The 1960’s and 1970’s were full of the first wave of upbeat surfer-dude names, like Brett and Keith, with the 1990’s bringing in a new generation of names like Chad and Brad. These names are popular because of their ability to hit the sweet spot with their masculine sounds, friendly forms, and laid-back auras. Let’s look at modern names giving off “good vibrations”!
Jarrett. This name sounds like a classic, but Jarrett has managed to stay uncommon – even with all the Garrett’s and Jared’s running around. The moniker has a kind and approachable feel, with a lot of strong consonants that assert its masculinity (opposite feminine names like Ava, Aaliyah, etc). Jarrett also has a few nickname options – Jerry, Rett – that can add some vintage flair. The name may take a bit of explaining, but it’s pro’s far outweigh any con’s!
Kit. Fun and energetic, Kit has the short-and-sweet sound that vibes with modern boy trends like Jack and Ben. But there’s definitely a unique kind of playfulness here! Kit was originally a short form of Christopher, which would definitely still work if you’re looking for a more formal first name. I think Kit would be a cute nickname for a little Fox, too! There are plenty of historical namesakes, real and fictional, so your Kit would be carrying on an upbeat legacy.
Lazer. While this name sounds like a modern technological invention, it’s actually a form of the Biblical Eliezer or Lazarus, making Lazer perfect for fans of the old and the new! The name exudes a centered energy – think “laser-cut” or “laser-focused” – but still maintains the laid-back “lazy” connotation. Add these positives to the stylish –er ending and zippy Z sound in the middle, and we have a winning combination!
Leith. No, this isn’t a mistype of Keith or Leif – unusual Leith dates all the way back to medieval times. It comes from the name of a Scottish river, with a second origin being an Arabic word for “lion”. The sound of the name is light and somehow more natural than sturdy Keith, but Leith holds its own with a strong unique personality. It’s cross-cultural background and accessible tone make it a lovely but uncommon option for your little one.
Pace. Both a noun and a verb, this active word name is perfect for a boisterous little boy who “sets the pace” for those around him. Pace fits in with names like Blaise or Tripp, but the soft C in the middle calms the active vibe a bit. Pace has more often been seen as a last name, university, or salsa brand, but it’s uncommon enough to merit its own identity. If you love Jace or Parker but want to try something a bit less known, Pace is for you!
Palmer. This name’s summery sound is two-fold: the first syllable puts palm trees in your mind, and the name is also reminiscent of springtime tennis courts and refreshing drinks (see Arnold Palmer). The name is also occupational – from religious pilgrims who carried palm fronds – but crisper than Parker or Mason. Palmer toes the fine line between a relaxed beachy feeling and a distinguished preppy sound – an excellent compromise!
Scout. Along with related literary name Atticus, Scout has gotten some attention recently surrounding its connections to the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and late author Harper Lee. All publicity aside, Scout is a fantastic name that connotes curiosity and movement, learning and leading. Scout’s friendliness and possible use as an updated version of Scott keep it on this laid-back list, but this name has all sorts of positives that can’t be pinned to one personality.
Seneca. One of the few ends-in-A names on the boy’s lists, Seneca’s origins as both a Native American term and an ancient Roman name prove its ability to work all over the map. Seneca has also come into the spotlight through its use in The Hunger Games, but even that popularity doesn’t tie Seneca to one character for life. Seneca has an understated strength about it, an engaging sound without an overbearing perkiness. Want something well-established but wise? Try Seneca!
Shay. I picked the Shay spelling over the Shea spelling to highlight the soft, vintage sound, but the original has many of the same accessible qualities. Shay is calming but masculine, sturdy but sweet. It’s gotten more use on the girls’ side in recent years, but Shay’s history makes it more than viable for the boys. There’s a bit of a Western twang in Shay, too, which helps it transition from the beach to the country seamlessly.
Sumner. With a down-to-earth feel and a summery sound, Sumner is solid and centered. Like Palmer, it’s a more unusual occupational name, but it maintains an amicable quality that can’t help you feel anything but upbeat. The connection to Fort Sumner in New Mexico adds a little bit of a Southwest vibe, too, but the name is unique enough to stand without context. One possible issue – Sumner may be mistaken for Summer. Quite a bit. I stand by it as a recommendation, though!
Thad. Long-form Thaddeus can be heavy, but the nickname or short-form Thad is perfect for the modern beach boy. It’s a fresh update of Chad, but it keeps the smart and distinguished qualities of its longer original. Thad is also slightly more grown up than adorable Tad, and will transition well from childhood to adulthood. Numerous Thad’s throughout history add to the enticing background of this handsome name!
Vance. A lovely compromise between trendy Van and classic Vincent, Vance is lively but strong. Vance’s history in the top 1000 is admirable – it’s managed to stay recognizable but has avoided the fickle winds of fashion. Recent indie pop musician Vance Joy (born James Keogh) has brought more attention to this name, but Vance has proved itself time and time again to be more than a flash in the pan.
|TOP GIRLS' NAMES BY STATE, 2015|
|TOP BOYS' NAMES BY STATE, 2015|
For boys, Liam ranks #1 in the most states (16) followed by Noah (13) and William (12). It's likely that a good number of those Williams will go by Liam, suggesting that Liam's popularity might be even be greater than its official ranking. Emma is a more universal favorite, ranking #1 in 22 states and making the top 3 in every state except Delaware, Maryland, Nevada and New Mexico.
Some distinctive local flavor: Aurora is uniquely popular in Alaska, suggesting the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), and cowboy classic Wyatt cracks in the top 3 in Montana. Regional favorites include William in the Southeast, Oliver in the upper Midwest and Mia in the Southwest.
More from the most popular names stats:
Hundreds of name-loving people tried to guess the fastest rising and falling names of the year in our annual Baby Name Pool. Only one can be crowned champion. A round of applause for Kat from Seattle, Washington who made these winning predictions:
Kat took a data-focused approach to name trends. In her words, "I used your formula, a little bit of Python magic with the SSA dataset to find out top scorers from last year, and some guesswork to pick my top names." She describes the allure of baby name data: "It's a mix of experience with names, availability of name lists, compromise between parents - what wonderful insight into choices modern parents make."
This year's Name Pool was unusual in that scores were just as high for falling predictions as rising. That's due in large part to the historic drop in the name Isis, which more than a dozen Pool participants predicted. A special tip of the cap to Elizabeth of Toronto, Ontario who pulled off the rare feat of predicting the fastest-falling names for both boys and girls (Jase and Isis).
Elizabeth too understands the joys of a fresh batch of name data. "Every spring for the last ten years or so, I've downloaded the new list of all names given to five or more babies, and spend a few evenings through the year playing around with the data" she says. "That's how I taught myself Excel."
Thank you to all of this year's Pool participants. And it's never too soon to start taking notes for next year's edition!