Meet the Baby Name Pool Champions

May 23rd 2017

Each year we challenge the name-loving public to guess America's fastest rising and falling baby names. This year's trend-spotting champion is Tracy F., with this winning set of predictions:

Rising names: Adeline (F), Everly (F), Finn (M)

Falling names: Alexis (F), Kadence (F) Jase (M)

Tracy, a 24-year-old New Jersey resident, took an analytical approach to her selections, which is only fitting. She's currently pursing a master's degree in applied linguistics and works for a firm that analyzes a lot of name data. A sampling of her thinking:

"I spend a lot of time looking at name trends, and I based my predictions on what I've seen rise and fall in previous years. For instance, the elements in the name Everly have been on the rise through names like Evelyn and Paisley, and it looked like it could make that jump as well. Adeline also made a lot of sense to me as a fresh take on Madeline/Madelyn. (It's also interesting to note how much the spellings Adeline/Adaline jumped ahead -- yet Adelyn/Adalyn stayed about the same.)"

Tracy also shares the life-long love of names that inspires everything we do here. As she put it: "I think what makes them so fun to talk about is that almost everyone has a story to tell."

The top predictor of falling names was Caitlin of Cambridge, a perennial Name Pool powerhouse. She predicted the decline of Brandon, Alexis and Kaitlyn, and divulged her secret recipe for predicting popularity drops: "I mostly look at the top 150 or so and see which names peaked 15-20 years ago and have experienced widening declines in the past 3 years....Those criteria give nice, predictable fallers."

Finally, I'd like to acknowledge reader "Katjsh" who was the only entrant to predict this year's #1 fastest-rising boy's name, Kylo. Nobody picked the overall top riser, the girl's name Kehlani. Which goes to show you that even to a group as savvy as BNW readers, names still have the potential to surprise.

Congratulations to the top scorers. I'll see you all next year!

 

The Most Popular Baby Names for Every State in the USA

May 18th 2017

 
Noah and Emma are America's top baby names, but the local view can look very different. Here are the new top names from coast to coast.

TOP GIRLS' NAMES BY STATE, 2016
State 1st 2nd 3rd
Alabama Ava Emma Olivia
Alaska Emma Olivia Amelia
Arizona Emma Sophia Mia
Arkansas Ava Emma Olivia
California Mia Sophia Emma
Colorado Olivia Emma Charlotte 
Connecticut Olivia Charlotte Mia
Delaware Ava Olivia Emma
D.C. Ava Sofia Charlotte
Florida Isabella          Olivia Emma
Georgia Ava Olivia Emma
Hawaii Olivia Mia Emma
Idaho Emma Olivia Harper
Illinois Olivia Emma Sophia
Indiana Emma Olivia Ava
Iowa Olivia Emma Harper
Kansas Emma Olivia Charlotte
Kentucky Emma Ava Olivia
Louisiana Ava Olivia Emma
Maine Emma Charlotte Olivia
Maryland Ava Olivia Emma
Massachusetts Olivia Emma Charlotte
Michigan Ava Olivia Emma
Minnesota Evelyn Olivia Emma
Mississippi Ava Olivia Emma
Missouri Olivia Emma Charlotte
Montana Harper Olivia Emma
Nebraska Emma Harper Ava
Nevada Mia Sophia Ava
New Hampshire          Charlotte Emma          Olivia
New Jersey Mia Olivia Emma
New Mexico Mia Sophia Emma
New York Olivia Emma Sophia
North Carolina Ava Emma Olivia
North Dakota Harper Olivia Emma
Ohio Emma Ava Olivia
Oklahoma Emma Olivia Ava
Oregon Olivia Emma Sophia
Pennsylvania Emma Olivia Ava
Rhode Island Olivia Isabella Charlotte
South Carolina Ava Emma Olivia
South Dakota Emma Harper Olivia
Tennessee Emma Ava Olivia
Texas Emma Mia Sophia
Utah Olivia Emma Charlotte
Vermont Harper Charlotte Emma
Virginia Olivia Emma Ava
Washington Emma Olivia Sophia
West Virginia Harper Olivia Ava
Wisconsin Olivia Emma Ava
Wyoming Emma Olivia Ava

 

