The Fastest-Rising Baby Names of 2010: Triumph of the Teen Mom

May 5th 2011

Remember the Freakonomics theory that baby names "trickle down" the economic ladder, as strivers try to emulate the upper classes? I wonder how they'd account for the fact that an unwed pregnant teenager from Chattanooga, Tennessee is America's top baby name stylemaker.

Since mid-2008, the MTV reality shows "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" have followed young Maci Bookout through her pregnancy, the birth of her son Bentley, and her subsequent struggles to balance school and parenthood. In 2010 Maci was America's fastest-rising girl's name...and Bentley was tops for boys.

Here's the full list of top risers:

Hottest Boy's Names
The big story in boy's names was uber-preppy surnames going country.

5. Grayson
A generation ago, Jason established a new all-American masculine sound. Grayson updates that sound with a fashionable surname spin. The 2010 jump comes courtesy of young YouTube singing sensation Greyson Chance. (The spelling Greyson was also a top-10 riser.) Props to blogger Lane for pegging this name a year ago!

4. Kellan
Last year's top rising boy's name keeps on chugging. Here's what I wrote last time around: "Twilight alert: vampire Emmett Cullen is played in the movies by actor Kellan Lutz. Mr. Lutz has also signed on as a Calvin Klein underwear model. Need I say more?"

3. Mason
Reality tv personality Kourtney Kardashian gave birth to a son Mason in December 2009. It was already a name on the upswing -- a surname with a classic feeling. And what did I just say about the sound of Grayson?

2. Easton
Country singer Easton Corbin's hit debut album came out in Spring 2010. Note that Easton is a perfect blend of the already popular names Ethan and Austin, making it an easy sell to parents.

1. Bentley
Bentley was the #4 riser in 2009 with the help of "16 and Pregnant," and was the 2010 champ as sequel "Teen Mom" became a phenomenon. For many years the name was a non-starter, as parents saw Bentley as either a stuffed-shirt name or a luxury brand name. But that was before country music star Dierks Bentley came along.

Hottest girl's names
What's the surest recipe for a celebrity name boost? Take a name that's already hot and give it a little twist.

5. Giuliana
Giuliana Rancic, E! Network celebrity news anchor, crossed the line from reporter to subject last year as the star of the reality series "Giuliana and Bill." Her Italian name offered a fresh take on the popular Juliana.

4. Kinley
Ooh, intriguing! No major media events, no updates on a classic name...looks like we may have a genuine, organic style phenomenon brewing here. Rhyming names Finley, Brinley and McKinley also rose, but Kinley really soared.

3. Khloe
Incredibly, this name has made the hottest-rising list three years running on the reality-tv coattails of Khloe Kardashian. Four years ago Khloe was just a fringe "kreative" spelling of the hit traditional name Chloe. Now it's a top-50 hit.

2. Quinn
This year the number of female Quinns leaped to catch up with the boys. A character on the much talked-about tv series Glee helped parents see the name as a feminine option.

1. Maci
A soap-opera heroine and a singer led the name Macy up the charts for years, but the name had hit a plateau. Last year Teen Mom Maci Bookout gave it new juice, and a new top spelling.

The full top-1000 baby names list


By Ellen (not verified)
May 5, 2011 10:41 AM

Grayson is also the name of a main character on ABC's show Cougar Town.

Thanks for you analysis. It is always a pleasure to read.

By Maci (not verified)
May 5, 2011 10:41 AM

None of these surprise me, I know five Kinley's born last year and this year.

By Blythe (nsi) (not verified)
May 5, 2011 11:18 AM

Tenley's the highest newcomer I've spotted thus far. Google tells me she was a runner-up on The Bachelor last year (and an olympic figure skating heroine 50-odd years ago). Definitely fits with the more organic surge of Kinley et all.

Willa, Adele and Elin are newcomers to the top 1000 that I have more affection for!

By sdh
May 5, 2011 11:38 AM

I was about to write the same thing as Blythe -- Tenley went from not in the top 1000 to #458.

