In the past, I've described royal baby namers as "brand managers for the monarchy." Their name choices have to symbolize the rich history and tradition of the throne, and send the message that its future is in good hands. The choice of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana for the new British princess balances that branding with a concern that's much more familiar to parents everywhere: navigating the perilous waters of family.
First, the name itself. Charlotte hits the tradition bullseye, delicately. It was one of my suggested finalists based on its combo of accessible style and regal heritage. Charlotte is well-loved throughout the English-speaking world, and currently ranks #20 among girls' names in England. It's represented in the direct royal line by George III's queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The overall impression is classic and elegant but not showy, the perfect touch.
Other names could have fit that style recipe, though. Charlotte Elizabeth Diana's special qualities are on a more personal front. Consider Prince William's family dynamics. His parents went through a public and ugly divorce. His father remarried, controversially. His mother tragically died young, and remains an icon in a manner that can be uncomfortable to the other side of the family. His father's mother, meanwhile, is a uniquely powerful matriarch.
The three-part name William and Catherine chose manages to honor all three of those formidable family members -- Charles, Diana and Elizabeth -- without saddling their little girl with any specific image or legacy to live up to. The name even manages to honor mom's family, via Kate's mother Carole and her sister Philippa Charlotte. It's a thoughtful gesture toward multiple generations, and toward the throne itself. May all of us with complex naming challenges find such a happy balance.
We get it. You love boys, and you're excited to have one. But when you found out you were expecting a little bundle of boy, the first concern you had was what on earth you'd name him. You had plenty of beautiful, meaningful, lyrical choices for a daughter--maybe Evelyn, Isabel, Olivia, or Sophie, but when it comes to boy's names you're stuck. You don't want something heavy and overdone. You don't want something too modern, either. A few of the names you love are off limits for one reason or another, and nothing else really ignites a spark for you.
Welcome to modern naming. The Baby Name Wizard has already revealed why some of us are name-blocked when it comes to boys. And the truth is, pickings are a bit slim for parents in this category. But here are a few of our favorite, reliable choices for those with a ho-hum list for your little guy, plus a few surprises just in case. They have a bit of vintage appeal, often featuring literary, royal, or polished qualities with a flair for lyrical sounds that roll off the tongue. Hang in there. We're all in this together.
Adrian: It's distinguished, Shakespearean, pope-worthy, and a bit old fashioned. Adrian's feminine form sounds just like it, but while Adrienne is on a downward trend, Adrian is still a cherished classic for several very good reasons. While Aiden (and its variety of spellings) is a recent favorite that continues to do very well, this sound-alike has a more stable history in the US. Pair its trend-worthy sound with its old-fashioned feel, and Adrian hits a sweet spot for those feeling less-than-impressed with boys' names.
August: August goes beyond old fashioned to near-ancient status, as it's a form of Augustus that seems both Romanesque and Victorian. It's different in all the right ways, and it comes with a sweet nickname: Gus. Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann chose this name for their son.
Bennett: Attractive on many levels, Bennett is an accessible form of Benedict that became an English surname. It feels like a literary sweetheart, thanks to Pride and Prejudice heroine Elizabeth Bennet, while jazzy crooner Tony Bennett adds some gentlemanly vibes to the name as well. Bennett was chosen by celebs Jane Krakowski and Laura Linney for their sons.
Brooks: This timeless surname made the list thanks to its classic stylings and bow-tie image. Its feminine counterpart, Brooke, may help parents who love feminine sounds make a compromise. And here's a little surprise: underneath the proper English trousers held up by suspenders, Brooks is wearing cowboy boots, à la country music superstars Brooks & Dunn and Garth Brooks.
Elliott: This Old French form of Elias has been an American classic for more than a century, but it's surging in popularity right now. We credit its stylish -tt ending, and the newfound popularity of vintage feminine names Ella and Ellie. Elliott is a mix of endearing, masculine, and dignified, and it's a home run for parents who thought they'd never find the right name for their little guy.
Emmett: If Emma is your jam, its male spinoff may just be your peanut butter. Coming from a surname that took its cues from Emma, there's a reason this pioneer-era charmer has loads of appeal to those who are looking for a stylish answer to the top choices in girls' names. Emmett may also strike a chord with fans of Irish rebel Robert Emmet, and with lovers of the Twilight saga.
