading in your neighborhood may still be picking up speed three states away. We can see the big picture -- "raindrop" and "liquid" names rising, heavy classic names falling -- but each individual name has its own unpredictable story.

With the pool now closed for this year, I'm going to put my baby name wizardry to the test by offering my own ballot and some thoughts on how I make my choices. Fast risers and fallers often follow these patterns:

RISING NAMES

"Not Done Yet"
One of the first places to look for hot rising names is last year's list of hot rising names. Our-of-nowhere hits like Harper or Jaxon can make big leaps for several years in a row. The trick is to identify a genuine new hit with deep appeal vs. a one-year-wonder. The sound has to fit the zeitgeist. Hot names triggered purely by celebrities can fall as fast as they rise.

Names likely to keep up their momentum: Everett, Piper, Juniper, Everly, Arya

"This Is Your Year"
A star is born; a name is born! Every year, names cross from news headlines and tv screens to baby name charts. But again, it has to be just the right name. No matter how famous and photogenic the star, name style comes first. 2014 was a tricky year for name spotting, with few dramatic sparks from tv and sports. (Keep an eye out for name trends from "Empire" in 2015.)

Names in the 2014 news that might have the right stuff: Russell (young Superbowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson); Montserrat (heroine of the telenovela "Lo Que La Vida Me Robó"); Elsa (snow queen of "Frozen," following the classic name-style recipe of attractive blondes with magical powers); Azalea and Sia (Australian music stars Iggy Azalea and Sia)

"On The Verge"
These are the big predictions, the names poised to leap from obscurity to become hits. Guess right and you have your finger on the pulse of style, with a gaudy Name Pool score to show for it. Guess wrong and the name misses the top 1000 charts, scoring a zero.

Rare names that feel ready to catch on: Titan and Prescott for boys; Everest and Lennon, for boys and girls alike

FALLING NAMES

"Too Much Baggage"
This is the downside of fame. The wrong kind of headlines can saddle a name with associations that parents would rather avoid. This kind of falling name is rarer than you think, though. Scandals, defeats and even grave world conflicts aren't always enough to sink a baby name.

Names with the wrong kind of publicity: Miley, Peyton, Isis

"Switching Sides"
As new names are invented and words and surnames join the ranks of first names, name-gender lines are increasingly fluid. Yet even today, when a name starts to become a hit for girls parents of boys shy away, and the male name usually falls.

Names that have tilted female in usage: Taylor, Kendall

"The Tide Has Turned"
Eventually, even the hottest name will turn the corner. How far will it fall, and how fast? Can you pinpoint the still-common names that no longer feel perfectly "now"? Extra consideration: alternate spellings can be especially trend-sensitive.

Names losing momentum: Mya, Jada; Braylon, Braden

And the ballot is...

Rising Names: Arya (F), Everly (F), Montserrat (F)
(Runner up: The "for-ever" theme ballot of Everly, Everett and Everest)

Falling Names: Miley (F), Taylor (M), Jada (F) 

 

 

Comments

1
April 27, 2015 12:19 PM

I don't think Taylor would be the top pick for falling-fast-on-boys-due-to-usage-on-girls, since now that it's past peak for both genders the ratio is actually narrowing with a larger drop on girls (this has also happened with Kelly and Robin for example - falling for both genders but more so for girls). Your point mainly applies to names near their overall peak (Harper or Riley would probably be a better example) - once the name becomes "dated" the gap tends to narrow if once more popular for girls by attrition.

2
April 27, 2015 2:51 PM

KellyXY, my guess is that Taylor (M) still has plenty of falling to do. I suspect that it's not just the absolute gap between male and female popularity that matters, it's the ratio of usage. Once a name hits a certain point -- perhaps 80% female? -- it starts to be perceived as feminine rather than androgynous, and male usage trends to zero. We'll see!

3
April 27, 2015 4:09 PM

Laura, I did base that on the gender ratio. I'll play the numbers using the recent SSA data for Taylor:

2013 - 4,108 girls and 818 boys = 5.02 girls per boy

2012 - 4,847 girls and 882 boys = 5.50 girls per boy

2011 - 5,184 girls and 896 boys = 5.79 girls per boy

2010 - 5,886 girls and 951 boys = 6.19 girls per boy

2009 - 7,575 girls and 1,092 boys = 6.94 girls per boy

Notice how after each year the ratio does narrow - so it looks like I'm right.

Or to put it another way between 2009 and 2013 Taylor dropped by 46% for girls but only 25% for boys.

I do think that Taylor for boys will keep dropping like you said, but will drop at a faster rate for girls like the numbers above demonstrate.

4
April 29, 2015 8:24 AM

I really think Elsa has to have one of the bigger % rises because it fits both the "media influence" and "sound shift" categories. It seems like a logical progression from Emily to Emma to Ella to Elsa.

Also Dalary, Daleyza's younger sister, is pretty sure to have some namesakes on the 2014 list, though that name might not rise quite as fast because it doesn't have that fashionable "long A" dipthong in the middle.  

5
April 30, 2015 12:25 AM

Azalea and Juniper have been favorites of mine for over a decade! They were pretty obscure at that point, but I'm rooting for them! :)

6
May 8, 2015 12:23 PM

I was partially wrong about Taylor - the gender ratio widened again with 3,782 girls and 691 boys for 5.47 girls per boy (but still narrower than it was in 2012). Still it probably wouldn't make a "fastset falling" list for boys.

7
November 25, 2015 1:31 PM

I don't think Taylor would be the top pick for falling-fast-on-boys-due-to-usage-on-girls, since now that it's past peak for both genders the ratio is actually narrowing with a larger drop on girls (this has also happened with Kelly and Robin for example - falling for both genders but more so for girls).

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Your point mainly applies to names near their overall peak (Harper or Riley would probably be a better example) - once the name becomes "dated" the gap tends to narrow if once more popular for girls by attrition.