Deep down, Americans want every Englishman to be named Nigel and the British want every American to be named Brad. Alas, our cherished stereotypes are behind the times. Nigel is now much more popular as a baby name in the U.S. than in the U.K. (and everybody has moved on from Brad).
If you're looking for a new American baby name cliché, here's a good place to start. Replace the old saying "As American as apple pie" with "As American as the letter Y." When I set out to find popular American names that are nonexistent in England, 12 of the top 15 results contained a letter Y -- including the All-American name Londyn.
Y is just one of the themes in the exclusively American baby name styles below. Each name listed ranks among America's top thousand names for boys or girls, yet is statistically nonexistent in England and Wales. (For more background, see "15 British Baby Names That Just Don't Exist In America.")
In Like Lynn
Double letters are hot in America. For instance, Collin and Colin are both popular names in the U.S., whereas only the single-L Colin is used in England. The epitome of this double difference is the American girls' suffix –lynn.
Raelynn (Female, Popularity Rank #267)
Ashlynn (F, #323)
Madelynn (F, #439)
Gracelynn (F, #452)
Madilynn (F, #481)
Braelynn (F, #566)
Jaelynn (F, #600)
Kaylynn (F, #642)
Madalynn (F, #649)
Jaylynn (F, #675)
Jazlynn (F, #749)
Emmalynn (F, #771)
Addilynn (F, #924)
Avalynn (F, #949)
Jocelynn (F, #974)
Kaelynn (F, #999)
There's nothing more American than a cowboy, or at least a cowboy hat. The exclusively American names list bears that out with names from the Old West, rodeos, and country-western music.
Garrett (M, #237)
Waylon (M, #251)
Lane (M, #295)
Remington (F, #685)
Axton (M, #762)
Trace (M, #763)
Stetson (M, #844)
Houston (M, #932)
American parents are increasingly turning to word names with grand meanings.
Journey (F, #291)
Messiah (M, #298)
Major (M, #350)
Haven (F, #333)
Titan (M, #827)
Last Names First
Traditional surnames are more likely to make the leap to first name status in in the U.S. In a test of the baby name power of style vs. fame, note that the British uber-celebrity name Beckham is purely American.
Brantley (M, #120)
Kinsley (F, #132)
Trenton (M, #305)
Grady (M, #345)
Blakely (F, #411)
Gannon (M, #413)
Jamison (M, #440)
Beckham (M, #487)
Bryant (M, #584)
Anniston (F, #906)
Y ask Y?
You can turn a name uniquely American simply by flipping a vowel to the Y side:
Londyn (F, #154)
Addyson (F, #379)
Kamryn (F, #380)
Jordyn (F, #127)
Landyn (M, #426)
Emersyn (F, #427)
Melany (F, #436)
Sylas (M, #667)
Nataly (F, #746)
Saylor (F, #796)
Camdyn (M, #814)
Alyvia (F, #925)
And the #1 Most American Name Sound Is…
Kylee (F, #213)
Kyleigh (F, #348)
Kaylie (F, #518)
Kiley (F, #661)
Kailee (F, #860)
Kaleigh (F, #904)
We're in love with baby names that describe the best in all of us, and though virtue names aren't new, they have evolved over time to embrace both an old-fashioned feel and modern sensibilities. Today's most popular virtue names are Grace, Faith, Hope, Serenity, and Justice. They are all beautiful, but we're interested in virtue names that are harder to find. It's a style that is perfect for a little experimenting, with rich word-based names that melt our hearts and encourage our spirits.
Amity: From the Latin word for friendship, Amity is one of the few virtue names that describe a relationship. Between its sweet, subtle meaning and its darling sound, Amity is a beautiful, undiscovered choice that's full of charm.
Clarity: Beautifully clear and perfectly trend-worthy, Clarity has a familiar flavor that capitalizes on the popularity of Claire and Clara. It makes a luminous statement but it's also quite rare.
Honesty: This idyllic name is gaining a bit of traction behind the scenes of the top 1,000 girls' names. Its fresh sound balances out what could be puritanical associations, while its similarities to Serenity and the fading choice Destiny keep this name grounded.
Honor: The daughter of Jessica Alba and Cash Warren made a splash when she was born in 2008, but her name remains out of the top 1,000. Honor is a sweet and simple choice with a respectable meaning and a truly one-of-a-kind feel.
Loyal: On the heels of Royal (one of the fastest rising names of 2014), Loyal is a fantastic word with a similar sound that sums up an admirable quality for any little one. Names like Lionel or Lowell may be outdated, but they have built a foundation that makes Loyal far from a wild choice.
