The top baby names make the headlines, but the lessons to be found in the national name statistics run deeper. Here are some quick observations from a first look through this year’s stats.
The average American babies today are named Brinley and Miguel. Parents continue to shy away from names considered “popular,” and the top of the name charts represents an ever-shrinking percentage of American babies. It now takes 504 names to account for half of babies born, up from 470 two years ago and just 80 names back in the 1950s. And the “average” baby—at the 50% point of popularity—receives a name that’s fairly uncommon nationwide, and concentrated in specific communities. That means names are sending ever-stronger signals about where a child comes from.
Politicians are still a no-go zone for baby naming. Political families, though, are a different matter. Every new American president used to be honored by a slew of namesakes. Warren G. Harding’s election led to hundreds of little Hardings, along with thousands of Warrens. Today Americans actively avoid names of living politicians, but treat political family members like ordinary celebrities: if their names are attractive, they’ll rise.
The names Barack and Obama were barely blips on the radar during the Obama administration, but Malia and Sasha soared. Similarly, Melania is now a fast riser and Ivanka saw an uptick, but the decline of Donald accelerated and absolutely nobody was named Trump. An American baby is now more likely to be named Nixon than Donald and Trump put together.
Game of Thrones is a powerhouse—but only for girls. The Game of Thrones fantasy franchise has been criticized for its treatment of female characters. In the baby name arena, though, the women are the big winners. Arya, Khaleesi and Lyanna are fast risers that now rank among the top 1,000 American names. Daenerys, Brienne, and even Cersei are climbing too. No male character names rose (unless you count Jorah, which also benefited from the search for underused biblical names).
The “exalted” name trend continues to grow. The names King, Queen, Prince and Princess all rose in popularity, and Kaiser, Kyng, Legacy and Reign made top-1,000 debuts. A slew of creative exalted names were new to the stats, meaning they were given to five or more babies. (A sampling: PrinceZion, Empryss, SirPrince, and the back-to-basics choice God.) We even saw a comeback for the name Milady (read more about the surprising history of this name).
Hollywood parents have nothing on the rest of America. The next time you read about how Hollywood types choose out-of-touch names, remember that these names all rank among the 1,000 most popular boys’ names across the country:
Creed, Achilles, Kal-El, Kylo, Jericho, Blaze, Darwin, Huxley, Draven, Ridge, Cairo, Castiel, Cannon, Kannon, Jaxiel, Dash, Anakin, Zaire, Tripp, Elvis, Crew, Cain, Zechariah, Ares, Stetson, Sincere, Titan, Talon, Valentino, Jagger, Memphis, Boston, Apollo, Lennon, Zion, Uriah, Leonidas, Nixon, Eden, Lyric, Otto, Atlas, Hendrix, Bodhi, Adonis, Ace, Cash, Phoenix, Messiah, Knox, Maximus, Axl.
Welcome to the new normal.