You think you know baby name trends? Even if you have a keen ear for style, some of today's rising hits might surprise you.
I've assembled a cross-section of names of different styles which are sneaking up in popularity. While many may be familiar to you, I'll bet that most are far more popular than you would have guessed. For perspective, I've included a selection of well-known names which rank below each on the U.S. top-1000 name charts.
Nixon (M) #512 (Ahead of: Frederick, Wade, Winston)
Here's solid evidence that in modern baby names, style comes first. Nixon has a great sound, a trim surname built around the super-hot letter x. Unfortunately, it's also the name of a U.S. president who resigned in disgrace. For a generation of parents born long after Watergate, that's clearly not a deal breaker.
King (M) #163 (Ahead of: Colin, Patrick, Kyle)
King isn't a new name. Back in the early 1900s it was modestly common, but nothing like this. Over the past dozen years we've seen the name explode, up from 70 newborn Kings per year to a whopping 2,540. King is leading a wave of exalted names that includes Royal (#465), Legend (#392) and Messiah (#243).
Collins (F) #704 (Ahead of: Claudia, Dorothy, Elisabeth)
A surname ending in s for a boy – Jennings, Evans, Travers – is pure preppy starch. On a girl, though, it's uncharted waters. Until recently, no s surname had ever come close to the girls' top 1000. Collins has changed that, leaping up from obscurity thanks to Collins Tuohy, the adoptive sister of football player Michael Oher seen in the film "The Blind Side." Tuohy was given a family surname in classic Southern fashion, and parents who saw the movie liked the style.
Hazel (F):#63 (Ahead of: Maya, Taylor, Kylie)
Hazel is the queen of the "quirky classic names." Its contrarian style is a key part of its charm. Now here's the alt darling, outpacing many supposedly mainstream hits without losing its own identity. Apparently you can stand out while fitting in.
Axl (M) #761 (Ahead of: Chad, Harry, Gerald)
If you just liked the sound of this name, you'd go with the traditional spelling Axel. Dropping the e makes it a pure rock-and-roll tribute to Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose. Axl's popularity has tripled since singer Fergie chose the name for her son, causing parents around the country to realize "OMG, we could actually do that!"
Athena (F) #157 (Ahead of: Rachel, Amy, Rose)
There's hardly a more powerful, classic name than the ancient goddess of wisdom and war. Traditionally it was considered a little over-powered for an English-speaking human, though. That has changed in a hurry: the name has doubled in popularity just in the past five years.
Serenity (F) #71 (Ahead of: Katherine, Ashley, Bella)
This nouveau virtue name started rising in the '90s due to a character on the animated series Sailor Moon. It then got a second boost from the spaceship Serenity of "Firefly." So you might not be surprised that the name has become more popular…but did you guess this popular?
Giovanni (M) #130 (Ahead of: Alex, Everett, George)
You can't ask for a more classic name than Giovanni in Italy, where it's the local form of John. The name was always a tougher sell to English speakers because its sound and spelling are far from the English classics. (It's traditionally three syllables, jo-VAHN-nee.) Today Giovanni follows in the footsteps of names like Dante as an Italian-to-English crossover hit.
Hattie (F) #488 (Ahead of: Michaela, Raven, Holly)
Once upon a time, there were a ton of these names: Ettie, Lottie, Mittie, Nettie, Ottie and even Zettie were common in the 1800s. But only Hattie, as in Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel, has made a sudden comeback. It was originally a nickname for Harriet, which is rising more slowly.
Leonidas (M) #519 (Ahead of: Jakob, Casey, Raphael)
Leonidas is a classic Greek name, which doesn't sound so surprising. What's surprising is that it's suddenly being chosen by hundreds of American families of all ethnicities in honor of the ancient Spartan King Leonidas, who died at the Battle of Thermopylae. The name's popularity has risen by 2800% since that battle was brought to life in the movie "300."
Maximus (M) #197 (Ahead of: Paul, Jake, Finn)
Leonidas wasn't enough ancient machismo for you? Then turn the dial up all the way with Maximus, the hero of the film "Gladiator." Unlike Leonidas in 300, Maximus was a purely fictional character. His name, though, is an ancient Roman family name and well suited to an action hero of any era.
Ember (F) #366 (Ahead of: Camilla, Veronica, Megan)
No, not Amber, the 1980s mainstay. Ember, as in the last glowing fragment of a dying fire. Give the earlier name credit for making this one sound natural for a girl. You can think of it as a red-hot update on Amber's golden glow.
Harvey (M) #439 (Ahead of: Alec, Donald, Scott)
Harvey was a hot name a century ago when its sound fit in alongside hits like Irving and Marvin. That sound has been a tough sell in recent decades, and Harvey all but vanished. Now it's back, suddenly leaping up into the top 500 even as similar-sounding names continue to languish.
Jaxson (M) #86 (Ahead of Zachary, Jason, Nathaniel)
If you're into baby names, you may have watched the presidential surname Jackson morph into action-minded Jaxon, a top-50 hit fueled by the desirable letter x. What you might not realize is that the hybrid spelling Jaxson ranks in the top 100 as well.
Malaysia (F) #438 (Ahead of: Julie, Brittany, Maeve)
Geographical baby names typically take their style from the place they represent. This name, though, seems to be all about sound. It has become an African-American favorite with an assist from "Basketball Wives LA" star Malaysia Pargo.
Knox (M) #258 (Ahead of: Seth, Martin, Reid)
This is a celebrity-sparked name that took off when actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt chose it for a son. And of course, it has the "x" power so many parents are looking for. Yet it's still an unlikely hit. No kname – sorry, name – starting with a silent consonant has ever been knearly so popular.
