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
November 24, 2015 05:40 AM

Hi all, I appreciate your thoughtful comments as always, and I wanted to join in on the discussion of the name ISIS.

Last year's Name of the Year was an uncomfortable decision. I had two finalists:

1. A name of a major terrorist organization on a horrific murder spree. Would it be insensitive or inappropriate to declare that the "name of the year" on a baby names website?

2. A funny little pop culture/social media phenomenon. Would it be insensitive or inappropriate to declare THAT the "name of the year" when so many of the other candidates were matters of life and death?

In the end I turned back to the core criteria. The deciding factor was that the ISIS name story wasn't fundamentally about *personal names*. 

Even when the Baby Name Wizard NOTY is attached to a product, like Siri, or isn't exactly a name, like The Situation, the story here is always about personal names. Note that this is different from the American Name Society, which has cited names like Salish Sea, Fiscal Cliff and H1N1.

With ISIS, the fact that there are some people named Isis didn't seem like the heart of the story. And this year, as the debate about what to call the organization has taken on complex new layers, the issue has moved even farther from personal naming -- and farther from BNW's domain.

Of course, you may not agree. Feel free to tell me so! :)

Thanks again,



October 9, 2015 07:15 AM

Elizabeth, we must be the same age because my earliest political memory is of a bunch of grownups talking about "Watergate" while I tried to imagine what a gate for water would look like! So no, no Nixon for me, either.

I'm pretty confident that the use of the baby name is totally apolitical, just like the way the name Kennedy is most popular in red states. It's familiar 2-syllable -n name with an x in it, that's enough for many parents.

October 8, 2015 05:39 PM

Megan, that makes sense to me too but surprisingly Nixon is the most popular name on the list!

October 7, 2015 07:46 PM

Holey, I did experiment with different approaches, and one thing that leaps out when you focus on rarer names is the influence of political and military leaders on names a century ago. I kept running into heroes of the Spanish American war, William McKinley's vice president, etc. I'll definitely think about that approach for a future timeline!

September 4, 2015 02:09 PM

A dog named Kenneth! This rocks my world!! They should go with Glenn for a cat.

September 4, 2015 11:10 AM

Nedibes, my family was put off by the pig obsession as well. (Honestly, you'd think Kermit would have learned his lesson from that first dysfunctional porcine relationship.)

IMO all attempts to recapture Jim Henson's magic have missed the key thread of subversive, unpredictable weirdness.


August 5, 2015 06:59 AM

Cleveland Kent Evans, that's a terrific point about screenwriters exposing the country to the baby name tastes of their own set. In the past, it was an open question whether the resulting name trends reflected the perceived high status of the names, or simply the effect of mass exposure. IMO reality tv has largely answered that question. Parents are just as willing to pick up a new name from Teen Mom, Duck Dynasty or Love & Hip Hop as from a character named by the Hollywood elite.

May 18, 2015 07:17 PM

Burriol, how could I have neglected My Little Pony names? A travesty! Rarity is a great example (though many -ity names have been used lately -- Amity, Unity, Divinity, etc.)

May 18, 2015 07:09 PM

Weatherly, does that mean I managed to sound knowledgeable about all those characters? As the true geeks would say, "Achievement Unlocked!" :)

(Truth be told, my only real fandom is names -- and Baby Name Wizardry is all about research!)

April 27, 2015 12:51 PM

KellyXY, my guess is that Taylor (M) still has plenty of falling to do. I suspect that it's not just the absolute gap between male and female popularity that matters, it's the ratio of usage. Once a name hits a certain point -- perhaps 80% female? -- it starts to be perceived as feminine rather than androgynous, and male usage trends to zero. We'll see!

March 12, 2015 09:18 AM

Some belated answers to questions above:

"DO we find sterm women as unfriendly as murderous men? In other words, if you listed the ten least friendly names regardless of gender, would they be an equal mix of these two lists, or would one gender or the other predominate?"

 -- The score range was surprisingly equal across sexes.

"If you left out Bellatrix and Sherlock for rarity and association with a particular character, why did Draven and Leonidas make the list?"

-- Draven and Leonidas make the cut because they're both top-1,000 ranked baby names. Over the past 5 years government stats count 1,571 American boys named Draven, 1,270 named Leonidas, and just 6 named Sherlock.

January 14, 2015 02:18 PM

Thank you, Miriam. I'll make adjustments.

November 22, 2014 11:41 AM

Miriam, I left off Verne because it strikes me as very different on paper vs. spoken aloud. "Verne" may be steampunk, but "VERN" is not, IMO. I'm curious for others' opinions, though!

November 7, 2014 05:16 AM

ozy wrote: "I read that there are proportionally more "Diane"s in positions of power than the general population..."

You might even have read that right here! :)

I'd definitely put Diane/Diana on a "strong female names" list, for its combo of present-day and mythological power.

November 6, 2014 07:39 PM

MelissaM, that's a great challenge! It's a little tricky since "strong" can be in the eye of the beholder. But I'll definitely work on it, and I'm curious for everyone's nominations. Strong female names, anybody?

July 11, 2014 05:24 AM

Saraahphim, thank you for catching that! 100 club for girls will be up next!


p.s. a global take on "names of the nameless" is coming soon!


"Joe the Plumber" is a great flashback to our 2008 Name of the Year


Re: combining spellings, I'd love to but it turns out to be impossible in practice.

First off, there aren't clear lines where one name ends and another begins. For instance, Adan is sometimes an alternate spelling of Aidan, and sometimes the Spanish form of Adam pronounced ah-DAHN. Do you lump Jarod with Jared or J'Rod? (Remember, the SSA strips out punctuation and internal capitals.) And to some people Carrie, Kari and Kerri are three spellings of the same name, while to others they have three distinct pronunciations.

Then there's the question of how to implement the combining. Manually is impossible; the NameVoyager alone tracks 6,000 names, and there are tens of thousands of rarer names for completeness. And as Ronald mentioned, automated solutions are ham-handed, e.g. treating Eden and Edna as the same name.

FWIW I use the Expert version of the NameVoyager to approximate this function. You can tell it to graph any set of names you want -- for instance, for Jackson/Jaxon:

All boys' names starting with J and ending with N, with either an X or a K inside.

March 20, 2014 03:05 PM

Elbowin wrote:

"I wonder whether the results about the variant o spellings are really robust. There are only very few popular names with variant o spellings, the raise and fall of only one of them changes the picture radically.

And there are the false friends (for this argument) Chloe and Zoe where the -oe ending is not a variant o spelling."

Fair questions, I'm glad you asked! First, I should make clear that the charts of "o-sounding names ending in other letters" show exactly that -- names with a final o *sound*, NOT Chloe and Zoe.

Second, the change is not driven by any single name but by a group of simultaneous risers with varied final letters (e.g. Harlow, Shiloh, Monroe). Overall, significantly more girls now get a sounds-like-o name than an -o name.

Finally, I realize that I actually undercounted the phenomenon! I neglected some possible endings, such as Margot and Margaux. (Thanks, Elizabeth!) I'll make a postscript to the post.