Laura Wattenberg


Laura Wattenberg

About Me

I'm the creator of and author of The Baby Name Wizard, the in-depth "field guide to baby names." I've spent the past decade studying the names we give our children -- to help parents find their perfect names, and to understand what name trends tell us about our society. If you've come to this page looking for a way to contact me, please use the "contact" link at the very bottom of the page. Thanks!

My Favorite Names
My Recent Blog Comments
February 15, 2018 03:20 PM

An official tip of the cap to you, Karyn! (And thanks for spotting the wayward column header, all fixed now!)

February 6, 2018 08:08 AM

Thanks to everyone who caught typos in the names! One of the difficulties in writing about names is that spell-checkers are essentially useless. It's especially hard when a name starts the same as a common word, and my typing fingers want to complete it that way. I really have to force my hands to type "Tuesdee" or even "Londyn."

January 24, 2018 03:38 PM

There's no question that fictional "siblings" do slip in. In cases where the name is unusual and has a strong pop culture example, they can definitely skew the cloud. For more popular names, the real sibs generally push them to the side.

Another issue is that users occasionally mistake the sibling entry field for a search field! If you see variations of the target name in a sib cloud, that's usually the reason.

So the clouds are far from perfect, but nonetheless I think they're an amazing resource.

January 18, 2018 05:54 PM

@EVie FYI the list may be skewed OT because I left off a number of NT names that are also familiar from other classical figures (e.g. Cyrus, Titus, Gaius), and it's hard to separate the biblical trend from the classical trend. I think the divide is more along style lines than Old Testament/New Testament.

As the graph in this past post shows, OT names are declining overall too:


January 5, 2018 10:18 AM

@IraSass, excellent point -- that was supposed to be "O" names, not Old! :) Thanks for catching it, I've corrected the post.

November 10, 2017 08:39 AM

@Quiara, Paris definitely has multiple origins, as a lot of place names do. (E.g. Aspen is as much a nature name as a place name.) I know a couple of Greek men named Paris, and I agree that in their cases I don't think of it as a place name per se.

But I think the city of Paris is by far the biggest influence on the style of the American name Paris, especially for girls. The fact that its popularity tracks closely with the popularity of the name London is a sign of that.

It's interesting to compare the style of Paris to other mythological/classical + Shakespearean names like Theseus, Silvia, Portia, Claudius, Titus, Hermione, etc. Each one has its own balance of dominant associations, sometimes literary, sometimes historical, sometimes something else altogether!

October 28, 2017 07:27 AM

Karyn, my conscience was plaguing me. I went back and rebuilt the table sans the offending names.

October 27, 2017 06:08 AM

Karyn, I agree that a few of the double-t endings look sketchy, especially Cabott. I tried to err on the side of inclusivity in cases where no spelling has ever been established as a baby name, but you're right that Cabot is established on a broader cultural level. (Especially here in Massachusetts, where I live!)

I'd be tempted to edit out one or two of the worst offenders, were it not an intractable HTML table. :)  Maybe I could just leave a mysterious blank space, or a [NAME REDACTED]?


August 23, 2017 12:18 PM
August 16, 2017 03:57 PM

@TheOtherHungarian, Emma and Olivia are the 2 names that meet the 1% criterion today -- but even those just barely make it at 1.01%. Zero is coming on the girls' side, too.

As for the number of names, it's definitely interesting. In the earlier years you had a few monster hits (John and William both >8% in 1880!), then later the popularity spread out more to a pool of top names.

July 21, 2017 09:17 AM

@RosieMac, Scarlett/Letty would be a perfect pairing today! In the early 1900s when Letty was at its peak, though, it wouldn't have been likely. The name Scarlett was essentially unknown before Gone With the Wind.

July 16, 2017 06:01 PM

@sarasmirks, thanks for your insights! I absolutely agree that there's a Greg/Todd/Kyle set of male comedy names, but I have the impression that they'reused someone differently from the everywoman Linda and Karen. Todd is a particular kind of guy -- probably a guy who wears polo shirts and has worked in sales. Note that the popularity of the name Todd peaked at #28, Linda was the #1 name of an entire decade and thus much more of an everywoman.

One other pattern I noticed is that when the comic foil is referred to as a girlfriend rather than wife she instantly loses a generation off her age and becomes Jessica, or occasionally Jen.




July 7, 2017 10:20 AM

Thanks for the head's up -- obviously the string "sex" has to be accepted on a discussion of names! Something must have changed behind the scenes, I'll try to track it down. (But as for text filters not helping, you'd be astonished at what this comment section would look like without some pretty draconian anti-spam controls. The press of spammers is vast and relentless, and they're a moving target!)


@Miriam, consider the sibling naming case. If parents already have a son named Miles and are looking for a second boy's name, they're likely to look for "more names like Miles" -- but they'll want to match the style and NOT the sound. A name like Jules will usually be rejected as too close or "matchy-matchy," whereas a non -s name like Graeme could be a better fit.

When I put together match/sibling/"more like this" lists I purposely try to include a range of options that match different aspects of the starter name. It may make the list look less thematically pure, but it's more helpful for these real-life family situations. (For example, my current computer model says that the best matches for Jayden are Brayden, Kayden, Jaylen, Cayden and Aiden. That may be accurate, but not very helpful in terms of idea generation!)


Miriam, the target isn't a category per se so much as a style/feeling match.

In general, categories are easier for parents to research. If you know that you're looking for, say, an Irish saint's name, you can just look up a list of Irish saints. The search for "more names like X" is trickier, especially since people have a lot of trouble articulating exactly what appeals to them about a name. (Inevitably they fall back on "it sounds strong.")

June 1, 2017 07:06 AM

@Emily.ei, I don't doubt that these choices are intended as bold statements of faith by some parents, but there are a lot of signs that overall, the assertively biblical style is mostly about fashion. For instance, names of biblical villains (Delilah, Jezebel, Judas, etc.) are rising fast too, along with "biblicized" names that tack Bible-styled endings onto new roots. And a lot of the bible-forward names like Ezekiel are most popular in areas with notably low church attendance.

May 12, 2017 12:46 PM

Sure, it's square root of the absolute change in frequency, times the percentage change


(sqrt |2016-2015|) * (2016-2015)/2015N

For posts on the top risers and fallers, I only include name with top-1000 impact.

April 3, 2017 11:25 AM

novemberrember, Rosemary was definitely on the list but somehow disappeared in the cut-and-paste process! Thanks for mentioning it, I've put the name back in.

March 22, 2017 10:55 AM

Definitely -- there are lots of ways that a person's appearance can reflect their culture and background without subconscious self-transformation is required.

I'm thinking more and more that I should write this column!

March 22, 2017 08:05 AM

That's interesting about JPSP -- I guess nobody's immune to the desire to make headlines.

The good news is that the two proposed mechanisms to explain the result should be testable. Scrub the faces of hair, clothes etc. and try again? Or how about this: repeat the experiment using faces of military personnel who are issued regulation clothing and haircuts. That would let you retain natural photos as stimuli but eliminate the confounding variables.