The Fastest-Rising Girls' Baby Names of The Year, 2011: A Bree Spree

May 14th 2012


It's okay, don't be scared. I'm just reading the hottest girls' names in America out loud. That long "e" sound figures in most of them. In particular, the syllable "bree" looks like the sound of the year for girls. (You might recognize it as one of the new combo-name roots I discussed recently.) Bree power fuels 4 of the top 10 risers:

#1 Aubree

# 6 Briella

#7 Brielle

#9 Aubrey

Aubrey is an old Norman French name, a form of Alberic/Oberon, the fairy king. The best known male Aubrey was illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. But the name's sound, so very close to the classic female name Audrey, made it a natural to move to the girls' column. 2011 saw the debut of the reality tv show "All About Aubrey," following pop singer/reality tv lifer Aubrey O'Day.

Briella/Brielle, meanwhile, is:

- A trimming of the hit names Gabriella/Gabrielle
- A combo of the hit name elements Bree and Ella
- An update on the turn-of-the-millennium favorites Brianna/Brianne
- Breeeee-lliant.

The rest of the hottest, as calculated by the Baby Name Wizard Hotness Formula, which takes into account both the percentage change and the impact in terms of number of babies:

#2 Aria
If you've read the fantasy novel Game of Thrones, you were probably swept up in the struggles of tough young Arya Stark. If you've only watched the fantasy tv series Game of Thrones, though, you might well have thought her name was Aria. Or maybe you knew, but just preferred Aria, with its musical associations. Both spellings rose fast, but Aria is dominant.

#3 Harper
You called this one, Baby Name Pool participants. Harper hits a rare baby name sweet spot: it's an androgynous tradesman name that literary traditionalists can get on board with, thanks to beloved author Harper Lee. Already one of the fastest-rising names of the decade, Harper got an extra turboboost in 2011 when David and Victoria Beckham chose it for their daughter.

#4 Mila
Another top choice in the Baby Name Pool. 2011 wa a breakout year for Friends with Benefits star Mila Kunis. And oh, that name: two long vowels in two short syllables. Mila is a Slavic nickname for various names built around the element mir ("dear"); in the case of Ukrainian-born actress Kunis, the source is Milena. Which brings us to...

#5 Milania
Milana is an alternate form of Milena, traditional in several languages. Melania is a form of Melanie, also traditional in several languages. But the #5 hottest girl's name, Milania, is...a little girl on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." Hey, I'm just the messenger.

Other notables: Along with Harper, the top Baby Name Pool picks were Adele (thanks to the singer) and Pippa (England's new royal sister). Adele was indeed a fast riser, the #12 hottest girl's name. But Pippa, surprisingly, remains extremely rare.


Also be sure to check out the fastest rising boys' names, and the full top 1,000 names for boys and girls, with last year's ranks for comparison.



May 14, 2012 2:45 PM

Laura, you are awesome for getting this stuff up so fast!

I have to say, I quite dislike the "Bree" trend, although I just personally am not fond of the bree-sound.  It always makes me think of Brianna, which seems dated to me.  The rise of Aubree was a surprise!

It's a shame about the "Milania" mispelling.


May 14, 2012 3:01 PM

Okay, so in order, we have 1. Aubree, 2. Aria, 3. Harper, 4. Mila, 5. Milania, 6. Briella, 7. Brielle, and, um, 9. Aubrey. So what happened to number 8? Or is Aubrey misnumbered?

I guess I've been saying Mila wrong. (I assumed standard Continental vowels, not Great English Vowel Shift ones.)

And my husband's cousin was ahead of the curve: she has an eight-year-old named Declan, and a five-year-old daughter with the middle name Harper.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 14, 2012 3:04 PM

Wow on double Aubrey!

I have to say I'm not surprised, as that one has been on sooo many polls I've seen.

I'm curious how Adalyns did this year...

By hyz nli (not verified)
May 14, 2012 3:11 PM

Mila is pronounced with continental vowels (MEE-la), at least as far as I've heard with respect to Mila Kunis.  I assume that's how most US parents would pronounce it. 

By LAmama (not verified)
May 14, 2012 3:17 PM

I have a 4 year old daughter named Harper. I don't love seeing her name get more popular, but we have only ever encountered 1 other Harper and he was a boy. On the other hand, I also have a Jonah and I seriously can't go to the park without running into at least 2 other Jonahs. If it had been up to me, my Jonah (Who is about to turn 2) would have been a Declan!

By Kallie (not verified)
May 14, 2012 3:37 PM

I'm the middle US, and I have always pronounced it MY-la, with the vowel more like in Miles.  Then again, I have never met anyone with this name and haven't heard the actress's name pronounced, so I didn't realize it was supposed to be otherwise.

