Each year, a new crop of names steps in from the fringes to become a significant part of the American name landscape. I mark that transition with a "100 Club": names that reached the threshold of 100 new American babies for the first time last year.
Some of these names will prove to be passing fads that quickly fade. Others, though, are just beginning their climbs and will become fixtures in the schoolyards of tomorrow. Already, four of the names I featured in last year's 100 club (girls, boys) have risen to claim places in the top 1,000 list: Sutton (female), Castiel, Zayn and this year's fastest-rising name Jayceon.
Today I'll introduce the new boys' 100 club. (Stay tuned for the girls!) This is particularly intriguing group, with a biblical bent and some surprisingly deadly choices.
(Note: alternate spellings of more common names are excluded unless the spelling gives the name a distinctly new style and identity.)
The Boys' 100 Club:
Abdullahi (Variant of Abdullah, common in the Horn of Africa. A gradual riser over the past two decades.)
Alaric (5th Century King of the Visigoths! OK, also a vampire hunter in the tv series The Vampire Diaries. So it's a goth name in every sense of the word.)
Ansel (Formerly associated overwhelmingly with photographer Ansel Adams, now rising thanks to actor Ansel Elgort of Divergent and The Fault In Our Stars.)
Aryeh (A biblical name meaning "lion," and part of a major trend toward bible names ending in vowel sounds.)
Bane (The mercenary villain of The Dark Knight Rises; also a word meaning a scourge, curse or poison. A great demonstration of the power of style over meaning.)
Boaz (From the Book of Ruth in the Bible, Boaz features a cool -z ending and the cowboy nickname Bo. This name seems like a strong candidate to rise further.)
Brixton (A district of London, a clothing label, and a wee little step from the popular name Braxton.)
Caius (A Roman name, a saint's name, and now a trendy name thanks to the deadly villain of a recent Final Fantasy video game.)
Dyland (This looks a lot like a Cowboy name – a cross between Western favorites Dillon and Ryland – but actually owes most of its rise to a Puerto Rican reggaeton star.)
Fox (Zippy animal name with many cultural associations, from The X-Files' Fox Mulder to Fox News to Dark Knight character Lucius Fox.)
Keoni (A common Hawaiian name, sometimes called a Hawaiian form of John; pronounced kay-OH-nee.)
Kyden (A tweaking of Kayden that doesn't have as many rhyming names to contend with...yet.)
Lazarus (Two separate biblical figures, one a sore-covered beggar, the other raised from the dead. You might think of Lazarus the point of intersection of this list's Bible and death themes.)
Ledger (Thanks to late actor Heath Ledger, parents hear Ledger as a surname rather than an account book.)
Osiris (The Egyptian God of the Dead, Osiris seems an unlikely baby name choice until you consider the rising popularity of Cyrus. Also a brand of skate shoes.)
Smith (see Wesson, below)
Tadeo (The Spanish form of Thaddeus, featured in the animated film Las Aventuras de Tadeo Jones.)
Truett (Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, who was renowned for building his business on conservative Christian principles, retired in 2013. Note the name's double-t ending.)
Wesson (Firearms brand names Smith & Wesson enter the 100 club hand in hand, demonstrating that the gun name trend is far from over. Twins, anyone?)
Wilder (Has been climbing as an even "wilder" alternative to macho surnames like Hunter and Ryder.)
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.
The Social Security Administration has 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|
|Dist. of Columbia||Charlotte||Sofia||Olivia|
|Most Popular Boys' Names by State, 2013|
|Dist. of Columbia||William||Alexander||Henry|
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: