Enter the 2008 Baby Name Pool!

Mar 12th 2009

Just when you were getting all comfortable with the idea of 2009, it's time to look back at the year that was. What names broke through in 2008 in movies, music, world events? Where were styles heading? What were the baby names that defined the times -- and the names the times left behind?

The annual Baby Name Pool is your chance to test your baby name acumen against hundreds of your name-loving peers. Just pick three names you think rose in popularity in 2008, and three you think fell. When the U.S. government releases its official name stats in May, I'll tally the results and present the top scorers to the world for fawning acclaim! Or at least a quiet round of internet applause.

If you haven't played before, you can read more details and check out some of the past names that made for winning entries (2007, 2006, 2005) to get a sense of how name fashions operate. Then convince your friends and coworkers to enter with you, to secure local bragging rights. This is an equal-opportunity contest, by the way; we've had male and female winners.

All entries must be received by April 15. Think of it as a fun antidote to tax filing.

Fill out your ballot now!


By CB (not verified)
March 12, 2009 8:27 PM

Yay! I never win, but this is always fun!

March 13, 2009 12:09 AM

I'll be ready next year with my current local analysis of this year. However, I have no clue as to LAST year. Wow, this is going to take some thinking. As if I don't already procrastinate enough-thanks Laura!

March 13, 2009 9:26 AM

Sorry I'm starting a little late this year -- the website was totally rebuilt since last year's pool, and I had to scramble for a new entry form, etc. But at least this will get us all in the right frame of mind for when the new name stats come out in May!

March 13, 2009 10:41 AM

I could use your opinions on a sticky naming situation.

My sister is strongly considering the name KAI for her little boy due in July. As I have mentioned before, the baby will be Chinese and Mexican. The last name will be clearly Mexican. I think this would be a terrific name for her baby since it alludes to his Asian heritage. My parents live in Hawaii, so the meaning of "the sea" in Hawaiian is appropriate. In addition, my research indicates that the word CAI in Mandarin (pronounced the same way as KAI) means "fortune" or "wealth."

The main hitch is that our grandmother (the child's great grandmother) has got it in her head that Kai means "bastard" in Chinese. She is 82 and quite clear of mind. I don't speak any Chinese, but I have looked high and low and not found any evidence of this. I have also asked a couple of Chinese friends and they haven't heard of this. Moreover, I know several Chinese boys that have this name. Since Grandma was born in the U.S., she speaks very little Chinese. She can order food at a Chinese restaurant, but she can't carry on a conversation. She told me she didn't know enough Chinese to give my kids Chinese names.

My sister is reluctant to use this name because Grandma will probably tell everyone that the name means "bastard" in Chinese. I have told Grandma directly that it means "wealth" in Mandarin, but she is convinced that it means "bastard," likely in Cantonese she says.

So, should she use this name?

March 13, 2009 11:21 AM

Can you find an expert in Cantonese - maybe a university department - and ask them? I'm sure they'd be delighted to put her mind at rest, and f I were your sister I'd want to know! But I hope she's wrong, I love the name Kai.

I need some help as well. I'm re-naming a fictional character. He's English, 75, his mother was French and he's a retired lawyer, quite formal. His wife is called Helen, so no H's please. He was called Edward, which was perfect, but it clashes with something else and now I have to re-name him, so I need ideas. Surname is Tyler. I thought Matthew, but it's not right. Thanks!

By Joni
March 13, 2009 11:22 AM

Tirzah, yes, she should use the name. Not to be cold, but baby Kai will be around a long time after grandma leaves the earth. And he will meet a lot of people who 1) don't know grandma and 2) will never meet her. She may tell family that but a simple explanation to those who matter - family and friends - is enough.

March 13, 2009 11:35 AM

tirzah, i agree that she should use the name if she likes it. consult an expert in the language if you like, but ultimately, i don't think his grandmother's perception will do much damage.

how about george, charles, or william?

By NicoleM (not verified)
March 13, 2009 11:47 AM

Keren: I searched the top French and UK names of 1934. A few that stood out: Bernard, Peter, David...for some reason Alfred jumps out at me...

