America's REAL Favorite Boy's Name?

May 21st 2014

Noah is the #1 most popular name for American boys. That gives it a solid claim on the title of "the country's favorite boy's name."

If you combine sound-alike names with different spellings, though, you'll conclude that Jackson/Jaxon/Jaxson/Jaxen is actually #1. So Jackson, too, has a case for the "favorite name" label.

Yet there's another contender for the throne. I believe that the most broadly popular baby name in America may be:


Liam stakes it's claim via a different popularity loophole than Jackson. Liam is a nickname — traditionally, a Irish short form of William. As it happens, even in this era when most classic English kingly names are plummeting, William still ranks in the top 5. In fact, in 12 different states from Alaska to Virginia, Liam and William are both among the top 3 names for boys. I don't believe that's a coincidence.

Suppose that instead of combining spellings, we combined nicknames and formal names? I know it may sound like a stretch. Liam increasingly stands alone as a given name today, and plenty of parents of young Williams surely plan to call their sons Will, or Billy, or the full William. Anecdotally, though, I can tell you that a lot of young Williams are indeed named with an eye toward Liam. If that number amounts to half of the Williams born, the two-name combination of William and Liam will total more than all of the Jacksons put together.

Of course, if you took the next step and combined spellings and nicknames you could also argue for Jack or Jax as the top name. Liam, though, has an additional claim on the title of "America's favorite": it's popular in every corner of the country.

Either Liam or William is the #1 name in more than half of U.S. states, from Alaska to Virginia. Both names rank in the top 40 in every state. In contrast, no form of Jackson is a #1 or #2 name anywhere. Jackson's popularity ranges from #3 in Colorado to #60 in New Mexico; Jaxon from #5 in Oklahoma to #99 in New York.

That coast-to-coast unanimity, combined with the two versions of the name among the country's top 5, makes Irish Liam my choice for the 2013 All-American boy.

Most Popular Baby Names By State, 2013

May 15th 2014


The Social Security Administration today announced the most popular names in each state. Without further ado, here are the top names from coast to coast (a brief analysis is below):

Most Popular Girls' Names by State, 2013
State 1st 2nd 3rd
Alabama Emma Ava Olivia
Alaska Emma Sophia Abigail
Arizona Sophia Isabella Emma
Arkansas Emma Olivia Ava
California Sophia Isabella Mia
Colorado Olivia Emma Sophia
Connecticut Olivia Isabella Emma
Delaware Ava Olivia Emma
Dist. of Columbia Charlotte Sofia Olivia
Florida Isabella Sophia Emma
Georgia Emma Oliva Ava
Hawaii Olivia Sophia Ava
Idaho Emma Olivia Sophia
Illinois Olivia Sophia Emma
Indiana Sophia Emma Olivia
Iowa Emma Harper Sophia
Kansas Emma Olivia Ava
Kentucky Emma Sophia Ava
Louisiana Ava Emma Olivia
Maine Sophia Emma Olivia
Maryland Sophia Olivia Ava
Massachusetts Emma Olivia Sophia
Michigan Emma Sophia Ava
Minnesota Olivia Emma Sophia
Mississippi Ava Emma Madison
Missouri Emma Olivia Ava
Montana Emma Olivia Harper
Nebraska Emma Olivia Sophia
Nevada Sophia Isabella Emma
New Hampshire Emma Olivia Sophia
New Jersey Isabella Sophia Emma
New Mexico Sophia Isabella Emma
New York Sophia Isabella Emma
North Carolina Emma Ava Sophia
North Dakota Emma Olivia Harper
Ohio Emma Sophia Ava
Oklahoma Emma Sophia Olivia
Oregon Emma Olivia Sophia
Pennsylvania Emma Sophia Ava
Rhode Island Sophia Isabella Emma
South Carolina Emma Olivia Madison
South Dakota Emma Harper Sophia
Tennessee Emma Ava Olivia
Texas Sophia Emma Isabella
Utah Olivia Emma Abigail
Vermont Ava Olivia Emma
Virginia Emma Olivia Sophia
Washington Emma Olivia Sophia
West Virginia Emma Sophia Olivia
Wisconsin Emma Olivia Ava
Wyoming Sophia Emma Harper


