The Most Popular Baby Names in America for 2011

May 14th 2012

The Social Security Administration has released the official rankings of the most popular baby names in America for 2011. The new top 10:

1  Jacob  Sophia
2  Mason  Isabella
3  William  Emma
4  Jayden  Olivia
5  Noah  Ava
6  Michael  Emily
7  Ethan  Abigail
8  Alexander  Madison
9  Aiden  Mia
10  Daniel  Chloe

The big news is the continuing change at the top of the girls' chart. The rise of Sophia itself isn't a surprise. (Back in January, Time Magazine ran a piece called "Hello. My Name is Sophia" based on my prediction of Sophia as the top name of this year.) But looking more broadly, we've now seen four different #1 names in a five-year period: Isabella (2009-10), Emma (2008) and Emily (2007, the end of a multi-year run.)

That rate of turnover is completely unprecedented for boys or girls. It's another signal that the "fear of Jennifer" -- the worry that a popular name will make your child one of five in her class -- doesn't match today's reality. Jennifer was #1 for 15 years, with a peak popularity more than three times Isabella's. #1 just isn't what it used to be.

On the boy's side, Mason makes one of the biggest jumps to the top in recent memory, all the way from #12 to #2. A tip of the cap to readers, who made Mason the most-guessed boy's name in the Baby Name Pool.

You'll doubtless hear lots of reports crediting the rise of Mason to the youngest member of the Kardashian clan. My guess is that celebrity influence is overstated. Yes, having a little Mason on tabloid covers in every supermarket in the country makes a difference. But the critical spur to Mason's rise happened 25 years earlier, when the name first appeared in the soap opera "Santa Barbara." The national Mason rate rose ten-fold during the soap's run, and it's been climbing ever since.

And today...take a look at the top boys' names. Three of the top four, Jacob, Mason and Jayden, have the exact same vowel pattern. Then consider that Maci was the fastest-rising girl's name of last year. Boy, was America ever ready for Mason.

I'll continue to analyze the new name data throughout the days to come, here and on Twitter -- follow @BabyNameWizard!

An All-Time Great Sibling Name Set

May 12th 2012

It seems the Social Security Administration has decided to make its Mother's Day names announcement the day after Mother's Day. Go figure. But lucky for us, the world of names never sleeps! Just in from Washington:

Today, the National Zoo  introduces  a new family of elevn otters to the public. According to, Whole Foods sponsored the otters' voyage from California to DC, so the grocery chain was given the honor of naming mom and dad otter and 8 of their 9 children. The ninth pup was named by the public via a Facebook poll. That unconventional naming process gave us otter parents Chowder and Clementine, and this sibling set:

Pork Chop, Pickles, Saffron, Olive, Peaches, Turnip, Radish, Rutabaga and Kevin.

An instant classic. (Though to nitpick, I'd never include a cut of meat in an otherwise vegetarian-and-kevin sibset.)


Thanks go to reader Kenny for alerting me to this naming news. No thanks go to the Social Security Administration, for messing up my Mother's Day weekend.

It's Name Week, 2012!

May 9th 2012

Later this week, the Social Security Administration will release the official figures on America's baby name choices for last year. No matter how closely we watch name trends all year long, there are always amazing surprises and insights that come out of the actual data. (Did you guess that a pregnant teenager would be the country's stylemaker for 2010?)

I'll have the data here the minute it's available, and will crunch numbers all day to find the real stories within. I hope you'll join me!

And while we wait, I'd like to take a moment to focus on a very different baby issue. and are joining with RBaby to raise awareness about pediatric care in hospital emergency rooms. Infants require specialized medical care, which too many emergency rooms today are not equipped to provide. Please visit RBaby to learn more about this issue, and sign the petition to create standards for pediatric emergency care.