TOP BOYS' NAMES BY STATE, 2016
State 1st 2nd 3rd
Alabama William James John
Alaska Liam Oliver James
Arizona Liam Noah Sebastian
Arkansas Elijah William Mason
California Noah Matthew Ethan
Colorado Liam Noah Oliver
Connecticut Noah James Michael
Delaware Liam Michael Mason
D.C. William Alexander Henry
Florida Liam Noah Jacob
Georgia William Noah Mason
Hawaii Noah Liam Ethan
Idaho Oliver Liam Mason
Illinois Noah Liam Alexander
Indiana Oliver Liam Elijah
Iowa Oliver Owen William
Kansas Benjamin Henry William
Kentucky William Elijah James
Louisiana Liam Noah Mason
Maine Liam Owen Benjamin
Maryland Noah Mason Liam
Massachusetts Benjamin          William James
Michigan Noah Mason Benjamin
Minnesota Henry Oliver William
Mississippi William James Mason
Missouri William Liam Mason
Montana James Liam Owen
Nebraska Liam Henry Oliver
Nevada Liam Alexander Noah
New Hampshire         Noah William          Owen
New Jersey Liam Noah Matthew
New Mexico Elijah Noah Liam
New York Liam Jacob Noah
North Carolina William Noah Mason
North Dakota Oliver William Easton
Ohio Liam Noah Carter
Oklahoma Liam Elijah Oliver
Oregon Oliver Henry William
Pennsylvania Noah Liam Mason
Rhode Island Liam Noah Benjamin
South Carolina William Noah James
South Dakota Oliver Liam Owen
Tennessee William James Elijah
Texas Noah Liam Sebastian
Utah Oliver William Liam
Vermont Owen Oliver Wyatt
Virginia William Noah James
Washington Liam Benjamin Oliver
West Virginia Mason Noah Liam
Wisconsin Oliver Henry Liam
Wyoming Wyatt Liam William

 

The boy's name that ranks #1 in the most states is not Noah but Liam, with William (which can yield the nickname Liam) second most common. For girls Emma takes the most states at 16, and the a-ending trio of Emma, Olivia and Ava account for the top spots in 40 states from coast to coast.

The top regional trend is Oliver's reign over the upper Midwest and West. Oliver is the #1 choice of Idaho, Indiana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin, but doesn't crack the top 3 anywhere in the Southeast. In an interesting demographic pattern, surnames are most favored in rural areas across the country. Harper, for instance, is the top girl's name in Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia, and Wyatt cracks the top 3 for boys in Wyoming and Vermont.

Finally, a symbolic moment of change: John no longer ranks among the top 3 boys' names anywhere in America.

More from the most popular names stats:

The Top 1000 Names in America
The Big Trend: The Age Of Bold Baby Names
The Fastest-Falling Baby Names of the Year
The Fastest Rising Girls' Names of the Year
The Fastest Rising Boys' Names of the Year

 

The Age of Bold Baby Names

May 17th 2017


Bold. Powerful. Audacious. If this year's fast-rising baby names had a theme, it was "no limits." Parents are no longer afraid to go big, choosing names that past generations didn't dare consider. From kings and gods to superheroes and even supervillains, we've entered an age of unprecedented baby name boldness.


Images: flickr/milst1, pottermore.com

What does that boldness look like? To start with, the names below all ranked among the top 1,000 names for boys or girls last year, all rising in popularity from the year before:

Ace (M)
Adonis (M)
Anakin (M)
Ares (M)
Athena (F)
Atlas (M)
Cannon (M)
Heaven (F)
Heavenly (F)
Kal-El (M)
Khaleesi (F)
King (M)
Kingsley (M)
Kingston (M)
Kylo (M)
Legend (M)
Maverick (M)
Maximus (M)
Messiah (M)
Miracle (F)
Odin (M)
Orion (M)
Prince (M)
Princess (F)
Princeton (M)
Reign (F)
Royal (F, M))
Royal (M)
Royalty (F)

And here's a sampling of some fast risers outside the top 1,000:

Ajax (M)
Azazel (M)
Bellatrix (F)
Danger (M)
Dionysus (M)
Divine (F, M)
Empress (F)
Flash (M)
Great (M)
Jezebel (F)
Judas (M)
Kaiser (F, M)
Lex (F, M)
Lucifer (M)
Majestic (M)
Majesty (F, M)
Pharaoh (M)
Queen (F)
Riot (M)
Saint (M)
Sovereign (F, M)
Supreme (M)
Valkyrie (F)
Winner (M)
Zeus (M)

I've written before about the rise of "exalted names" that suggest royalty and divinity. I described them as names crafted to inspire and celebrate, "demanding that this child will be valued and respected." I stand by that description, but this year's rapid rise of power names on the dark side (like Lucifer, Bellatrix and the #1 fastest-rising boy's name Kylo) points to a broader phenomenon.

The name lists above cast a wide net. Ace, Messiah, Dionysus, Majestic, Kal-El and Jezebel are all over the cultural and stylistic map. Individually, each represents a single family's heartfelt decision with a personal story behind it. Collectively, they may well signal a fundamental shift in the enterprise of naming babies.

Over the past generation, parents turned away from the idea of a "normal name": the assumption that we choose our babies' names from an established pool of options. This freer attitude led to a flowering of new hit names. We saw more foreign imports like Giovanni; surnames like Cassidy; place names like Brooklyn; and sound-based inventions like Jayla. Each pushed the envelope gently, forging new territory while staying tethered to the traditional.

The new names break the tether. You can almost hear parents thinking, "I could actually do that. I could choose…anything." It's a veritable explosion of ambition, thrills, and raw id. We're naming with the safety off. Full throttle, full bore, no limits.

 

Read More: Baby Names Are Getting Ready to Rule