16 Baby Names That Are More Popular Than You Think

Jan 12th 2017

You think you know baby name trends? Even if you have a keen ear for style, some of today's rising hits might surprise you.

I've assembled a cross-section of names of different styles which are sneaking up in popularity. While many may be familiar to you, I'll bet that most are far more popular than you would have guessed. For perspective, I've included a selection of well-known names which rank below each on the U.S. top-1000 name charts.


Nixon (M) #512 (Ahead of: Frederick, Wade, Winston)
Here's solid evidence that in modern baby names, style comes first. Nixon has a great sound, a trim surname built around the super-hot letter x. Unfortunately, it's also the name of a U.S. president who resigned in disgrace. For a generation of parents born long after Watergate, that's clearly not a deal breaker.

King (M) #163 (Ahead of: Colin, Patrick, Kyle)
King isn't a new name. Back in the early 1900s it was modestly common, but nothing like this. Over the past dozen years we've seen the name explode, up from 70 newborn Kings per year to a whopping 2,540. King is leading a wave of exalted names that includes Royal (#465), Legend (#392) and Messiah (#243).

Collins (F) #704 (Ahead of: Claudia, Dorothy, Elisabeth)
A surname ending in s for a boy – Jennings, Evans, Travers – is pure preppy starch. On a girl, though, it's uncharted waters. Until recently, no s surname had ever come close to the girls' top 1000. Collins has changed that, leaping up from obscurity thanks to Collins Tuohy, the adoptive sister of football player Michael Oher seen in the film "The Blind Side." Tuohy was given a family surname in classic Southern fashion, and parents who saw the movie liked the style.

Hazel (F):#63 (Ahead of: Maya, Taylor, Kylie)
Hazel is the queen of the "quirky classic names." Its contrarian style is a key part of its charm. Now here's the alt darling, outpacing many supposedly mainstream hits without losing its own identity. Apparently you can stand out while fitting in.

Axl (M) #761 (Ahead of: Chad, Harry, Gerald)
If you just liked the sound of this name, you'd go with the traditional spelling Axel. Dropping the e makes it a pure rock-and-roll tribute to Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose. Axl's popularity has tripled since singer Fergie chose the name for her son, causing parents around the country to realize "OMG, we could actually do that!"

Athena (F) #157 (Ahead of: Rachel, Amy, Rose)
There's hardly a more powerful, classic name than the ancient goddess of wisdom and war. Traditionally it was considered a little over-powered for an English-speaking human, though. That has changed in a hurry: the name has doubled in popularity just in the past five years.

Serenity (F) #71 (Ahead of: Katherine, Ashley, Bella)
This nouveau virtue name started rising in the '90s due to a character on the animated series Sailor Moon. It then got a second boost from the spaceship Serenity of "Firefly." So you might not be surprised that the name has become more popular…but did you guess this popular?

Giovanni (M) #130 (Ahead of: Alex, Everett, George)
You can't ask for a more classic name than Giovanni in Italy, where it's the local form of John. The name was always a tougher sell to English speakers because its sound and spelling are far from the English classics. (It's traditionally three syllables, jo-VAHN-nee.) Today Giovanni follows in the footsteps of names like Dante as an Italian-to-English crossover hit.

Hattie (F) #488 (Ahead of: Michaela, Raven, Holly)
Once upon a time, there were a ton of these names: Ettie, Lottie, Mittie, Nettie, Ottie and even Zettie were common in the 1800s. But only Hattie, as in Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel, has made a sudden comeback. It was originally a nickname for Harriet, which is rising more slowly.

Leonidas (M) #519 (Ahead of: Jakob, Casey, Raphael)
Leonidas is a classic Greek name, which doesn't sound so surprising. What's surprising is that it's suddenly being chosen by hundreds of American families of all ethnicities in honor of the ancient Spartan King Leonidas, who died at the Battle of Thermopylae. The name's popularity has risen by 2800% since that battle was brought to life in the movie "300."

Maximus (M) #197 (Ahead of: Paul, Jake, Finn)
Leonidas wasn't enough ancient machismo for you? Then turn the dial up all the way with Maximus, the hero of the film "Gladiator." Unlike Leonidas in 300, Maximus was a purely fictional character. His name, though, is an ancient Roman family name and well suited to an action hero of any era.

Ember (F) #366 (Ahead of: Camilla, Veronica, Megan)
No, not Amber, the 1980s mainstay. Ember, as in the last glowing fragment of a dying fire. Give the earlier name credit for making this one sound natural for a girl. You can think of it as a red-hot update on Amber's golden glow.

Harvey (M) #439 (Ahead of: Alec, Donald, Scott)
Harvey was a hot name a century ago when its sound fit in alongside hits like Irving and Marvin. That sound has been a tough sell in recent decades, and Harvey all but vanished. Now it's back, suddenly leaping up into the top 500 even as similar-sounding names continue to languish.

Jaxson (M) #86 (Ahead of Zachary, Jason, Nathaniel)
If you're into baby names, you may have watched the presidential surname Jackson morph into action-minded Jaxon, a top-50 hit fueled by the desirable letter x. What you might not realize is that the hybrid spelling Jaxson ranks in the top 100 as well.

Malaysia (F) #438 (Ahead of: Julie, Brittany, Maeve)
Geographical baby names typically take their style from the place they represent. This name, though, seems to be all about sound. It has become an African-American favorite with an assist from "Basketball Wives LA" star Malaysia Pargo.

Knox (M) #258 (Ahead of: Seth, Martin, Reid)
This is a celebrity-sparked name that took off when actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt chose it for a son. And of course, it has the "x" power so many parents are looking for. Yet it's still an unlikely hit. No kname – sorry, name – starting with a silent consonant has ever been knearly so popular.



January 12, 2017 4:20 PM

I'm fairly certain that Leonidas and Maximus greatly benefited from parents looking for "formal" names to go with Leo and Max.

Also, while many of the comparison names were surprising, many were not. I'd be less surprised to meet a child with an unusual/strange name than an outdated one (so, less surprised to meet a Malaysia than a Julie, for example). And certain comparisons, for example to Finn and Bella, don't take into account the fact that parents tend to prefer using these as nicknames for longer names. So, much like Leonidas and Maximus benefitted, Finn and Bella suffered in the numbers.

January 12, 2017 4:29 PM

As it happens my grandson has eight bio-siblings, and the names of two of his siblings are on this list.  So no surprise here....

January 13, 2017 10:35 AM

The only one of these that I actually like is Athena- it's been a favourite for years since I had a Greek student of that name.

January 14, 2017 3:49 PM

My daughter was thinking of naming her baby Serenity, if she had a girl, eleven years ago.  I thought it was off the wall, but pretty.  She had a boy, but I've been listening for a "Serenity" ever since.  I've never heard it.  So hard to believe it's #71!

January 16, 2017 1:50 PM

Maximus was also the name of the horse in Tangled (2010).  Not sure if people would name their kid after a horse, but you never know where inspiration might come from.

I am surprised at the rank of Serenity.


By JayF
January 23, 2017 12:34 PM

I watch a lot of old episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Could Harvey's resurgence be due to parents of a certain age coming across that name and not really making the association but thinking, "Hey, Harvey. That sounds like a nice guy. Someone you could really trust..."?

And it sounds close to popular Henry or Harry, but just a bit off the beaten path...

Maybe more classic than Harley.... Hmm. Harvey has all sorts of hidden appeal!



January 31, 2017 2:05 PM

Harvey--the invisible giant rabbit in the play of the same name.

February 1, 2017 1:46 PM

I have a cousin Harvey but he was born in 1971.