American Names · Analysis · Opinions

Top 10 Baby Name Predictions

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The Top 10 baby names of 2015.  What will they be in 2016? 

With the Social Security Administration releasing the 2016 data set so soon (Friday, May 12th), I’d like to cast my baby name predictions into the cauldron!  Let’s start with the top 10, since those are the most popular and the ones you’re most likely to encounter.  I will post my top 100 and top 1000 predictions later.

The top 10 girls’ names of 2015 were:

  1. Emma (0 rank change; -444 uses; 20355 total uses)
  2. Olivia (0; -121 uses; 19533 total)
  3. Sophia (0; -1163 uses; 17327 total)
  4. Ava (+1 rank; +700 uses; 16286 total)
  5. Isabella (-1 rank; -1446 uses; 15504 total)
  6. Mia (0; +1378 uses; 14820 total)
  7. Abigail (+1; +326 uses; 12311 total)
  8. Emily (-1; -835 uses; 11727 total)
  9. Charlotte (+1; +1284 uses; 11332 total)
  10. Harper (new, +1; +677 uses; 10241 total))

And the top 10 boys’ names in 2015 were:

  1. Noah (0 rank change; +367 uses; 19511 total uses)
  2. Liam (0; -61 uses; 18281 total)
  3. Mason (0; -557 uses; 16535 total)
  4. Jacob (0; -896 uses; 15816 total)
  5. William (0; -878 uses; 15809 total)
  6. Ethan (0; -628 uses; 14991 total)
  7. James (+2; +404 uses; 14705 total)
  8. Alexander (0; -883 uses; 14460 total)
  9. Michael (-2; -1002 uses; 14321 total)
  10. Benjamin (new, +2; -79 uses; 13608 total)

You might have noticed that many names that became less common experienced no rank change, and that some names either ranked up despite a drop in the total or stayed put despite a major usage increase.  The top of the charts are are staid and insensitive.  Rank changes in this range often occur because one name falls faster than another. 

Because a large rise or drop in the top 10 means little for rank change, it’s helpful to employ context clues in predictions.  You simply can’t look at the stats for one name, because if one takes off then similar names grow alongside it.  The inverse is probably true too – if a very popular name falls then its relatives will also.

Emma might stay #1, but I’m starting to think Olivia will be 2016’s Queen of the Baby Names.  Emma offshoots like Emmalee and Emmaline are falling in popularity – if a very popular name falls then its relatives will alsoEmmalynn is rising, but that is likely helped by the extreme trendiness and growing popularity of other -Lynn names.  Furthermore, the raw usage numbers tell us that Emma fell a little faster than Olivia did between 2014 and 2015.  Other reasons I think Olivia will be #1 are 1) the meteoric rise of Oliver and 2) the rise of Olive.  On the other hand…Olivia‘s alternative spellings (Olyvia, Alivia…) are becoming less popular

Noah will likely continue his reign as King of the Baby Names in 2016.  Noah was one of only two boys’ names in the 2015 top 10 to make usage gains (the other was James).  Liam receives all the hype, but I’d like to point out something I think is seriously overlooked – in the state of California, Liam ranks nowhere near #1.  Last year I researched naming at the state level and discovered that if a name is in California’s top 100, it’s automatically in the national top 1000.  Liam certainly is popular in Cali (apparently he’s even #2 in San Diego, where 2016 stats are already available), but not quite enough to unseat Noah.  Of course, we’ll find out for sure on Friday!

After predicting the #1 names, the next important question asks which names will leave the top 10.  In 2015, Harper and Benjamin replaced Madison and DanielMichael will probably leave the top 10 this time around, and Emily is his likely female counterpart.  Alexander also looks like a possibility.  The next question: what will replace them?

Amelia (current rank #12) is Emily‘s probable replacement.  She’s a fast riser and the #1 name in England and Wales, plus similar-sounding Emilia also rises.  In the unlikely case that another spot opens up in the girls’ top 10, I nominate Elizabeth (perennially popular, rising, + Netflix’s “The Crown”) and Evelyn (trendy, rising) as back-up dancers.   I have a harder time figuring out the supplanter among the boys (unless you want to talk about James or Jacob, which actually mean “supplanter!”).  I’ve had Elijah on my shortlist for a while, but he may simply stay #11 or #12; he’s my conservative guess.  Oliver jumped very high between 2014 and 2015 (gained +13 rank, +2227 usage for a total of 11592), but he won’t necessarily enjoy that same level of momentum between the 2015 and 2016 sets.  Aiden rose a little in 2015, but rhyming names like Jayden, Brayden, and Kayden fell.  I nominate Lucas (current rank #16) as a wildcard because of new Star Wars movies and “Stranger Things.”

Thus, my prediction lists:


  1. Olivia
  2. Emma
  3. Ava
  4. Sophia or Mia
  5. Mia or Sophia
  6. Isabella
  7. Charlotte
  8. Abigail – Theoretically, Abigail would be pushed downwards by other names even her usage increases.
  9. Harper
  10. Amelia


  1. Noah
  2. Liam
  3. Mason
  4. James
  5. William
  6. Jacob
  7. Ethan
  8. Benjamin
  9. Alexander
  10. Elijah or Oliver

These predictions aren’t an exact science.  We can’t determine exactly what will happen, only what might happen.  There are always those names you are so sure will be the next big thing, and then they simply fall short!  I can already tell you a few of the names on the prediction lists will be out of order, and the #1 names could actually end up being Emma and Liam.  The fun and anticipation are enough for me – it reminds me of trying to predict the plot of an upcoming Harry Potter book!

Thoughts?  Check back in a few days for the official list!  And, you know…to see how strong my predictions are.  


4 thoughts on “Top 10 Baby Name Predictions

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