I know a few little Kinleys and some Kinsleys too.

By knp
May 5, 2011 11:39 AM

Did anyone see the jump in Tiana too? 609 last year to 334 this year! Disney effect.

By Guest101 (not verified)
May 5, 2011 1:03 PM

There was a Kinley on Project Runway a season or two ago, first time I'd heard the name.

By Alanna (not verified)
May 5, 2011 1:07 PM

I have just started noticing a crazy amount of Sadies and Maisies the past few weeks. (they all seem to be about 0 - 2.5 years old.) Until about a month ago they didn't seem particularly popular - but everytime I am in a playground or museum or whatnot with my kids I hear a parent calling to a new one. I wonder if it's just in this area? (Boston) It's funny how all of a sudden names catch fire!

By sdh
May 5, 2011 1:25 PM

And the Twilight effect continues too - -Rosalie went from 857 to 590.

May 5, 2011 1:28 PM

My heart just broke. My husband and I have been leaning more and more towards Quinn for our son that is due in 3 weeks! Sob.

May 5, 2011 2:04 PM

It was just noted on YouCan'tCallItIt that Eloise jumped almost 400 places. SSA's "Change in popularity" chart includes only names that were in the Top 500 either year -- 2009 or 2010. Eloise rose from #913 in 2009 to #530 in 2010, a jump of 383 places, which makes Eloise the second fastest rising name, ahead of Giuliana (+329).

By Allison (not verified)
May 5, 2011 2:09 PM

Madeline, don't worry about naming your son Quinn. It's still masculine - look at how names like Jamie and Jordan have been used for both boys and girls in the past. Quinn is truly an ambisexual name - perfect either way.

And - I have a 5 year old nephew Quinn and it fits him to a T. Don't let the rise of it for a girl deter you!

May 5, 2011 2:14 PM

Aw, I was about to put Quinn and Maci as two of my choices for fastest rising names in the contest but changed my mind at the last minute.

May 5, 2011 2:27 PM

@Patricia, the hotness formula includes more factors than simply the number of places a name jumped. It also accounts for total numbers of babies.

By ceedee (not verified)
May 5, 2011 2:33 PM

I'm a little confused about the methodology here. The SSA list says that Tiana was +270, while Quinn was +234. I know that their "Change in Popularity" list only does the top 500, but how do get Quinn as the #2 when it is #4 on the SSA change list? Are you using percentages or some other system?

By Kern (not verified)
May 5, 2011 2:37 PM

Guest101--the project runway participant was Kenley, not Kinley.

By AJ (not verified)
May 5, 2011 2:52 PM

SDH, all the Cullens either held steady (see Edward, Isabella, and son-in-law Jacob) or rose (see Alice, Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper) or finally cracked the Top 1000 (see Esme). Only Carlisle has failed to capture new parents, but then his name, given to someone 370 years old, probably has the furthest to go in terms of current styles. ;-)

Quinn was given to 1257 girls and 1221 boys. Looks gender-neutral to me, more so than Taylor.

May 5, 2011 3:20 PM

The closest thing to a celebrity Kinley I can recall is Kenley, a cute, stylish contestant on Project Runway.

Blythe: I like the names you pulled out!

re: Sadie: a friend of mine who is TTC told me she is thinking about the name Sadie. (Also, how great is this friend that she will consult me on names before she conceives!?)

May 5, 2011 3:40 PM

ceedee, Laura's list is calculated using her Hotness Formula that accounts for more than one variable. It's described in greater detail here:

May 5, 2011 3:59 PM

Patricia -- the lower you go down the popularity chart, the easier it is to find big jumps in rank.

E.g. There were 256 more Eloises born last year, and that name rose 383 places in rank. But there were 3,734 more Sophias born, and Sophia only rose 2 places in rank -- insignificant, by the SSA's reckoning. :-)

That's why I use a formula that balances percent change and absolute change, to allow reasonable comparisons across a wide popularity range.

FYI by my calculations Eloise was the #8 fastest-rising girl's name, and Sophia was #9.

