2005's Hottest, Nottest

May 19th 2006

The fastest rising and falling baby names make up a time capsule of a given year. They show off changing fashions, cultural trends, and even world events. The biggest movers of 2005:


1. Ciara
2. Ava
3. Estrella
4. Danica
5. Sienna
6. Emerson

1. Talan
2. Braylon
3. Leland
4. Amare
5. Landon
6. Johnpaul


1. Hunter
2. Laisha
3. Sheila
4. Jessica
5. Celeste
6. Christian

1. Kanye
2. Ashton
3. Alexis
4. Kyle
5. Colby
6. Justin

Some signs of the times in the rising names: Hot years for R&B star Ciara and auto racer Danica Patrick (as predicted here, I must modestly mention.) Talan, the #1 debut of the year, comes straight from MTV's "Laguna Beach." Pope John Paul II was mourned and remembered.

Falling names seldom have that ripped-from-the-headlines immediacy. Some readers have speculated that Kanye's decline could be linked to rapper Kanye West's tongue-lashing of President Bush. It's possible, but I don't think so -- it's more a case of easy come, easy go. The name Kanye rose out of nowhere in 2004 thanks to West's sudden fame, and it simply settled back down a bit the next year when it (and he) no longer sounded so fresh. Ashton is a similar tale, while names like Alexis and Colby are running away from androgyny and Justin and Jessica have hit the downslope after 30 years of steady popularity.

And now, for the hard-core data hounds out there, the nitty gritty. Where did these lists come from? Warning: statistical discussion to follow. If you couldn't care less about the calculations, feel free to surf on. See you next time for the Baby Name Pool results!

Here were two reasonable candidates for the fastest falling names of the year:

Dropped from 504 born to 200, falling from #488 on the popularity charts to #889.

Dropped from 27,727 born to 25,347, falling from #1 on the popularity charts to...#1.

Kanye's drop in rank was precipitous, but the real effect on the world was relatively modest -- a difference of 304 babies, compared to the whopping 2,380 fewer babies named Jacob. Yet the popularity of Jacob fell by only 9%, and it's still the top dog. What's a fair measure of change that lets you compare common and uncommon names?

After some testing and consultation, I've settled on an official Baby Name Wizard formula for measuring "hotness" of names. It's a simple calculation designed to balance the different measures of change. (If you have a better solution, I'm all ears.)

Hotness formula:

Square root of the absolute change in frequency, times the percentage change
(sqrt |2005N-2004N|) * (2005N-2004N)/2004N

Note: names not present on the top-1000 charts are treated as 2/3 the frequency of the #1000 name of the same sex.

Jacob, incidentally, ranks #11 on the falling boys list, even while retaining its crown as America's favorite name.


By Valerie (not verified)
May 19, 2006 5:17 PM

Not having come across Ciara yet, I'm curious as to how she pronounces her name. The name I know and love is the classic Italian Chiara (pronounced Kiara). It's the Italian version of Cla(i)re, meaning Light. BTW in the UK Clara, another European variant, is on the rise, which I think people are pronouncing Clahra (but in the States I've also heard Claira).

Thanks for all the interesting info, Laura, and also thanks to other readers for all the research. There are so many discussions going on here, that maybe we need a forum??

By Ellie (not verified)
May 19, 2006 5:45 PM

Thank you so much Laura!!! nice job-that must have taken a long time!! it's a shame that Colby is going to the girls i think of it as a very masculine name.

would it be twerribly too much to ask to see the top 15 for both rising and falling (or event the top 10)??

thanks again!!!

By Christiana (not verified)
May 19, 2006 6:29 PM

Anybody notice that Alexis and Colby are soap opera names for GIRLS? (Dynasty used them both, Alexis is on GH and Colby is on AMC)

I can't get over "Emerson" for a girl - always seemed like a boys name to me (Charles Emmerson Winchester, III from MASH). But I guess there is a trend for that as Laura previously noted.

