American Names · Analysis · Opinions

Baby Name Predictions for the 2022 U.S. Top 10

Mothers’ Day is just around the corner, which means we’re about to learn the most popular U.S. baby names of 2022! The Social Security Administration almost always releases the previous year’s birth data in May. Each new list follows the zeitgeist of current American culture, reflecting the country’s mindset, ongoings, and more. How are Americans naming their children now? These datasets are crucial to finding that out. Plus…they’re just plain fun!

In order to get a sense of the most popular names of 2022, we need to look at the most popular baby names of 2021. Here are the top 10 names for babies assigned male and female at birth in 2021:

1) Liam1) Olivia
2) Noah2) Emma
3) Oliver3) Charlotte
4) Elijah4) Amelia
5) James5) Ava
6) William6) Sophia
7) Benjamin7) Isabella
8) Lucas8) Mia
9) Henry9) Evelyn
10) Theodore10) Harper
2021 Top 10 via the Social Security Administration

What are some things we notice with the top 10? It might be hard to say without context, but I think the girls’ top 10 looks slightly more traditional than, say, 25 years ago. Here’s the 1997 top 10 for comparison:

1) Michael1) Emily
2) Jacob2) Jessica
3) Matthew3) Ashley
4) Christopher4) Sarah
5) Joshua5) Hannah
6) Nicholas6) Samantha
7) Andrew7) Taylor
8) Brandon 8) Alexis
9) Austin9) Elizabeth
10) Tyler10) Madison
1997 Top 10

While timeless-traditional girls’ names like Sarah and Elizabeth featured in the 1997 top 10, there were also far more “modern” girls’ names: Ashley, Taylor, Alexis, and Madison. In the 2021 dataset, the only truly modern girls’ name is Harper. Even Mia, which wasn’t terribly popular before Mia Farrow became famous in the 1960s, started as a nickname for Maria. At a minimum, all the other girls’ names in the 2021 top 10 date back centuries as girls’ names (the modern examples in the 1997 list were previously more traditional for boys). That isn’t to say that “last names as first names” aren’t still popular for girls (they are!), but that the uppermost popular girls’ names – the names that enough parents from all 50 states and Washington, DC can agree on – have gotten more traditional since the 1990s. As name-writers always say, vintage and “grandma” names are in!

The top boys’ names almost always skew classic, though how that’s defined has changed. Religious names have always fared well, though instead of favoring saints’ names and New Testament options like Christopher and John, today’s parents tend to prefer Old Testament names like Noah and Elijah; a notable exception to the New Testament rule in the top 10 is Lucas, which is the Latin and international form of Luke. Timeless, more secular names like William, Henry, Theodore, and Oliver were in vogue for 2021. Interestingly, names from British royal history have been popular for both boys and girls: James, William, Henry, Emma, Charlotte, Amelia, Sophia, and Isabella.

So what do we think will happen with the 2022 top 10? In order to get a sense of what the new top 10 looks like, we need to look at the next 15 most popular names for boys and girls. Generally speaking, any name that has a chance of hitting the top 10 needs to already be in the top 25. Here are the top names in the 11-25 category in 2021:

11) Jack11) Luna
12) Levi12) Camila
13) Alexander13) Gianna
14) Jackson14) Elizabeth
15) Mateo15) Eleanor
16) Daniel16) Ella
17) Michael17) Abigail
18) Mason18) Sofia
19) Sebastian19) Avery
20) Ethan20) Scarlett
21) Logan21) Emily
22) Owen22) Aria
23) Samuel23) Penelope
24) Jacob24) Chloe
25) Asher25) Layla
#10-25 ranks in 2021

If the prevalence of English royal names in the top 10 translates to predictions, than ideally Eleanor is the most poised to enter the upper echelons of American baby naming. I don’t know if that will happen for 2022, but it could very well happen in 2023 or 2024. That said, some of those royal names may not stick in the top 10 much longer.

The names I think are most likely to enter the top 10 are Jack and Luna, and not just because they’re currently at #11. Jack would have been in the top 10 if Theodore hadn’t jumped 13 places from #23 between 2020 and 2021. According to SSA data from 2021, 9535 boys were named Theodore and 9504 were named Jack. That’s a difference of just 34 babies! Additionally, Jack also managed a huge jump between 2020 and 2021: from #21 to #11. That wouldn’t mean much lower down in the charts, but +5 or -5 ranking is a big change in the top 25. Luna is interesting to me because her 2020-2021 rise wasn’t meteoric like Jack or Theodore (+3 from the previous year), but it ranks in the top 100 of every state except South Dakota and ranks highly in our highest population states (California, Texas, and New York). Luna is an Ancient Roman name that fits so many of the current naming trends (mythological, short, soft, vowel-heavy, vintage, international, etc.). Jack, for that matter, is short and classic; more parents are deciding to put the nickname on the birth certificate than, say, name him John only to call him Jack.

Eleanor, Levi, and Mateo are also decently strong contenders for reaching the top 10, though they might wait until 2023 or 2024. All three have risen significantly within the last few years, and each rose at least 5 places within the top 25 between 2020 and 2021. Current trends are right for their ascendance: Eleanor is classic and regal, Levi has old-school Biblical and Country-Western vibes, and Mateo is a cross-cultural, international religious option as the Spanish form of Matthew. Camila is also a possibility (again, international vibes), but popularity slightly decreased between 2020 and 2021. Jackson rose three spots from #17 in 2020 to #14 in 2021, though a decline of trendy spellings like Jaxon and Jaxson indicates Jackson may start to taper off, though that spelling could also benefit from Jack’s trendiness. Asher and Aria are big risers too, but at #25 and #22 respectively, I don’t think they’re ready for the top 10 just yet without some external influencing event. For example of external influences: Gianna’s place at #13 two years in a row after a skyrocket from the #79 spot in 2019 resulted from tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in January 2020. Obviously, that kind of massive naming impact within the top 100 (let alone the top 25) is unusual. Note that the raw numbers for Gianna show a slight tapering in 2021 from 2020, so while Gianna could also hit the top 10, I think other names are more likely.

The next question is, what’s going to exit the top 10? I personally think Harper and Isabella are most likely to exit the girls’ lists, while William and Benjamin are most likely to exit the boys’ lists. I could also see Lucas being succeeded by Levi or Mateo if they rise faster than Lucas does. While Harper feels ubiquitous, raw usage is declining enough that it seems likely that Luna, Eleanor, or even Camila will overtake it. All it takes is a couple hundred here, a couple hundred there! Isabella, on the other hand, dropped by almost 1000 baby girls between 2020 and 2021. When the #1 girls’ name was given to over 17000 babies and Isabella was given to over 11000, that’s a big drop (even if the overall ranking didn’t change). Mia could even rise in rank while still dropping in usage just because Isabella is falling faster. Similarly with the boys’ names, I think Henry, Theodore, Jack, and Levi are all rising fast enough they could overtake William and Benjamin, which both fell by a few hundred babies. Don’t get me wrong – William and Benjamin will always be popular, but other names appear to trend against them right now.

Finally, and the question we all want to know: what will the #1 baby names in the U.S. be? I personally think Liam and Olivia will remain in the #1 spot for 2022, but don’t be surprised if Charlotte overtakes Emma for the #2 spot. I’m eyeing Charlotte as a future #1 contender, keeping the Bridgerton effect in mind. Amelia is also likely to continue rising and could be a new #3, whether in 2022, 2023, or even 2024.

What do you think we’ll see in the 2022 Top 10 most popular baby names in the U.S.? Are there any names you want to see take off? Let me know, and check back soon to find out what the new top 10 looks like!


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