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 Rjoy (not verified)
May 14, 2008 9:48 PM

What are your perceptions of the name Livinia?


By EVie (not verified)
May 14, 2008 9:57 PM

I see your point, Patricia—if you're using the full name because you love it, why obscure it with a nickname, and if you're intent on using a particular nickname, why not name the kid the name from which it originally came? It seems to me that alternative nicknaming seems to come up when parents love a particular name, and also like the idea of nicknaming, but don't like the more common nicknames associated with the name.

Example: I have often considered naming a girl Victoria, which is also my middle name. I think it is wonderfully regal and dignified, great for a young woman or a professional—but waaaaaay too heavy for a bouncy little toddler with ice cream on her face. Trouble is, I can't stand Vicky, and Tori just makes me think of conservative politicians (very much not my thing). So what to use until she grows into Victoria? In a case like that, I wouldn't see a problem in using something only tangentially related like Vivie, even though that sounds like it should be a nickname for Vivian.

I do agree that Nick for Nathan is a stretch, though. I also agree that transitioning to the full name would be easier with a more closely related name. It seems like that difficulty could be circumvented if you maintain the kid's self-identification with the full name from the beginning, rather than totally neglecting it for 15 years and then expecting her to switch. It is probably also a bad idea to only use the full name when you're angry, as that would create a negative association with the full name. Anyone have any advice on this?

By Darice (not verified)
May 14, 2008 11:00 PM

Rjoy, I have a Margaret, age five. She goes by Meg, but she knows her name is Margaret too. I chose Margaret because to me it sounds classic with a 40s retro vibe, and I liked Meg because I thought it sounded bright and a little old-fashioned (see also Little Women) but not too out-of-step. No doubt at some point in her teen years she'll inform me that she's gone emo (or whatever the trend is by then) and wants to be known as Greta or something.

As for a Madeleine nickname, there was a book where a character was nn'd Mado, which I thought was charming. (My Meg would have been a Madeleine if it weren't for the popularity issue.)

EVie, how about Vee or Vic?

By Patricia (not verified)
May 15, 2008 12:03 AM


In "Nanny McFee" the older daughter is called "Tora", which I assume would be from Victoria.

(Tora is played by Eliza Bennett; I like Eliza a lot too.)

By Patricia (not verified)
May 15, 2008 12:07 AM

That should have been "Nanny McPhee".

By EVie (not verified)
May 15, 2008 12:17 AM

Ooh, Tora is kind of interesting. I think my actual choice, were I to use Victoria, would be "Vixie"—I think I dislike the "icky" in Vicky, and the x has a completely different feel—very smooth and sassy, rhymes with "pixie". Maybe a little bit provocative, since it sounds like vixen, but that doesn't really bother me. Anyway, it may be moot, because Victoria is not the best fit with our last name. :(

By Zoerhenne (not verified)
May 15, 2008 12:22 AM

Wow so much to comment on since my last post, and it's late so my brain can't remember what I wanted to say. Oh well, guess I'll comment on the ones I can remember and go back through tomorrow and see what I forgot!

A sib set of Natalie, Nicole,and Noelle seems like an awful lot of N's. I love the names but would most likely NOT make them sibs. Hmm, we had a thread once about imaginary sib sets-I'll have to think more and post for that later.

Clive-I just don't like the sound or feel or anything, then again I don't care for Lewis either. Arthur is growing on me though.

Madeline (or any other sp)seems to have a "natural" nn of Maddy. Others that have not been mentioned might be Del/Della, Lina, Mel, Lainey (if thats the full name pron).
Also with the nn questions above, I know people that have named the child FN, MN ,LN and call the child MN. Why is that? The explanation I was given is he does not seem like a FN but more like a MN. Name=Neil Dawson sib to those called Sawyer and Abby Lynn not sure of Sawyer's full given name.

By barnyardmama (not verified)
May 15, 2008 12:38 AM

AS a resident of New Orleans, which still retains much of her French heritage, the Louis/Lewis thing is alive and well here. Louis was our runner-up name for our son (in case he didn't look like a Charles). We were pronouncing it Lewis, but all of my husband's cajun french relatives informed us that they would be calling him Lou-ee. For the record, Louis Armstrong was called by both pronunciations. My husband and I are fine with both ourselves and if we should be blessed with another boy, he will be named Louis--pronounced as people see fit.

By kate b. (not verified)
May 15, 2008 3:58 AM

There's a new post up, so I'm not sure if people are still checking this comment thread, but I thought I'd respond anyway.
Thanks for all the great comments re: Anna, Natalie, and Madeleine!
EVie--I love the French pronunciation of Madeleine but agree that it might not "take" in America. I prefer Mad-uh-lynn slightly over the Mad-uh-line pronunciation. Mad-uh-layn is tempting as it would give the natural nickname of Laine or Lainey. So, to answer your question--I'm not sure! (Crazy, I know, but again, I have a few months to figure this out.) I think Mad-uh-lynn would be the most natural choice, since it is the most common (at least in my circles).

