The Social Security Administration has announced the most popular names in each state. Here are the top names from coast to coast (a brief analysis is below):
|TOP GIRLS' NAMES BY STATE, 2014|
|TOP BOYS' NAMES BY STATE, 2014|
Two girls' names, Emma and Olivia, dominate from coast to coast. Emma ranked among the top three in 48 states, Olivia in 42. Other widespread hits include Ava (21), Sophia (19), Harper (7), Isabella (6) and Charlotte (4). Evelyn was a distinctive choice in Minnesota, and Brooklyn in Wyoming.
Harper appears to be the most regionalized hit for girls. The states where it ranks highly make up a solid block heading North from Oklahoma up through Montana and North Dakota.
The country is much less unanimous on boys' names. Liam makes the most appearances on the list with 32, while the nationwide #1 boys' name, Noah, appears only 23 times. Other popular choices: Mason (27), William (24), James (6) and Alexander (5). Local highlights include Henry in Minnesota and Oregon, Jackson in Wyoming, Matthew and Joseph in New Jersey, and Hunter in West Virginia.
Perhaps the biggest story on the boys' list is what's missing. Jacob and Michael, the two dominant names of the past generation, combine for only 8 appearances.
More from the most popular names stats:
The biggest trend in baby names doesn't come from Hollywood, or the Bible, or anywhere on a map. It's not about meanings or origins or aspirations. It's about pure sound. Take a look at which initial letters rose and fell this past year in American baby name choices:
The initials that rose the fastest were E, L, O, A, H, R, W. The fastest fallers: Z, S, D, B, K, T, J. Try pronouncing those two lists like words and you'll see how different they sound and feel.
In the past I've identified specific smooth name styles on the rise, like "raindrop names," but this trend is looking bigger. It's a literal sound of the times, a smoothing out of a whole generation of names. Just look at the plummeting letter J on the far right of the chart above. From John to James to Jeffrey to Jason to Jayden (not to mention Joan, Janet, Jennifer and Jessica), J has been a perennial staple of American name style. This year it fell to an all-time historic low, as you see in this graph from the NameVoyager.
J is hardly alone. All of rough-edged initials (stops, fricatives, etc.) are declining year by year:
While names starting with vowels soar:
That's just initials. Looking to the ends of names, smooth letters like A, N and R dominate as well. The parents who do buck that tide seem to be looking for a "exclamation point": a quick, crisp close like TT or X, nothing too heavy. When was the last time you met a baby whose name ended in D?
(These graphs of end letters and letter combinations were created with the Expert NameVoyager. You can sign up for free to use our expert tools!)
My guess is that there's still more smoothing ahead for American baby names. The tide won't turn until we're saturated in silky-smooth names, so that chunkier sounds start to sound fresh to the next naming generation. For a glimpse of that future, I recently heard some middle-school girls discussing name they thought was really pretty: Bernadette.
More on the new name trends:
- The top 1000 names of 2014, with last year's rankings for comparison
- The fastest-rising boys' names of 2014
- The fastest-rising girls' names of 2014
When it comes to hot new girls' names, there are three sure-fire recipes: romance, magic, and reality tv. All three are represented in this year's fastest-rising names.
#1. Aranza: Romance reigns on telenovelas, the popular, sudsy Spanish-language tv dramas. Last year's hit "Por Siempre Mi Amor" featured a character named Aranza, a form of the Basque name Arantxa (from the Virgin of Arantzazu). Previously, Aranza was associated with a Mexican singer best known for the theme song from another telenovela.
#2. Daleyza: Last year's fastest-rising name isn't done yet! Daleyza is the young daughter of singer Larry Hernández, whose life is chronicled on the reality tv series "Larrymania." Daleyza has a new little sister named Dalary, and that name just missed qualifying as this year's #1 riser because it ranked outside the top 1,000 names.
#3. Everly: No grand romance for Everly in 2014; it's just a name that hits a ton of fashion targets. Everly is a surname that contracts to a sweet nickname; a name of rock & roll legends; a Hollywood baby name via actor Channing Tatum; an "off with their heads" name that trims a consonant from a familiar name (Beverly-->Everly, like Madison-->Addison).
#4. Montserrat: Telenovelas strike again! Montserrat is a traditional religious name; like Arantxa, it honors a famed image of the Virgin Mary. It has never been a common name in the U.S., but the romantic heroine of the telenovela "Lo Que La Vida Me Robó" is changing that. (Not to boast, but you'll find Montserrat and Everly on my Baby Name Pool ballot.)
#5. Elsa: Ah, to be young, blond and beautiful, and to shoot ice rays from your fingertips! Attractive women with magical powers have a special naming power. Frozen's Queen Elsa now joins the ranks of Samantha, Sabrina, Madison and more as super-charged name hitmakers.