Does trendy always mean eventually 'dated?'

So my new stress is this list:

So many names I love are on this list, but I have a DEEP fear of giving my children names that eventually feel time stamped. Are there other factors to consider beyond whether or not a name is rising in popularity? Do you think names that spike are automatically doomed or might they be 'safe' from being feeling dated if they stay out of the top 20 or so? 

I'd love to hear your theories on this! Thanks!


January 29, 2016 1:11 AM

Aside from a handful of true classics (think Elizabeth), I think that pretty much all names eventually become dated. The question is, to what degree. Generally, I think that names that sharply rise and fall are the ones to avoid if you want to avoid names that will eventually feel truly dated. Names that slowly gain traction, then slowly wane until they are names of the past generation likely won't garner the same strong reactions from people.

If you think of it this way, a name that fits in with a generation is not the same as a name that defines a generation, and in a couple of generations, someone will be really excited to find that fantastic, vintage name on their family tree.

January 29, 2016 11:29 AM

This is a really interesting topic.

When I look at that list I can see that the names are possibly more "trendy" than a first time parent thinks -- they tie in with vowel name trends, the vintage revival trend, and a few others.

In terms of "date-stamped" though, it depends what that means. I feel like date-stamping only really applies to names that are popular for a short period of time or excessively tied to a celebrity. So that to me would be names like Ashley, or Shirley, but not names like Helen, which seem old-lady because most of the bearers are getting on a bit but not "date-stamped." If you saw "Helen Jones" written, you would be hard-pressed to say if it belonged to a woman born in 1850, 1900 or even 1960... although you could say with reasonable certainty that she wasn't born in 1985. That would be Ashley Jones.

The names on the list that strike me as candidates for date-stamping are Angelina (for Jolie), Harper, Wrenn, Eden, Piper and London. And perhaps Aria and Zoe. Others may disagree, but those names strike me as trendy. The others strike me as stylish (not to get all fashion-bloggy, but "fashions fade, style is eternal" -- which doesn't mean that they don't go through phases.)

That doesn't mean that twenty years from now Violet won't seem like a name that was used a lot in 2015. It's really hard to avoid sounding like your generation. And why would you want to, really? You can't run away from your actual age. But I doubt that Violet is going to have the same kind of sound as Britney already has as a baby name.

On the other hand, I wonder if this is actually a really classist line of thinking, the division between "classic" and "trendy." Hmmm. I hope some others weigh in!


February 1, 2016 6:08 PM

I think it depends. How sharp is the spike, and how high does it go?  Does it look like a witch hat, like Jennifer?

A name can be trendy in that it's markedly increased over its usual base in the population, and still not be very common (like Zariah, on that list) -- but if it's never super-popular, it's not going to date-stamp the same way as a name that spikes up to number one and then plummets. 

February 9, 2016 11:42 PM

I had this concern, I didn't mind fashionable but I didn't want a dated name. To answer this question for myself I looked at names from the top 100 in my generation and picked out which ones I felt were dated and which I didn't and checked out their popularity graphs. For me it was basically a witches hat spike and came out of nowhere, a number of names spiked but had been in continual use beforehand so didn't feel very dated to me. Of course then I threw that all out the window as a couple of names I'm taking to the hospital have the potential to spike.

February 10, 2016 3:35 AM

I agree that it's the spikiness of a graph that makes a name trendy. The harder they come, the harder they fall, and I think that what really makes a name a trend is if it's got an abrupt exponential rise, especially if it's much more popular in the current moment than it has been in the measurable past.

That said, I also think names can feel dated if a name (itself not popular enough to be much note) is consistent with particular trends. While addressing Valentines tonight my eldest noted that there were other J-names that ended in -on in his class, and that certainly corroborates my prior observation that some of fastest-rising names of recent years were Jayceon (and spelling variants) which have a whole lot of other sound also in common with my son's name. As such, his name (ends in n! starts with J! liquid middle! gratuitous bonus y! unusual twist/mashup of more familiar name(s)!) might very well feel particularly tied to this particular moment... even though it's a super obscurity that's only even made it into the SSA data (5+ births) a handful of years. Rather than making me feel remorseful, though, this realization is making me feel better and better about the name choice -- how it really fits in seamlessly on the playground is making me feel that the unusual name choice is really very wearable.