Everett: Like a dashing romantic lead who dons starched collars and fitted vests, Everett is sweeping us off our feet. This name was a favorite in the early 20th century, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see it return to the top 100...someday. The feminine and popular Evelyn feels like its twin sister, which could make this name all the more appealing for some, or for those who already have a little Evelyn, sadly off-limits.
Felix: Nothing says happy quite like the boys' name Felix, a charming Latin name that lives up to its meaning ("happy, fortunate"). Felix is a cheerful, well-liked name that remained in the top 400 through the past century, despite a few iconic characters like Felix the Cat and the loveable neat freak from The Odd Couple. The timing is perfect for Felix to woo parents once again, especially those who may love a little bit of a quirky sound, an ever-attractive "x", and an upbeat, friendly demeanor. It's especially fitting for parents who were drawn to Fiona or Felicity.
Henry: There was a time not too long ago when Henry sounded stuffy and out of touch, but nothing could be further from the truth today. Henry is a classic, kingly name that had enough time at a low point that the pendulum is swinging back in its favor. It's strong, romantic, and timeless. The sweet sound of its upbeat -y ending helps balance its royal attributes, making Henry a true crowd-pleaser even for the hard-to-please.
Josiah: If you love Abigail, Naomi, or Hannah for a girl, meet Josiah, a biblical name favored among Puritans and English dissenters of early America. These days, we adore how this name sounds as soft as Joshua and as strong as Joseph, but now more fresh than both.
Julian: This derivative of Julius rolls off the tongue with dignified, antique style. It's a perfect fit for those who like feminine names like Juliet or Jocelyn. Julian is a hot choice among celebrities including Jordana Brewster, John Lennon, Lisa Kudrow, Jerry Seinfeld, and Danny Pino, to name a few.
Leo: Don't let names like Leopold, Leonardo, or Leonard fool you. Leo is a darling, brave name that comes from the Latin for lion, and it's independent from those longer options. Borne by early saints and a favorite in the 1900s, Leo now sounds like a charming vintage choice that's perfect next to Olivia and Liam.
Levi: As sturdy as your favorite pair of beat-up jeans, Levi has both biblical and western sensibilities that make this name feel strong. Its long vowels are serving it well, and its Hebrew roots are offering loads of appeal, just like Eli, but it's got a little extra swagger thanks to Levi Strauss & Co, founded back in 1853. Celebs Matthew McConaughey, Sheryl Crow, and Sara Gilbert all chose Levi for their sons.
Milo: It sounds like a modern choice, but Milo has been around for a very long time as a latinate form of Miles. It was used by American pioneers, giving it enough of a vintage feel to charm parents in love with Olivia or Molly. Milo has a bold, playful sound that's perfect for today's less-than-inspired namers.
Noah: A larger-than-life biblical namesake with an epic story brought to life in many nurseries, Noah is a tour de force of a name with a soft, understated sound. It did well in Victorian times, giving it a pioneering spirit, but it's never done better than today, as it's sitting in the number one spot. Noah is a hit on every level, reaching across faiths and styles, and it even has a romantic lead in the form of The Notebook's Noah Calhoun. If unique is what you're looking for, Noah may not be the one, but don't let its popularity be too much of a deterrent. If you love it, use it.
Oliver: We adore this prim and proper French name with an English twist, thanks to Charles Dickens. It's stylishly quirky, charming, and literary, with a formality that quickly fades with the nickname Ollie. America hasn't been as quick to catch on to this one, but it's now nearing the top-50 mark. You'll find Oliver is popular across much of Europe and Canada.
Owen: Grounded in Celtic tradition, Owen has ancient roots in Welsh and Gaelic, but its sound is pure modern bliss. Its ending is especially hot right now, and its sound is so attractive that spin off names like Bowen and Rowen (which could be attributed to Rowan) are doing quite well themselves. If you love Gwen or Quinn, Owen may hit the mark for you too. It's is a well-rounded name that's been revived from the 1800s, making it attractive for parents with boy-block.
Sebastian: It may have been considered pretentious in the past, but this elegant name has made it far beyond its former reputation in America. Sebastian is chic on a global level. It's also a Shakespearean classic that became a comical singing crab for Disney's The Little Mermaid, of course. But what we love most is its melodic flow and multitude of snappy nickname options, making Sebastian a new American boy-next-door. Almost.
