Survey Reveals the Most Sophisticated Baby Names
The first in a series of reports based on exclusive user ratings of names.
What makes a name sound sophisticated? Is it the rhythm, or the origin, or the public figures you associate with the name? And do other people hear sophistication the same way that you do?
These are among the questions we've tried to answer with a long-term user survey. For the past five years, we've asked BabyNameWizard visitors to rate the names they view in Namipedia. On a scale from 1-100, how smart does the name sound? How sexy, creative, friendly, sophisticated? With 1.5 million sets of ratings submitted, the results paint an unprecedented picture of the way we view names.
Before presenting the list of most sophisticated names, I'd like to make clear that none of these dimensions are "good" or "bad." There are tradeoffs: no name hits every target. The survey's job is to identify which kinds of names have these qualities. It's up to each parent to decide which of the qualities matter most to you.
The names rated most and least sophisticated are:
Based on these results, here's a recipe for baby name sophistication:
1. The longer the better. The average American baby name is 6 letters long. The names rated most sophisticated averaged almost 8 letters, while the least sophisticated name averaged just 5. Just like a long, flowing gown, a long, multisyllabic name seems to convey elegance, dignity, and formality.
2. Cuties and tough guys need not apply. With names like Colt and Rocky near the bottom of the list, it's apparent that macho swagger and sophistication don't go hand in hand. The greatest enemy of sophistication, though, is cheery cuteness. 60% of the least-sophisticated names end in the "ee" sound, which is the key marker of cuteness in English names. Sophistication, it seems, is stern rather than "Sunny."
3. No nicknames. Every name on the ultra-sophisticated list was in its most formal form, while several nicknames, including America's #1 nickname Mike, were rated at the bottom. Going back to our clothing analogy, nicknames are like a t-shirt and jeans: comfortable and appealing, but not sophisticated. Nicknames tend to be shorter than full names as well, but the nickname effect still applies even when the nickname is at least as long as its original source (e.g. Jack vs. John, Nancy vs. Ann).
4. Stay traditional. The least-sophisticated list features plenty of contemporary names like Nevaeh, Britney and Koda. The most-sophisticated names, in contrast, lean traditional. If that tradition includes European royalty (e.g. Maximilian, Antoinette), so much the better.
5. Surnames suffice. English surnames and place names (Anderson, Kensington) can provide the traditional feeling along with the length and that spell sophistication, even if they're not traditional as given names.
Based on those criteria, do you think your favorite name comes across as sophisticated? And do you care?
Methodology Notes: Ratings were submitted by tens of thousands of BabyNameWizard.com visitors over the couse of five years, rating names they chose to visit on a scale of 1-100. Rankings are based on names rated by a minimum of 150 users. Alternate spellings may be dropped from lists to avoid repetition. Rare names (outside the current top 1,500 for boys and girls and no apperances in the top 500 in the past century) are excluded as they are easily dominated by a particular character, e.g. Sherlock or Bellatrix.