Why does a name's popularity plummet? This year's fastest-falling names demonstrate three of the top reasons.
A. Past the Tipping Point. Ultra-appealing names can remain popular for decades. Even past their peak, they'll have years of continuing favor. But in this fashion-conscious naming age, there can come a point where parents start to feel a name's decline, sensing that it's behind the times. When that happens, the decline can turn into a dive.
Names past the tipping point this year:
Justin (#1 falling boy, with help from a rocky year for singer Justin Bieber)
Alyssa (#4 falling girl)
Sean (#2 falling boy)
B. One-Year Wonders. A short-term burst of media exposure -- perhaps a headline newsmaker, reality tv contestant, or telenovela heroine -- can send a name shooting up the charts. But unless the name strikes a deep fashion chord, it's likely to fall back to earth almost as quickly.
This year's One-Year Wonders:
Litzy (#1 fastest-falling girl's name; last year's #3 fastest riser)
Perla (#2 falling girl; last year's #23 riser)
Adley (#3 falling girl; last year's #2 riser)
C. Sibling Rivalry. Multiple variations of a name can rise together. Sometimes they continue on in popularity together, but often one version takes control as the others recede. For instance, in the years 2002-3 roughly equal number of boys were named Jaden and Jayden. But Jayden alone continued to soar toward the top of the charts, and is now considered the standard form of the name. Similarly, when a name starts to decline its non-standard spelling variants usually fall first, and fastest.
Names losing sibling rivalries this year:
Masen (#3 falling Boy; Mason declined more slowly)
Bently (#4 falling boy; Bentley declined more slowly)
Sophie (#5 falling girl; Sophia declined only slightly and Sofia rose)
For more on this year's movers and shakers, see:
Fastest-Rising Boys' Names of 2013
Fastest-Rising Girls' Names of 2013
Beyond the top 1,000: Fastest-Rising Rare Names
The 1,000 Top Baby Names of 2013 (with 2012 comparison rankings)
The top 1,000 names for boys and girls are where trends happen. But fascinating stories lurk outside of the top 1,000, too, and sometimes these rare names can point to broader themes.
This year, the fastest-rising rare boys' names all line up to point in one direction. It's the exact same direction that their more popular counterparts pointed. Those popular top risers were:
Well, take a look at the biggest movers outside the top 1,000:
Whew. At that point the list takes a break for Zylen and Brennin...then returns to form with Jaecion and J'cion. I don't think there can be any doubt about the hottest sound for boys in 2013.
Other notable risers: Gambit, MyKing, Lamaj (Jamal backwards, presumably on the model of the more common Semaj.)
The girls' list, in contrast, is a smorgasbord of styles from various corners of popular culture:
#1 Tahiry: Tahiry Jose is a popular star of the reality tv series Love and Hip Hop. Her official cast bio begins with the words "Voluptuous urban model," and if you're not familiar with her work you might want to Google her away from your workplace.
#2 Vanellope: This name was intended as a joke, but oh what a stylish joke it turned out to be! In the movie Wreck-It-Ralph, Vanellope Von Schweetz is character from the candy-ful world of the video game "Sugar Rush." Her first name is a humorously artful blending of vanilla + Penelope. And now it's the name of 63 baby girls.
#3 Janney: Janney Marin is a reality tv star (of Chiquis & Raq-C) and the daughter of popular singer Jenni Rivera, who died in a plane crash in 2012. Rivera's full name was Dolores Janney Rivera.
Other notable risers: Kree, Rebel, Nyx
We live in a world of 500 cable channels: entertainment custom-tuned to your personal interests. More and more, baby name style is going the same way. There's not just one current style but many, and names that seem over-trendy in one neighborhood may be totally unknown in another.
The fastest-rising* girls' names in the year all sport different styles, and the queen of them all is a very literal representation of the richness of your cable dial.
#1 Daleyza. (#585, up from #3,769) America has been struck by Larrymania! It's a reality tv series, following the personal life of popular singer Larry Hernandez. If you've missed it, Larrymania airs on Spanish-language cable station mun2, a junior sibling of Telemundo. Tune in and and you'll learn that Mr. Hernandez has an adorable little daughter named Daleyza. (P.S. at the end of 2013, Daleyza's little sister Dalary was born. Just a thought for the future, Baby Name Pool entrants!)
#2 Everly. (#383, up from #907) This name has been a regular on the "Why Not?" list in my book, which collects little-used names with top style potential. Everly hits multiple targets: it's a surname with fashionable sounds. It's a classic rock & roll name, via the Everly Brothers. And it's an "off with their heads" name that freshens up a familiar name by, well, decapitating it. As Addison is to Madison, so Everly is to Beverly. This year, actor Channing Tatum put Everly over the top when he gave the name to his daughter.
#3 Sadie. (#50, up from #120) Few names have undergone such a dramatic image makeover as Sadie. To your parents, Sadie probably conjures up either Sadie Hawkins Day or an old-fashioned Jewish lady. But Sadie has become a fast-rising hit by appealing to two different audiences. To traditional namers, Sadie matches the nostalgic sweetness of names like Lily and Sophie. (It's a traditional nickname for Sarah.) And to creative namers -- especially Southerners who relate to the hit reality tv series Duck Dynasty, which features a Sadie -- it adds a sassy old-time kick to names of the Macy and Hadley family.
#4 Kendra. (#187, up from #387) This name bucks the trends. By the standards of today's vowels-first fashion, it's a heaping helping of consonants. It's also an uncommonly resiliant name, a 1980s hit that keeps fading but then finding new bursts of life. More than once that new spark has come from Playboy model-turned reality tv star Kendra Wilkinson, who has had a remarkably resiliant career hersef. This time jewelry designer Kendra Scott (also an occasional tv personality) helped out.
#5 Penelope. (#56, up from #125) Penelope is the hottest classic of the moment. It has a celebrity standard-bearer in actress Penelope Cruz, and has been chosen by Hollywood parents from Tina Fey to Kourtney Kardashian. The name's own distinctive galloping rhythm, though, is the real draw. Its appeal is powerful enough that it has even drawn the Baby Boomer nickname Penny back into the top 1,000 for the first time in decades.
* Rising names calculated with the Baby Name Wizard hotness formula, which balances the percentage rise with absolute number of names affected.