“After being stuck behind Emily for years,
Emma became the most popular name for girls.”
Every year around Mother’s Day, the Social Security Administration releases the latest baby name popularity information. Here are the most interesting trends for 2008 that I spotted.
1. The Top 10 Names
Girls: After being stuck behind Emily for years, Emma became the most popular name for girls. Emily dropped two places to #3 while Isabella remained at #2. Chloe jumped six spots to #10—easily the biggest move in the top 10. Madison rose from #5 to #4, while Addison fell from #11 to #12. In 2007, Madison slipped from #3 to #5 at the expense of Addison, which leaped from #28 to #11.
Boys: The biggest news was no surprise. The first five boys’ names—Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, and Daniel—retained their positions on the list. The biggest move in the top 10 was made by Alexander, which jumped five spots to #6 at the expense of Christopher, which fell from #6 to #9, and Matthew, which dropped from #9 to #10.
2. The Top 100 Names
Girls: The biggest popularity gains were registered by Payton (+63), Peyton (+61), Camila (+46), Genesis (+43), Madelyn (+41), Layla (+30), Aubrey (+27), Leah (+27), and Valeria (+25). Of these names, only Aubrey gained popularity last year, too. The biggest popularity losses were registered by Megan (-22), Jennifer (-20), Faith (-17), Jocelyn (-17), Jessica (-17), Rachel (-16), Isabelle (-14), Gabrielle (-12), Alexandra (-12), and Sydney (-12).
Boys: The biggest popularity gains were registered by Brody (+35), Eli (+30), Colton (+19), Carter (+15), Liam (+14), Brayden (+13), Henry (+13), Chase (+12), Aiden (+11), Ayden (+11), and Josiah (+10). The biggest popularity losses were registered by Jaden (-13), Alex (-12), Diego (11), and Kyle (-10).
3. Name Clusters
When selecting names, parents often consider name clusters. For example, they may weigh root names against their variations (William versus Liam), consider names that sound similar (Audrey sounds like Aubrey), or choose among names with the same theme (city theme, such as Brooklyn or Sydney, or religious theme, such as Jacob, Matthew, or Joshua).
Girls: The most dynamic name cluster was Payton (+63) and Peyton (+61), two names that rocketed onto the top-100 list for the first time. Sound-alike names Layla (+30) and Leah (+27) jumped to mid-list. Rhyming pair Chloe (+6) and Zoey (+14) moved up, as did Riley (+13) and Kylie (+12). Madeline (+5) and its alternative Madelyn (+41) also moved up. Names that end with “-el” or “-elle” endings, including Rachel (-16), Isabelle (-14), and Gabrielle (-12), all declined. Name clusters in which one name gained seemingly at the expense of others were Mariah (+14) and Maria (-11), Mary (-4), and Maya (-10); Brooklyn (+10) and Sydney (-12); and Genesis (+43) and Faith (-17), Destiny (-7), and Neveah (-3), which is heaven spelled backward.
Boys: The most dynamic name cluster was Eli (+30) and its root name Elijah (+8), which both moved up. Alex (-12), however, fell as its root name Alexander (+5) rose. Brody (+35) definitely jumped, but it didn’t significantly affect the popularity of sound-alike Brady (-1). Brayden (+13), Jayden (+7), Aiden (+11), and Ayden (+11) all moved up, apparently at the expense of Jaden (-13), Aidan (-5), Hayden (-4), Caden (-3), and Kaden (-1).
4. Paired Names for Twins
Twin Girls: The five most popular paired names for twin girls were Gabriella and Isabella (two Italian names with “-a” endings), Madison and Morgan (two names that start with M), Ella and Emma (two nicknames beginning with E), Faith and Hope (two religious/spiritual names), and Isabella and Sophia (two Italian names that end with “-a”). In the top 20, six of the paired girls’ names started with the same letters.
Twin Boys: The five most popular paired names for twin boys were Jacob and Joshua (two Old Testament names that start with J), Daniel and David (two Old Testament names that start with D), Jayden and Jordan (two names that start with a J), Ethan and Evan (two names that start with an E), and Isaac and Isaiah (two Old Testament names that start with I). In the top 20, sixteen paired boys’ names started with the same letters.
Twin Girl & Boy: The five most popular paired names for girl/boy twins were Taylor and Tyler, Madison and Mason, Emma and Ethan, Emily and Ethan, Jayda and Jayden. In the top 13, twelve paired names started with the same letters—making this an almost universal practice.
5. A Few Surprises
For all the news about what a religious country we are, I was surprised to discover that seven of the nine religious/spiritual names on the girls’ top 100 list declined in popularity. With that said, however, four of the five top boys’ names are from the Old Testament and names from the New Testament hold the fifth, ninth, and tenth spots.
For all the news about the growing Latino population in America, I could identify only one traditionally Latino name on the girls’ top 100 list (Maria), which lost popularity in 2008. Of the six traditionally Latino names on the boys’ list, all moved down: Diego (-11), Jose (-6), Carlos (-3), Juan (-3), Jesus (-2), Angel
(-2). More Latino families seem to be choosing names of other origins for their sons.
There continues to be no names of clear African American origin on either top-100 list.
6. A Few Predictions
Girls’ Top 10 Names: Chloe could plateau after its big move to #10 and might be challenged by up-and-comers Samantha, Addison, Natalie, Mia, and Alexis.
Boys’ Top 10 Names: Fast-rising Jayden and Aiden could challenge Christopher and Matthew for positions in the top 10.
Girls’ Top 100 Names: Genesis seems to have become the fastest-rising religious/spiritual name. Nevaeh held this title in 2007, but its popularity may start dropping like a rock. Payton and Peyton should continue to rocket up the list.
Boys’ Top 100 Names: Jayden/Brayden and Aiden/Ayden should continue to rise at the expense of Jaden and Aidan.
Bruce Lansky is “The Baby Name Guru.” His candid reviews of celebrity baby names and baby-naming articles have been reprinted in thousands of newspapers, magazines, and websites across North America. His name books, which have sold over 11.5 million copies, include 5-Star Baby Name Advisor, 100,000+ Baby Names, 60,000+ Baby Names, The Very Best Baby Name Book, 25,000+ Baby Names, and The New Baby Name Survey.