Does Ciara sound too black for a white American family that's mostly Irish/Scottish? I love it, but my mother thinks it's too African-American sounding.

By Claire (not verified)
May 19, 2006 7:13 PM

Thanks, Laura! I'm addicted to your blog and your book. Both are fantastic and I check the blog every morning hoping to find a new entry. When do you expect to have the Baby Name Pool results out? I'm sure it's a lot of work!

By Katie (not verified)
May 19, 2006 8:13 PM

Possible reasons why some of these names have jumped:
-Landon is the baby on MTV's Meet the Barkers
-Teri Hatcher has a daughter named Emerson

By Elizabeth (not verified)
May 20, 2006 1:09 AM

We don't have cable, but even if we did, I'm past the stage in life where I would watch MTV. How does Talan pronounce his name? A friend recently told me she liked the name "Talon" (that's how she pronounced it) for a girl and I was horrified. And I am NOT a name snob. I love hearing new and interesting names. But naming one's daughter after the claws of a bird of prey seems to be a bit much, even for me! Is "Talan" pronounced like that too?

And Laura, you have a way with words. "Hotness formula!" Only true name geeks could get why that's such an appropriate moniker. Thanks for the smile. :),

By Me (not verified)
May 20, 2006 10:37 AM

Christiana, I have a friend called Ciara (Keera) and she's half italian, half irish.

By Emily (not verified)
May 20, 2006 3:03 PM

I was under the impression that it was pronounced “See-air-RA” as in the Sierra Madres or the country Sierra Leone. I guess I just thought ‘Ci’ = ‘S’ as in the word city. Are most people pronouncing it “Keera” with a hard “C” sound?

To me the name is closely related to other land mark names like Sedona, and Savannah. So I don’t think of it as a “black” sounding name . I think Ciara would be perfectly suitable for a little girl of any race.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 20, 2006 3:44 PM

While Emerson made a big leap in 2005--from 902 to 442, it fell substantially in 2004--from 767 in 2003 to 902 in 2004. So overall, the name has gained only from 767 to 442 during the past 2 years.

I think the name is gaining in popularity because of it's similarity to the three top names: Emily, Emma and Madison. IMHO, Emerson is a masculine sounding (ending in 'son')imitation of Emily and Emma. I prefer the originals. I saw a little Emerson at a park last evening: her grandma said they call her "Emmie". I wondered what was 'gained' by not naming her Emily or Emma, both very pretty traditional GIRLS' names.

By Macke (not verified)
May 20, 2006 3:57 PM

As you can tell, my parents chose a strange name for me as well. My husband and I are planning on naming our daughter Emerson and we hope she appreciates it.

By . (not verified)
May 20, 2006 7:45 PM

From behindthename.com:

Gender: Masculine
From a surname meaning "son of EMERY".

I guess everyone feels differently, but I don't think I would appreciate being a girl given a male name meaning "son of" anyone. There are plenty of unusual names out there that are clearly identified as female...I hope those who are trying to give their children different names will consider those rather than using male names on females.

By Lavinia (not verified)
May 20, 2006 7:52 PM

Ciara is originally an Irish name pronounced Keeera. The Sea-ara pronunciation that Ciara the singer uses is not the original pronunciation of the name as far as I'm aware.

By Jennifer (not verified)
May 20, 2006 8:28 PM

I read an article a couple of years ago about the trend of names beginning with vowels. I saw this quite a bit among my own cohorts: Aiden, Emma, Emily, Ella, Owen... and I thought it was pretty interesting.

Laura, or anyone else, I wonder what phonemic trends you're noticing now with this new set of data? Which phonemes are trendy and which are, for whatever reason, now a turnoff?