Most Popular Boys' Names by State, 2013
State 1st 2nd 3rd
Alabama William Mason James
Alaska Liam William Mason
Arizona Noah Jacob Liam
Arkansas William Mason Noah
California Jacob Ethan Daniel
Colorado Liam Noah Jackson
Connecticut William Mason Jacob
Delaware Michael Mason Liam
Dist. of Columbia William Alexander Henry
Florida Jayden Jacob Liam
Georgia William Mason Noah
Hawaii Liam Mason Noah
Idaho Liam Wyatt William
Illinois Noah Alexander Jacob
Indiana Liam Noah Mason
Iowa Liam Mason Carter
Kansas Liam William Mason
Kentucky William Noah Mason
Louisiana Mason Noah Liam
Maine Liam Benjamin Jackson
Maryland Liam Noah Jacob
Massachusetts Benjamin William Jacob
Michigan Liam Mason Noah
Minnesota William Liam Mason
Mississippi William Mason James
Missouri William Mason Liam
Montana Liam Mason William
Nebraska Mason Liam William
Nevada Ethan Mason Jayden
New Hampshire Liam William Mason
New Jersey Michael Matthew Jacob
New Mexico Noah Elijah Liam
New York Jacob Michael Ethan
North Carolina William Mason Elijah
North Dakota Mason Liam William
Ohio Liam Mason Noah
Oklahoma Mason Liam Noah
Oregon Liam Mason Elijah
Pennsylvania Mason Liam Jacob
Rhode Island Mason Liam Benjamin
South Carolina William Mason James
South Dakota Liam Noah Carter
Tennessee William Mason Elijah
Texas Jacob Jayden Noah
Utah William Liam James
Vermont Mason Owen Carter
Virginia William Noah Liam
Washington Liam Mason Alexander
West Virginia Mason Liam Noah
Wisconsin Liam Mason William
Wyoming Liam Wyatt Carter


The top girl's names are remarkably consistent across the United States. Five names — Emma, Sophia, Olivia, Ava and Isabella — dominate the landscape. Emma is the single most agreed-on name, ranking among the top 3 in an impressive 47 states. The most notable regional hit is Harper, a top-3 name in a cluster of states from Montana to Iowa.

The top boys' names show much greater regional variety. In fact, the #1 boys' name in the country, Noah, cracks the top 3 in only 18 states. The most agreed-on names are Liam and Mason, ranking top 3 in 33 states a piece. In a further sign of Liam's appeal, 12 states made both Liam and its traditional source name William top-3 choices. (More on that phenomenon soon!)

Other local highlights: Benjamin in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Wyatt in Idaho and Wyoming; Michael in Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

More from the most popular names stats:

The Top 1000 Names in America

The Fastest-Rising Names For Girls

The Fastest-Rising Names For Boys


2013 Baby Name Pool: Meet the Champions

May 14th 2014

How tricky is the Baby Name Pool competition? Ponder this:

The single best rising name prediction in this year's pool (Jase) rode the repeated success of a name that was one of the top risers the previous year.

The single best falling-name prediction (Litzy) rode the demise of a name that was one of the top risers the previous year.

Yes, every pick is chancy, and it takes a full roster of strong choices to win it all. The scoring formula is designed to make sure all six predictions count, so a single lucky strike can't carry a weak ballot. This year's top scorers took different approaches to their predictions, but both showed a great instinct for American names and culture.

Meet The Champion

Please join me in congratulating Alyssa T., age 35, an accountant from New Hampshire. All six of Alyssa's ballot choices moved strongly in the direction she predicted, including three choices ranked among the top five rising or falling names for girls. Her strategy for identifying breakthrough names, in her own words:

"My three choices for fastest rising names have all been recently used by celebrities: Harper (Neil Patrick Harris, the Beckhams, and others), Penelope (Tina Fey, one of the Kardashians), and Olive (Drew Barrymore). In addition, all of them seemed to have been rising in recent years."

For her falling predictions, Alyssa had a unique perspective:

"I picked my own name," she explained, "because I've noticed it falling the past couple of years and expected it to keep dropping." Her other falling picks were Ashley, which she felt would follow Alyssa's path, and Miley, after a year of negative publicity for singer Miley Cyrus.

It's fitting that Alyssa's own name fueled her ballot, because it also fueled her lifelong interest in names. "In the 80's no one seemed to have ever heard of Alyssa, and people often asked me if my parents made it up. It was also constantly mispronounced and misspelled. I desperately wanted to be named Sara. I felt somewhat vindicated when it became so popular later on."

Congratulations, Alyssa!

This year's competition was particularly close, so I'd also like to acknowledge the runner up, Caitlin H., a graduate student from Cambridge, MA.

Whereas Alyssa focused on fashionable names with positive momentum, Caitlin dug into rare names with timely pop-culture hooks. Her top-scoring predictions were Kree (from American Idol contestant Kree Harrison) and Khaleesi (from tv series Game of Thrones). Caitlin's full ballot:

Rising – Kree (F), Khaleesi (F), Damian (M)

Falling – Madison (F), Tyler (M), Hayden (M)

A scholar of Colonial America, Caitlin has a particular interest in the way names reflect our culture.

"I love the way that people express themselves through names. Whether it's Puritans giving their children Old Testament names as they write their own version of Exodus in the colonies, or newly freed slaves re-naming themselves and calling their children after the heroes of the abolitionist movement, the names that people use (and invent) are such a powerful statement of how they see themselves and their place in the world."

Caitlin's love of names and their meanings shows in the names of her own two young children, Molly and Sam. That's short for Amalia and Samaritan, naturally.

"I have a special place in my heart for virtue names," says Caitlin. "We often think of Faith, Hope, Joy, Grace, etc., as feminine names, but in colonial New England it was just as common to bestow virtue names on boys: Waitstill, Fearnot, Comfort, Increase, Rich-Grace, Vigilant, Experience, Return, etc. I love both the boldness of the names and the fact that parents were as creative with boys' names as with girls'."

Congratulations to our top scorers, and thanks to everybody who played. Join us again next Spring!