Fastest-Rising Baby Names: Beyond the Top 1000

May 9th 2013

Outside the top-1,000 name lists, names can rise and fall fast without making much of an impression in America's nurseries. A dozen babies might move a name a thousand slots in the rankings. But the biggest movers and shakers outside the top 1,000 can still tell stories. And this year, the story they tell is a familiar one from the top chart: Cataleya. Cataleya, Cataleya, CATALEYA!

I've already identified Cataleya, the beautiful assassin from the movie Colombiana, as the fastest-rising name of the year, by a mile. But if you look at the deeper data pool, the name's utter dominance becomes more apparent. Here are the fastest rising names of the year if you include all popularity levels and both sexes:

#1: Cataleya

#2: Cattleya (this is the botanical spelling for a genus of Orchids)

#3: Kataleya

Yes, the deadly Cataleya is all three of the fastest-rising names of the year. And if that's not enough for you...

#8: Catalaya
#9: Cattaleya
#22: Catalia
#30: Katalaya
#53: Katalia
#54: Kattleya

You get the picture. This Cataleya wave comes close to the Miley/Mylee/Mylie phenomenon of five years ago, despite the name not receiving anything like the publicity Miley Cyrus got as "Hannah Montana."

Don't expect Cataleya's publicity to rise now, either, because of a bizarre quirk in the way the Social Security Administration reports its own name data. You won't find the name at all in the SSA's press release trumpeting the fastest-rising names of the year. For some reason, they ignore any names that started outside the top 1000, thus systematically missing the big stories that come out of nowhere. Instead, they reported on names like Major which made smaller leaps by any measure.

More notes from outside the top 1000:

Trayvon. I've written before about the trend of memorializing young female murder victims with baby names. The rise of Travyon Martin's name to just outside of the top 1000 feels a bit different, a blend of memorial and defiant political statement. I would be very curious to know the racial and ethnic mix that the new young Trayvons represent.

Demani, Damoni, Domani, Demoni. None of these boys' names quite cracked the top 1000, but all were among the 30 fastest risers. That points to a name sound on the verge. (Note to parents: the spelling "Demoni" is Italian for "demons.")

Emrys, Theseus, Korra, Karliah, Dragon. There's a distinct sense of the fantastical among the rare-but-rising names. Emrys is a name for Merlin (used prominently in a BBC tv series); Theseus is the mythical hero-king who slew the minotaur; Korra is the protagonist of the animated fantasy series "The Legend of Korra"; Karliah is a character in the video game "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim"; and Dragon is...umm, a dragon.


May 9, 2013 9:38 PM

I was introduced to the name Katalaya just this last Monday. I'd never heard of it before and had to do some Googling to research it out. Can't say I'm a fan, but it was interesting to research it!

May 9, 2013 9:52 PM

Just a note on literary history:  Emrys is not a name for Merlin, except in the current tv show Merlin, where it is the name of Merlin's alter ego.  Emrys wledig is the Welsh form of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a military leader of the Roman-British who fought successfully against the Anglo-Saxon invaders in the 5th century.  His name and story appear in the historical writings of Gildas.  Gildas mentions another war leader of the Romano-British whom he doesn't name, but who is presumed by some (many) to be Arthur.  There is, however, no evidence that this unnamed  individual was in fact named Arthur.

May 9, 2013 11:26 PM

I know a little Emrys. He is 4 or 5 now. Emrys is his father's middle name.

May 9, 2013 11:39 PM

I chose Emrys for my baby a year and a half ago after reading it in a story book about Merlin (the appellation came from Geoffrey of Monmouth's version of the Arthurian tales from the 12th century). I had never even heard of the television show. I hope it doesn't get too popular, I had no clue it had any potential to be a fast riser, but it's so right for my baby.

May 10, 2013 3:51 AM

Hah, my big news is that Jolyon is actually ON THE DATA again, with 6 babies born last year. This is the first time outside of 1970-1973 that it shows up in the beyond-the-top-1000 data, so that's pretty exciting for us!

May 10, 2013 10:33 PM

Dragon rise in use was probably due to 2012 being the year of the dragon.

May 13, 2013 7:24 PM

"Demoni" isn't the only name on thatl ist with a meaning in Italian (though by far the most sinister). "Domani" means "Tomorrow"

May 18, 2013 10:07 AM

The TV show may have lifted the association between Merlin and Emrys from Mary Stewart's Merlin series that began with The Crystal Cave.  I believe in that series Merlin was actually supposed to be the son of Aurelius Ambrosius, who I assume was based on the historical figure Miriam wrote about. If Stewart was indeed the first to make that name association, then it's an odd, but cool bit of modern legend-making, I think.