By Jennifer (not verified)
May 21, 2006 11:01 AM

I have a question about the name Jessica. I've always liked the sound of the name. (and I grew up in the 80's). However, since this name's popularity is falling after being popular for a long time, what do you think about naming a baby this today? i.e., would her name sound "out of sync" -- like she should always be 20+ years older than she is(an old woman to her generation)? Or, is Jessica a new classic that won't go out of style in future years?

By Elly (not verified)
May 21, 2006 5:27 PM

Ciara is a (original?) spelling of the irish name Kiera / Keira (as in Knightley), the feminine version of Ciaran/Keiran etc. There is both a St Ciaran and a St Ciara.
Or so I thought- I had no clue there was an american R&B singer with the name.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 22, 2006 3:08 AM

The name Jessica has been around since 1596 (just looked up the exact date) when Wm. Shakespeare used it in "The Merchant of Venice". Apparently the name wasn't widely used until fairly recently: steadily climbing in use since 1940; making it into the top 100 in 1970; in the top 10 from 1976-2000, and the #1 name from 1985 through 1990 and again from 1993 through 1995. In 2005 the name was declining, but still #27.

In my opinion Jessica is a minor classic name, meaning it has been in use for a long time (Shakespeare may have created the name from the Biblical name Jesca or Iscah)and probably always will be. Currently it's the number 1 name in England/Wales. I think the name may have just the right amount of popularity in the US--no longer in the top 10, but still in frequent use so that there are Jessicas of all ages. If you like the name, why not use it?

By JT (not verified)
May 22, 2006 1:08 PM

As somewhot of a motor head, I noticed a lot of the trendy names are actually or at least variations of car model names. Since most cars are crossed badged under different makes and models in different countries; could this be the next big trend. Maybe a lot of mothers aren't aware of this, but there is a whole treasure trove out there of unique and catchy names. Go to wikipedia and look under cross badging for cars, or any verseas car site from Ford or GM (especially GM). I'll lay a few on you. Corsa, Aveo, Epica, Evanda, Optra, [and these are just the Chevys]. Of couse there's the Sienna, Sierra, Cierra, and all the variations. Reminds me of the Chrysler commercial from a few years ago. {Concorde}. I did hear a name the other day, but can't for the life of me remeber it. But it was a car model, and all I could think of was "like the car/" and it was unique.

By Christiana (not verified)
May 22, 2006 2:33 PM

I think the name Jessica has become a modern (read last 50 years) classic - but I don't think it will "date" your daughter. The nice thing about a popular name that is beginning to fall is a) there won't be 30 million girls in her class/school by that name (I graduated with 3 out of a 50 person class) and b) it won't be so unusual that people will constantly sk her how to spell it, think it's strange, etc. It works. If you like it, go for it.

By Elly (not verified)
May 22, 2006 3:33 PM

I was going over the 'new additions' to the girls' names this morning, one of which is Karol. Karol?! So I did a little more digging, and the use of Carol went up by nearly 20% in 2005, too. What's going on there? I thought like Barbara, Linda and the other mid-century names it was sure to be in decline.

By Molly (not verified)
May 22, 2006 4:04 PM

Karol? Weird. It does have similar sounds & spelling to Kayla/Kiara/Kyra though.

By Stephanie (not verified)
May 22, 2006 4:48 PM

Karol was Pope John Paul's name before he was the pope (Karol Jozef Wojtyla). It is a masculine Polish name. I'm sure that must have some influence.

By Christina (not verified)
May 22, 2006 8:50 PM

Laura, you said in your book that "Arlene" may me mounting to a modest comeback. When I read that, I thought, "Pffff...Arlene? That name isn't comeback material. It's too old to sound interesting, but not old enough to sound quaint."

But sure enough, last year Arlene rose in popularity. Interesting. I guess you were right after all.

By Dana (not verified)
May 23, 2006 1:53 PM

My husband and I have talked about nameing our son (if we have one) Emerson and calling him Sonny for short. That would work for a girl, too.

