Reprise: The Age of Aidans

May 12th 2008

Three years ago, I looked at American baby names and declared that we had entered "The Age of Aidans":

Looking at the most popular American baby names of 2004, one name leaps out at me....or rather, one sound. A whopping 33 different names rhyming with Aidan made the boys' top 1000 list. (And that doesn't even count the near misses, like Dayton-Payton-Layton-Clayton-Treyton.) That number is up from 28 Aidan-esque names in 2003, and just one 20 years ago.

It turns out that wave is still rising. The number of Aidan-rhymes on the boys' list reached 40 last year, accounting for more than 4% of all boys born. And even the formidable -aidan bloc is just a small part of a larger phenomenon: little Daytons, Casons, Kians, Landyns, etc. Almost a third of all boys born now receive a name ending in -n. Meanwhile the traditional, classic English boys' names are all plummeting because parents want their kids' names to be "distinctive." But how distinctive is Jaidyn in a class with Aydin, Bradyn, Kaeden, Raiden and Zayden? (Yes, those are all top-1000 names.)

What you have here is a story of two competing impulses. American parents love the idea of unusual names, but our tastes are still as much like our neighbors' as ever. The inevitable result is hundreds of tiny variations on a theme. We carve out tiny niches of uniqueness -- "that's Jaidyn, not Jadyn" -- and end up sounding more alike than ever.


By kate b. (not verified)
May 13, 2008 4:48 AM

I totally agree. A while back I posted asking opinions re: Natalie and Madeline and most of the responses had to do with popularity. DH and I have discussed names over and over and finally concluded that picking our FAVOURITE name is probably a better option than picking a runner-up simply because it isn't as "popular." (Within reason, of course!)
I found it interesting, too, because according to NameVoyager Madeline is actually LESS common (ranked in 50s-60s?) than Natalie (ranked in teens), but the majority who commented mentioned preferring Natalie because Madeline is too common. I think maybe that's where J&H's mom's comment is right on--trendiness/being date-stamped is more of a concern than actual numbers/popularity, and something that may sound suddenly trendy may seem more popular than it actually is.

By kate b. (not verified)
May 13, 2008 4:54 AM

Oh, and p.s. I think we might bypass Natalie and Madeline altogether and go with Anna. I know it's popular but it's "classic" enough not to be too dated, right? We are thinking Anna Claire.

By Elizabeth T. (not verified)
May 13, 2008 7:14 AM

I think I am unique among hard-core NEs in that I cared not a whit about popularity when I named my daughter Sarah. Its popularity, in fact, was part of the appeal. My husband and I figured that our kids would be somewhat eccentric and wanted to give them names that didn't peg them as that. Somehow naming a child who is likely to be nerdy an uber-nerd name seemed a little cruel to us.

By just-another-amy (not verified)
May 13, 2008 7:54 AM


One of my friends has Hank as one of their choices for their soon to be born son and it is not popular AT ALL. Easily spelled, pronounced and recognized, I think Hank is a winner.

By just-another-amy (not verified)
May 13, 2008 8:03 AM

Sorry, previous post was re: knowing any boy's names that are common but unpopular.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 13, 2008 8:12 AM

kate b., I think Anna Claire is a lovely name. If you're looking for a classic name, I think Anna meets that requirement ahead of either Natalie or Madeline. Wizard categorizes Anna as timeless, Natalie as a new classic, and Madeline as a name with antique charm (but also says, "Madeline is a classic..."). Of the three names you're considering, I personally prefer Anna, but I like Natalie a lot too (although I don't consider it a traditional classic name). They're all fine names. I agree that picking your favorite name is more important than compromising with a less popular name.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 13, 2008 8:18 AM

just-another-Amy, Hank? As the given name? I wonder about that. When I visited a British friend Henry some years ago, he mentioned that Americans shorten his name to Hank and was very dismissive about the nickname. I also have a cousin named Harold whose parents called him "Hankie"; of course, he eventually became "Hank". I think Hank would be OK as a nickname for Henry or Harold, but I wouldn't advise naming a child Hank.

