The Year’s Most Buzzworthy Baby Name Trends

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profile picture of Celia Shatzman
Contributing Writer
January 30, 2017
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Trends may come and go in the baby-naming world, but there’s one that seems here to stay: statement names. Just take one look back at 2015, a year that welcomed a Saint, a Sailor and a Saylor, a Rocket Zot, a Jagger Snow and a Spurgeon, and this idea is very clear. “It’s a way to do a name that makes it different,” says Pamela Redmond Satran, co-creator of the very popular baby naming site Nameberry. “I think meaningful statement baby names are a lot like other trends—what’s next is something that is similar but with a new twist. It takes elements that have been widely agreed to be appealing and pushes them to be a little different than how we saw them last year.” Whether you’re looking for something trendy yet still traditional or something more out of this world, find inspiration in one or more of the year’s biggest baby name trends.

Regal Monikers

Looking to really celebrate and perhaps even exalt your new arrival? Look no farther than the recent surge of regal-inspired ideas like King, Duke, Royal, Reign, Sultan and Duchess making gains in the baby name world. “With all the royal babies, you can see that being influential,” Satran says. But along with these loftier names, the traditional names that people were betting the royal baby might be called have gained popularity too, like Eleanor, Alexandra and Victoria for girls, and Albert, Philip, Arthur and Louis for boys. “Catherine and William have given a new image of glimmer and gloss to the royal family. The name George was seen as stodgy and old-fashioned, but now it seems cuter and more stylish. Kate Middleton is such a great image of glamour and she is dressing up names that previously might have been seen as fuddy duddy.”

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Eccentric Vintage Names

While looking to the past is nothing new (we’re talking to you Hannah, Abigail, Henry and Samuel!), couples are digging deeper than ever before. “Parents are reaching further back for vintage names that have been out of style for a long time,” says Satran. The result includes the recent rise of cute grandparent-inspired names like Otto, Clyde, Harold, Lloyd, Harvey, Ernest, Fay, Thea, Frances, Cordelia, Margot, Millie and Dorothy. Last year Scarlett Johansson was an early adopter of this trend when she named her daughter Rose Dorothy—that middle name was an homage to her grandmother.  “These old fashioned names have been seriously out of style for a long time and they’re getting a revival,” says Satran. “There is almost no vintage name that is too dusty to be left in the attic at this point.”


Small Screen Stars

From the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros to the cell blocks of Litchfield Penitentiary when it comes to TV, Game of Thrones and Orange Is the New Black were by far the most popular sources for baby names this year. Even though both shows have been around for a while, they continue to fascinate and inspire fans. “Game of Thrones has been huge; it introduced a whole array of names that have risen in popularity, sometimes even when the character isn’t appealing,” Satran says. Take Khaleesi, Arya and Sansa, for example. Khaleesi even made its way to 755 on the annual list put out by the Social Security Administration with 368 baby girls named after the Mother of Dragons. While Arya, which means ‘noble’ in Sanskrit, was ranked the 216th most popular name for girls. And Piper and Dayanara from Orange is the New Black are getting attention too. “Piper is the unlikeliest name influencer since she’s in prison, but the character manages to be very appealing,” says Satran. So appealing that the lyrical-sounding name has been steadily rising up the charts. This year it landed at 75 on the list, the highest it’s ever been since it cracked the top 1000 back in 2000.

Outer Space-Themed Names

Call it the Star Wars effect: the new movie only just came out but there’s been a huge buzz around it for a long time and Satran predicts this fad will only become more popular. Anakin (aka Darth Vader) even debuted at 957 on the SSA’s top 1000 names list—can you believe 218 babies last year were named after the ruler of the Dark Side? But it’s not just the iconic film’s characters, parents also have the solar system in general on their minds. Celestial-inspired names like Orion, Jupiter, Venus, Luna and Phoenix are on the rise. When it comes to choosing a lofty name what could be better than shooting for the moon and the stars?

