The Social Security Administration has released the official rankings of the most popular baby names in America for 2015. Both returning top names keep their crown for another year: Noah for boys and Emma for girls. Along with #2 boys' name Liam, they represent the triumph of "raindrop names." These smooth, liquid miniatures are the ideal sounds of the moment.
Image via Chris Carroll/Corbis
The new top 10 baby names in America:
The news on the girls' list is the top-10 debut of Harper. In a changing of the surname guard, this new-generation -er name displaces Madison. Harper's rise has been extraordinary; as recently as 2003, it didn't even crack the top 1,000.
On the boys' side, Benjamin makes its first top-10 appearance. Surprisingly, until the 21st Century this classic had never ranked higher than 29th.
In English, the suffix -er spells action. Those two letters point to a doer: a mover and shaker, or at least a butcher, baker or candlestick maker. That -er energy and industry fueled a generation of popular baby names based on tradesman surnames. Today, though, a new wave of names is picking up on the action sound while leaving the trades behind.
Take a look at some of the hottest -er baby names of the year 2000, and their occupational origins:
Carter (hauler of goods)
Chandler (candle maker)
Cooper (barrel maker)
Hunter (hunter or birder)
Parker (gamekeeper/keeper of a manor's hunting park)
Spencer (dispenser, who distributed the goods of a grand household)
Tanner (tanner of animal hides)
Tucker (cloth finisher)
Tyler (roof tiler)
Image via Sandra Gligorijevic/Shutterstock
Now look at the -er names that have soared in popularity since then:
As a group, they're a far cry from the traditional tradesman of the earlier list. Yes, there are some occupational names among the new hits, but even those come across more like action heroes (Gunner, Ryder) or literary homages (Sawyer, Harper) than village smithies.
Now a new, up-and-coming generation of -er names advances the trend. These new names may take their style cues from the -er tradesmen, but they're not "doers." They carry their own meanings and associations, from nature (Juniper) to Star Trek (Ryker), from prayer (Vesper) to rock & roll (Seger), all with an energy boost from the action -er ending.
40 NEW -ER BABY NAMES
Read More: 66 Fresh Masculine-Sounding Surnames
Harmony, Melody, Lyric - chances are you’ll find these euphonic musical terms all over birth announcements these days! Musical names are more often than not cheerful and lively, so why not think about some of the rarer options available? Let’s look at names guaranteed to put a song in your heart!
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Allegra. This lovely name is ultra-feminine and fits in well with the current A-a trend with Ava, Amelia, and Aria. Allegra feels vintage - perhaps due to the many classic writers who have used the name in their work - but its scarcity in history makes it more daring than dated. As for Allegra’s musical connection, the word allegro tells musicians to play at a brisk tempo, making this name perfect for the upbeat!
Alouette. Alouette, gentille alouette goes the adorable French children’s song about a lark - but this name is more than just a lyric! Alouette has a bunch of cute nickname options - Ally, Lou, and Etta, for starters - and it has hardly been used in history, if you’re looking for something original. The name might prompt the song more often than not, but its French sound and pretty, natural meaning far outweigh any negatives. Allons-y, Alouette!
Hosanna. Though it sounds like a combination of Hannah and Susanna, Hosanna is known among the religious as a praising word - it literally means “deliver us”, and it’s found in quite a few hymns. Hosanna’s length and musical quality liken it to Savannah or Julianna, but it’s not quite as trendy. The first syllable might turn off some, but the name as a whole is breathtaking! Note: though up-and-coming Shoshana sounds similar, the names come from two different places.
Jazz. With short, snappy names getting popular for boys - Jack, Jett, Max - why not try the concise style on the girls’ side? Princess-inspired Jasmine is starting to decline, but its first syllable is exciting, spunky, and… well, jazzy! The name has been in use since the 1980’s - a male character named Jazz appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air - and this name is unisex without really leaning one way or the other. The double Z’s at the end add even more flair!
Lyra. This name jumped into public consciousness in the early 2000’s with the publication of The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, which features the main character Lyra Belacqua. Lyra comes from the ancient Greek instrument, the lyre. Between the literary connection, the musical link, and the fashionable L-a form, Lyra has many positive traits to consider.
Madrigal. Looking for a unique route to the nickname Maddie? Look no further than Madrigal! Meaning “a song for unaccompanied voices”, this name will allow your little one to stand all on her own with grace and confidence. Bonus points to this name for the “regal” sound at the end. While Madrigal is most often seen as a Spanish surname, its sound is friendly enough to inhabit a first name slot.
Rhapsody. Quite possibly the most romantic of these rhythmic names, Rhapsody ranks with Destiny and Serenity in the dramatic word name category. This name also lends itself to many different musical pieces - Bohemian Rhapsody, Rhapsody in Blue, and even the music-streaming website, Rhapsody. While the name may raise some eyebrows, it definitely has its own personality!
Rhiannon. Most of the United States was introduced to Celtic goddess Rhiannon through the eponymous song by Fleetwood Mac. While the name itself means “divine queen”, and its most notable connection is to the rock song, the goddess was also known for her flock of birds with magical singing powers. If you’re looking for a royal name with a groovy vibe, Rhiannon “rings like a bell through the night”!
Sonata. Names like Selena and Renata have made it on the name charts - let’s see if the orchestral Sonata would do well on a birth certificate! The melodic cadence makes it fun to say, the poetic meaning exudes passionate charm, and a few nicknames can be found in its form: Sonny, Nat, Nata. No doubt about it, Sonata would make a beautiful first name for a sweet little girl.
Sonnet. Close to Sonata, but with a totally different feeling: Sonnet is spirited and smart, literary and lyrical. The name has more of a unisex vibe due to its -et ending, but that might be a plus if you love gender-neutral names! Watch out - this name has been climbing to the recent peak of 17 baby Sonnet’s in one year. That might be rare now, but it won’t be long before the rhythm of Sonnet spreads!
Starling. While this name would also fare well in a list about animal names, Starling straddles the line between natural and sensational. The bird itself can be found all over the world, and is often noted for its ability to mimic all kinds of sounds. The name, however, is not quite as prevalent, and far more original! While the similarities to “darling” might be a turn-off, the nickname Star is too cute to pass up!
Viola. Olivia and Violet are both in the top 100, but Viola hasn’t even made the top 1000 - an absolute tragedy. This gorgeous name has a Shakespearean background, dozens of fabulous namesakes, and a musical legacy from the sixteenth century. Viola would work for classical name devotees, orchestra aficionados, literary academics, and fans of feminine names. It’s a masterpiece!