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.
Q: All of my kids' names start with P. Should I change it for this one?
A: As with everything else in baby-naming, there are no hard and fast rules about themes like this one. But there are some principles to consider, which might help you make a decision about your new baby's name.
Two is a coincidence, three is a theme: How many P names do you already have? If this new baby is number 4, 5, 6, or more, then you're pretty committed to that theme. You may want to stick with it, rather than making this new baby the odd one out. Then again, if you think you’ll have more children down the road, this could be your opportunity to make a switch.
There's a reason to our rhyme: Did you choose the older children's P names for a reason? Maybe your own name starts with P, or you wanted to honor another family member by using that initial. If so, you could stick with P to keep to this tradition you’ve established—or pivot to another initial that honors someone else.
Rethink the theme: Maybe you're out of P names you like, but still want to link your kids' names together. Look for another theme or thread you can draw on to create a connection. For example, siblings named Paxton, Payton and Dawson sound like a cohesive set, as do Prince, Pharaoh, and Reign; they all share qualities beyond their first initial.
A recent Baby Name Wizard post looks at the Gaines family (of "Fixer Upper" fame) as they confront the to-theme-or-not-to-theme issue. It may help you sort through your feelings, too, as you pick the perfect name for your new prince or princess.
Have a name question or dilemma of your own? Ask the Name Lady!
Every year, dozens of newly invented names are added to the US Top 1000, inspiring modern parents to try and create names as unique as their child. Popular picks like Nevaeh, Raelynn, and Zayden fit this category, proving that innovative choices can be just as desirable and wearable as established classics.
Still, many parents are looking for something in the middle: a name that sounds completely fresh and new, but one that has an interesting etymology or namesake that adds gravitas. If you like the style of modern invented names - accessible sounds, friendly vibes, and contemporary flair - but prefer names with more traditional roots, check out these fifteen choices for both boys and girls.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Conall (M). A handsome alternative to Connor, Conall is a bold choice worn by kings, saints, and warriors of Irish legend. The name means “strong as a wolf,” adding an extra level of power and confidence to this already attractive choice.
Auden (M, F). This pleasant English surname has a distinct literary sound, thanks to twentieth-century poet W. H. Auden. In fact, the name wasn’t used until after the writer’s death, relating Auden to a long history of intellectual honor names, like Emerson and Edison.
Wylie (M, F). Though it may get mixed up with mega-popular Riley, Wylie is a spirited and sociable name in its own right. It meshes well with names like Wyatt and Kylie, but its background as a surname and uncommon usage today might appeal to fans of the unexpected.
Mabyn (F). The name of a medieval Cornish saint, ancient Mabyn hits a lot of targets for modern invented options - a long A vowel sound, a -yn ending, and “bell tone” syllables. Yet Mabyn is in a class all its own, both particularly lovely and incredibly rare in the United States.
Avalon (F). A fantastical island in the tales of King Arthur, Avalon is an ethereal answer to trendy and sweet names like Avalynn. Simple and stunning, Avalon feels like a perfect combination of idyllic place name, historical discovery, and literary treasure.
Devlin (M). With Dylan beginning to wane and Declan sounding less fresh than it once did, Devlin is a darling option for parents who like a D-lightful style. It was originally an Irish surname, but Devlin works well as a first name thanks to its friendly attitude and energetic character.
Zaina (F). Pretty and memorable Zaina comes from the Arabic Zaynab, meaning “beauty” and often associated with Muhammad’s eldest daughter. Now that Zane is familiar among the boys, might it be time to put charming Zaina onto the girls’ charts?
Amabel (M). This gorgeous, feminine pick has been eclipsed by variant Mabel since the nineteenth century, but Amabel is too romantic and graceful to disappear. It comes from Latin for “lovable,” and its musical -bel ending makes it especially appropriate on the modern playground.
Jennison (M). While the name could be used to honor a familial Jennifer, cheerful Jennison actually comes from a patronym meaning “son of John.” It’s stylistically similar to Harrison or Jackson, balancing surname elegance and boyish dynamism.
Keeva (F). Tenacious and enchanting Keeva is a Top 20 name in Ireland, with the spelling Caoimhe, but she has yet to endear herself on American shores. The name is related to classic male pick Kevin, but Keeva has a more determined and confident personality.
Stellan (M). It may be only one letter off from Stella, but affable Stellan has a different background: it comes from Old Norse for “calm,” and it’s been used in Scandinavian communities for centuries. Stellan feels like a novel update to Steven or Stanley, with a quiet, masculine strength.
Jaya (F). A possible addition to the Raindrop Names style family, Jaya is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “victory,” and is used for both boys and girls in India. This beautiful name would work especially well for girls in the US as an alternative to Maya or Jayla.
Brighton (M, F). Calling to mind seaside holidays and English sensibilities, Brighton is a splendid place name which potential for both genders. It has a light and airy vibe - “bright” being an excellent first syllable - with enough historical substance to keep it grounded in modernity.
Naylor (M, F). This offbeat occupational pick comes from “nailer,” as in a woodworker or carpenter, with a more chic and edgy vibe. The surname has been used by dozens of notable namesakes, from athletes to writers to musicians, but your Naylor can make the name their own with ease.