Ranking The Baby Name Alphabet: What's the Hottest Initial?

Feb 15th 2018

Think you know your alphabet, from A to Z? Get ready for a new ranking.

Today's list of the 26 English letters is in order of hotness. I tallied the total number of American babies receiving names starting with each initial, and looked at the change over a three-year period. (Change was measured by the Baby Name Wizard Hotness Formula, which considers both percentage change and the absolute number of babies.)

The ranking turned out to hold some surprises. If you can guess which baby name initial rose the fastest over the past three years, I tip my cap to you.

I'll count them down below, starting with the fastest faller at #26 and building to the #1 hottest initial in America. For fashion context, I've included each letter's top rising and falling names for boys and girls.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Letter Ranking

 ↑ Girl

↑ Boy ↓ Girl ↓ Boy
#26: J Juniper Jonael Jaylah Jase
While J is still a hugely popular initial, it's sliding as parents turn away from the familiar standards of recent generations, like Jason, Jacob, Justin Jennifer and Jessica.
#25: B Bexley Bodhi Brooke Blake
The Brandon/Brittany/Brianna generation is receding, and there aren't enough Bentleys and Bellas to keep up.
#24: K Kehlani Kylo Kaitlyn Kevin

K names exploded in popularity starting in the mid-20th Century. Even in decline, this initial is still three times as common as it was as a century ago.

#23: D Dalary Daxton Destiny Drake
D was the hottest letter of the 1950s, in names like David, Donna, Douglas, Diane and Deborah, but it has been slowly declining since then.
#22: T Thea Tobias Taylin Tyler
You could spell the fresh sound of the 1960s with T's: Tina, Tammy, Tracy, Tim, Todd. Today's T names like Teagan and Titus are much less common.
#21: C Charleston       Conor Caitlyn Colin
C has been one of the steadiest initials over time, even as style has shifted from Clarence to Christopher to Chase. We're now waiting for the next hot C names.
#20: U Una Umar Unique Urijah
It's hardly even fair to track the overall trend for America's single least-favorite initial, which can rise and fall dramatically with a single modestly popular name.
#19: I Indie Ibrahim Isis Izaac
I is sliding a bit, but remains near its recent historic peak thanks to antique-styled hits like Isabella and Isaiah.
#18: Y Yusra Yasir Yaretzi Yahir
The initial Y is virtually absent in English naming tradition. Every Y name currently common in America is Latin American (e.g. Yamileth), Hebrew (Yehuda) or Arabic (Yahya).
#17: S Saylor Saint Sophia Skyler
S is holding steady, though still significantly down from the glory days of Scott, Stephanie and Shawn.
#16: G Giulietta Grayson Gabrielle           Gavin
The #1 most stable letter over the past three years, G is uncommon but has entries in a wide range of categories from Gabriel to Giovanni to Greyson.
#15: M Meilani Matteo Miley Mason
With M, we turn the corner from falling letters to those that have risen over the past three years. And yet, if you add up ALL the M names in the girls' top 1000, from Maci to Myah, they don't equal the popularity of the name Mary back in the 1880s.
#14: N Nova Niam Nicole Nathan
The initial N leans traditional, with plenty of familiar names (Noah, Nicholas, Natalie, Nathan) and unusually few modern inventions.
#13: Z Zelda Zabdiel Zooey Zachary
Z names are at their all-time historic peak today. Their relatively modest rise reflects the fact that parents are simply running out of Z options.
#12: X Ximena Xander Xochitl Xavi
X is rising as an initial but is even hotter as an ending letter, lending its snap to names like Max, Lennox and Phoenix.
#11: A Aitana Adriel Alexis Ayden
A is the country's most popular baby name initial, and it's not even a close contest. The alphabet's first letter leads names as traditional as Alice and Alexander and as new as Aspen and Axl.
#10: P Paislee Princeton        Payton Peyton
The letter P entered a long slump for girls after the heyday of Peggy, Patty and Pam, but Paisley, Penelope and Piper are leading it back.
#9: V Vera Viaan Vanessa Victor
V powers elegant hits like Violet and Vivienne from the initial position, and you'll find lots more v's in the middle of fashionable choices like Everly, Oliver, Levi and Ava.
#8: Q Quinn Quinn Quorra Quintin
The rare initial Q had been totally male-dominated for decades, but its recent rise reflects Quinn taking off as a girl's name.
#7: L Luna Legend London Landen
L is a hot letter in many countries today, with fashionable names like Lucas and Luna crossing borders smoothly.
#6: H Hazel Hendrix Haylee Hunter
The recent rise has brought the initial H to its highest point since the 1930s, but it still has a long way to go to match the era of Helen, Harry and Howard.
#5: E Everly Ezra Emily Evan
E has been rising steadily for more than 50 years now, in a succession of hits from Erin & Eric to Emily & Ethan to Everly & Ezra.
#4: W Willow Wilder Whitney Westin
W had been slowly dropping since the 19th Century, when one boy in every twelve could be named William. The biggest factors in its recent rise are Wyatt, Willow and Weston.
#3: F Freya Finnick Farrah Fabian
Thoroughly unfashionable for half a century, F is finally showing new signs of life. It boasts no major hit names, but a number of quieter favorites like Fiona and Finley.
#2: R Royalty Riaan Rachel Riley
R was the hot letter for 1930s-40s boys like Richard, Ronald and Robert. Most of the new hot R names pair the initial with a long vowel sound: Reign, Rowan, Ryder, Roman, Ryleigh.
#1: O Oaklyn Oliver Olyvia Omar
Meet America's hottest initial. Back in the 1960s only one baby in a thousand received an O name. Now, thanks to hits like Olivia, Owen and Oliver, this letter is a player.