By Tessa (not verified)
May 13, 2008 8:19 AM

Well, Madeline is far more popular than it might appear for exactly the reasons mentioned in this blog entry: variations. Madelynn, Madelyn, Madalyn, Maddalyn, Madeline, Madeleine, Maddilyn, etc. are all over baby name lists. Natalie is generally relegated to that spelling or sometimes Nathalie.

By Eo (not verified)
May 13, 2008 8:28 AM

Sushila, it's interesting that "Timothy" and "Edith" are falling out of favor. Could it be the "th" sound? Although that hasn't hurt "Matthew" at all. Personally, I like "th" very much, especially in Biblical and in lispy Welsh names, "Delyth" etc.

I do think the names you mentioned, Timothy, Edith, Ellen and Peter, would be an adorable quartet of present-day children!

I would guess that in former British colonies, the beautiful and historical "Peter" still has strong adherents. Catherine Herridge, a Canadian reporter for Fox News, named her baby Peter, and among my Canadian acquaintances it crops up more. But that is strictly anecdotal, it's probably way down below the "Kyle"'s and such on the actual Canadian list...

By JRE (not verified)
May 13, 2008 8:35 AM

ElizabethT -
LOL at "naming a child who is likely to be nerdy an uber-nerd name seemed a little cruel to us"

Considering our children have a very high probability of being in the nerdy category given their gene pool, I can totoally relate to your statement. (And Sarah was a name we strongly considered for both our girls. :-) )

I must say that I too see classic names that top the charts as different from "new" names that top the charts. In my mind, there's a huge difference in the names Michael and Jayden. The thing is, the wording used in the posts here don't differentiate that and blanketly use the word "popular". Perhaps if you find the name trendy or part of a fad or a potentially date-stamped name or rising fast, then that's the wording that should be used. To me, that is much more informative.

Okay, here I break the stereotype of a NE again. First I go into the names Jacob and Elizabeth knowing their popularity --- and my name is Jennifer. I never cared a bit about other people sharing my name. I was thankfully my parents gave me a name they liked and that was easily recognizable.

It's what you DO that makes you distinctive, not what you're named.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 13, 2008 8:42 AM

"It's what you DO that makes you distinctive, not what you're named."

Jennifer, I agree, but think it may be more of an uphill battle for kids named Zaiden and Brandi than for those named Jacob and Elizabeth.

By JRE (not verified)
May 13, 2008 9:07 AM

"agree, but think it may be more of an uphill battle for kids named Zaiden and Brandi than for those named Jacob and Elizabeth."

Oh, believe me, I agree! But, if you were to ask little Zaiden and Brandi's parents about their names, I'm willing to say they feel they've given their child the gift of being distinctive.

The same could be say about some NE who think they're bestowing a unique name to their child. Standing out from the crowd ultimately will be about what you accomplish rather than the moniker that's more reflective of your parents than you. JMHO.

By Homer (not verified)
May 13, 2008 9:24 AM

You're thinking of Anna Claire?

That's funny, I'm almost always thinking of an eclair. Mmmmmm, pastry.

(Sorry, couldn't resist!)

By Sushila O'Malley (not really) (not verified)
May 13, 2008 9:35 AM

On the TH in Timothy and Edith---I'd *think* it was a factor, but then as you say, Eo, there's no hesitation about Matthew... or Elizabeth, or Meredith or Seth or Ethan or Nathan... such a parade of popular "TH" names seems to throw that theory out.

Timothy's coming off a big hump of mid-20c. popularity, so I guess "Tim" sounds like someone's dad instead of a baby (and the dreaded "Timmy" isn't what today's parents want in a nickname--with the add problem of the main character on Fairly Odd Parents being Timmy Turner). And as I said, it's part of the New Testament name dump--folks just aren't using Timothy, Peter, Paul, Mark, etc., like before. (Although John seems immune to trends, and Luke got the Star Wars/Dukes of Hazzard/Gilmore Girls bump.)

Edith --still don't know why that dropped so hard in the past year. It's not a sudden reappearance of Edith Bunker in the minds of 20-somethings, at least not that I've heard about.

By another amy (not verified)
May 13, 2008 9:35 AM

I was reading BNW last night and Laura writes for Michael that one of its attractions is that its not a white name or a trendy name or an African-American name, etc. Everyone uses it so its a blank slate for a child to grow into--and a beautiful blank slate at that.