By Joni
May 14, 2012 3:47 PM

I <3 Brielle. I have an -Ana named child and I really wanted an -Elle/a named child but it was not to be. Maybe I could just start calling my Ember "Emberelle". Or better yet, Emberella-ella-ella (haha).

By Jan (not verified)
May 14, 2012 3:47 PM

The Bree sounds sounds modern to me, kind of easy, breezy, Covergirl. :) But when I think of Aubrey I think of Halley Berry's ex Gabriel Aubry (well, it is a legitimate surname).

Fyi, typo with Audrey O'Day (yes, it is so close to Audrey!).


By Jan (not verified)
May 14, 2012 3:48 PM

Bree is also Nancy's best friend in the Fancy Nancy books.

By Joni
May 14, 2012 3:53 PM

Intreting about Mila and Milania. I read the first as Mee-la, but Milania having a first sound like Millie or Millicent. I am not familiar with how either of these people (Mila Kunis or Real Housewives mom) say the names. I guess I need to buff up on my name and culture info though because I read Milania as an expansion of Milan. :-\

May 14, 2012 4:26 PM

If Game of Thrones is an influence on Arya/Aria, I wonder how Brienne of Tarth will affect the Bree- names.  She's not exactly a cute little girl :-).  If we're talking about Bree influences, there's Marcia Cross's character on the very recently defunct Desperate Housewives.

By JennyAnna17 (not verified)
May 14, 2012 5:16 PM

I need to vent briefly.  I hate how the popular media assumes that baby naming is so influenced by celebrities.  For example, an article that stated that the rise in "Masons" was due to a Kardashian choosing the name.  Isn't it more likely that the Kardashian women are subject to the same influences as the rest of the women in their generation, and therefore they like the same sounds, tones, and name meanings as the rest of the women of child-bearing age?  I thought Mason (my cousin's 5-year-old) had a fine name, and his naming had no relation to the Kardashians.  I would venture to say that they may not be responsible for any of the name's increase or acceptance.   It's just that women of a certain age like similar things, for whatever long-formed reason. Vent over. 

May 14, 2012 5:20 PM

You know, once the "eee" sound has been pointed out, it really grates on me. It sounds shrill and childish and makes me think of crowds of teenage girls having fits over Justin Beiber.


I have a hard time picturing an adult woman named Brielle.

By knp
May 14, 2012 5:36 PM

In contrast to PJ's comment, I have a trouble imagining a little girl with Brielle, but can imagine a gorgeous, sophisticated woman with that name. 


I agree---"Isn't it more likely that the Kardashian women are subject to the same influences as the rest of the women in their generation, and therefore they like the same sounds, tones, and name meanings as the rest of the women of child-bearing age?" 


By Charly (not verified)
May 14, 2012 5:39 PM

Surely Mila is not Myelay?? That's what long vowels mean: a as in "baked," e as in "peer," i as in "ice," o as in "boat," u as in "cute."

By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 14, 2012 5:47 PM

I took a bullet for everyone, remembering Milania had a sister with a name something like Gabrielle.

Turns out, they're all quite trend-on. For those of you more high brow, their mother is Teresa, the one who turned over the table in some sort of temper tantrum.

Teresa devotes herself to her four daughters—Gia (born on January 8, 2001), Gabriella (born in 2004), Milania (born in 2006) and baby Audriana

May 14, 2012 6:27 PM

Charly wrote: 

"Surely Mila is not Myelay?? That's what long vowels mean: a as in "baked," e as in "peer," i as in "ice," o as in "boat," u as in "cute.""

Just to clarify, Mila is pronounced with the long E sound that's a recurring theme in this post. It's a long vowel SOUND, but not a long I. Similarly, a name like Kyleigh has long I and E sounds, regardless of spelling.

May 14, 2012 8:07 PM

I also find it interesting that Aubrey/Aubree has risen so fast. I still firmly like this as a boys name and know a 5 year old (boy) Aubrey.  I can see why it's popular for girls. Maybe I'm an old stick in the mud but I like Aubrey on boys and Audrey on girls.

Aria is an interesting one. Ariadne was very close to being my daughters name and I was keen on the nickname Aria. Maybe I'll just keep on eye on that one in case we have another daughter down the track. I've only ever come across one young Aria. I wonder if it will keep rising?

I'm not a fan of most of the Bree names. They do sound a little 90's dated to me. I kind of like Brielle but it's verging on frilliana for me.  Briella is definitely frilliana.

Mila I really like. Does Milla Jokovich pronounce her name the same way? I kind of thought she did. She has been around for along time but Mila Kunis seems to be more well known at the moment.

Harper I'm not in the least bit surprised about. It's everywhere...... I kind of feel like it's played out now in celebrity circles. Obviously normal people are loving it though.

