Predict America’s Hottest Names—Enter the Baby Name Pool

Mar 15th 2018

When you first watched Game of Thrones, did you notice the name Arya? Has it struck you that you know young boys named Emmett, Wyatt and Everett? Would you be surprised to meet a new baby named Karen? Or, perhaps, do you just think about every baby name you hear, silently judging its style?

If so, you have an ear out for name trends. It’s time to put that to use.

The 13th annual Baby Name Pool is a trend-spotting contest. Entering is simple: just come up with three names that you think rose in popularity last year, and three that you think fell. That’s it. In May, when the official U.S. baby name statistics are released, we’ll tally up the ballots and announce the top name spotters here.

If you haven't played before, you can read more details and check out the fastest rising (boysgirls) names of the previous year to get a sense of how name fashions operate. Then convince your friends and coworkers to enter and compete against you. (If you’d like to form your own sub-pool with bragging rights for your group champion, drop me a line!)

All entries must be received by April 30, 2018.

Ready to go? Fill out your ballot now!

Vintage Names from Disney Classics

Mar 13th 2018

We have Disney movies to thank for popularizing elegant princess names like Ariel and Jasmine over the years. But what about the unexpected character names that remain outside the spotlight? Plenty of our favorite animated characters have fabulous names to match their quirky personalities, with lovely vintage sounds to boot. 

Here are fifteen retro choices for both boys and girls, fresh from the Disney vault. Ranging from familiar to obscure and adorable to elegant, these options are sure to exude friendliness and old-fashioned charm.

Flora & Fairy Godmother Friends.

Louie. Thanks to the rise of other revived classics like Louis and Leo, darling Louie recently jumped back on the Top 1000 in the United States. The iconic character of King Louie in The Jungle Book makes for a fun association, along with the fact that the orangutan was voiced by Louis Prima, the “King of Swing.”

Dinah. An uncommon Biblical choice, attractive Dinah meshes well with current favorites like Delilah or Diana. It’s the name of Alice’s cat in Alice in Wonderland, with a plethora of other literary and musical connections across the globe. Strong and straightforward, Dinah has an unparalleled air of confidence.

Bernard. One of the heroes in The Rescuers, Bernard is the name of a brave and selfless mouse - somewhat fitting, since the name Bernard comes from old German for “brave as a bear.” A masculine standard, Bernard may be ready for reintroduction along with its endearing nickname, Bernie, after a few years on the bench.

Flora. This pretty and feminine name comes from the Roman goddess of flowers, and Disney continued the supernatural link by bestowing the name on a fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty. Flora would make a beautiful option next to Cora or Clara, with its elegant style and simplicity. While the name ranks highly in the UK, Flora is virtually invisible in the US.

Jasper. The name of a bumbling henchman in 101 Dalmatians, Jasper has gone from devilish to desirable in the name landscape over the past few years across the US and Europe.  It’s the name of a gemstone associated with energy and strength, as well as a variation of the name of a Biblical king. Charming and brilliant (in more ways than one), Jasper is a fantastic choice for a variety of tastes.

Marian. The bold and bright character of Maid Marian has been portrayed in dozens of films, but the Disney Marian is particularly memorable - and foxy! The name is believed to be a form of Mary or Mary-Ann, and has been used historically for both genders until the last century. Marian resembles Vivian and Lillian in style, but it feels more down-to-earth and friendly.

Amos. A handsome Old Testament option, Amos fits in well alongside Noah, Ethan, and all of the other names in the recent Biblical boom. This pleasant name was surprisingly given to a villain in The Fox and the Hound, but that doesn’t sour Amos’ gentle reputation too much. Now ranking at #678, it’s only a matter of time before sweet Amos gains more attention.

Mim. This spirited derivative of Miriam is the name of a witch in The Sword and the Stone, but we won’t hold that against her. Mim has been found occasionally in literature and television, yet it’s never been recorded as a name in the United States. Mim could be a wonderful unique nickname for another M-name or stand on its own, with such inherent energy and pride.

Gus. Adorable Gus squeaked back onto the US Top 1000 in 2016, coming it at #999, but already it seems like a star on the rise. It’s a short form of August or Gustave, and it’s chosen by Cinderella for her unforgettable mouse friend (along with the nickname “Gus Gus”). Classic yet refreshing, Gus is a distinguished choice that will stand the test of time.

Penny. Once the favorite version of Penelope, sparkling Penny has now has been overtaken in popularity by her originator. The name has a fun and positive girl-next-door vibe, and it’s used for the young female character in The Rescuers. A pop culture pick, Penny has been immortalized on screen, in song, and on the page - let your little one make this name her own.

