These names only have ii's for you

May 24th 2018

 
Look out, -eigh names! There's a new "ee" sound in town, and it's gaining on you. The hottest new name suffix for American girls is -ii, as in Aubrii and Harmonii.

Historically, the -ii ending has ranged in popularity from scarce to non-existent. The first -ii name to ever appear in the U.S. statistics was Vickii in 1948, when a Vicki boom was in full swing. The suffix popped up just occasionally in the decades that followed, always as part of a nickname with a popular -i ending like Patti/Pattii, and always in small enough numbers that typos might have accounted for the majority of the instances. Notably, in 1963, at the all-time peak of American girls ending in the letter i (think Lori, Terri, Tami), zero girls ending in -ii registered in the national baby name stats.

Now take a look at what's happened in the past 20 years.

That's a 37-fold increase. It's bucking the tide of "ee"-sounding suffixes overall (-y, -ie, -eigh, etc.) which are at a historical low point.

Looking at the individual names, the new ii's look different from the age of Vickii & Pattii. They span style categories, and the ii's can now replace any ee-sounding ending. Some examples from the most recent year's stats:

Word names: Journii, Harmonii, Honestii, Legacii

Traditionally female names: Naomii, Zoii, Melanii, Leilanii

Traditionally male/unisex names: Remii, Kennedii, Averii, Makenzii

And more: Zurii (from the Swahili for "beautiful"), Demii (a short form of the Greek name Demetria), Kawaii ("cute" in Japanese culture)

The trend is still small, but it's revealing nonetheless. In reaching for this new suffix, parents seem to be deliberately casting off familiarity. Beyond its newness in names, ii-pronounced-ee is virtually unknown in English vocabulary. (The only common usage is in the borrowed state name Hawaii.)

The effect of the double ii's can be stark, and a little startling. Other letter combos have been selected for impact or surprise value, like the recent "xx" trend or the ae that's popular in fantasy character names. But ii goes a step further, taking us beyond tradition, beyond names, beyond even words into a world of pure image and concept. Whether you love it or loathe it, the essence of the style is unmistakably new.

 

Comments

1
May 24, 2018 12:54 PM

Seriously? At the risk of sounding uncharitable and judgemental, that feels like such a pathetically desperate attempt to be *different*.

It also makes me want to pronounce the I sounds separately (joor-nee-ee, MEH-lah-NEE-ee, etc.)

2
May 24, 2018 5:20 PM

I'm curious about the motivations of parents who choose this type of name. Melanie and Melanii are, in spoken English, the same name, yes? So it seems to me that there must be a strong appeal to purely visual uniqueness that I don't grasp. It makes me wonder if, in an era of increasing economic uncertainty for all but the very affluent, some young parents are choosing a unique visual "brand" for their baby. 

3
May 24, 2018 6:15 PM

I think the ii endings are being inspired by Wii.

4
May 24, 2018 9:19 PM

@CountryLizB I definitely think the jump from 2006 to 2007 was sparked by the Wii! There have been other ii examples since, like the late musician Avicii and a slew of less prominent brand names. It says a lot that brand namers and baby namers are turning to some of the same approaches to catch people's attention.

5
May 25, 2018 7:42 AM

Thanks! I was wondering about which direction parents were going to go since 'y', 'ie', 'ey', and 'ee' all seem dated. I suppose parents could abandon the sound altogether, but this is definitely a new spelling direction.

6
May 25, 2018 2:33 PM

Elizabeth, I was wondering the same thing. I think that my overall dislike of that cutesy ending (-ee, especially), exacerbates my feelings about -ii. 

7
May 25, 2018 9:49 PM

-ee feels cutesy, but -ii feels stripperific. 

Zoii is especially bad, because Zoe pronounced Zoe-y is already at the edge of English spelling-to-pronunciation logic. It's going to be 'Zoy' a lot.

 

8
May 26, 2018 7:29 PM

When I see Melanii I assume the emphasis is on the second syllable like Melania. I knew a meh-Lan-ee in college. 

9
May 28, 2018 10:03 PM

This is just... it reminds me of middle school girls experimenting with spelling their names different ways and coming to their senses once they hit high school.

Not good. :/

10
May 29, 2018 4:28 PM

It's probably worth noting that both kawaii and, of course, Hawaii (Hawai'i) have been spelled that way for a long time, and with good reason: in both cases, it indicates a double-vowel sound (eye-ee, rather than just -eye or just -ee). I'm guessing some of this trend is due to a greater visibility of languages where the double-i is common, but apparently without internalizing the connection between sound and spelling.

11
May 29, 2018 7:02 PM

Nedibes has a very good point. Basically this seems commercialized and fraught with something we cannot judge the new people for because... onward we go and we live in America here with no approved lists! :)