By mk
May 14, 2012 9:11 PM

The Bree names don't surprise me much, but I am surprised that Bree itself isn't rising. I know two baby Brees born in the past year.

I agree with those who say that Kourtney naming her son Mason may be more of a reflection of her being influenced by trends just like other women. I'd say the same thing about the celebrities naming their baby Harper as well.

By Jane 7 (not verified)
May 14, 2012 10:42 PM

I'm sort of surprised the name Mason isn't taboo for more people due to the fraternal organization, which I thought was pretty controversial, especially among religious people. Many churches have rules that you can't be a mason and church memeber at the same time, etc. Maybe since young people aren't joiners, and all those types of fraternal organizations seem to be fading away, it's less of an issue these days?


May 14, 2012 10:52 PM

Aria is also a character on the teen/young adult hit series Pretty Little Liars, and Mason is a newer character on the Grey's Anatomy spinoff Private Practice. Two more possible influences for these rising names.

May 15, 2012 1:05 AM

How do you pronounce Milania/Melenia?

I've tried out several different pronounciations, stressing different syllables and using various combos of long and short vowels, and the only pronounciation that I think sounds attractive is millenia, like the plural of millenium.

I REALLY like Brielle!  It's flowy and girly without going over the top, and I could definitely see it working on both a little girl and a grown woman.  To me, it's a completely different name from Gabrielle; but Briella just seems like an awkward shortening of Gabriella to avoid the Gabby nickname.  Weird?

By Keren not signed in (not verified)
May 15, 2012 2:37 AM

In the UK I think Mila would be pronounced Myla - judging by how we pronounce the boys' name Milo, anyway. Never met a female Aubrey here -  or a male one, come to that.

By LAmama (not verified)
May 15, 2012 3:31 AM

I read somewhere that Kourtney Kardashian named her son Mason because the meaning of her last name in Armenian is "stone sculpter" or something like that. 

By LAMama (not verified)
May 15, 2012 3:34 AM

I think I read somewhere that Kourtney Kardashian named her son Mason because her last name actually means mason in Armenian.  

By Philippa the First (not verified)
May 15, 2012 6:31 AM

To my mind Mila Kunis is Mee-la with a long 'ee' sound, and Milla Jovovich is Mill-a with a short 'i' sound. 

About six years ago I worked with a woman who had a ten year old called Aubrianna. At the time I thought it was really odd, but I'd just started reading this blog (in the search for names for my daughter who will be five on Sunday!), and could start to put together how she'd come to her choice. She liked Brianna, but wanted to avoid how common it was. How remarkably foresightful she was! Congrats, ex-coworker! You have the oldest, most trendsetting Aubrianna on the block. 


By Philippa the First (not verified)
May 15, 2012 6:33 AM

Sidenote: As a Pippa in the US, I could have told you that name wasn't going anyhere. Americans are just not good with those short vowel sounds. I liken my plight to Colin Powell (forever a Co-lon), or an ex-student of mind called Nicola, forever explaining that her name rhymes with Riccola (the cought drops), but still getting called Ni-COH-la. 

By Philippa the First (not verified)
May 15, 2012 6:45 AM

Sidenote: As a Pippa in the US, I could have told you that name wasn't going anywhere. Americans are just not good with the short vowel sounds. I liken my plight to Colin Powell (forever a Co-lon) and an ex-student of mine named Nicola, forever explaining that her name rhymed with Riccola (the cough drops) but still always called Ni-COH-la.

By Andre (not verified)
May 15, 2012 7:03 AM

The first Aubrey I think of is the male rapper Drake - his name is Aubrey Drake Graham.

Aubree is the name of one of the toddlers on Teen Mom - no shock there. That show sets trends.

May 15, 2012 11:07 AM

Teresa Guidice said her daughters are going to be models, so it seemed she named them all after "supermodels." 

As far as celebrities influencing names, I think often it's that we are hearing the name more than that we are actually paying homage to the celebrity.  Although it's clear celebrities influenced the rise of Aubrey/Aubree/Aubrie/Aubri.

By Taylor R (not verified)
May 15, 2012 2:08 PM

I have a friend who named her daughter Brielle last year.  She actually first heard the name on "The Bachelor"! Evidently one of the bachelorettes had a daughter named Brielle. 

Another name I am hearing a lot of -- primarily as a middle name -- with the "EE" sound, is Elise.  Lots of different spellings, too...Elyse, Elysse, etc.  I tend to like Brielle better as a mn, too.

May 15, 2012 2:51 PM

Can someone please explain the appeal of Harper? Its charm eludes me completely. The word evokes "harpy" (shrewish woman) and "to harp" (complain). The sound is harsh, like an explosive cough or a pirate's chuckle "Har har har!" It's made even worse by a second, final rrrrr sound. What am I missing?