Mercy: At first glance, Mercy may seem a bit antiquated, but its trend-worthy sound is bringing this choice from the days of yesterday's handmade bonnets into today's boutique bows. It can sit quite comfortably next to Lucy and Macy, and if that weren't enough, it has charitable connotations without all the popularity of Grace.
Noble: If Mabel can come back, there's hope for Noble too. It's a word that goes beyond royalty into high ideals and principles. Suddenly we're wondering why we don't see more of this creative choice, which was given to 129 boys last year.
Pax: Simply meaning "peace," this stylish choice was brought to our attention by the Jolie-Pitt family in 2003. It's right on trend and simple, but the x at the end packs a certain punch that any kid would wear proudly.
Revere: A true undiscovered gem, this name makes a striking impression both in its reference to a reverent attitude and to the famous patriot of the American Revolution, Paul Revere. Its respectful spirituality makes the perfect counterpart to its boyish charm.
Serene: Names like Serenity and Serena are more popular than this rare choice, but since we're looking for creative virtue names, Serene was a perfect match for its unusual and peaceful qualities. This name was used in the video game Riviera: The Promised Land where she's grouped with a Fia, Lina, Cierra, and Rose.
True: It's hard to top this creative virtue name in terms of both sweetness and straightforwardness. While it appears only on the occasional birth certificate, True shows up more often for boys than girls, with similar choices like Truely going to the girls and Truett going to the boys. Any way you look at it, True has fantastic appeal in its significance, sound, and brevity.
Unity: With admirable values and a sense of goodwill, Unity sets the stage for a peacemaking child who can bring everyone together. It's quite a unique choice, as only 21 girls were given this name last year.
Valor: In 2013, actor Emile Hirsch announced this name for his son and baby name lovers everywhere took notice. It needs no definition, but it's not a word we use a lot in our everyday language, giving it the perfect qualities for a virtue name. There aren't enough parents choosing this name to start a trend, but clearly, Valor isn't for everyone (just the brave, of course).
Verity: We think it's time to take this one back from the Puritans. With roots ultimately in Latin and a meaning of truth, any potential heaviness this name might have communicated is lifted by its undeniably pretty sound.
Wisdom: This one is rare, and it's no wonder—it has a hurdle to overcome in its lack of nicknames and potentially overdone meaning. It may be a tough one for a kid to live up to, but this name displays high ideals and a value for moral character that's boldly inspirational.
When it comes to name style, I try not to take sides. My job is to help parents find the name that's right for them, not to play fashion judge and jury. But today, I feel compelled to take a stand on a pressing issue of the day:
The name Denise is so wrong for a Muppet pig.
This week brought the news that a rebooted "Muppet Show" will feature a new pig as rival to the venerable Miss Piggy for the heart of Kermit the Frog. Take a moment to consider the names of the two classic characters I just mentioned. Consider also Gonzo, Rowlf, Fozzie Bear, The Swedish Chef, Sam The Eagle, Zoot, Animal, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Beaker. Now consider the new leading piggy's name, Denise. Yes, Denise, that staple of mid-century American baby naming:
Muppet names can take many forms: descriptions, pop-culture references, puns, or simply zany nonsense. But there are some things they never sound like. Those include your fourth-grade teacher and the mom next door.
There's a reason for that. Mom names fall squarely into the most human slice of the name spectrum. When I analyzed trends in dog and cat names, I noted that pets' names were increasingly drawn from the human name pool, but not just any human names. We give our dogs old-fashioned nicknames like Molly and Max to show that they're cuddly. We give them colorful names like Bruno and Lola to show that they're fun. We give them preppy surnames like Bailey and Tucker to show that they're sporty. We do NOT give them middle-aged names to show that they're mature and responsible. As I wrote at the time, "Have you ever heard 'These are our dogs, Kenneth and Jeanette'?"
When it comes to Muppets, there's an even deeper problem with common, typical grown-up names. They're just not funny.
When comedians talk about kids, they still reference the long-gone kiddie generation of Little Timmy and Little Susie (the "Mid-Century Normative Child"). Typical small-town couples in comic strips get exaggeratedly prosaic, outdated names like Ned and Velma. The extremes of modern name style are even surer sources of laughs. But the everyday names of actual adulthood are so familiar that their style barely registers. They're culturally toothless.
Typically human? Culturally toothless? The Muppet Show??? A frog-pig romance we might be able to get on board with, but never this.