By Kate in AK (not verified)
May 5, 2011 4:10 PM

I suspect Quinn just *might* be one of those rare names where the boys survive a jump in useage for girls. It sounds solidly boyish to me, maybe because there's no cute girly nickname to go with it (ala Addie for Addison)?

May 5, 2011 8:02 PM

Thanks LaneR and Laura,

I've copied Laura's Hotness formula.

"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."

Now could someone compute Sophia's numbers for me as an example? (ie., show me your work/computation)

The formula makes sense, but seems difficult to use.


(Edit) Never mind. I tried to do this calculation for Sophia and Eloise -- and it's giving me a headache! It's enough to know from Laura which names are the fastest-rising. Maybe you could eventually post a list of the 10 fastest rising names and 10 fastest falling names. I was really surprised to see Joshua as #5 on the fastest falling boys' list.

May 5, 2011 7:10 PM

The jump in Eloise is interesting. I'm quite fond of it although probably more for a middle name than a first name.

Most of the fastest rising names don't appeal to me in the slightest, so I can't really see the attraction other than Mason and Quinn which I don't mind!

On Quinn, I definitely think it is a unisex name still so wouldn't stress about it rising on the girl side.

By JenniferN (not verified)
May 5, 2011 8:51 PM

Regarding Kinley: Check out "Toddlers & Tiaras." Reality TV scores again!

By Andre (not verified)
May 5, 2011 8:56 PM

Yeah I think Quinn will stick on the boys side. Who knew Ariel and Alexis would STILL be used on boys after decades of being top100 on the girls side.
It's too late to save the pre-90s unisex names, but not for the ones charting nowadays. Look at Finley, up more than 100 places for girls and boys.
I think Quinn did very well for boys considering there are 0 TV shows that feature male Quinns, and about 3-5 that have girl Quinns.

I think parents need to stop stressing about these kind of things, you wouldnt realise how many threads I've seen that have parents panicking that names like Sawyer, Parker, Reese are going to the girls, when most of them are really popular for boys too.

May 5, 2011 9:39 PM

Andre: I think some of the "older" unisex names can have a chance at coming back, particularly as they become dated for girls but don't have the same time-stamp for boys. Ones like Ashley and Madison which dominated the top of the girl list for more than a decade while being very low or off of the boy's list at the same time are probably a lost cause, but names like Kelly and Robin which still ranked for boys albeit lower when they were popular for girls may still be revivable. Although names like those probably won't experience any great popularity either way until the generation they're most strongly associated with passes away (in accordance with the "100-year" or "four-generation" rule), some of them may steer back to the boys by attrition (falling in popularity for both genders but less so for boys), a future influence pulling the ranking for boys up a bit, or a combination of both. If you look at the extended SSA list and run the math (computing the ratio of girl vs. boy usage) on some of the common Boomer/Gen-X/Gen-Y unisex names during their heyday vs. now you'll see the attrition effect with some of them. In addition, when a name is rare among the child's peers altogether it is less likely that he'll have the issue with sharing his name with a girl in class, etc. (in contrast to the ones that are currently popular).

ETA: I noticed that editing my post re-set the time stamp, causing it to appear like it's out of order.

May 5, 2011 9:33 PM

JenniferN: There is a "Toddlers & Tiaras" Kinley, but she just doesn't seem to get the kind of attention that moves the name market. "Teen Mom," the Kardashians etc. are ubiquitous in comparison!

May 5, 2011 9:37 PM

Patricia, it's definitely not a calculation you want to do by hand! But it's the simplest one that seems to do a reasonable job. Here's a deeper ranking of the fastest risers:

1 M Bentley
2 F Maci
3 M Easton
4 F Quinn
5 F Khloe
6 M Mason
7 F Kinley
8 F Giuliana
9 M Kellan
10 F Tiana
11 M Grayson
12 F Hadley
13 F Eloise
14 M Eli
15 M Liam
16 F Sophia
17 M Axel
18 F Scarlett
19 M Knox
20 M Greyson
21 F Zoey
22 F Gia
23 F Harper
24 F Stella
25 F Annabella
26 F Danna
27 F Adalynn
28 F Charlotte
29 F Adalyn
30 F Alice

By Coll
May 5, 2011 9:45 PM

I notice Josephine is still rising at a steady clip, which makes me sad b/c it's the girls name we've chosen if we wind up having a girl this year. I'll just have to trust that its classic status won't make it seem too trendy.