May 15, 2012 4:45 PM

@kcaywood - a Harper is a harp player; that gives associations to classical music, performing arts, etc., and it would be a person of talent. Also, I think harp players were traditionally female?

Etymology: Harpy is of Greek origin, and harp-the-verb as in complain is a derivation. Harpy has no relation to harp-the-noun or Harper which have Dutch/Germanic roots. Basically, the to-harp vs Harper issue is kinda like how mad in Madison doesn't mean crazy or angry.

By Susanna (not verified)
May 15, 2012 7:57 PM

Very interesting. I recently heard of a little girl named "Aubrielle." A combination of both!

By Susanna (not verified)
May 15, 2012 7:58 PM

Very interesting. I recently heard of a little girl named "Aubrielle." A combination of both names!


By Anon. (not verified)
May 15, 2012 8:50 PM

Does the name Harper trend differently in Canada, it is the last name of our current Prime Minister.  I wonder if that makes it more or less popular?

By Beth the original (not verified)
May 15, 2012 11:52 PM

Commenting problems.

May 16, 2012 1:37 AM

I figured this might be the way the list went, though not the double whammy of alternate spellings so much.

For me Aria and Arya are NOT the same name. I read Aria as ahr-ee-ah and Arya as ahr-ya (like "are ya"), which is how it's intended to be pronounced, I believe.

Since Americans tend to use -ia and -ya interchangeably, I can see how the different endings might be conflated as alternative spellings, but b/c English isn't my only language, for me, these endings have subtle, but very different, sounds.

By Philippa the First (not verified)
May 16, 2012 6:13 AM

Actually, a harp player is a harpist, not a harper. I agree- Harper as a girl's name totally eludes me too. Mostly because there is no way at all to give Harper a nickname- Harpy? Har Har? 'H'? All terrible. Maybe maybe Happy? Or Harpo? Then again, maybe the appeal is all in the lack of pet names? It just sounds like Not A Name to me. Much more so than Finley or McKenzie or Grayson or whatever else non-feminine surnames people give their girls. And I'm not an old stick in the mud either- I get the appeal of the boyish-girl name! Just not this one. 

May 16, 2012 8:32 AM

@Philippa 1st - from New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition:

harpist |ˌhɑːpɪst|
a musician who plays a harp.

harper |ˌhɑːpə|
a musician, esp. a folk musician, who plays a harp.

On -ist vs -er:

-ist |ɪst|
suffix forming personal nouns and some related adjectives
• denoting a person who uses a thing: flutist, motorist.
[+ other senses]

-er |ə|
• denoting a person, animal, or thing that performs a specified action or activity: farmer, sprinkler.
[+ other senses]

By Ellieseventeen (not verified)
May 16, 2012 3:37 PM

Anon - check out the sidebar on the entry for Harper (girl)

Global Popularity of the Name Harper

#265 in Canada (Alberta)

#297 in United States

By Guest111 (not verified)
May 16, 2012 7:55 PM

Ellie, that sidebar is out of date, at least for the US. Harper is in the 50s this year.

By Philippa the First (not verified)
May 17, 2012 8:45 AM

Rightio. Never heard of a harper before (or fluter or pianoer or guitarer ad infinitum) but consider me corrected. 

Surely it's the less common version of that job description- and perhaps not really the reason people are naming their girls Harper? It would never have crossed my mind until now. 

May 17, 2012 7:07 PM

@Philippa 1st - The -ist construction is probably most common for musicians; violinist, pianist, etc.) but I can think of a few -er's as well; harper, piper, trumpeter, fiddler, drummer, (and singer). I does seem to be the less "prestigious" instruments that get the -er suffix (minus trumpeter, perhaps?) but it's probably also a question of what sounds better. Pianoer and violier are awkward but drummer is better than drummist.

I think the harp-player meaning is sort of a bonus but not the main reason for choosing Harper. The name has the in-trend qualities Laura listed; right type of name, right sound, plus it begins with an H which is hot right now. BTW, my pronunciation is non-rhotic |ˌhɑːpə| so I'm not hearing the rrr-sounds. 

By Philippa the First (not verified)
May 19, 2012 7:52 AM

At least we have that in common! I'm also non rhotic (Australian). I don't know if that increases or decreases the likliehood that I would like Harper as a name.  

By One in a lillion Jens (not verified)
July 10, 2012 4:53 PM

My daughter is 13 months old and named Penelope Rose.  We call her Pippa! I wanted to name her Phillipa but was vetoed by her father. :)  I love your name and the originality it has here in the US.

February 11, 2013 4:27 AM

The result is not surprising. Evidently, if a name is easy to pronounce,  it is judged as being more familiar.

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