By Dana (not verified)
May 23, 2006 1:57 PM

My mom's name is Arlee (named after her father Arlo). She grew up HATEING her name. She and I both have encountered little girls with that name recently and we live a fair distance apart. She, of course, is appalled. I think the name is pretty and a little fresher than Arlene.

By Cheryl (not verified)
May 23, 2006 3:20 PM

Emerson is cute, but I like Ellery better.

I wonder what happened to make Sheila fall so quickly?! The rest were either trendy or recently very hot. Seems like Sheila should be doing a gentle slope.

By Kristin (not verified)
May 23, 2006 6:20 PM

To the person above who asked about how Talan is pronounced ... on Laguna Beach, the guy's name was pronounced like TAL-an with two short a sounds and the accent on the first syllable, not with an -on sound like talon. Still, it could be easily mispronounced. I wish I'd thought to vote for that in the baby name pool. Somehow whenever I'd heard it on Laguna Beach, I'd think, "interesting." I guess lots of other folks were thinking the same thing. I imagine it helped that he was a clean-cut, popular boy living in a rich neighborhood.

By Kristin (not verified)
May 23, 2006 6:20 PM

One more comment ... where the heck did Leland come from?

By Abby (not verified)
May 23, 2006 8:13 PM

I have no idea where Leland came from, but Brendan Frasor and his wife just named their third son Leland.

And I'm not a linguist by any means, but these names feel very culturally inspired to me. Hispanic? Italian, maybe?

By Helen (not verified)
May 23, 2006 9:43 PM

So, I just have to ask, how is it that names like Ciara and Danica are rising....but no Oprah??? I figured that would be the name of the century!

By Becky (not verified)
May 23, 2006 11:06 PM

Stephanie, you are correct: "Karol" is the Polish version of the German "Karl" which corresponds to the English "Charles." Pope John Paul was born Karol Wojtyla, and probably all the baby Karols were named in his memory. (I wouldn't be surprised if most of them were here in Chicago.)

The only association I can think of with "Leland" is that Leland Stanford is the namesake of Stanford University.

By JN (not verified)
May 24, 2006 12:26 AM

I think Brendan Fraser might be enough to boost Leland quite a bit. I've been attributing Ava to Reese Witherspoon naming her daughter that. Reese has been in the [celebrity] news a lot this year.

By Abby (not verified)
May 24, 2006 1:10 AM

I think Heather Locklear used Ava first. I figured that's where Reese got it!

By Joni (not verified)
May 24, 2006 3:13 PM

Helen, regarding Oprah... there are some names that are 'owned' by their bearers because one can't hear the name without thinking of the person. Additionally, the name is so owned by that person it's like the rest of us are unwilling to use it, no matter how much we admire the bearer. Other examples are Madonna, Sigfried, Prince and Uma.

To the person who asked about Jessica being dated, yes I ABSOLUTELY think that Jessica is dated for a baby now. Regardless of whether or not it has the history to be/become a classic, it's abundant usage in the last 30 years has given society fatigue for that name.

Christiana, I love your name - I have a daughter with that name! :)

Laura, I love your name blogs. They are the best discussions on names on the web.

By Erin (not verified)
May 25, 2006 5:13 AM

I think Leland must have come from one of Dog's son on A&E's "Dog the Bounty Hunter" reality show.

Very interesting.

By Liz (not verified)
May 25, 2006 10:22 AM

I can't hear "Leland" without remembering Leland Palmer on "Twin Peaks." Since he turned out to be a psycho killer who morphed into the creepy Bob character and offed his own daughter, I can't imagine naming a son that! Gives me the willies.

Leland is not a name used by Hispanics. I don't know how to account for its rise, but maybe Brendan Fraser did give it a boost. Probably, though, it's just a family name that's getting used more now because two generations have passed since it was last used.