Patricia and others who commented about nicknames--I agree that it doesn't make much sense to come up with a "contrived" nickname. The only reason I am tempted to do this is because I LOVE the names Madeline and Natalie but dislike the obvious nicknames, and am afraid that if I don't have a standby nickname then "Maddy" and "Nat" will be nicknames by default. And because we don't have THAT many favourite names, I'm not sure if bad nicknames are reasons enough to give up my top choices.
I also find that it's really hard not to use nicknames. We're calling the baby "Jack" before it's born (we don't know the sex) and my husband and I find ourselves calling it "Jacky" even though both of us really dislike how it sounds. Some sort of variation seems inevitable! (Maybe that's just us.)
My DH's parents picked his and his brother's names with this in mind--both have one-syllable, nickname-proof names.
Personally, I like Linney for the Mad-uh-lynn pronunciation and Laine for the Mad-uh-layn pronunciation.
For Natalie, we were thinking Ali, but are afraid it's not natural enough to "stick" (as evidenced by Zoerhenne's experience!).
Anyway, I'm grateful for all the input!
We know that we'll have mixed reactions with every name but are at least a little comforted by the fact that none of the names I mentioned (besides An Eclair) have been met with a resounding "NO!"

By another amy (not verified)
May 15, 2008 6:39 AM

ack. I just realized that the long entry I wrote yesterday about nicknames was on the wrong post! and its now gone into a whole 'nother topic. But if anyone is interested, its on the new thread.

By hyz (not verified)
May 15, 2008 9:30 AM

Zoerhenne, if you're still checking this, I'll answer on the FN MN LN thing, since we're planning to do this. In our case, we are giving a traditional Korean name as the FN to honor DH's heritage, and a western MN. She will go by the MN, because we live in America and we prefer it that way, but we didn't want to put the Korean name in the middle spot where it would be marginalized and essentially forgotten--we want it to be prominent enough that she will associate with it, at least to some extent.

I know other people who go by their MNs because they are "juniors" or are otherwise named to honor a family member, and the parents wanted to give the honorific name prominence, but preferred to call them by the MN either for taste (they don't like the honorific name) or clarity (no dealing with "Big Joe" and "Little Joe" or whatever).

By lizpenn (not verified)
May 15, 2008 9:20 PM

Hyz, please be sure to come back and tell us your child's name after she's born! I'm very curious. My own daughter goes by her middle name too, for a complicated set of reasons, and I agree with you that when the less-used name is the first rather than the middle one, it somehow allows it more prominence, a greater place of honor. But I wonder when she gets older if she'll get tired of explaining that the name she goes by is actually the middle one.

By Gigi (not verified)
May 16, 2008 1:11 AM

The Meet Me in St. Louis character Tootie's real name was Sara Mahala Redway Smith!

By hyz (not verified)
May 16, 2008 7:43 AM


I'll be sure to give the official name when it's really and truly set, but for now DH and I have tentatively settled on Min-ah Ivy Soh--we are "test driving" that as our official name, and seeing if we still love it in a week, or two, or.... DH just got back from a trip visiting family in Korea, and they suggested changing our Min-ha to Min-ah in order to get the right/lucky combination of Chinese characters, which is fine by me, since I kind of like the sound of that better. We haven't settled on the spelling for that, either--we might do something without a hyphen, maybe something phonetic like Minna.

Regarding the kid getting tired of explaining the FN/MN thing--I'm thinking it won't be too problematic. I have more than a couple friends who have Asian FNs but go by American MNs, and it doesn't seem to bother them particularly. I think it gets most annoying for them when dealing with official forms, but that happens so rarely that it's a relatively small hassle.

By another amy (not verified)
May 16, 2008 10:59 AM

I think with an Asian first name, going by the middle name won't be much of an issue--teachers and friends will find the middle name easier! btw, I love Min-ah Ivy.

For non-complicated first names it can be more of a problem--I must admit that this semester I was delighted when one of the multiple Williams in my class wanted to go by his middle name (a 60s surfer name you don't hear much anymore at that). There are plenty of kids I know that want to go by a straight middle name and that is easy to accommodate.

and then there is the girl I complained about on the other thread--fairly common first name, went by *nickname* of middle name. A cutesy nickname at that--not Sam for Samantha or Brad for Bradley. I had a really hard time getting it right.