Bottom line, I don't think it's worth losing too much sleep over. If you want to have a name that is not date-stamped to your child's generation, you're either restricted to Elizabeth, William and Sarah (which, while very safe and palatable, can also be interpreted as a little boring), or you're limited to choices that are really out of step with the current fashions (like, say, baby boomer names or the names of your own generation -- and I agree with the previous comments that picking the less volatile names representative of those prior fashions is often less dischordant feeling). I'm imagining that having a name that is out of sync with ones generation can be its own cross to bear. Pick the names you love, whether they are contrarian or fitting in. The name that we'll use on our last child is definitely a porch sitter that's kind of clunky and thus unlikely to be used to infer his generational status. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

(What I am really pleased about, though, is that I talked the Spouse out of naming our first Sebastian, because we addressed not one but TWO of his classmates are named that, and if we'd used it, we'd have ended up in a place of being unable to even resort to surname initial as disambiguation.)

February 10, 2016 5:17 PM

Your comment about Elizabeth and Sarah made me laugh. This weekend I met a woman named Sarah with a daughter named Elizabeth. She looked at me (mom to a Sarah) and said, "You must have a Catherine in your family." I laughed and acknowledged that indeed, my grandmother was named Catherine. It turns out this other woman also has a child named Peter. Predictable! But it's what I chose. :-)

February 10, 2016 6:23 PM

Hey, I'm glad that someone is keeping the classics alive and, well, classic!

February 11, 2016 1:27 AM

I definitely respect the classic names, and I think it's amazing how consistent these names can be in families for generations! It's definitely a great and valid naming strategy, and that's why these names have continued to be successes for many generations -- and I hope I didn't cause offense.

February 11, 2016 3:38 PM

No offense taken! We were aiming for boring when we named Sarah. Her middle name is more fanciful, but we figured she would have a nerdy personality and wanted a name that would blend in. As it turns out, the public schools in this town are filled with kids from cultures other than ours and she has yet to encounter another Sarah in her grade. So while the name Sarah doesn't blend in, it doesn't stand out, either. 

February 10, 2016 3:02 PM

I'm going to add that trying to pick a name that isn't especially tied to the current generation (and, in some people's eyes, attached to the previous generation,) is not fail-proof either, since you cannot predict local name pockets.

My parents wanted to avoid the Jennifer/Jessica trend and named me Karyn. They liked the name and they liked the association with the original Mouseketeer. Many people think of Karen as a boomer name. Yet in my elementary school grade of 63 kids, there were two Karens, a Keren, and me. (In high school, grade 11, we were all in the same homeroom of 29 kids. That was interesting.) There was a Karen a grade younger than me and a Caryn the grade older than me. I knew several people with the middle name K/Caren. Honestly, when people say that Karen is a boomer name, I have difficulty seeing it, since I grew up surrounded by the name. 

If you look at the graph for Karen in the US (, it's not *quite* a witch's hat, but it's not far off, either. Looking at the graph, you'd think that by the 1980s/1990s, the name would feel woefully dated - a mom name - and yet, that has not been my experience at all. In fact, I was an adult before I met a Karen of the previous generation, and it felt weird to me. And yet, I'll bet that in other regions, there weren't as many Karens born in the early 1980s to whom Karen *does* feel like horribly dated.

Unfortunately, you can't entirely predict how a name will age, since what's dated one place may feel pleasantly familiar in another.

By EVie
February 11, 2016 10:27 PM

As others have said, I think there are vanishingly few names that can truly escape being eventually considered "dated." lucubratrix mentioned Sarah, which is undeniably a classic, but even Sarah/Sara had a huge spike centered around the 1980s (which is why even when discussing immediate family, I have to say "your sister Sarah" to my husband, to distinguish her from his college roommate's wife Sarah, his co-worker Sarah and the many others in our milieu... it was an especially popular name for Jewish girls in our era, and we both grew up in New York. Despite that, it's a name I've always loved, which is saying something considering how much I've heard it). 