By JT (not verified)
May 25, 2006 11:58 AM

Update-- Asper my earlier comment; the name I heard was Kia. I beleive it was a little girl mentioned in the newspaper. As for comments regarding Leland; there's Jim Leyland (spelling different) baseball manager (ex of Pittsburgh, and florida, now with Detriot). I know its a spelling variation--what isn't? But also reinforces two of my theories: 1. Last names used as first anes, and ordinary people making celebrioty baby names popular. And Remember--Oprah is Harpo spelled backwards (Like Harpo Marx?)

By Christiana (not verified)
May 25, 2006 2:31 PM

Joni - Thanks! When I was little everyone called me "Christy" and I always thought my name was "Christy Anna Lynn" (christiana lynn was my first and middle) I hated it. When I finally saw my mother spellit out, I LOVED IT! Parents, always at least let your kid know what their full name is - I didn't find out I wasn't a "Christy" until I was almost 5!

Can anyone imagine naming their kid "Harpo" now? Ish! My mother in law's name is Lezah (Hazel backwards) named after her mother's best friend, Hazel. I have a great aunt named Hazel, but I'd prefer using that to Lezah (personally).

By Kim (not verified)
May 25, 2006 4:33 PM

Oprah was actually supposed to be "Orpah", like in the Bible, but the hospital misspelled on Oprah's birth certificate, reversing the 'p' and the 'r'. She named her production company Harpo because it was her name spelled backwards... her parents didn't name her Oprah because it was Harpo backwards!

By anon (not verified)
May 25, 2006 5:39 PM

Where can I find this 'new additions' girls list? I need to see this for myself. I named my almost 4 year old little boy Karl. It can't be a girls name now!

By Patricia (not verified)
May 25, 2006 8:00 PM

The Social Security Administration's Popular Baby Names list for 2005: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/
lists the girl's name KAROL, not Karl, among the top 1000 names for the first time. I've seen Karol before--as an alternative spelling for the more usual Carol.

By Bev (not verified)
May 25, 2006 11:23 PM

.>>I guess everyone feels differently, but I don't think I would appreciate being a girl given a male name meaning "son of" anyone.<<

Allison and Madison both have "son" in them, and I don't see many girls with those names objecting. Ditto Mackenzie; Mac also means "son of."

"Harpo" is not only "Oprah" backwards, it's the name of the husband of the character Oprah played in "The Color Purple," so Oprah has a double connection to it.

I wonder how many Karols are named after the pope and how many are just trying to be Kreative with the spelling of Carol. A lot of girl children being born these days have grandmas named Carol, and spelling it with a K may be their parents' way of "modernizing" it.

Re car names: Kia was popular before it was a car sold in this country, and I'm guessing most of the Austins and Coopers out there weren't named deliberately after cars.

By Celestia (not verified)
May 26, 2006 4:20 PM

A film called The United States of Leland came out in 2003. It starred the apparently attractive--I just don't get it, myself--Ryan Gosling (probably best known as "That Guy From The Notebook" right now) as the title character, a dude in a detention center. It wasn't an immensely popular movie, but I heard it talked up quite a lot by a lot of different people.

That movie, along with Brendan Fraser, the possibility of the nn Land, Dog the Bounty Hunter, etc, might have been enough to give Leland some time in the spotlight.

And as a side note, all I can hear with Emerson are Charles Emerson Winchester III and Ralph Waldo Emerson. I always get a little sad inside when I see a girl by that name.

By sasha (not verified)
May 29, 2006 1:05 PM

i'm sorry but those boys' names aren't even real names. what's with people these days? making upnames that nobody knows how to spell, just as long as it has a y in it somewhere? braylon? who on earth would name their kid that? people who want their kids to be picked on by my kids who will be named something normal and strong and masculine.

By Kate (not verified)
May 29, 2006 1:40 PM

I'm sorry but I really don't like ANY of the names listed as rising. Half of them aren't even real names ("Estrela"? "Amare"?) and names like Ciara are just really really popular - often among people who have no family connection to their origin (in this case Irish)just because they "sound pretty".