February 15, 2018 1:51 PM

Some surprises for me!  I only think of V as an interal letter, same with X.  I would have though Z names would be higher, but in fact, there aren't many choices.  The fastest risers in each letter are a fascinating mish-mosh of styles and choices.

February 15, 2018 2:37 PM

Before I started reading the list, I mentally made my prediction. As I went further and further down the list, I got more and more excited that my predicted letter wasn't appearing. I may or may not have squeaked when my prediction appeared in the #1 spot! Reading the list was almost as thrilling as watching the Olympics! ;)

(Also, Laura, you seem to be missing your column heading for biggest rising girl name.)

February 15, 2018 6:20 PM

An official tip of the cap to you, Karyn! (And thanks for spotting the wayward column header, all fixed now!)

February 16, 2018 11:04 AM

I guessed E, based on anectodal evidence. I have yet to meet an Olivia or Oliver, but our social circle is overflowing with kids named Evelyn and Emery.

February 16, 2018 5:59 PM

I was guessing E too, based on our top name for our current pregnancy...my Oliver is already 6 years old ;).

February 21, 2018 2:51 AM

I'd be really interested to see how this breaks down when you count the number of names per letter, rather than the number of babies.  In a way I think that might give a better - well, different -idea of the popularity of the letter itself, since I would expect it to give more weight to letters favored by "creative" namers.

February 23, 2018 2:47 PM

This is really interesting!

Speaking about Mary: Belgium counts the names of the whole population (not just babies) and the stats for 2017 were recently published. The top two names are Maria and Marie with 135000 and 100000 women each. The next most popular name (Monique) has only 42000. 

Here's the table; https://statbel.fgov.be/en/male-and-female-first-names#figures

I love that they do statistics for the whole population.

By Lupa
March 5, 2018 5:01 PM

ᴍʏ ʙᴇsᴛ ғʀɪᴇɴᴅ's ɴᴀᴍᴇ ɪs ᴍᴏɴɪǫᴜᴇ!. She told me that it is mostly of an African origin, but I am not sure -- right? 


Pls answer my question!! AAHH! Thanks guys & bye!\

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