If I hadn't almost married a Michael I'd use it.

There are two comments I loved which have been posted since last night, first the suggestion that most of us here are interested in a name that isn't time-dated and I think that is true. I noticed last night when reading sibling lists (BNW again) how time-dated they are. Even the modern-yet-old-lady name lists--if the list says Lily, Sadie, Emma, Olivia (just to take from preschoolers I know)--those are all old names but the list is distinctively Now. We might not be able to escape it.

Second--I love Elizabeth T's idea of giving the nerdy kid a straight name! I wonder if that is why my extremely far out there hippy father named me Amy? and for that matter, my sister is Sarah. On the other hand, I wanted a classic name that was somewhat quirky for my DD, thus she is an Iris (and a family name at that). Apparently I've never gotten over my disappointment at not being named Butterfly...

By Amy3 (not verified)
May 13, 2008 10:05 AM

Eo said: "I do think the names you mentioned, Timothy, Edith, Ellen and Peter, would be an adorable quartet of present-day children!"

This is so funny to me b/c my brother and sister are Timothy and Ellen, and had I been a boy I would have been Peter. (Our birth dates from 1965 to 1970 argue in favor of Timothy being seen as the name of a parent rather than a child today.)

I completely agree with all of you who have said that who you are and what you do with your life is vastly more important than your name. I was one of a zillion Amys, and I turned out fine. Sometimes it was annoying, but mostly I didn't think about it. It was just the way it was.

I also agree that many NEs seek a name that doesn't seem date-stamped versus one that is popular, and that distinction is important.

By Amy3 (not verified)
May 13, 2008 10:07 AM

Not on-topic, but I wanted to add that I overheard someone recently talking about Patience. I know we've had on-and-off discussions of virtue names, but I think is the first I've heard of IRL other than the more common ones (Grace, Hope, Faith).

By hyz (not verified)
May 13, 2008 10:36 AM

I *love* the name Timothy. My first association with it is Timothy grass, which is grown in lush fields to make sweet green hay that horses and rabbits adore. Timothy hay smells lovely and clean and fresh, and reminds me of my childhood hours spent in the sun with my good pony (Joe). So, Biblical origin aside, Timothy is a classic, nostalgic name to me, and I love the lispy "th" and melodic 3 syllables, as well. Unfortunately, DH thinks it sounds "wimpy". :p

By tiffanie (not verified)
May 13, 2008 10:44 AM

i knew a guy named Caiden in college and we all thought it was the weirdest name... i bet neither he nor his parents ever expected it to become so popular 25-30 years later!

By hyz (not verified)
May 13, 2008 10:55 AM

And regarding "normal" names for potentially geeky or otherwise unusual kids--I get this, but I don't think one has to go too far with it. For instance, I happened to know two rather socially uncomfortable girls in high school, Sarah (extremely common in my school) and Amelia (the only one in the school, SSA rank around 300 when she was born). Neither one of them was picked on for their name, and I really don't believe either name helped or hurt their popularity. I do have the pleasure of knowing Amelia as an adult, now, though, and she has blossomed into a much more confident and engaging person--and now her name seems lovely on her. I don't think she would've been better served by her parents giving her a more common name.

On the other hand, I think she might've been negatively affected by being called Gertrude, Bertha, or Moon Unit--names that are so loaded that (I think) you have to be especially confident to "pull-off". If I think my kid might be geeky (and that's certainly a possibility), I'd avoid overly strong names (like Hank for boys), possibly geeky names, no matter their current hipness (like Olive, Abner, Linus, Maude), and notably odd names (like Blue, Wolf, Apple, Zelda, etc.). Otherwise, I'd consider the field pretty wide open.

By Jill C. (not verified)
May 13, 2008 11:37 AM

Valerie, I agree with you that being 'ahead of the curve' may have some advantage. Perhaps, as you say, because people perceive you as younger? Perhaps because people believe you come from a family of clever trendsetters;)? Or maybe it just creates some cognitive dissonance and makes people remember you and your name? I know a Ryan who was born in the late 1950's -- even when I was 15, I remember noting that it was an unusual name for a man that age.