Tirzah, if she loves the name I say use it. Like Keren suggested, maybe you can find a native Cantonese speaker or expert to sway Grandma. I know a couple naming their new boy Rai. Baby is Korean and dad is Japanese.

I've got a question on how the SSA compiles the name rankings. I did not apply for my kids' SS cards until they became US citizens (both were slightly over one year old at that point)--so are their names still counted in the current year (even though they were born the previous year) or are they not counted at all? Do they only look at applications done immediately after birth?

March 13, 2009 11:58 AM

Tirzah-I say use it. Grandma may be adamant but it also appears she may be wrong. If no one can find any reference to this meaning, then she will have to accept that she is wrong or just sit there quietly.
This is the site I checked as I know nothing about the Chinese language.

Keren-How about Donald, Arthur, Lawrence, Leonard, Alfred, Daniel, or Edgar?

By Melissa C (not verified)
March 13, 2009 12:09 PM


Julien, Jacques, Regis, Vincent, Victor, Eugene, Vaughn, Norman.

I think Vaughn Tyler sounds a formal, stiff lawyer type name.

March 13, 2009 12:53 PM

Tirzah- I know a Kai who is at least partially Asian, I don't know the meaning of the name, but he wears it well so I wouldn't worry too much!

Keren- I haven't thought too much about it but I like the suggestion of Alfred!

By CB (not verified)
March 13, 2009 1:40 PM

Keren - I like the suggestion of Julien. It feels like a name a French mother would bestow, but still has a formal, wig wearing, lawyer feel.

By Coll
March 13, 2009 2:08 PM

Keren, Charles is reading as the right name to me. Charles and Helen Tyler--what a perfectly proper elderly couple.

I just submitted my ballot and am really regretting one of my falling choices and wishing I'd subbed in a different one. So since I can't change my entry, anyone who would like to submit Audrina as a major loser this year, accept it as my gift!

By Coll
March 13, 2009 2:15 PM

Oh, and regarding the conversation on the previous thread about anachronistic names on tv shows, I just remembered one that always bothered me: On Will & Grace, Grace's husband was a late-thirties-ish Jewish doctor named Leo. Isn't that name much more appropriate to a little boy born late-'90s/early-aughts...when the show was airing? Considering he would likely have been born in the late '60s, maybe early '70s, shouldn't his name have been Josh or Jonathan or maybe even Jason?

By Kam
March 13, 2009 2:47 PM

I am regretting choices in my ballad too! :( oh well, nothing i can do. My friend is having a baby any day now and she is very proper and English, can't wait to find out the baby's name... I'm guessing it will be Sophie/Sophia or Isabel/ lsabela for a girl and William, Charles, or Nathanael for a boy. I'll keep you posted on what the baby does end up being named.

By Clueless about names (not verified)
March 13, 2009 3:32 PM

Hmm, I wonder if my anti-establishment, patchouli wearing, hippy friend who named her son Kai had any idea it means "wealth". Kind of ironic that she name her son, who was born in a log cabin on the side of a mountain, after the very thing she denounces.

I have a baby on the way and we have no idea about names. We have a son named Maxwell (Max). Does Clark go with Max? Any ideas on girl names?

Rising names? I have no idea, I named my kid Max thinking it wasn't popular.

By Amy3
March 13, 2009 3:50 PM

I took the plunge and submitted a ballot. I felt much better about rising names and will confess I did take Audrina as a falling name. Thanks, Coll!

Tirzah -- I think your sister should use Kai. And if you're able to round up a Cantonese expert, that would be great.

Clueless -- I think Clark complements Max nicely. It definitely makes for a less trendy sib set than if you chose Theo, for example. I know a mom of 4 who would have named her youngest daughter Clark had she been a boy. Brothers are Grant and Calvin.

Keren -- I like Charles. Works in French and English. Fits a man born in the 30s. Sounds nice with Helen.

