The brand new college students moving into dorms across the country have something none of their predecessors had: a birthdate in the new millennium. As the Year 2000 babies settle in to their new lives, it's time to take a new look at the names going back to school this fall, from the kindergarteners to the collegians.
First-Year College Names, at a Glance
At the turn of the millennium, a generation of "new classics" was still holding strong. The top 10 was dominated by long-time favorites like Matthew, Christopher, Jessica and Samantha, while the surnames Tyler and Taylor snuck in as portents of a surname surge to come.
Kindergarten Names, at a Glance
The names of new kindergarteners born in 2013 lean toward the light and trim, with newcomers like Noah, Liam, Ava and Mia ranking the top 10. The presence of Jayden at #9 hints at the huge rhymes-with-Aidan wave that had just crested.
From Zero to 60
Dozens of names that didn't even register on the top-1000 charts in 2000 were bonafide hits by 2013. The prize for the dizziest rise goes to Harper, which rose by 6,000% to become the 16th most popular girl's name in America. Runners-up: Bentley for boys and Nevaeh for girls. Of all the skyrocketing names, only a few like Penelope and Arabella could be considered traditional as given names.
The Classics Fell, Fast…
In 2000, the name Mary still ranked among the top 50 names for girls. By 2013 its usage had dropped by more than half, and its rank was down to #120. Most of the core English classics like Robert and Katherine experienced similar declines. Even William, the top kingly classic at #5, saw a 20% drop in popularity.
…But the '90s Favorites, Even Faster
The sharpest declines were reserved for names that helped define the sound of the 1990s: Jessica, Nicholas, Ashley and Megan. The drop in Jessicas alone accounted for over 13,000 babies.
...And Some Names to the Brink of Extinction
Many names that are commonplace among the college students are all but unheard of in the kindergarten set. They include such familiar choices as Shannon and Heather for girls, and Bailey for boys. The name Katrina also did a disappearing act, as the devastation of Hurricane Katrina hit between the two birth years.
The #1 Boys' Names of the Two Classes Tell a Tale
The #1 boy's name of 2000 was Jacob. The #1 boy's name of 2013 was Noah. Stylistically, those two Old Testament revivals may not seem like a dramatic change over the course of 13 years. But take a look at how many babies those #1 names represented:
Jacob, as #1 in 2000: 34,471
Noah, as #1 in 2013: 18,241
In the space of a K-12 education, the status of a #1 name was utterly transformed.
The Takeaway Message: Modern Name Fashion Works at Warp Speed
We last looked at the back to school names five years ago, and this new kindergarten class already shows major changes from that group. Brand-new popular names include Arya, Iker, Messiah, Nova and Knox, while previously red-hot names like Makayla, Madalyn, Braden, Diego, and Hayden (M & F) have already dropped sharply. Expect change to keep speeding ahead in the years to come.
Why did Addison and Emerson become popular names for girls, while Harrison and Jefferson stuck to the boys' side of the charts? The answer is in the nicknames. Addison and Emerson trim down to the familiar girls' nicknames Addie and Emmy—cozy counterweights to the unisex formality of the full surnames.
This 2-for-1 punch of surname and pet name has propelled a series of hit names for the past generation. Contrasting nicknames offer a best of both worlds scenario for parents who like the two different styles. Even more importantly, their daughters get a choice of how to present themselves as they grow into new roles.
With another wave of cozy nicknames on the rise, are there more undiscovered surname options ready to meet them? I've identified 38 prospects. Some may be hard for you to picture as girls' names right now, but remember that it wasn't so long ago that Cassidy and Madison meant Butch Cassidy and James Madison, not Cassie and Maddie.
"Oooooh." It's a sound of admiration, a signal to take notice. It's also a sound that makes a baby name stand out.
21st-century namers like to build around long, strong vowels. The A sound powers boys' favorites like Jacob and Mason, E is the secret to Liam and Ethan, I to Elijah and Wyatt, O to Noah and Logan. But a long U (pronounced "oo") still has the potential to surprise us. Only three boys' names with long U sounds—Lucas, Luke and Julian—rank among America's top 100, compared to a dozen long A names.
Photo: Getty Images
That rarity, and the smooth resonance of the sound, lend the U names extra interest. Better yet, when you holler a name like "Luuuuke" across a playground, half the neighborhood won't think you're calling for them. The trick is finding these elusive "oo" names.
I've gone hunting and rounded up all of the top prospects. While I cast a wide net, not every name with a long U sound qualified. I gave extra weight to names where the U sound was stressed, and was the first vowel sound in the name. (Cooper yes, Matthew no.) I took points off for names heavy on consonant clusters that are out of fashion, or that tend to trip up English spelling or pronunciation. (Sorry, Shmuel and Dhruv.) I came up with 57 varieties, grouped into 7 style categories below. With style options from Lucian to Crew, you should find something to say ooh about.
Last Names First
Classics With Surprise Potential