The City of Lights boasts a reputation that rivals every other on the planet - its beautiful architecture, cutting-edge style, and rich history make it a source of inspiration for countless artists and writers. Another, less-popular Parisian export? Sophisticated, feminine baby names!
The following names made the top 200 in Paris in 2015, but are relatively obscure on American shores. They’re melodic and multisyllabic, familiar but not faddish. If you like classic, elegant French names, check out this list for uncommon finds.
Louise. Refined and unassuming, Louise has long been a favorite in English-speaking countries. It’s been more fashionable than retro Louisa in the past, but hasn’t ranked in the US since 1991. Nickname Lulu provides another attractive feature. Could this pretty choice ride Louis’ coattails into greater use?
Romane. Reminiscent of handsome Roman and polished Simone, Romane still has its own unique personality. Though it can shorten to adorable Romy, its length and sonority allow it to grow along with the wearer. One drawback: to many English speakers, it will sound like a variety of lettuce. On the other hand, Kale is on the rise!
Valentine. Pronounced in French as “Val-on-TEEN,” it will be said more like “Val-en-TYNE” in a majority of the United States. Either way, this romantic choice has a friendly attitude about it. Valentin and Valentino rank in the top 1000 for boys, but the feminine Valentine has yet to reach the same popularity.
Clemence. Now that Southern belle Clementine has begun to multiply, might its French cousin Clemence attain notice? Both names come from the Latin root clemens meaning “gentle;” fitting, since Clemence’s soft sound is another positive trait. Nickname Clem is clunky-but-cool as well.
Apolline. Though the name comes from the Greek god of the sun, Apolline has also been worn in Christian circles via its connection to an historic saint. Its melody is similar to Adeline or Caroline, but it’s more poetic and sophisticated. If the long form is too much for daily use, try Polly or Lina.
Mathilde. While Matilda has become mainstream in much of the United Kingdom and Australia, it has not amassed such a following in the United States. However, refreshingly different Mathilde, with a harder tone and headstrong vibe, could appeal to parents who like confident imported names like Ingrid or Adelaide.
Victoire. Could any variant of beloved Victoria ever reach its same popularity rank? Bright and beautiful Victoire is one such contender. It’s been growing in Paris over the past decade, and shows every sign of continuing the climb. Victoire has a winning sound and graceful aura without its sister’s trendy associations.
Margaux. While the established Margot has blossomed in the United States, Parisians prefer this chic, geographic spelling - the village of Margaux has become famous for its wines. Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter also chose this spelling for her name. Margaux is both glamorous and affectionate all in one.
Suzanne. A lovely honorific for a familial Susan, Suzanne is still associated with mid-century fashions for many. Paris, however, has reclaimed it wholeheartedly! It comes from the Hebrew for “lily,” and boasts dozens of namesakes across the globe. Modern nickname Zanne or Zanna will help it relate to today’s name trends, too.
Leonie. Though six masculine Leo names rank in the top 1000, only one feminine form is represented - Leona. Why not try Leonie instead, a vintage option for a leonine little girl? It’s been recorded in the states continually since 1880, but has never become a mainstream choice.
Leonore. This French form of Eleanor is another Leo name for girls; unlike Leonie, it prefers maturity to whimsy and high culture to quirkiness. Still, they work well together in tandem as a full first name and a nickname. Leonore is a royal name in Europe, and a main character in a Beethoven opera.
Constance. Both a Puritan virtue name and a French classic, Constance holds its steadfast connotation regardless of context. It has a plethora of namesakes, from royals to artists to activists, but it’s familiar enough to be recognized without a singular connection. With its inclusion in recent video games and television shows, Constance may achieve more credibility with twentieth-century namers.
Raphaelle. Lyrical and impassioned, Raphaelle calls to mind artistic creations and fashionable individuals. It’s a rarely-used route to nicknames Ella or Ellie; if you’re looking for something different, Rafi and Rae work as well. Raphaelle also has a religious aspect via the eponymous, healing archangel.
Berenice. When The Artist hit American theaters in 2011, audiences were struck by the talented and beautiful actress Berenice Bejo. The name is derived from the same root as Veronica, and pronounced “Beh-reh-NIECE.” While Berenice may be confused with dated Bernice, the extra e adds a lot more oomph to this appealing name.
Celestine. Ethereal and exciting, Celestine adds an extra syllable to delightful Celeste. While it offers a few short form options - Celia, Celie, Tina - the full three syllables connote a more heavenly sound. Though it remained in the top 1000 for about eighty years, it hasn’t ranked since 1963 - could it make a comeback?
Long boys' names ending in o spell romance and elegance: think Alessandro, Lorenzo and Valentino. But the same o ending on a shorter name takes on a different personality. It becomes more playful, full of energy and surprises.
The fun-loving o names are a rising style for American boys. The leader of the pack is Leo, a pint-size throwback that's as lively as a lion cub. It's joined by a rising group of old-time revivals with a similar sense of whimsy. The o energizes names like Milo and Cosmo, but unlike a -y or -ie ending it doesn't emphasize youth. The spirit of these names is ageless.
You can see the revivals' fashion momentum since the year 2000. Take a look at the U.S. popularity of...
Rising alongside these old-fashioned favorites is a new crop of -o names from farther afield. In some cases, the distance is literal. Names like Hiro from Japan and Enzo from Italy are finding a newly receptive American audience. Other lively choices like Ringo and Cairo take their cues from popular culture or place names. The styles vary, but all of them play off the punch of a short name with an -o.
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