By Guest (not verified)
March 13, 2009 3:49 PM

Coll, it's possible Leo was short for Leonard, which definitely has more of a late 60's sound to me. Shonda Rhimes of Grey's Anatomy is horrible at giving charachters age apporpiate names (Isabelle, Lexie, Sadie, Violet - all charachters in their 20's/30's)

March 13, 2009 3:53 PM

clueless, funny anecdote about your hippie friend. :] perhaps she's better off not knowing.

and regardless of the rising popularity of max, i think it's a fantastic name. i think it's important for people to choose a name they love, regardless of how common it is.

i'm sure that soon you--being "clueless" about names--will soon have a multitude of cheerful and enthusiastic advisors. :] i'll go ahead and say that i think julian and oliver go well with maxwell (but, as those are two of my favorites, i'm quite biased). i also think sam and leo work well with max. for girls, maybe ella, lucy, or lily?

but it's ultimately your decision--i'm sure we are all excited to know what you choose!

By Liz & Louka (not verified)
March 13, 2009 4:22 PM

I bought my 3-year-old a baby doll yesterday. After a few false starts, a name seems to have stuck. The baby's name is ... Jungle!

By Aybee (not verified)
March 13, 2009 4:24 PM

I like Clark, I'd say it goes more with "Maxwell" than Max, fwiw. I'd support the suggestions of Sam(uel) and Leo:

Some other options, not sure if you care about popularity:
Nicholas(I know it's popular, but still..)
Eli or Elias
Arthur or Archer
Charles (Charlie)
Wesley (for some reason I'm always suggesting that one...)

It's hard to suggest girls' names without knowing your style for girls names-- can you list a few that you like?

congrats and good luck!

March 13, 2009 5:59 PM

Clueless, Kai is a name that occurs in a number of different languages. In Hawaiian it means 'sea,' and in the northern European languages its meaning is uncertain. It would be inaccurate to say simply that it means 'wealth.' Its meaning is entirely derived from which language the namers had in mind when they chose it. Or perhaps the namers had no language in mind and thought they simply made it up. If I had to guess, I would say that given hippie parents, the Hawaiian meaning was probably what they had in mind.

March 13, 2009 6:22 PM

New Babies in My World:

Jamin Parker - bro for Shayla Rachelle

Kierstan Emily - first child to mid-30 parents

actually her mn was not originially going to be Emily. She bled to death (placenta tear on her side) just before birth and when her parents saw her they simultaneously said her mn was not right. So they tossed about for a while and came up with Emily.

March 13, 2009 6:24 PM


I have a cousin named Jamen who's 30ish. I've never heard of another one!

March 13, 2009 7:09 PM

Thanks so much! Charles, David, Julian and Edgar - or maybe Edwin - are top runners. I think Leonard and Alfred would be not quite upper class enough. Also a friend suggested Patrick,but I think it's too Irish. The only thing putting me off Charles is the Prince of Wales. I'm going to try replacing 'Matthew' in the text with all of these, and see which one takes..I'll let you know.

By jenna1982 (not verified)
March 13, 2009 7:23 PM

re anachronistic names: Grey's doesn't bother me much, as I have actually met at least one person my age (late twenties) with each of those names. So, while unusual, it's not impossible. Although, what DOES bug me is that no way would the whole cohort have unusual names unless it's some kind of prerequisite for getting hired at Seattle Grace.

I did just read a book by a psychiatrist that had lots of case studies with made up names. ALL the little kids were names like Susan, Linda, Carol, and the parents were Mildred,etc.. Totally unrealistic even for a book written in the 80's. It drove me nuts.

RE fictional character: I like Charles. Some of the others, though technically correct, bring up a modern sensibility to me as well. Charles is pure and simple old fashioned.

RE Kai I'd say go for it. Tell her since it's spelled with a K it is not the Chinese meaning, whether it's bastard or wealth. It means ocean. End of story.

March 13, 2009 7:32 PM

Keren-Good luck! Yes please let us know how it goes.

Jessica-If I am reading your post correctly, please pass condolences on to the family on my behalf.

Both names are nice. Jamin sounds a bit like a squished Jamison to me.

Clueless-I like the name Clark and think it goes okay. Can you give us more of a feel for your style? Names you like/don't like?

March 13, 2009 7:59 PM

Jessica - What a sad story. I hope the care the parents took in finding the right name for their baby gave them some small comfort. Also pease pass condolences to the family - they are not alone, sadly.

By Cathie (not verified)
March 13, 2009 8:08 PM

Keren, what about Roland? Giles?

