Survey Reveals Friendliest Baby Names

Mar 4th 2015

The third in a series of reports based on exclusive user ratings of names.

There's power in friendliness. A cheerful, approachable manner can open doors, make friends, and earn people's trust. Politicians know this -- you can see it in the way they campaign under friendly nicknames rather than their full, formal names.

What makes a name sound friendly? Tens of thousands of visitors have rated names on friendliness, and their judgment couldn't be clearer. The friendliest names quite literally make you smile. Take a look:

      BOYS     GIRLS
1     Kelly     Rylee
2     Archie     Kaley
3     Casey     Carly
4     Jerry     Kiley
5     Ricky     Kelsie
6     Cory     Molly
7     Milo     Kaylin
8     Brady     Chelsey
9     Joey     Kinsley
10     Finn     Leanna


      LEAST FRIENDLY      
      BOYS     GIRLS
1     Vladimir     Lilith
2     Lucius     Gertrude
3     Leonidas     Neveah
4     Draven     Bertha
5     Diesel     Minerva


Kelly-Kiley-Carly-Cory-Casey-Kelsie-Kaley! The trend isn't hard to spot, but the elements of friendliness these names point to go well beyond the letters K & Y.

A bright palette. The friendly names feature bright, crisp sounds -- the auditory equivalent of primary colors. Just like bright colors, they project a straightforward cheer that attracts people.

Short and sweet. The average name on the list is just five letters and two syllables. Of the traditional names on the list, most are nicknames.

The shape of a smile. Try saying KileyKaleyCasey aloud, and you'll find that your face ends up in a grin. Maybe photographers should use that in place of "cheese"?

Fresh and new. The names rated sexiest and most sophisticated were steadfastly traditional. The friendliest name list, though, is full of contemporary creations, especially on the girls' side. For friendliness, the name's shape and sound seem to count for more than its cultural connections.

Cuddle up. The smiley -y ending is the English fond diminutive, the way we indicate affection or call something cuddly and adorable. That ending dominates the lists for both boys and girls, nicknames and full names alike. (Note that Ricky and Joey were rated super-friendly, not Rick and Joe.) Cuteness is disarming, approachable, and yes, friendly.

So long, sophisticates. This recipe for friendliness is the virtual opposite of the style trend we found for sophisticated names. It's a good reminder that no name can hit every target.

While the most-friendly lists have a lot in common for boys and girls, the least-friendly names take very different directions. The boys' names emanate danger: Vlad the Impaler, Death Eater Lucius Malfoy, Spartan Warrior King Leonidas, Undead Avenger Draven (The Crow). None of them have ever been very common as English names, and the combination of exoticism and threat is their unfriendly hallmark.

Some of the girls' names, in contrast, are merely old. Names like Bertha and Gertrude were major hits of generations past. Even the fictional characters who are strongly linked to names on the list, like Harry Potter's Professor Minerva McGonagall and Frasier's Dr. Lilith Sternin, are just stern and severe, not murderous. Do we really find a stern old woman as unapproachable as a raging, sword-wielding man?


More survey results: check out the sexiest and most sophisticated names! 


Methodology Notes: Ratings were submitted by tens of thousands of 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.



March 4, 2015 12:58 PM

Laura, DO we find sterm women as unfriendly as murderous men? In other words, if you listed the ten least friendly names regardless of gender, would they be an equal mix of these two lists, or would one gender or the other predominate?

March 4, 2015 5:41 PM

GIven that Lilith is a night-flying, baby-eating demon, I would take that name out of the Bertha-Gertrude category and rank it right up there with the impalers/Death Eaters/Undead Avengers and otherwise raging, sword-wielders.

By mk
March 4, 2015 2:23 PM

I associate Minerva not with a stern old woman, but with the Roman goddess and her Greek counterpart Athena and the words strong, intelligent, powerful, warrior.

And I think people just really don't like the name Bertha.

March 4, 2015 3:20 PM

If you left out Bellatrix and Sherlock for rarity and association with a particular character, why did Draven and Leonidas make the list?

March 4, 2015 4:33 PM

I can't help associating Bertha with Bertha Bigfoot (sometimes translated as Bertha Broadfoot), actually Bertrada of Laon, Charlemagne's mother.  And there's also Big Bertha (i.e., Dicke Bertha 'Fat Bertha'), the heavy howitzer developed by Krupp in WWI).  That gives Bertha a lot of negative baggage that, say, Gertrude doesn't have.  I remember when I first read Madame Bovary, the part where Emma is fussing over what name to give her daughter and comes up with...Berthe, of all names.

March 5, 2015 12:49 PM

I'm intrigued by Neveah making the unfriendly list. Are we saying that staunchly Christian women are unfriendly (I'm assuming that makes up the majority of the pool of girls named Neveah)?

March 5, 2015 1:53 PM

I think we're projecting our feelings about names onto the holders of those names. Neveah provokes extremely strong reactions, which carry over to the feelings about holders of the name--even though almost every Neveah ever is still a kid, and how many truly unfriendly five-year-olds do you know?

You can see this also with Gertrude--its stats are uniformly really low. Compare that to Trudy's stats--all much higher. But many Trudys people know are probably actually Gertrudes, and they probably aren't actually friendlier, sexier, and more creative when they go by their nickname.

In other words, maybe it's more about the name itself, rather than what we think about people who have the name.

By mk
March 5, 2015 5:18 PM

Isn't Neveah misspelled, or is it used as an alternative to Nevaeh?

I agree, people are reacting to the name, not to people they know with the name. Neveah/Nevaeh tends to get strong reactions from  those who dislike trendy, "made-up" names. I don't know anyone with the name, so never think "Christian" when I see it. Same with Bertha, it gets lots of negative reactions despite the fact most people these days probably never met anyone with the name (I like Berthe and Berta well enough, though I would never use them myself.)

March 6, 2015 8:51 AM

My understanding is that Neveah is a misspelling of Nevaeh. The "eah" combination is much more natural in English, and is also closer to the preferred pronunciation of the name. I assume this is how Micheal and Jeffery became relatively popular names as well (in the first case because the spelling seemed more intuitive and in the second because of the pronunciation). The ironic thing, of course, is that the whole point of Nevaeh IS the funky spelling. As for people rating the name unfriendly, I think they're just being snobby about the misspelling of a very trendy name.

March 12, 2015 11:18 AM

Some belated answers to questions above:

"DO we find sterm women as unfriendly as murderous men? In other words, if you listed the ten least friendly names regardless of gender, would they be an equal mix of these two lists, or would one gender or the other predominate?"

 -- The score range was surprisingly equal across sexes.

"If you left out Bellatrix and Sherlock for rarity and association with a particular character, why did Draven and Leonidas make the list?"

-- Draven and Leonidas make the cut because they're both top-1,000 ranked baby names. Over the past 5 years government stats count 1,571 American boys named Draven, 1,270 named Leonidas, and just 6 named Sherlock.

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