By Zoerhenne (not verified)
May 16, 2008 11:02 AM

Hyz, of course I'm still reading this-I'm an NE! Anyway, thanks for your comments, I realize the "junior" thing and that makes sense to me. The honoring thing, not so much. In your case, if the FN is foreign it works to use MN as more common. However, if the FN is a name you don't like then WHY use it at all. In my DS's case we did not plan to carryon any names already used we wanted him to have an identity all his own. My hubby is junior and my dad is as well. Sadly, my hubby's dad was very sick. This did not change our minds even though we knew that my DS was possibly the only hope to carry on EITHER family name. My FIL passed away 2 months after my DS was born. We left his name as is-even though it woulda been a meaningful thing to change FN or MN. It's funny but I think this sort of ties back to the Miley Cyrus thing. With her real name of Destiny Hope never being used and not meaningful anymore, she changed her name to her NN. That to me makes sense!

By hyz (not verified)
May 16, 2008 11:50 AM

Another amy, thanks! :) We love it too--we're just finding it so hard to commit--we keep thinking of all the pros and cons of all the names we're considering--nothing seems 100% perfect. But such is life, I suppose.

I agree it gets confusing when the names are jumbled AND extrapolated upon--if you don't have the official name written out in front of you, it can leave you wondering what their name REALLY is, and can also make them difficult to find in directories, etc. (I know a guy like this--it was very confusing until I got it all straight).

And Zoerhenne, all I can say is that some people must value family and tradition over their own tastes, and are willing to bestow names like Egbert and Melvin for that reason, even if they never intend to use it. I suppose I admire their loyalty, but I don't think I could do that myself.

By Amy3 (not verified)
May 16, 2008 12:19 PM

Since people are still here sporadically, I wanted to comment on the use of a MN rather than a FN, especially if the names seem to be otherwise equal.

When we were considering names for a boy, we were set on a MN (Walter) that honors dh's grandfather. However, there were some names I liked that didn't flow with them in the FN position and Walter in the MN (Paul was one of them -- Walter Paul sounds better than Paul Walter). If we had opted for one of those, we would have used the MN as the name of choice.

In the end we chose Elliot and then we had a girl (whose name is not Elliot)!

By C & C's Mom (not verified)
May 16, 2008 2:34 PM

Well, I have one child who goes by an unusual nn and one child that goes by a mn. I have developed quite the reputation as a name troublemaker in the family. with baby#3 on the way, I guess I really need to come up with something equally as confusing to family members. My dd goes by her mn because it is the name that my husband and I liked best (her first name is after a family member). I put the family name in the first name slot because the overall name sounded better that way. She is Molly Campbell, called Campbell (or Cam or Cami or Cam Bam, etc). Campbell Molly just did not sound good to me - somehow the m's and l's get all mixed up.

I will say that if you are going to do the called by the mn thing, you need to make sure that you don't mind hearing the fn. It is always used at doctor's offices, first day of school, etc.

By Zoerhenne (not verified)
May 19, 2008 10:37 AM

Amy3 and C&C,
I guess that makes sense. Hyz, thank you for your comment too. But, as you said I couldn't do that with my own children. Maybe that's why I had such a hard time naming them. I needed things to flow right with the FN that I was going to call them. Thanks for all the comments.

By Jennifer (not verified)
May 21, 2008 9:37 AM

Unrelated to where the conversation has wandered, I had my ultrasound yesterday, and I'm having another boy. So Juliana Patricia Jane is not to be.

I was playing around on Nymbler last night and was generally appalled by the results. I put in my boys' names and Alasdair, Oliver, Jonathan and Benjamin. I got a few other favorites, like Simon and Lawrence, but then the suggestions dove into the super trendy last names - things like Fletcher and Washington. From there, it started giving me obscure foreign names like Giacomo. So, I'm pretty much where I started.

By peter c (not verified)
May 27, 2008 7:26 PM


all the edith's i have known have been either very old white ladies, or young latinas who were named after the saint. if the other thread is correct that latinos are now trying out names like ashley for their daughters then that would only accelerate the names century long descent. however if you look at the year to year data at SSA, it's been oscillating around ~580 for the past 30 years, so this could be just be an outlier on the higher end, like 448 was an outlier the other way in 1995. though it does seem to have been trending lower more recently, it also appeared out of nowhere to rank #76 in Sweden of all places, so really, who knows??

and yes, we will be naming out daughter edith sometime within the next 10ish weeks. ;)

By ann (not verified)
May 30, 2008 1:03 AM

Aside: Whenever I tell someone they almost assuredly don't know someone over 10 named Aiden, about half the time they say "There was that guy on Sex in the City named Aiden." That was TV, not real life!