Clueless, we have a neighbor Clark and I have to say it's one of those names that I like better in theory than in practice. It seems a bit short and without enough color somehow. Everyone is always forgetting this little boy's name. What about Carter instead? I like George or Henry or even Charles (Charlie) to match styles with Maxwell, but they would be what people are "expecting" -- not sure if you are trying to get away from that. I have two friends with a son Maxwell, 1 has sib Oliver and the other has sib Declan.

March 13, 2009 9:41 PM

@Jessica, I didn't notice the 2nd part of your post earlier when I commented on the Jamin part. Please pass along my condolences too.

On another topic, Iron Chef Cat Cora and her partner Jennifer are both pregnant. They have 2 sons already, Zoran and Caje. I'm thinking maybe Caje is a combo of Cat and Jennifer? Has anyone else ever seen this name?

By Amy3
March 13, 2009 9:51 PM

Jessica -- Please add my condolences to those already passed along to your friends. That story is heartbreaking.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
March 13, 2009 11:02 PM

I know two Kais. One has a mother of Japanese heritage.
One is the child of hippie/hipsters and has a brother named Max.

My friend with the Mailee (her husband is Hawaiian, and they picked it long before the advent of the "other," Miley) is also considering it.

I think it's a name on the rise, actually. Maybe I'll enter that one.

Anyway, Tirzah-Tell sis to use it. Grandma can always give him a nickname, and I'm betting she won't utter a word about it once she gets her first look at the little guy.

March 14, 2009 12:52 AM

New names for this week:
and a sp of Benjiman(do you think they did that to get the nn Benji)??

By Nina
March 14, 2009 2:38 AM

I don't really see how the name Kai links to his Chinese heritage. Cai is not pronounced as Kai as far as I know.

However, I also have never heard of cai meaning bastard. Cai can mean 100 of things though if you don't link it to a Chinese character. One charachter for cai for example means dish (as in food).

As there are many Chinese dialects, all with different pronunciations, the pronounciation cai (not Kai) will most likely have a bad meaning in some dialects and good in others. As long as you link it to the right character this is not a problem.

March 14, 2009 7:43 AM

How is Kai pronounced? It reminds me of the mostly female name Kay (at one time a very popular middle name for girls). I've been seeing (not hearing) Kai as a boy's name fairly frequently. Where did the name come from - character in a movie, name of star baby??? I'm wondering what makes this very short name appealing to many parents.

By Amy3
March 14, 2009 12:07 PM

Patricia -- I've always known Kai (for a girl or a boy--I know both with the name) to rhyme with eye.

I also know a boy with the mn Kei (I think that's the correct spelling--it's Japanese) and it's pronounced kay.

By Amy3
March 14, 2009 12:37 PM

Names from my husband's alumni mag (mid-south state univ):

Ashlen Michelle
Emilie Clancett3
Tristyn Layla
Addison Grace
Rebecca Reese
Kreslyn Zakiya
Taylor Patricia
Josie Caroline
Shelby Elizabeth
Addison Michelle
Marlee Erin
Abbey Claire
Anna Bennett and Lauren Hilary (twins)
Madelyn Grace
Mylee Elizabeth
Mali Marie
Sophie Isabel

Jackson Matthew
Jackson H
Jaxen Lee
Brooks Robert
Braxton Daniel
Benjamin Cai
Judd Edward
Cooper Lee
Jason Earl
Rory Addison (I wasn't sure if this was a girl or boy)
Owen Anthony
Jacob Dean
Cooper Ryan

By bill (not verified)
March 14, 2009 3:41 PM

i don't know if you're reading on the new thread but how about

Hamish McWhatever

March 14, 2009 4:55 PM

Thanks Amy3 those were interesting though not very surprising. Cooper is really taking off it looks like.

March 14, 2009 5:03 PM

My regular mail carrier just came back from maternity leave today, and of course I had to ask you-know-what. She carried a little boy named Grayson Ash. I didn't ask about the spelling, so I am assuming (hoping?) Grayson, rather than Graysin, Graysen, Gracin, Gracen, or what have you. Nor was I able to ascertain whether either Grayson or Ash is a family (sur)name. There are after all limits to nosiness.

