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Little Names are Getting Bigger…

When it comes to baby name style, little is getting bigger every day. We’re drawn to miniatures like Eli, Leo, Ava and Zoe that pack all their style into a tiny form. In fact, the percentage of American babies receiving a three-letter name has more than doubled over the past two decades. Take a look:

That’s a major shift, but historically it’s a return to form. Over the past 20 years, miniature names have been rebounding from a historic drought. In fact, from a zoomed-out graph it looks like our 20-year climb is just a return to the mini-name rates of the early 1960s:

That graph, though, conceals a major shift in style. Rather than returning to a previous style of short names, we’re moving in a new direction.

The last time three-letter names were as popular as they are now was in 1963. Compare the top 10 mini-names of that year with today’s:

1963 Boys   1963 Girls               2016 Boys   2016 Girls  
Joe Kim   Eli Ava
Tim Amy   Leo Mia
Jon Ann   Ian Zoe
Jay Sue   Max Eva
Roy Pam   Kai Ivy
Jim Joy   Jax Mya
Tom Kay   Ali Amy
Lee Jan   Ace Ana
Dan Lee   Jay Lia
Ray Eva   Ari Ada


The 1963 names shared a remarkably consistent style. 90% of them were a single syllable, and most were also common as nicknames for longer popular names of the time. They’re the result of paring names down to their simplest, most direct, and most cheerfully informal cores.

Today’s list looks and sounds very different. Every name on the girls’ list is multisyllabic, along with half of the boys. The names are diverse in origin and style. High-impact leters like V, X and Z are plentiful. Nicknames are scarce.

In short, the new miniatures look a lot like a cross-section of today’s naming trends. They’re just…little. The miniature size itself is luring in parents from across the style spectrum.



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