Re: Natalie and Madeline, when I combined all spellings, Natalie/Natalee/Nathalie/etc. came in at #17, and Madeline et al was #20.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 13, 2008 11:40 AM

NEs? IRL? Can someone fill me in on what these stand for? Thanks!

By JRE (not verified)
May 13, 2008 11:50 AM

NE = name enthusiasts

IRL = in real life

By annemarie (not verified)
May 13, 2008 12:03 PM

OK, folks, I'm going to be one to go off-topic and ask for advice!

We're having a boy, and he's our fifth child. Names that dh and I both like are Benjamin, Joshua, Edward, Clive, Charles, Arthur, Samuel, Griffin, and Lewis. I may be missing one... The problem is that his top choices of these (Benjamin and Joshua) do not match my top choices (Edward and Arthur). What do YOU experts think? :)

By Katie (not verified)
May 13, 2008 12:10 PM

Annemarie - do you mind sharing your other children's names? That would give us a good idea of your naming style and help with the advice. With nothing else to go on, though, I like the idea of a combination of one of your top choices with his. Benjamin Arthur is an adorable combination of new classic with old.

Re: Aidans - I know a 22 year old Aidan whose siblings have names like Callum and Alistair (there are 5 other siblings, I think, whose names I am forgetting). The parents are from Scotland, the kids grew up in Canada and France. Interestingly, Aidan, the oldest, is the only one whose name has broken into the mainstream in the US. I wonder if as his siblings grow up, their names will get more and more popular as well? I can see Callum being a massive hit.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 13, 2008 12:18 PM

annemarie, It seems to me that all four top choices are good ones, but each of you is leaning towards a different group of names. While all four could be called traditional, your husband's preferences are biblical, while yours are what I would call English royal and non-biblical. Do you have other sons? If more than one, did you match their names as to 'category'? Or if you have only one other son, which name goes best with his name? (I prefer sibling names that match in style, although some parents don't care about that or even want to avoid it.)

By Susan (not verified)
May 13, 2008 12:23 PM

annemarie: I vote for Edward or Lewis (although I personally prefer the Louis spelling)

By Amy3 (not verified)
May 13, 2008 12:30 PM

annemarie -- I'd also love to know your other kids' names before I weigh in.

By Guest (not verified)
May 13, 2008 12:31 PM

That reminds me - Edward Lewis is the name of Richard Gere's character in "Pretty Woman."

By LaurieLw (not verified)
May 13, 2008 12:57 PM

Hannah1981's post and awful surnames. We encountered having to name a boy and girl with a very long and hyphenated last name. My husband went through life with an uncommon foreign name and was able to go by his first name only. When naming our daughter we gave her a name that we loved, but we are constantly waiting for it to gain in popularity. I am not sure how I will feel about this happening (I am not so worried about her). With our son we ended up giving him a foreign name that is not heard of very often in the US. I really don't expect his name to grow in popularity. But it was very difficult selecting a name that is different, but not too out there.

By hyz (not verified)
May 13, 2008 1:12 PM

Annemarie, I'd also like to know the other names before rendering a "formal" opinion, but just to be contrarian I'll say that my favorite choice from your list is Charles. :) As for between the top 4 you mentioned, I'd say your husband's choices are a bit more usual, while yours sound very familiar but a bit more anachronistic for today. I think Benjamin is my favorite of the group, with Edward close behind, Joshua third, and Arthur fourth (Arthur definitely still has a bit of a geeky and/or frumpy image for me).

By Zoerhenne (not verified)
May 13, 2008 1:13 PM

Annemarie, I agree with Katie that maybe a combination name might be a gr8 choice. I like most of the names you listed. Clive, Charles, Lewis and Arthur aren't my style. Griffin seems a little on the popular or on-the-rise category. I'm sure in the long run you'll do fine. I do agree with some other comments made here that success (or lack thereof) does not inherently come from one's name.

In response to the original post, I do not care for any of the -bert names. Linus or Abner are nms either. Among my choices in 2000 were Zachary, Conner, Jeffrey, Brian, Eric, Joshua, Matthew, Alexander, and some others with the same feel. I like the Aiden sounding names however I do think they have become widely overused. The names above would still be in the running if I were to have another boy (not at all planned) even if they became popular-just because I like them.