There are plenty of other classics that are similarly dated. Deborah and Susan in the 1950s, Barbara in the 1940s. Rebecca in the 1970s and Rachel in the 1980s. So "dated" doesn't necessary mean "flash-in-the-pan."

I would guess that yes, most of those names will be associated with this generation eventually. It's pretty easy to imagine how Eleanor, Beatrice, Adelaide, Penelope, Josephine, June, etc. will sound in another couple of generations, because it's really not that long ago that they started to lose that old-lady must and sound fresh again (I remember when I thought they were super old and clunky sounding... and my husband still thinks some of them are). A lot of the other names participate in general trends that will be associated with this generation regardless of their popularity. Aveline is a very old yet rare name that has never been in the top 1000, with only 58 born in 2014--should be perfect pickings for name nerds who want that traditional name no one has heard of. But A- names are trending, -v- names are trending, -line names are pretty popular as well, so it wouldn't surprise me if Aveline shared in the associations of Ava, Evelyn and the rest of the family.

But all this is mainly to say that I think you should use the name you like without worrying too much about whether it will someday sound like a "mom name" to your kids' kids. It's just too hard to predict the future, and you don't want to restrict your choices so much that you end up with something you don't really love.

February 12, 2016 1:59 PM

Where I teach, I often encounter teenage girls with names like Brenda, Nancy, Edith, and Gladys. These names seem "dated" (and old-ladyish) to me, but quickly just become the person's name. (To be clear, Brenda and Nancy seem less old than Edith and Gladys, but they still seem like someone older than a teenager).

Names like Jennifer, Jessica, Melissa, etc. don't even register as "dated." While "Jennifer" seems to be dated, looking at the Social Security list seems to imply that 1,514 infants were named Jennifer in 2014. It isn't much lower than "Arya." So while it certainly spiked, no one should be much more surprised to meet a baby Jennifer than a baby Arya. (It is also higher than Ana, Sienna, and Lena, none of which sound out of place for an infant.)

I think we are all much more keenly aware of what is popular, what is rising, and what is falling than the general public is. It is certainly possible for a name to become associated with a particular age group.  However, I don't think it is ever as strictly tied to a particular age as to make a name entirely unusable. 

February 12, 2016 3:17 PM

While the numbers seem to imply that, I still think that name pockets have a lot to do with the deceivingly higher number of names, and personal experience plays a big role in the feeling (or lack of feeling) of datedness.

I can think of tons of people named Jennifer who are my age, but zero Aryas. However, I can think of several babies named Arya (and a few people who considered it before choosing other names), but zero baby Jennifers. I'm sure that those baby Jennifers exist - possibly clustered - but they don't have any influence on my impression that Jennifer is a mom name, not a baby name.

February 12, 2016 3:30 PM

All of the young Jennifers that I know are Chicana/Latina, so my impression of the name's datedness is pretty tied to sub-culture. For Grace, it's the other way around--for a long time, I thought of this as an Asian American name (fairly timeless, but I knew lots of old ladies with the name) and then at some point it started to feel trendy for white people. Iris is in this category for me, too (all of them I know/know of are either middle aged or older Asian ladies or young Anglo girls).

Overall I think folks on this board are more aware of the specifics of trends, but I think the general public has a pretty firm grasp on what feels "old" or "new" to them--they just might not know why they feel that way. Where I think we're probably better informed is with names whose trends don't quite match perceptions yet--for example, names that "feel" simultaneously fresh and classic, that we can perhaps see are actually "fake antiques" that were rare in the past and are spiking now (e.g. Ava) or that feel irretrievably musty to a baby boomer but are actually on the cusp of a revival (e.g. Alice five years ago).

February 14, 2016 12:49 PM

100% agree with nedibes on this. I too know only Hispanic young-Jennifers, but older Jennifers tend to be white or Asian (including an Asian mom Jennifer with a baby called Aria). I've noticed the same trend she mentions with Grace too -- I only knew Korean Graces until little blonde babies started appearing!

