Seven names with a "bel" ending, from Annabelle to Mabel, rank among the top thousand names for American girls. Does that exhaust all the possibilities? Not by a long shot. A host of "bels"—and other popular name endings—are waiting to be discovered among the name choices of past generations.
The name statistics of the 1880s-1920s feature hundreds of names with fashionable suffixes. I searched for currently rare girls' names ending in -belle/-bel, -ora and -ia, discarding options that stepped too far outside current fashion bounds. (Sorry, Vernabelle. And an extra-double sorry to Splendora, a one-hit wonder of 1923.)
The 49 options below include some throwbacks, some curiosities, and a few names so modern-sounding that it's surprising we don't see them more often. Among them, you may find a fresh alternative to a popular favorite. Annabelle and Alexandria, get ready to meet Evabelle and Arcadia.
In May, the U.S. government will release its annual baby name statistics and I will post the new top 20 name list in this space. It's the most exciting naming day of the year, my profession's Superbowl Sunday. But how much does that top 20 list really mean?
The answer is "less and less every year." The top 20 names represent the points of agreement and commonality in our baby name culture, and agreement and commonality are going out of style. The driving force behind current name trends is the desire to be different. Take a look at the percentage of babies receiving a top 20 name over time:
Through the 1960s, the top 20 names covered between a third and a half of all American babies. Back then, a top-20 list would have given you a pretty solid snapshot of name style. Today, the portion of babies covered by a top 20 list is just one in eight, and falling.
The new top 20 is not just a smaller snapshot, but a potentially a misleading one. For instance, the top names of the 1960s, Michael and Lisa, were broadly popular across ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic lines. Today, it's easier for names to rise up the ranks by appealing primarily to a particular demographic or region. What's more, the lifecycle of hit names is getting shorter. When style is about rapid change and individuality, focusing on the ever-shrinking points of consensus leads us away from the real story.
This isn't to say that name stats aren't informative. They have a great deal to tell us about our whole society's attitudes, values and obsessions. We just have to cast a broader net, looking at samples and shifts in addition to summaries. I'll still be posting the new top 20 name list the moment it's released this May, but I'm going to post other ways of tracking style as well. I'll be talking about the median or "average" names, the risers and fallers, the brand-new names, and the top names in each state. That kind of array now paints a far clearer picture than the top of the charts. In today's fashion, consensus itself is an outlier.
When you first watched Game of Thrones, did you notice the name Arya? Has it struck you that you know young boys named Emmett, Wyatt and Everett? Would you be surprised to meet a new baby named Karen? Or, perhaps, do you just think about every baby name you hear, silently judging its style?
If so, you have an ear out for name trends. It’s time to put that to use.
The 13th annual Baby Name Pool is a trend-spotting contest. Entering is simple: just come up with three names that you think rose in popularity last year, and three that you think fell. That’s it. In May, when the official U.S. baby name statistics are released, we’ll tally up the ballots and announce the top name spotters here.
If you haven't played before, you can read more details and check out the fastest rising (boys, girls) names of the previous year to get a sense of how name fashions operate. Then convince your friends and coworkers to enter and compete against you. (If you’d like to form your own sub-pool with bragging rights for your group champion, drop me a line!)
All entries must be received by April 30, 2018.
Ready to go? Fill out your ballot now!