The conventional wisdom around baby-naming used to be that the most popular baby boy names never changed, while the most popular baby girl names were more subject to whims and trends. With the exception of one year, Michael was the most popular boy's name in the country from 1954 to 1998, for example, while the girls rotated through six number ones in the same period (Mary, Lisa, Jennifer, Jessica, Ashley and Emily).
Now, it seems as the rules governing the most popular baby names have flipped. The most popular baby girl names in the top spots are pretty steady, and the boys' names shift every few years. If you're looking for a traditional, up-and-coming, trendy or unique baby girl name, take a look at the current most popular choices — and the trends affecting what names are on the rise, affecting the baby names of 2021.
These baby girl names are hot, and getting hotter.
There really isn't much variation among the top baby-girl names in the United States. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), which keeps track of the most popular baby names, the same names have been swapping places in the top five going back to 2009.
You can see the full list of 100 most common names below, but the top ten are unchanged. The names have just swapped places, and the current champs are: Olivia, Emma, Ava, Charlotte and Sophia.
And while it seems like nothing will be able to knock those names out of the top spots, these are the ones that have the best shot. In addition to keeping track of the most popular names, the SSA tracks which names have the biggest jumps in popularity. These are the ones that are on deck to crack into the top 10 next year, based on what parents are actually naming their children. This year, the fastest climbers are:
So Denisse/Denise are the big winners, taking up two of the top 10 spots. We're also starting to see a shift away from all those names that end in the -a sound (like Emma and Olivia), and toward more varied name endings. Capri, Zhuri, Haisley and Murphy suggest we may be moving into the era of the -i or -y ending.
And the names that are losing popularity for girls? The names that had the biggest decreases in popularity were Yaritza, Marissa (I take offense), Annabella, Ariadne, Jayde, Miah, Beatrix, Tinley, Amiya, Maleah and Patricia. There are those names that end in -a, and they're losing steam for now.
BabyCenter, Nameberry and Babynames.com find other up-and-comers.
BabyCenter keeps tabs on its users' interest in baby names, and put out its own list of the most popular names on the site. There were a few more names that rose into the BabyCenter Top 10: Riley (which was all the way up at No. 3!), Aria and Aaliyah. These names might be even more current than the SSA list, since the SSA waits until after the year is over to release its data. (Right now, the recent data is for 2020.)
Baby-naming website Nameberry has its own list of the most-increased lookups among its users. For this year, Katara, Artis, Chantel, Teddy, Bunty, Ximena, Azula, Nimue and Marinette saw the biggest jumps. Recently trend had been for shorter, four-letter names — think Cora and Luna — but, for baby girls at least, we could see this circling back around again with some longer names slipping in.
Over at Babynames.com, the names Maeve, Freya and Adelaide made it onto the list of the top baby names of the year. Freya, the name of the Norse goddess of love, is part of a trend Babynames.com founder and CEO Jennifer Moss calls "Power Names," along with names like Rogue and Maverick. "I believe that parents want to infuse strength into their children during these difficult times," she says in a press release.
Politics comes to baby names.
Since the 2020 presidential election season dominated the airwaves and the internet at the end of last year, you'd think people would see baby-naming as an oasis away from politics, but the election has found a way to trickle down into baby-girl names. Nameberry and BabyCenter both say that interest in the name Kamala, as in vice president-elect Kamala Harris, has skyrocketed; it's up 3,715% (!) on the former and 104% on the latter.
Similarly, Jill and Liberty saw a big jump in BabyCenter lookups, with a 12% rise. The same thing happened last election: In 2017, there was a spike in baby girls named Melania, and it hit No. 933 on the SSA's list of the most popular baby names. (It fell out of the top 1,000 again in 2018 and hasn't made it back on since.)
And other names that have been in the news have seen a bump, too, like Breonna — as in Breonna Taylor — which is up 108% because of the name's association with the racial justice movement, according to BabyCenter.
More popular names come from mythology and celebrity.
Nameberry has also seen an increase in names with a mythological bent, like Persephone, Cleo, Calliope and Athena, in addition to the aforementioned Freya. Myths have so many names to choose from, so they're a good place to look for inspiration.
BabyCenter says the news is also a big influence on baby-names: By far, it saw the biggest increase in the name Kobe, after Kobe Bryant. But Gianna, the name of Bryant's daughter, moved up more than 50 places on the BabyCenter list. Stormi, as in Kylie Jenner's daughter, also jumped up another 221 places in rank on the SSA list.
And Nameberry notes that vintage nicknames for girls are still in: Billie, as in Billie Eilish, is both a newsmaker and a old-timey girls' moniker, so that goes to the top of the list. But Nellie is also gaining steam there, as is Winnie, Millie (like Millie Bobby Brown), Maisie and Stevie.
Pop-Culture Names are on the wane.
While Kylo and Anakin both made the SSA list of fast-climbing names for boys, girl names last year have not been so pop-culture focused. Names like Khaleesi (the Game of Thrones Mother of Dragons), Meghan (as in Markle the one-time Duchess of Sussex) and Belle and Elsa (two favored Disney princesses) all actually decreased in popularity. And, of course, the meme-ified name Karen fell 171 places in rank, according to the SSA.
Parents of girls are looking for more gender-neutral names.
When BabyCenter reported on its top baby-naming trends of the year, it found that gender-neutral names are still on the rise. But beyond names that are used equally for boys and girls, like Dakota or Tatum, more girl parents are reaching for names that are traditionally more associated with boy names. The list includes Noah (up 35%), Ezra (up 32%), Kai (up 20%) and Grayson (up 19%). Perhaps soon, the site notes, we won't have separate boy and girl lists at all.
These are the 100 most popular names for girls, according to the SSA.
This is the most recent data available, which is for 2020.
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