By EVie
February 16, 2016 10:05 PM

This jibes with my observations, too. I went to school with a lot of Korean Graces my own age--I think it was fashionable in that community in part because of the religious associations and the fact that so many of them were devout Christians. I also knew several Korean-Americans with very unusual (for our age cohort) Biblical names like Esther and Moses. 

February 16, 2016 10:45 PM

It is interesting how culture and ethnicity affect these things. One name I have heard a lot as a potential future choice from Hispanic students is Eileen. To me, Eileen is a fifty year old white woman. But to some of my students, it seems to be the perfect baby name. And looking at Kindergarten roll sheets I can tell there are already some young Hispanic Eileens and Aileens out there. 

However, my point I think still stands: I think it takes some separation from the names heyday for it to sound truly dated. Names with a high peak in '85 that are still being used for hundreds of babies per year, but are no longer on top, will only be mildly surprising throughout a person's life.

Take Lisa, for instance. The average Lisa is older than me. I would be unsurprised, but I would notice, if I met one my age. If I had a high school student named Lisa, I would be surprised but not shocked, and the name would not seem bizarre. If I met a newborn named Lisa I would be very surprised and assume that she was named for someone. I haven't looked at the numbers on this name, so I am going entirely by "feel."

Or take the name Esther. It seems to have peaked around 1900. But it was not entirely finished by 1930. And today, if you met an Esther born in 1930 you probably wouldn't be all that shocked by it. I think the Jennifer born today is like the Esther born in 1930, or the Lisa born in 1990: a bit late, but not that shocking to encounter. 

In other words, I think "datedness" is very dependant on factors that are extraneous to the name or the common reaction to the name. It just isn't something I would worry about with names: people already have enough stressors including meaning, sound, flow, parents' reactions, etc, to spend much time worrying that a name was somewhat more popular thirty years ago. 

February 17, 2016 2:48 PM

I agree with almost everything you said. I couldn't help but reply because as a "fifty year old white woman" I have never met an Eileen my age. The Eileens I've met would be more like 80. Common names for girls I went to school with: Kristy, Kelly, Julie, Rebecca, Jennifer and yes, Lisa. Even my name was somewhat popular. While my version is pretty unusual and there are a jillion ways to spell it, I think it may have been one of the "something a little different" monikers of its time whether a fn version like Leanne or a fn/mn version like Lee Ann.

Anyway, no fifty year OLD Eileens:)

February 17, 2016 3:54 PM

Well, of the Eileens I know most are in their fifties. Perhaps they were named after older relatives. 

Kristy, Kelly, Rebecca, Julie, and Jennifer all strike me as names of people my age (early thirties.)  I went to school with lots of girls with those names, and I still know people my age with them. They do strike me as not unexpected from a slightly older person, but they feel much more "thirty" than "fifty" to me. Then again, it could simply be that I know more people, and therefore more Kristies and Rebeccas, my age than older or younger. 

February 17, 2016 5:24 PM

Oh, I have known plenty of people your age with those names too. I guess some names seem to stick around a little longer than others. And I agree with Karyn about name pockets.

I guess I was trying to articulate people's perceptions of names. I perceive Eileen to be an older woman and so do you; only with your perception I'M the older woman! Bummer!

March 19, 2016 1:01 PM

I wonder if "Come On Eileen" has anything to do with the 50s-age perception. All the Eileens I know are older than that -- but "Come On Eileen" is a 34-year old song, and in my head it's addressed to a woman in her early 20s.... 

February 17, 2016 4:39 PM

Again, personal experience and name pockets comes into play, since I know several white women in their late 50s name Eileen and that's the demographic I associate with the name. And I would be shocked to encounter a newborn named Jennifer in my circles. The name was so supersaturated in my cohort that I cannot imagine the name feeling fresh enough to use again already. It's more or less the ultimate mom name right now.

February 12, 2016 3:34 PM

A few years ago my daughter had classmates named Fanny and Doris, both Hispanic. I think Fanny had a much harder time of it than Doris, as kids aren't all that aware of name trends (especially not in a school that has students from over 30 different countries), but most of them were aware of fanny packs.