Silas: The attraction runs deep for Silas, a pioneer-era favorite that's now getting more attention than ever in the US. We love its strong sound and Greek roots as a name found in the New Testament as well as classic literature. Those are the reasons Silas made its way into the top 200s before Duck Dynasty came along. Whether or not you find Uncle Si's antics to be endearing, his presence on record-shattering reality TV is only helping this name feel more approachable. Silas was most recently chosen by Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel for their newborn son.
Theo: We're offering a little free advice from The Baby Name Wizard, along with parents of the early 1900s. When all else fails, go for Theo. It's a short form of Theodore (or the bygone Theobald) that can stand confidently on its own. Its popularity arc is exactly what you're looking for if you love cheerful old-fashioned names with a high likeability factor today. It's also a perfect answer to those who adore the feminine name Thea. Theo was chosen by Rhys Darby, actor/comedian of Flight of the Conchords, for his son.
Our annual Baby Name Pool is a great test of trend-spotting skills, and an even better reminder of how mysterious name trends can be. Hundreds of pool participants try to guess the names that rose and fell the fastest. Yet as often as not, the biggest movers catch all of us by surprise.
Nobody had a clue that Cataleya, an assassin from the movie Colombiana, would be the hottest girl's name of 2012, or that the reality tv series Larrymania would send Daleyza to the top in 2013. Spotting fast-falling names is even harder. Scandals don't kill off names as quickly as we expect, and a trend that's fading in your neighborhood may still be picking up speed three states away. We can see the big picture -- "raindrop" and "liquid" names rising, heavy classic names falling -- but each individual name has its own unpredictable story.
With the pool now closed for this year, I'm going to put my baby name wizardry to the test by offering my own ballot and some thoughts on how I make my choices. Fast risers and fallers often follow these patterns:
"Not Done Yet"
One of the first places to look for hot rising names is last year's list of hot rising names. Our-of-nowhere hits like Harper or Jaxon can make big leaps for several years in a row. The trick is to identify a genuine new hit with deep appeal vs. a one-year-wonder. The sound has to fit the zeitgeist. Hot names triggered purely by celebrities can fall as fast as they rise.
Names likely to keep up their momentum: Everett, Piper, Juniper, Everly, Arya
"This Is Your Year"
A star is born; a name is born! Every year, names cross from news headlines and tv screens to baby name charts. But again, it has to be just the right name. No matter how famous and photogenic the star, name style comes first. 2014 was a tricky year for name spotting, with few dramatic sparks from tv and sports. (Keep an eye out for name trends from "Empire" in 2015.)
Names in the 2014 news that might have the right stuff: Russell (young Superbowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson); Montserrat (heroine of the telenovela "Lo Que La Vida Me Robó"); Elsa (snow queen of "Frozen," following the classic name-style recipe of attractive blondes with magical powers); Azalea and Sia (Australian music stars Iggy Azalea and Sia)
"On The Verge"
These are the big predictions, the names poised to leap from obscurity to become hits. Guess right and you have your finger on the pulse of style, with a gaudy Name Pool score to show for it. Guess wrong and the name misses the top 1000 charts, scoring a zero.
Rare names that feel ready to catch on: Titan and Prescott for boys; Everest and Lennon, for boys and girls alike
"Too Much Baggage"
This is the downside of fame. The wrong kind of headlines can saddle a name with associations that parents would rather avoid. This kind of falling name is rarer than you think, though. Scandals, defeats and even grave world conflicts aren't always enough to sink a baby name.
Names with the wrong kind of publicity: Miley, Peyton, Isis
As new names are invented and words and surnames join the ranks of first names, name-gender lines are increasingly fluid. Yet even today, when a name starts to become a hit for girls parents of boys shy away, and the male name usually falls.
Names that have tilted female in usage: Taylor, Kendall
"The Tide Has Turned"
Eventually, even the hottest name will turn the corner. How far will it fall, and how fast? Can you pinpoint the still-common names that no longer feel perfectly "now"? Extra consideration: alternate spellings can be especially trend-sensitive.
Names losing momentum: Mya, Jada; Braylon, Braden
And the ballot is...