X (or Z) Marks the Spot

“The unusual spelling idea has exploded over the past decade,” Satran says. “A lot of parents see it as a way to take a name like Jackson that’s super popular and make it different and individualize it by spelling it Jaxon. X and Z are seen as the coolest letters, so many parents are looking for ways to wedge those letters into the middle of names.” Case in point: Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan just named their daughter Maxima and nicknamed her Max. For other unique names try Axel, Felix, Zander, Dexter, Ezra, Eliza, Alexa, Roxana, Pixie, Hazel and Beatrix which all continue to move up the ladder.

Exotic Colors

Leave it to Queen B and Jay-Z to kick-start a cool trend. Three years ago Blue Ivy made a colorful splash and set the very early stage for more colorful names to follow. There’s also another fun source keeping this trend going strong. “You can credit this one to the adult coloring book fad,” says Satran. With the recent popularity of the new hobby, adults aren’t just getting their creative fix, it seems they’re also finding inspiration in the names of the crayons, markers and colored pencils they’re using. Hues like Lavender, Lilac, Mauve, Violet, Indigo, Azure and Cerulean are exploding in the baby name world, with classics like Crimson and Scarlett (FYI, names ending with that crisp, clear double T are still going strong) sticking around too.

Cultural Appropriation

In our increasingly multicultural world it seems that anything goes these days. “You don’t have to be Irish to name your son Sean,” Satran says. “And Kevin is the most popular name for Chinese parents in the US. Many couples are looking for names that are international and popular around the world. They can work in a lot of different cultures and are appealing to parents today who are so much more sophisticated about traveling.” Hispanic names have also gained popularity, not only within their own community but outside of it as well, and now Latinos are more likely to pick a traditional name. That explains the rise of Ariana, Natalia, Lucia, Camilla, Angel, Santiago, Leonardo and Xavier. But it’s not just Latin names—the Jewish surname Cohen (which is a royal name in the Jewish religion) is gaining traction as a first name for boys. It’s moved up in rank to 342 on SSA’s list.

Gender Play

More and more, baby names are moving beyond old definitions of gender. Last fall Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher sparked this trend by naming their daughter Wyatt, with Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds following right behind and christening their baby girl James. And this year Saylor/Sailor is trending thanks to Kristin Cavallari and Bristol Palin’s daughters and Liv Tyler’s son. But that’s not the only play on gender—recently boys are reclaiming unisex names that had become more popular with girls, like Robin, Sasha, Alexis, Casey, Courtney, Kelly, Tracy, Jamie, Madison, Emerson, Jordan, Rory and Sidney. “Another trend is names that feel unisex but that are really used predominantly for one gender or another.” Take Addison, Bailey, Harper, Kendall, and Kennedy for girls, and Kai, Luca, Grayson, and Kellen for boys. “One more trend is in boy and girl versions of similar names, with the popularity of one—Emma, for example—promoting the popularity of another, such as Emmett,” Satran says. A few more examples: Eva and Everett, Eliza and Elijah, and Olivia and Oliver. “Then there are names that are truly unisex, that are stylish, rank high in the statistics and are used for babies of both genders,” she says, including Emerson, Rowan, Rory, Remy/Remi, Charlie/Charley, Finley and Milan.

Word Names

Every generation wants to reinvent baby names, but also be different from what their friends are naming their babies, and this year moms and dads pushed that envelope one step further. “I think that there are two overarching trends of contemporary baby naming in America right now,” says Satran. “Parents are looking for names that have personal meaning, whether it’s a family name or ethnically distinct, or names, such as an animal or quality that represents something special for the parents. And the other giant trend is looking for names that are unusual, unique and different from what our parents named us.” Because word names like Ocean, Sky, Rainbow, Day or Wren haven’t been baby names before, they fill both requirements—they can hold a lot of direct meaning, plus they definitely stand out from the crowd. You can also choose words you hope will inspire your child, like Love or Justice. It’s not surprising then that these types of names have been big with celebrity parents (especially as middle names).  Zooey Deschanel joined the trend by naming her daughter Elsie Otter, Ashlee Simpson welcomed daughter Jagger Snow, Leighton Meester and Adam Brody named their daughter Arlo Day, and of course, the Kardashian-Wests jumped on board with a prime example by naming the newest addition to their family, Saint West.

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