By sarah smile (not verified)
March 14, 2009 6:01 PM

I understand the frustration with anachronistic names for TV characters. But to whoever was talking about the book of case studies, that makes perfect sense to me. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I often use short made-up scenarios in the training workshops I run. I intentionally use names that aren't likely to be found in the population I'm working with, because I don't want my students to be distracted by thinking that I am talking about them, or their siblings, friends, etc. I want the names to feel 'other' enough that they can separate their own reactions and focus on the scenario - but not so unusual that they can't remember them. Names from different generations are perfect.

By sarah smile (not verified)
March 14, 2009 6:06 PM

In the same vein - when I was a child (born in mid-70s), I used to play catch with my dad on our front sidewalk. He always named the bushes on either side of the cement, so that if I missed the ball and it landed in the bushes he could say "Phyllis caught it!". I can't remember the names of all the bushes, but the fact that they were all "old-fashioned" names to my ear was part of the fun, and somehow even sillier than if they had been named Kristen or Jennifer.

March 14, 2009 8:48 PM

sarah smile-You reminded me of how I always get a kick out of the names in my ds's math book word problems. I have seen both my children's names this year as well a many other favorites. They still use the classics though and not that many kre8tiv names. It also seems they are trying to get more balanced with the ethnic names as well as I have seen more that look to be of Asian and Spanish descent. That said, the day I see Ayden/Jayden/Braiden etc. is when I know I've gotten old.

By Riot Delilah (not verified)
March 14, 2009 8:49 PM

Jessica - my condolences to your friend. Some friends of mine lost their son recently as well; he was born much, much too early and lived only two hours. His name was Garron.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
March 14, 2009 11:49 PM

So, does anyone want to fess up about your poll names?

I promise not to steal!

By Eo (not verified)
March 15, 2009 12:39 AM

We ran into an acquaintance today out with her seven year old nephew and five year old niece:

William and Thelma! Little Thelma was sweet, wistful, a wee bit shy. It was a family name, apparently. We had a Thelma too in our family...

The famous Thelma, (Thelma Vanderbilt, who I think was the girlfriend of the Prince of Wales, pre-Wallis Simpson), pronounced it "Telma".

By Eo (not verified)
March 15, 2009 12:51 AM

Oh no, I just realized she wasn't Thelma Vanderbilt, she was Thelma Morgan, later to become Viscountess Furness, or something. The Prince of Wales interlude is accurate, however!

It was her twin sister Gloria Morgan who became a Vanderbilt, and had a daughter also named Gloria, the entrepreneurial Gloria Vanderbilt...

Hmmm, twins named Gloria and Thelma. How pleasantly retro.

By toothfairy (not verified)
March 15, 2009 9:35 AM

Ok, I'll bite: My fastest riser guess was Alice. Fastest falling guess was Brendan. Alice was just a hunch. I almost selected Bella, but while I think it's on the rise, "Twilight" didn't come out until the summer last year, and I don't think we'll see the full effects of the book/movie influence until 2009's names are tallied.
Falling names were much harder!! I got inspiration by looking at the class rosters of the 6th-8th grade at my son's school, and looked for names that I don't hear on this board or on the "short" lists of pregnant friends anymore.

Now I'm thinking maybe Malia might be a riser this year...oh well, ballot has already been sent!

By CB (not verified)
March 15, 2009 9:51 AM

Yeah, I'll give up mine (I never win, so steal at your own risk folks!).
My risers were Harper (I think this is going to be a big, big name in the near future), Scarlett, and Barack(if it's ever going to make the list, it would be now, right?). My regrets are Nora, Miller, and Winston.
My fallers were Mitchell, Harold, and I can't even remember. I went with a different strategy this year, and just picked falling stand-bys, instead of trying to predict some major upset. My regrets are Orion and Brittney.

By MelissaH (not verified)
March 15, 2009 10:02 AM

Can anyone help with name suggestions to go with siblings John and Christopher? Baby is probably a girl. My husband's top pick is Cora (a family name) and I've always loved the name Emily (but it's just been too popular - I don't mind a top 20 name but not #1 for years). Names we both like are Katherine, Madeline, Sarah.

Any ideas would be very much appreciated!