By Sushila O'Malley (not really) (not verified)
May 13, 2008 2:02 PM

Will all the "unique" male Jadens and Kadens find themselves using boyish nicknames (Denny, perhaps) to distinguish them from their female classmates, who are also named Jayden and Kayden? Or will the girls take to nicknames instead, going by Jade or Kay or Kady to make the name their own?

By Tk (not verified)
May 13, 2008 2:16 PM

Actually, variations on Natalie are still slightly more popular than variations on Madeline. Natalie is #16, (Nataly, Nathalie, Natalee, Nathaly, plus a couple hundred with varitions on Natalia). Madeline is #18 (Madelyn, Madeleine, Madalyn, Madilyn, Madelynn, Madalynn, Madilynn). I think the "trendiness" of Madeline seems higher because of it's similarity to Madison, with the "Mad/Maddy" nickname.

I like Anna very much - timeless, simple, classic, easy to spell, and easy to go by "Ann" if she so chose to.

By Ash (not verified)
May 13, 2008 2:20 PM

Without knowing the siblings' names, I like Edward and Benjamin best of the favorites. I also like Louis (I also prefer that spelling to Lewis) and Charles.

I think that what makes Madeline seem more popular than Natalie is the Maddie nickname that is shared with Madison. And I sort of think people see Madeline as a "classic, updated" alternative to Madison. To borrow from the earlier thread, Natalie's orbit group is much smaller.

When I was about 5, my older cousin and I received matching boy Cabbage Patch Kids from Santa. We were both hell-bent on naming them Timmy (though I think my reason for this was that she was doing it), and we both did (but I think I called mine Tommy when we played together). That's my personal association with Timothy, but think it is a lovely, if parental (rather than child's), name.

I agree with all posters with regards to time-stamped v. popular. I think that's also why you'll see more support for high-ranking boys names around here than high-ranking girls' names; there's always support for the classic, but not as much for the trendy.

To the poster considering the name, I think Anna Claire is lovely.

By Valerie (not verified)
May 13, 2008 2:27 PM

Ash commented: "I also like Louis (I also prefer that spelling to Lewis)..."

To me as a Brit, that's an interesting comment. In England Louis would be pronounced LOU-ee and Lewis would be LOU-iss and they would not be considered the same name (although they are related etymologically I think). Are they pronounced the same in the US generally?

I love the name Louis, but pronounced LOU-ee like the French kings. My rather regal cat bears the name.

By Guest (not verified)
May 13, 2008 2:31 PM


I really like your name list (my one and a half year old son is a Benjamin Charles!) but I was wondering about the older siblings. The BNW book's sibling names would be a good thing to consult. Arthur for example, would sound good with a brother George or Edward (think English royalty). Benjamin or Joshua would sound good with Nathan, Noah, or Samuel (biblical and pretty mainstream these days). Whichever flavor of names matches the other siblings would be the best- all of your names are very nice!

By Guest (not verified)
May 13, 2008 2:38 PM

Funny thing about Madeline and Natalie, I liked both when expecting my second daughter (named Natalie) but I also thought Madeline and its many spelling variations was much more trendy. I didn't know any little Natalies, and that was in 1999. I am surprised of how popular it is now, because of its meaning of Christmas birthday, also why I chose it for her.

By Tessa (not verified)
May 13, 2008 3:15 PM

Hrrrm. Interesting to see that Natalie + combined spellings still outranks Madeline + combined spellings. I wonder whether Madeline has more variations, not yet SSA ranked, that would add up to more?

Although the Madison "Maddie" connection is most probably the date-stamp.

By hyz (not verified)
May 13, 2008 3:18 PM

Valerie, I would say the general assumption here in the US is that Louis is pronounced exactly the same as Lewis. If I knew Louis were French or something, that would probably change my assumptions. Given that, I'm with Ash in preferring the Louis spelling.

Oh, and I'm very sorry to say that "an eclair" would put me off of Anna Claire, as lovely as each of those names are. In theory I could get past it, because they do flow nicely, but I've let smaller things than that knock beloved names off my list, so if it were my kid, I wouldn't be able to do Anna Claire.