Its such a shame that people no longer use family names or names of people who inspire them, or names from their own culture - this is how cultures die out.

I live in the UK and things are maybe a bit different here - our top ten names are more conventional than "Amare" - Jack, Emily, Josh, Ellie, etc - but they are still used by people who just "like the sound of them" rather than really having any connection to the name's origin or meaning. There is also a real trend for giving short forms of names such as Alfie, Charlie, Archie (not Alfred, Charles or Archibald) which I think is really silly. My dog is called Charlie! Any son of mine would be "Charles"

We've chosen Rose or Arthur for our baby

By Christiana (not verified)
May 30, 2006 1:12 PM

I love the classic names, too but since most of them are coming back in style, it's frustrating to choose one that isn't going to be too popular! I love the name Rose. I keep finding names that have it fit as a middle name and my husband rolls his eyes. (he's not crazy about naming a kid after a flower)

I love Celtic names, but I have a lot of Scottish is my family history (along with tons of German) and my husband's family is Irish (so is our last name). Mostly, I'm picking Celtic names and "American-ized" names (which are probably mostly English when you get right down to it). My first name can be found listed as Italian, Celtic, Russian, Spanish, and Indian if you look hard enough.

ANyone ever have the problem that you like the nickname for a name and want the name for that nickname? I love the nn "Livvie" and was considering Olivia for that reason, but I'm not sold on "Olivia." On the flip side, I don't want my daughter to have her legal name be "Livvie" - I'd like her to have options when she's older.

By jane in atl (not verified)
May 30, 2006 2:04 PM

Leland is Dog the Bounty Hunter's oldest son's name...

By megan (not verified)
May 30, 2006 4:31 PM


The names you mentioned as fast risers are just that-- fast risers. Most of them are not in the top 10. Also a couple of them could be attributed to the large number of people of hispanic descent in the US: Estrella is Spanish for "star" and I think Amare translates to something like "I will love you" or something similar. There's no saying that they couldn't be family names, also.


Another possibility for Livvie could be Lavinia. I'm sure there are others also.

By Katryn (not verified)
May 31, 2006 6:40 PM

"Half of them aren't even real names ('Estrela'?...)"

What makes something a 'real' name? A name's meaning or status depends so much on context that I don't think you can really make judgments like that.

My Dominican boyfriend's name is Ellis -- perfectly normal here, but not a 'real' name there. It often gets mispronounced 'ay-jis' (as I'm sure you're mispronouncing the lovely 'estreya').

BTW, be sure to let all the Jose's, Miguel's, Yesenia's, etc. know that their names aren't real (not to mention any Esthers, Astrids, or Stellas).

By . (not verified)
May 31, 2006 7:44 PM

"Allison and Madison both have "son" in them, and I don't see many girls with those names objecting. Ditto Mackenzie; Mac also means "son of.""

Well, I'd put Mackenzie and all other Mc- names on girls in the crummy trendy name category too, so that argument is not going to make me change my mind.

Allison evolved as a variant of Alice, so the meaning is not "son of" anything.

Madison, on the other hand, means "son of Maud" and started being used on girls after being a name that mermaid (the ultimate fish out of water) picked out for herself in the movie Splash. I can just see all the little Madisons cringing if they ever watch that movie and hear Tom Hanks say, "Madison? That's not a name." The bulk of the female Madisons aren't old enough to object at this point.

By Christiana (not verified)
June 1, 2006 1:39 PM

Katryn - I love your name - how is it pronounced? Is it a derrivitive of Kathryn/Katherine?

I remember thinking the name Madison was unusual in Splash, but really liking it. I babysat for a Madison in the 90's and I thought it was great. I also love the nn "Maddie." It's funny that kids hear a name in a movie while they're growing up and remember it 20 years later when they're naming their own children, but by then it's popular. Pop culture rears its head.