The 2009 Baby Name Pool: The Winners

May 20th 2010

Dear 2009 Baby Name Pool Participants,

Dang, you guys are good.

Hundreds of name enthusiasts joined our annual contest to predict the year's fastest rising and falling names. This year's entries were a powerful and competitive bunch, fueled by canny picks of hot-rising names like Vivienne and Bristol. Almost 90% of ballots yielded a positive score -- an impressive achievement in a subtle domain where Aiden and Isabella shoot up while Aidan and Isabelle sink.

The top-scoring ballot, submitted by reader Jill:

Rising: Bentley, Bristol, Bradyn
Falling: Joseph, Jessica, Diego

Bentley and Bristol were a powerhouse combination, and not an obvious one. Of all of the cultural memes shaping name trends, "pregnant teenagers" hardly springs to mind. Yet the sudden rise of Bentley was spurred by a baby featured on the MTV reality shows "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom." Bristol Palin, meanwhile, emerged as a naming force not in the year that her mother ran for vice president, but in the year that she became a single teenage mom.

Applause to Jill...but since she has declined to tell more about her choices, the full force of Baby Name Pool fame and plaudits goes to the close second place finisher, Kendra O. Her ballot:

Rising: Bristol, Henry, Kourtney
Falling: John, Sarah, Jennifer

Kendra is a nurse from Madison, Wisconsin. She first honed her baby-name trend predicting prowess by naming her cats Charlotte and Oliver, and has a taste for old-fashioned baby names.

Kendra weighed various factors in her choices: Bristol was inspired by increasing mention of that name on baby-related messageboards. Kourtney was inspired by Kourtney Kardashian, after seeing the rise of sister name Khloe. (Kendra notes, "I almost entered Mason, Kourtney's son's name, because I know of 2 Masons born in 2009.") And Henry is simply a name she's always loved. "I almost wish it wasn't so popular," Kendra writes, "since it's a favorite of mine and in my husband's family."

Congratulations to Kendra and to all of you impressively savvy name spotters.

Finally, I always offer a "tiebreaker" question, predicting the rank of a specific name. This year, an unusual number of you guess the rank of the girl's name Taylor right on the dot. Because Taylor, obliging, stayed exactly where it was: #22 in 2008, #22 in 2009.

See you next year!

The Name of the Decade, and other thoughts on the 2000s

May 13th 2010

Insights from crunching through the 2,500 most popular baby names of the decade:

The fastest rising names of the decade were celebrity-heavy, including Hollywood babies, movie and recording stars, and reality tv personalities -- plus two of the defining fashion phenomena of the decade, Nevaeh and Aiden.

The names that rose the fastest from 2000 to 2009 (calculated, as always, with the Baby Name Wizard "Hotness Formula"):

1. Kaydence ("American Pie," see more info below)
2. Miley ("Hannah Montana" Miley Cyrus)
3. Nevaeh (Heaven backwards)
4. Rihanna (Music star Rihanna)
5. Khloe (Khloe Kardashian, "Keeping Up with the Kardashians")
1. Aaden ("Jon & Kate Plus 8")
2. Maddox (Son of actress Angelina Jolie)
3. Gael (Actor Gael García Bernal)
4. Aiden
5. Kingston (Son of musicians Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale)

The fastest falling names were all 1980s and '90s favorites, as parents were on the lookout for the new and different:

1. Hannah
2. Jessica
3. Megan
4. Amanda
5. Lauren
1. Nicholas
2. Zachary
3. Kyle
4. Jared
5. Brandon

And the top fresh face of the decade, the most popular name of the decade that was unknown in the year 2000, was Kaydence, by a huge margin. The #2 fresh face was...wait for it...Caydence. Incredibly, seven different spellings of the name rank among the top 25 new names of the 2000s, and even those seven just scratch the surface of the name's many popular variants.

Kaydence. It's a celebrity name (as Cadence) that has outpaced its celebrity origin; a word name that has left its word origins in the dust; a creative spelling explosion. It went from nowhere to everywhere during the past decade. And it has "aiden" inside it.

Whether you love those qualities or loathe them, they make the top new name of the 2000s an emblem of the decade's sound and style. And that makes Kaydence my nominee for Name of the Decade, an encapsulation of the naming times.


The Official Most Popular Baby Names of the Decade

May 9th 2010

With the 2009 data in we can close the book on the naming decade of the 2000s. The Social Security Administration plans to release their list on the 14th, but who can wait? The official data's in hand, so I've run the numbers myself.

In December, I told you in advance who the decade's champions would be: Emily and Jacob, with 2nd place honors to Madison and Michael. Those races weren't even close enough for the 2009 data to matter. (It's worth looking at that old blog to see why Madison, which only ranked in the top 2 for 2 years, trounced Emma, which had 6 top-2 showings.)

Beyond the top 2, though, there are plenty of stories. Take a look at the top 10 regardless of sex:

1. Jacob
2. Michael
3. Joshua
4. Emily
5. Matthew
6. Daniel
7. Christopher
8. Andrew
9. Ethan
10. Joseph

Just 1 girl's name makes the cut. That really drives home how remarkable it was that Isabella was America's #1 name by a large margin last year. Until the 1930s, Mary and John routinely ran neck-and-neck for the overall title. But it's been 60 years since a girl's name was #1.

Explore the decade yourself: I've posted the top 2,500 names for boys and girls. Going that deep lets you see the dramatic shape of modern style, with more girls named Skyy and Alexzandria than Marcia.