By *Madeline* (not verified)
May 13, 2008 3:30 PM

I am really interested to hear Madeline and Madison compared.... really? Are you serious? Madison is a last name come first name of recent popularity and Madeline is a long standing name with Hebrew and French connections that has been used in the states for a century or more.

Can we really link these names because they can be whittled to the same nick name?

Please don't tell me my name has a date stamp!

But maybe the upside is, as another poster mentioned, people will assume I am younger than I am. :) I'll take it.

By Patricia (not verified)
May 13, 2008 3:36 PM

My grandfather's name was Louis, pronounced 'the American way' as LOU-is. The name Louis went way back in his family of French Canadian heritage, but of course, the early Louis name bearers were called Lou-EE. My grandmother called him "Lou" which would not fair well as a boy's name these days.

By Mari (not verified)
May 13, 2008 3:43 PM

Amy3 - Re: the name Patience:
I met twin baby girls named Patience and Lilah a few months ago. Kind of a strange match, in my opinion. I envision Lilah growing up to be a wild and vivacious beauty while Patience sits home in prairie skirts reading her Bible and knitting.

By Guest (not verified)
May 13, 2008 4:30 PM

I know an Anna Claire who just graduated from college. As far as I know, she went by the full name her whole life, and it fit her well. It's a beautiful name.

By Valerie (not verified)
May 13, 2008 4:36 PM

Mari- Re: Lilah and Patience- LOL! My image too...

By Guest (not verified)
May 13, 2008 5:03 PM

But Patience will probably be the wild one and Lilah the bookish one. That's how it usually works.

By Guest (not verified)
May 13, 2008 5:09 PM

Gilbert has returned - for us anyhow! My 6 yr. old is Gilbert and I love it. I have no regrets. My son suits it so well too - he is a very cute nerd! I love saying it and telling people his name even to this day. It is strong, masculine and has great short versions. He often get Gilbo.

By Guest (not verified)
May 13, 2008 5:39 PM

Valerie - FYI, the city of Louisville, Kentucky is named after King Louis XVI, so it retains the French pronunciation (sort of), although it's more like LOU-uh-vull.

By Eo (not verified)
May 13, 2008 5:39 PM

Annemarie: Here I go again-- I always feel a duty to warn parents about the downside, as well as the upside of "Benjamin"! The rest of you, bored out of your skulls, may talk amongst yourselves...

Are you prepared to have one and all arbitrarily shorten it to "Ben", even if you use the full name, or if you have an alternate nickname? We discovered to our surprise eight years ago that many people are determined to go to the default nickname Ben, which to our mind has become sort of colorless through over-use.

A lot of callow actors are called Ben, and have you noticed that screenwriters often give their male characters that name? Annoying!

There are THREE Benjamin's in our B.'s second grade class, two of whom go by "Ben" almost all of the time...

If you use Benjamin as the second name, however, you'll avoid the shortening issue altogether...

Here's the upside:

The meaning, "son of the right hand", has come to mean "favored" or "beloved" son, which is lovely. Also, because of Biblical circumstances, Benjamin became, over time, a name that "older" parents would give a much-wanted child. I love that aspect too since hubby and I waited a long time for our Benjamin!

Many GREAT figures in history bore the name. We've gotten our B. quite interested in Benjamin Franklin...

You CAN come up with your own distinctive nickname, and if you do it early enough, make it stick-- our B. loves his nickname "Banks".

Frivolously, a child bearing ANY of the names in the Beatrix Potter tales "Peter" (Rabbit) "Benjamin" (Bunny) "Jemima" (Puddleduck) "Jeremy" (Fisher) etc., has an automatic theme for decoration of his or her room, with beautiful prints of the various animal characters (with their names on the print) available...

O.K., so very possibly none of this matters to you, but there it is!

By Valerie (not verified)
May 13, 2008 7:50 PM

Thanks for the info on Louis, guys. As I already used it on my cat, I probably wouldn't have considered it for a child, but it's good to know. Louis still resides in the UK with my parents. He prefers the French pronunciation!