Not surprising that Harper, Scarlett, and Hadley are fast risers. I feel like I've been hearing so much more of them lately. But I am surprised about Sophia and Charlotte. I would have thought those names were tapped out of rising potential at this point. Is there anyone out there who doesn't realize Sophia is megapopular these days? Or is that popularity part of its appeal?

Tenley was my best guess, too. I never do well at these things.

By Andre (not verified)
May 5, 2011 10:11 PM

I think you're right in that some of them can be revived. Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox just welcomed a son named Meredith, who knew that would ever be used on a boy again, right?

By mk (not verified)
May 6, 2011 1:08 AM

I can't believe the fastest rising names are from shows called "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom".

By son of Carroll (not verified)
May 6, 2011 2:59 AM

I would still be wary of naming a boy Quinn. My dad was named Carroll in 1941 - at the time, the use of Carol for baby girls was booming while Carroll for boys was fading. He is therefore constantly confused for a woman by people who read his name without knowing him.

I see Quinn as very similar to Carroll. Neither were ever hugely popular, and neither ever had any big names attached to them ("The Mighty Quinn" song by Mannfred Mann and Carroll O'Connor are all that I can think of).

A good alternative that I don't think likely to switch to female is Quincy. Quincy Jones and John Quincey Adams are two very famous men that anchor this name to boys.

By Amy3
May 6, 2011 6:17 AM

I just met a new baby in my building, Greyson! How funny to have that happen just days before this came out. He has big brothers Bennett and William (nn Liam).

By Essy01 (not verified)
May 6, 2011 10:13 AM

this may be totally random but I distinctly remember the first time I heard the name "Grayson" and it was on Tanya Tucker's reality TV show "Tuckerville" because her son is named Grayson, I think that was back in 2005 or 2006. so it's come a long way. I really like it! love this time of year for names

By AFP (not verified)
May 6, 2011 10:35 AM

If Quinn was boosted by Glee, couldn't that partially explain Kinley as well? It's a little less direct, but hundreds of thousands of people have been hearing the name McKinley every week.

By RK (not verified)
May 6, 2011 11:50 AM

Maybe I am old, but whenever I hear the name Quinn, I always think of Daria's younger sister from Daria.

I had been considering Alice for my daughter's name, but I'm so glad I didn't go for it now.

I've heard a lot of Sadies here in CT as well and we have a Harper (sister to Logan) in our complex.

By Andre (not verified)
May 6, 2011 12:28 PM

Carroll, things are different nowadays with unisex names. Back when Carol rose for girls, it plummet for boys, as per usual. Nowadays things are more even

By Jew Jenny (not verified)
May 6, 2011 12:49 PM

I cannot stand Bentley. To me it sounds so low class wanting to be high class.

By Allegr@ (not verified)
May 6, 2011 1:16 PM

Grayson was also the name of the child in the book, "The Nanny Diaries" (I think it was called? ), that came out in 2002-ish. It was a glimpse into the life of a wealthy New York family and felt like the perfect plug for a baby name...or is that just too far back to be relevant?

By Annicka (not verified)
May 6, 2011 1:50 PM

The child in "The Nanny Diaries" was Grayer, not Grayson, but it is very similar.

By Rayne of terror (not verified)
May 6, 2011 2:13 PM

Yes, my husband is P.O.'d about this name going girl. He hates androgynous names and we named our son Quinino, nn Quinn just a month or two before Glee began. We suspected then Quinn would be going the way of Kelly and Leslie.

