American Names · Analysis

Name Predictions: The Top 100

Earlier this week, I published my predictions for the 2015 American top 10 most popular baby names, which you can read here.  After the top 10, the next grouping people tend to look at the most is the top 100.  These are names that are generally popular; nowadays, to be a top 100 name requires at least a few thousand registered uses in the U.S. within a year.  In 2014, the #100 girls’ name was bestowed approximately 2900 times, while the #100 boys’ name was used around 3,900 times.  Interestingly, there are just about the same number of names for boys and girls within the top 1000 that were used at least 1,000 times (334 and 333, respectively).  But, the numerical threshold to enter the top 1000 is much higher for female names than for male names.  The suggestion is that the most popular male names tend to be skewed towards the top in their distribution, whereas female names are more spread out over a larger pool of names.  I digress.

I predict we’ll see the following names enter the top 100 in the 2015 data:

  • Girls: Cora, Hazel, Clara, AuroraAdalynn, Valentina (maybe), Kinsley (maybe), Luna (maybe), Everly (maybe)
  • Boys: Elias, Mateo, Maxwell, Miles, Sawyer, Roman, Leonardo, Ezra, Theodore, Harrison (maybe), Santiago (maybe)

I predict we’ll see the following names leave the top 100 in the 2015 sets:

  • Girls: Ashley, LaurenSophie, London, Khloe (maybe), Brianna (maybe), Alexandra (maybe)
  • Boys: Justin, Tristan*, Bentley, Luis, Camden, Nathaniel (maybe)

The names that were “modern” 20 or 30 years ago aren’t any longer.  Ashley and Lauren are the girls you and I went to high school with, and believe me, they’re not naming their daughters after themselves.  Justin – chances are that would fall out of fashion anyway, but I’m sure Justin Bieber isn’t helping matters. 

We are seeing a mass return of classic and even ancient names.  Names like Cora and Clara were both popular and trendy as far back as the 1880s.  The adage is that names become popular again after about 100 years, or when a baby will be the great-grandchild of a person with an old-fashioned name.  I almost want to say it’s more a great-great-grandchild type of renewal, though for many expectant parents in their 30s and 40s one-great is probably more accurate.  Note, however, that it’s names like Cora and Clara that are on the upswing and not names like Sandra or Judy.  The latter are what I call “outdated,” but not old-fashioned.  They’re too young to be old but still belong to a lot of living people, mostly grandparents.  Admittedly, Alice and Eleanor, which reentered the top 100 in 2014, also fall into that category; the difference is that they are classic – maybe even timeless – whereas only Sandra and Judy elicit mid-century memories.

Note then the ancient names that may enter the top 100.  Aurora, Roman goddess of the dawn, will almost certainly make her debut.  Luna, Roman goddess of the moon, is rising rapidly too, and if it doesn’t happen in 2015 it will in 2016.  Valentina, a more human Roman name, isn’t rising as quickly as the previous two but is rising close enough to the threshold that this may be her year.  From the boys’ list, a different kind of ancient name will enter the top 100.  Ezra and Elias are both Old Testament names.  Nathaniel too, but for reasons unknown is likely falling out.  Or, maybe he’ll receive a boost?  Old Testament names are currently trendier than New Testament names, which often have a very 90s-ish vibe.

After considering the names entering and leaving the top 100, it’s important to look at the current fastest risers and fallers within this range.  In 2014, these were the names that rose over 500 uses from 2013:

  • Girls: Olivia, Charlotte, Harper, Amelia, Evelyn, Victoria, Scarlett, Aria, Ariana, Penelope, Skylar, Nora, Paisley, Kennedy, Ellie, Annabelle, Piper, Eleanor
  • Boys: Noah, James, Logan, Lucas, Carter, Luke, Oliver, Henry, Sebastian, Levi, Grayson, Hudson, Lincoln, Asher

Within the top 100 in 2014, these were the names that were used at least 500 times less than in 2013:

  • Girls: Sophia, Isabella, Emily, Addison, Hannah, Samantha, Kaylee, Alexis, Nevaeh
  • Boys: Mason, Jacob, Ethan, Anthony, Andrew, Joshua, Christopher, Ryan, Nathan, Christian, Landon, Gavin, Brayden, Tyler, Zachary, Blake, Bentley, Justin

It’s difficult to make definitive judgments from that set.  The fastest-falling names tell me the 90s are dead, but that’s about it.  I think it’s important to look at what names are rising or falling overall, and especially the ones entering or leaving the top 100. 

Ultimately I do believe that using old-fashioned names is one of the greatest trends in naming, but not all old names are destined to rise together.  Otherwise there would be a lot more adult Apollos running around with Carls.  Indeed, newly modern names will always come around.  Whether recently modern names will become trendy again the way traditional names do is yet to be determined. 

*Technically Tristan ranked #101, but had the same number of uses as the #100 (which came first in the alphabet), so I will count it as a top 100 for these purposes. 

Source: (choose extended option)

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