In the US, you mean? There's an excellent English author named Aidan Chambers. And of course Aidan Quinn: Irish parentage, born in the US in 1959. The Wikipedia page for Aidan lists a number of adult Aidans, while also remarking on its recent popularity outside Ireland.

By ann (not verified)
May 30, 2008 5:45 PM

Peter C,

Edith is an interesting name. I had one in my class (I was born in 1964, so 44 now). There's also Edith Lank in Rochester, NY, who's both a real estate expert (she's written books and does media interviews/advice) and a Jane Austen expert. Good stuff.

By TM (not verified)
June 2, 2008 2:01 AM

In Ireland Aidan is a very very common name. And it totally sucks that the name is so popular now. My Aidan is 7 1/2 yrs old - we had that name picked out over 8 yrs ago actually, because our 2nd daughter would have been an Aidan if she had been a boy.

Incidentally, I know two Aidan's that are 13 and 14 yrs old.

By Amanda (not verified)
June 5, 2008 4:32 PM

I have two friends who are both due in September. One is having a boy named Landyn, and her choice for a girl was Emma. The other is having a girl named Ella, and her choice for a boy was Cason.

I was struck by Laura's use of both of their boy name choices this entry, with the same spellings they chose no less!

I also have to say I was struck by how similar their name choices are, and how they each seemed, at least at first, to think that they had made unique choices. As someone who reads Laura's bolg, obviously I knew better. ; )

But still, why do some people who have children in the same general time span gravitate towards the same or similar names, but seem to be under the impression that their choices are unique?

By Claire's mom (not verified)
June 5, 2008 9:06 PM

I was happy to read your post about liking the name Claire. My five month old is Claire and I was worried that her name was to old fashioned when I picked it. She is actually named for her grandfather Edward Clair, but we changed the spelling to make it more feminine. I had NEVER heard of a boy named Clair before, but when I checked the NameVoyager I saw that it peaked in the 1910's and 20's about the time my grandpa was born. I know that Claire is becoming popular again, but I've only met one other Claire since deciding on that name. I think it's a beautiful name.... I just hope she agrees when she's older!

By Claire's mom (not verified)
June 5, 2008 9:08 PM

Previous post was a reply to J&H's mom.

By Leigh Ann (not verified)
June 8, 2008 1:30 PM

Yes, Anne married Gilbert. If our baby had been a boy I really liked Gilbert, but my husband wouldn't have it.

By shawna (not verified)
June 17, 2008 11:55 PM

I don't know why everyone is so sour about the Aiden and its variations.....
Frankly I dont mind that there is a storm of Aidens,Cadens,Hayden,Braydens!!!! It's so refreshing to me as I am so tired of the last 20 years of constantly meeting Andrews, Davids, Michaels,Williams,Johns,Jasons,Brians,Eriks,Chris!!!!! Those names have been overdone!!!

By Laura (not verified)
July 24, 2008 10:04 AM

I am an elementary-school teacher working with a school population that is predominantly hispanic. In my school, the names Melanny (with spelling variations), Yasmin (or Jasmine, Jasmin), Daniela, Haley, and Evelyn are becoming very popular with our hispanic kindergarten girls. In keeping with national trends, we also have a lot of "combination" names such as Jayce, Kailynn, and Kristia.

Oddly enough, we have a lot of Heidis, although the name is typically spelled Haydy or Heidy.

Aracely, Leslie (or Lesley), Josselyn (or Jocelyn), and Stephanie (Estefani, Stephany) are also common with our 6-9 year old girls.

With our older girls (9-11) we see more traditional names like Diana, Kimberly, Cynthia, Mariana, and Mariella.

Of course, those are just some general trends in a community of 2000 kids.

By Samaria (not verified)
August 13, 2008 3:08 AM

You can meet ten Aidans and none of them will spell their name the same way:


...and I am sure that there are a few dozen other spellings, for sure. It's sad indeed. Poor kids. I actually think this trend is worse than the past ones (of Jennifers, Amys, Ashleys), simply because the names all sound exactly alike. There is no true deviation between them! I don't count ongoing popularity of classics like Michael and Gabriel, if only because that's exactly what they are: classic. It's impossibly to place a Michael or Gabriel in any one decade, simply because the name has existed and been around in every decade.

By Ariane (not verified)
March 11, 2011 10:42 AM

You didn't make up the name Adelaine. If you put the name in wikipedia, there are articles on people from the 1800s and early 1900s with references to the name Adelaine, must for men that married an Adelaine. In 2009, there were only seven girls named this name. I plan to have a daughter named Adelaine hopefully! It's gorgeous and unique, but you can't take credit for making it up! Also, Miss Malaysia 2007 was an Adelaine.

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