By Amanda @ The Fix-Its (not verified)
May 6, 2011 4:52 PM

I couldn't agree more! Quinn has been a fave of mine for YEARS - it better not do what Olivia did...

By Bug (not verified)
May 6, 2011 5:27 PM

I think you're confusing "Surname", which is the family name, with "Given Name", which is the subject of your website.

May 6, 2011 6:35 PM

I also am a little disappointed to see the rise in Quinn for girls, although I'm not exactly surprised. Quinn was the front-runner for our son born last year but my younger sister thought we were crazy since she knew of 3 female Quinns on TV. I didn't watch any of those shows so it still sounds more masculine to me. I was worried it might change sides completely but we never found anything we liked as much so we named him Quinton, nn Quinn. That way he always has the more masculine version to fall back on if need be.

By billl (not verified)
May 6, 2011 7:26 PM

not so sure Quincy is absolutely male.

Quincie: insta-girl.

By JennyAnna17 (not verified)
May 6, 2011 10:13 PM

I think we need to be careful about cause and effect. So often name popularity is credited to a single famous person, or several prominent people. But I think we may have cause and effect mixed up. For example, "Greyson" is a name I have on a 'favorite names' list from when I was a teenager - 15 years ago. And I was so in love with the name Isabelle that I chose it as my eighth grade French class name. It's not because I am a trend maker or ahead of my time, rather there are greater/wider/earlier forces influencing our decisions, and affecting how we culturally interpret a name.

Now my generation is having babies, and we're pulling from whatever made us like those names when we were younger. Even Twilight's author is quoted as saying she picked Bella because that's what she wanted to name a baby girl. Five years ago, my sister wanted to use Emily for her baby - a name she "chose when [she] was eleven, but now it is too popular". It's too popular because all the girls her age chose Emily/Emma when they were 11 years old. (They got older and looked for alternatives and gave us lots of Emersons and Emerys, too.)

And it's not that we can't change our mind once we learn what is popular (we used neither Isabelle or Emily), but I liked Bella way before it was popular - and so did all my other peers! It had nothing to do with Twilight (which I use as an example for one name, and not the basis of my argument).

There may be a few trend setters who people are copying - sure, Khloe - but I think there is a deeper influencial force at work, and the decisions about names and trends we like are formed, generationally, at an earlier age. I don't think parents are necessarily naming their children for or because of a celebrity - there are lots of celebrities who aren't sparking naming trends, despite their individual popularity. Something else unifiies our tastes.

If you want to know what to name your kid to have a 'cool' name when he or she is an adult, perhaps we should poll the 13-year-olds about which names they like!

By Jennifer P. (not verified)
May 7, 2011 8:10 PM

6 years ago when we were pregnant with our only child I wanted to name the baby Avery if it was a boy. Avery is a family name for males in our family. Then it seemed like everywhere I turned I was seeing all these baby girls named Avery. Now we know at least 10 Averys between the ages of 0-6. Fortunately we had a girl and named her Audrey. Now to see the name Avery *this close* to being in the top ten as a girls name totally knocks it out as a boy name for me ever for a boy. :( I guess there are some names that can always go either way (like Sawyer and Finley mentioned above) but then some that are destined to move over almost completely to the girls side.

May 7, 2011 11:08 PM

re: Sophia: I know someone who gave birth in fall 2010 who was going to use Sophia until she found out how popular it was. So I guess it still appeals and those who don't do research (or do and don't care) will still use it.

JennyAnna17: I like your point! The names probably seem fresh to us from the time we are young.

By Charly (not verified)
May 8, 2011 6:49 AM

I was interested to see 6 Charl- names make the top 1000 for girls this year. Only 2 made it the year of my birth ('88). We're on the way up! :)

By Andre (not verified)
May 8, 2011 9:18 AM

jennifer, the name Avery is still climbing for boys and its in the upper half of the chart. It's been in the boys chart since the first one back in the 19th century. After the "tryndeeness" of the name wears off for girls, it'll remain a good name for boys, but a stale and dated name for girls.