Say Goodbye to These Favorite Names

Dec 21st 2017

Flashback to:

 "Y2K" panic
• Destiny's Child ruling the radio
• "Friends" ruling television
• Palm Pilots being the height of techno cool

Yep, it's been a while since the year 2000. Long enough, in fact, that we've seen a generational turnover in baby names.

I calculated the names that have fallen the farthest since the year 2000: the names that have just turned the generational corner. If the first X-Men movie still feels recent to you, you might want to sit down for this list of "Turn of the 21st Century Throwbacks."

Jessica Nicholas
Alexis Tyler
Ashley Brandon
Hannah Zachary
Megan Justin
Lauren Joshua
Sarah Kyle
Taylor Jacob
Kayla Christopher
Alyssa Michael


In theory, that list is diverse in style. It includes names short and long, old and new, biblical standards and unisex surnames. And yet, they all go together, don't they? You can feel that despite their differences, they make up a coherent set. That's the feeling of a generation. In particular, it's the generation of the 1980s-'90s, which was still ruling the roost in 2000 but has been sliding since. Here's the same list in NameVoyager graph form:

Graph of falling names

Just to be clear, there's nothing remotely wrong with these names. After all, they're a whole generation's favorite names – and, likely, names of people you know and love. What's more, they can still be considered popular. 18 of the 20 names on the list (all but Megan and Jessica) still rank among today's top 200 for boys or girls. Plenty of them are such classics that they will never fully disappear.

Yet the shape of that graph reminds us that a lot of these names that we take for granted as standards were virtually unheard of back when our parents were born. They're names that define a specific era, an era which is rapidly being supplanted on the baby name popularity charts. They're stepping aside to make way for new hits like Harper, Penelope, Bentley and Maddox, that were themselves unheard of back when the Palm Pilot was king.



December 21, 2017 11:56 PM

"And yet, they all go together, don't they?"

Yes, yes they do. It's quite remarkable, actually. Though unsurprisingly, the effect is much stronger (for me) with the female names. I can think of current tots with 5 or 6 of the boys' names, yet only one of the girls', keeping the boys' names feeling more current. (Though I must admit that I was surprised when I heard that people around my age had named their kids some of these names since they clearly felt of the wrong generation.)

December 22, 2017 12:59 AM

I'm surrounded by Y2K namers. Here's the number of occurences of each name in this year's elementary school student directory:

Jessica 0
Alexis 0
Ashley 2
Hannah 2 plus Hanna 1
Megan 0 (but co-worker's 10-year-old is Meghan)
Lauren 1
Sarah 0
Taylor 2 (gender unknown)
Kayla 1
Alyssa 1

Nicholas 0 (but Cole 3, Colin 2, plus Colten called Cole 1)
Tyler 1
Brandon 4
Zachary 3
Justin 1
Joshua 6
Kyle 2
Jacob 3
Christopher 2
Michael 1

The total number of students listed in the directory is 462. No name occurs more than 10 times (not even if I combine spellings).

The numbers demonstrate that Karyn is right: the out-of-place effect is much stronger for girls. One of the Ashleys is in my daughter's class, and it's pretty jarring (especially given that one of the fellow parents at our end of the cul-de-sac is an Ashley). In contrast, none of the boy's names would surprise me on a class roster. (Well, not any more. The most frequent name in the directory is Ryan, after all.)

December 22, 2017 5:27 PM

I teach in a small HS.  We definitely have one of each of those names in HS right now, but fewer than even a few years ago.  Name fads take a long time to disappear.  I'm always surprised when I get a Jennifer, and yet every few years, I do.  (I was REALLY surprised when I got a Shirley, but that's a whole separate era!)

By ejh
December 27, 2017 3:03 AM

Recently, my husband took our daughter to the playground on the weekend, where she saw one of her preschool classmates. When they got home, he admitted he hadn't quite caught the name, but he thought it was Jennifer. I said I'd be willing to bet it was really Juniper. A quick check of the cubby nametags at pickup time the next week confirmed my hunch...

December 31, 2017 1:01 AM

Certainly Michael is nowhere near the 32000 babies it had in 2000's #2 slot, but it still had a very respectable two short of 14000 last year. More than some of those names had in 2000! It just started up really high. (I'll admit I hope Jacob is on this list soon, because I'm very tired of Jacob. Same with Emily for girls).

I agree with Megan W that name fads take a long time to go away. I was born in 1998, and I went to school with lots of girls named Jennifer, Amy, and Angela. I also knew more than one Kathleen, Judy, and Irene, and there were a variety of people with 'out of era' names, including, yes, a Shirley, and also Patricia, Winnie, Terry, Barbara, Brenda, Sandy, Frances, Teresa, Linda, Evelyn, Hazel, Ruth, Jean, Trudy, Laura, Cindy, Deborah, Wendy, Jane, Kathy, Eileen, Karen, Carol, Esther, Pauline, Josie, Martha, Tracy, Connie, Gloria...I can't imagine any name ever going away completely, except, perhaps, Dick and Chastity. 

By KK18
January 2, 2018 2:23 PM

We've got two of the girl names in our family alone - I'm Kayla and my sister's name is Sarah. I've known more people with the names on the boys list.

January 4, 2018 11:14 PM

I think jessica is still one of the best name for me