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
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.

March 19, 2014 11:05 AM

AlaskaKate -- re commas, my apologies, that seems to be a bug in the current build of the Expert Voyager! We'll fix it asap.

March 7, 2014 10:31 AM

CGDH and Miriam, to my surprise neither Ryder nor Marlin came up in any of the discussions I looked at on firearms websites. Ryder in particular seemed like a slam dunk, but apparently air rifles aren't quite so name-worthy.

January 17, 2014 06:47 AM
In Response to "Bell" Epoque

Elizabeth T. wrote: "The -bel names are not on the list, so Isabel, Isobel, Christabel, Jezebel, etc. are not included."

Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes, there are 43 more names with "bel," no second L. They include Jazabel, Crisbel and Yarisbel along with many more conventional choices. One reason I left them off this list is that they also include more unstressed "bel" syllables -- e.g. Ebelyn & Ebelin -- which seems like a different story. (Probably Ebelyn reflects the Spanish pronunciation of v?)


ej2557, maybe I should emphasize more that the 1972 "Magic" names I presented are only the subset that were most popular, since rare names are at less risk of being tied to their time period:

"below on the left are the "Magic" names from that period that were also popular names, ranking in the top 100 for boys or girls. That makes them part of the sound of their times. "

If anyone's curious, here are the current Magic names that rank in today's top 100, as a better comparison set to the 1972 list:

GIRLS: Charlotte, Amelia, Leah, Audrey, Claire, Caroline, Naomi, Molly

BOYS: Benjamin, Julian, Oliver, Samuel (Max and Miles just miss the cut)

Statistically, I'd expect that popular names are at greatest risk of falling out of the "freshness" screen, and rare names at greatest risk of fallingout of the "timeless" screen. It might be interesting to look at that more closely.



HungarianNameGeek, I tried a number of variations but kept returning to a simple measure of absolute popularity.

It seems like our perception of past usage is pretty accurate as a reflection of how many people bore *that name*, regardless of where the frequency ranked in a given time period.

July 12, 2013 06:33 PM

Miriam wrote: "Considering that 100% of the examples are virtue names (including many new popular), is that (interest in virtue names) perhaps the trend, rather than -ty as a suffix?"

I'm not sure that I agree about that 100% -- I don't think of names like Royalty, Dynasty and Infinity as "virtue names" per se! There's certainly a rise in positive meaning names in general, though.

I think there's an interaction of meaning and sound, because the -nce virtue names (e.g. Patience, Constance, Prudence, Temperance, Providence) haven't scaled the same heights as Serenity and friends -- despite the rise of the non-virtue name Cadence.

July 3, 2013 06:26 AM

Elizabeth T wrote: "Can the effect of our access to data be teased out?"

I am completely convinced that the availability of name statistics is shaping the statistics! Rankings make us competitive, and I've referred in the past to a "reverse arms race" in baby names, where everybody is striving to NOT be number one.

Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to tease out the specific effect of the stats, because of a coincidence of timing: National baby name statistics were created in 1996, at pretty much the same moment as the rise of the internet as a mass medium. Like the popularity rankings, the internet has had the effect of inflating parents' perception of name popularity and making them try harder to be unique.

July 3, 2013 06:19 AM

JnHsMom wrote: "I'm a little confused by these posts, because I could have sworn that in previous posts you said it was a false perception that a name like Emma was heavily influenced by the Friends baby-that it was already rising for style reasons."

Good point, I should clarify. I have indeed corrected people who have said "Oh, Emma got popular because of Friends, right?" That's not the case. Emma was already soaring up the charts, bound for the top, and was exactly the kind of name that real-life parents in the "Friends" demographic would have chosen. A decade later, it's still just as popular.

BUT, the Friends usage did give Emma an immediate boost, so it rose as much in that 1 year as it had been rising over the the course of 3 years.

That's exactly the kind of celebrity influence that affects the largest total number of babies: a high-profile boost to an already super-fashionable name. But as the Deanna/Miley graph shows, the Golden Age names come out ahead if you look at brand new celebrity-created names trends, too.

June 20, 2013 06:36 AM

"The definition of cowboy and the demarcation between cowboy and hayseed is highly subjective."

Absolutely. And in the end, I think that's exactly the point: that "biblical" has become a category defined increasingly by subjective style rather than objective origin. (You'd be astonished at the number of reporters who have been surprised to hear from me that names like Michael, James, and even Jacob are "biblical.")

Even the role of historical examples is very much about perception. In reality, Levi Strauss was a German Jew who became a successful dry goods wholesaler, while American-born Abner Blackburn zig-zagged the Old West discovering gold, helping to build the Mormon Church, and fighting in the Mexican War. But Levi, not Abner, represents the rugged western biblical/antique style favor.

June 19, 2013 05:56 PM

"Current namers have barely scratched the surface of biblical names. There is no risk of running out any time soon"

Certainly, there are plenty more names of Biblical *origin*. It's at the intersection with biblical *style* that things tighten up.  A name doesn't hit the mark unless it has a recognizeable biblical-antique style that's more cowboy than hayseed. (Or rabbi. Even in this age of Christian Joshuas and Ethans, we don't see a lot of kids named Abraham or Moses.)