How popular is Iris?

With my first daughter we picked a name (Everly) that was below the Top 1,000. It turns out the same year, enough people chose the name to lift it to the 900s. Now people see the name as "trendy," even those it's rarely used.

For our second daughter, due in July, we're looking at the name Iris. While I can see in the data that this name is much more common than Everly, it appears to have a longer history as a name, and so may be more immune to the "trendy" label. However, it is rising in popularity...

What are your thoughts on Iris as a sibling for Everly and on the popularity/trendiness of Iris in general?


By EVie
April 8, 2014 5:18 PM

I think that there are a few reasons why Everly feels more trendy than its ranking would suggest. One is that if you combine spellings, it actually is much more popular than it appears at first glance. Everly is the only spelling variant ranked in the top 1000 for 2012, and there were 286 of them born. However, if you go beyond the ranked names, there were 163 babies named Everleigh, 51 Everlee, 41 Everley and 10 Everlie—so 551 Everly sound-alikes total. That would still put it somewhere in the 500s in terms of rank, but there's another reason why it feels trendy, and that's that it sounds similar to other popular names in various ways. That V sound preceded by a vowel is huge right now (Ava, Avery, Evelyn), as is the androgynous surname-style for girls (Avery again, Emerson). I think that it's particularly significant that Everly shares all sounds but one with the mega-popular but declining Emily, and that one change is replacing the softer, smoother M with the spunky V--that makes it sound super familiar and name-like, but fresher and cooler and more modern. 

(None of this is intended to knock Everly--it's actually one of my favorites of the surname style. I really like the Ev- sound, as is probably evident from my username).  

As for Iris, while it is about twice as popular as the Everl(y) names by the numbers (1,122 in 2012), the only spelling variant I could find is the ultra-rare Irys (7 births in 2012). There are a few other names starting with that same I vowel that are also rising in popularity (Ivy, Isla), so it could be considered a trendy sound, but I would note that those other names are participating in other trends that Iris isn't a part of--Ivy the V trend that I discussed above, and Isla the short but sweet and feminine names like Lila, Maya, Ella etc. The closest names I could find to Iris in terms of sound are Isis and Irene, both of which I think have different feels based on their usage. Irene is declining and probably sounds clunky and unfashionable to most people these days. Isis also looks like it's probably dropping again after a very minor rise in the early 2000s, and feels more exotic  than Iris (while they're both mythological names, Iris is also familiar as the name of the flower). An up-and-comer that might hit notes closer to Iris in the future is Irie, which replaces the dated -ene ending of Irene with the more casual and contemporary -ie, but that's still only at 117 in 2012.

Iris has definitely been rising lately, but it's been in remarkably consistent use over the last 130 years--in fact, its ranking hasn't dropped below 550 since 1890. That's actually pretty amazing--pretty much the definition of a timeless but still distinctive name. It does fit into a number of recent trends--flower names like Lily, Violet and Rose, and vintage revivals like Hazel, Alice and Cora--but I don't think any of those names have the same trendy modern feel of Everly. While I wouldn't say the two names match, I also don't see a problem with using them together. Sibling names don't have to match, if you happen to love a name in a different style (though if you would prefer to pick a name that matches, that's a valid preference as well). 

By mk
April 8, 2014 10:57 PM

Iris is a very pretty name and I see it more as a classic rather than trendy name.

The only Iris I've ever met is now in her 20s.

April 15, 2014 4:48 PM

While I have seen Iris discussed fairly often on various baby name boards, I don't know any in real life. It's a gorgeous name with history, and I'd never think to label it "trendy." 

April 15, 2014 9:00 PM

I have met one young Iris (under 5) while doing storytimes at the public library. It struck me as unusual and refreshing, yet at home with the vintagey revival names that many of my little storytimers have :) While it works with current trends, it is unusual enough not to seem trendy.