Cyril. Aristocratic and unexpected Cyril is used for a character in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. It’s not too far from modern Cyrus in sound, and parallels standards like Arthur and Francis in its style. Only given to about 40 boys each year, Cyril is an unusual option with a lot of potential.

Anita. Appealing Anita is is the name of Perdita’s owner in 101 Dalmatians; she’s a loving and maternal figure in the puppies’ home. The name Anita has become a cross-cultural favorite over the last century, being a diminutive of eternal Anna. It’s melodic and radiant, and accessible but not too common - an excellent option for any little girl.

Mickey. Forever associated with Mr. Mouse, dynamic Mickey peaked in the 1950’s and slowly declined from there. But it fits in with upbeat nickname-names like Charlie or Jack, and a wide variety of individuals have worn this dynamic name, from athletes to movie stars. Oh Mickey, you’re so fine - and just ripe for a comeback.

Daisy. Another early Disney character, Daisy Duck first appeared in 1940 as a foil for classic Donald. The delightful name came into use in the nineteenth century along with other floral options, and it’s never left the US Top 1000. Daisy is warm and cheery, and a sassy alternative to choices like Lily and Violet today.

Rufus. A final name from The Rescuers, delightful Rufus is the name of Penny’s pet cat. The name has been on the rise in the United Kingdom, gaining global attention thanks to musician Rufus Wainwright. Rufus combines a saintly background with contemporary chic, which could explain its popularity among A-listers.

Stalking the Next Comeback Names

Mar 7th 2018

What makes an old-time name come back? Why is Hazel a darling of 21st Century parents, while Ethel remains in hibernation? The answer lies deep in the mysterious heart of contemporary style. Today, we’re digging to try to find that answer—then use it to identify still-dormant names with comeback potential.

Image: Shutterstock/Anna Kraynova

I rounded up 25 names that first peaked in the decades between 1890 and 1920 then fell out of fashion, only to surge back into style in the 21st century. Then I paired each of those revivals with a name that was a statistical match for its first popularity wave, but hasn’t come back. Take a look at the paired lists:

Revival Name                Dormant Match Name
Abraham (M) Orville
Adeline (F) Winifred
Dominick (M) Wilfred
Eleanor (F) Pauline
Emmett (M) Percy
Evelyn (F) Mildred
Everett (M) Lester
Ezra (M) DeWitt
Felix (M) Reuben
Genevieve (F) Marguerite
Hazel (F) Ethel
Hugo (M) Ambrose
Josephine (F) Louise
Julian (M) Ervin
Leo (M) Floyd
Lillian (F) Edna
Lola (F) Estelle
Madeline (F) Fern
Max (M) Johnnie
Ruby (F) Lucille
Sophie (F) Velma
Theodore (M) Herman
Vera (F) Willie
Violet (F) Marion
Theo (M) Elmore


Reading the two lists, I think we can all sense a fashion divide. Here are some of the key ways the sets of revival and dormant names differ.                                                                              

Revival names are more likely to…

 Feature long vowel sounds. 50% more of the comeback names include a long vowel (a vowel pronounced like the name of the letter).

• Feature exotic, sharp-edged consonants. 9 of the revivals include a rare naming letter like X, Z or V, vs. only Orville, Ervin and Velma from the dormant list.

Dormant names are more likely to…

• Include consecutive consonant sounds. This may be the single starkest difference, with 16 of the dormant names featuring consonant clusters, 10 of those being clusters of voiced consonants. Among the revivals, only the biblical names Ezra and Abraham have consecutive consonants.

• Be stressed on the last syllable. None of the multisyllabic comeback names are stressed at the end in typical English pronunciation, while 6 of the dormant names are.

In addition, the two lists differ in their approaches to nicknames. Several of the revivals, such as Lola, Max and Theo, are short for longer names, but none have diminutive endings like Johnnie and Willie from the dormant list.

So, Let’s Go Name Hunting!

Now that we have a sense of what makes up fashion’s target, what other names might hit it? I screened popular names of past generations for matches. The resulting list reads like a roadmap for parents who love the quirky, retro edge of name style. Some of these names may still sound old to you, but among them you’re likely to find a few hidden gems.

25 Old-Fashioned Names with Revival Potential
Cleo (F)
Eleanora (F)
Evelina (F)
Geneva (F)
Iona (F)
Iva (F)
Lavinia (F)
Leora (F)
Mavis (F)
Miriam (F)
Nell (F)
Opal (F)
Reva (F)
Ruth (F)
Theodora (F)
Viola (F)
Zora (F)
Baxter (M)
Homer (M)
Hugh (M)
Jules (M)
Luther (M)
Ray (M)
Roscoe (M)
Vito (M)