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The Latest Popularity Trends for Baby Names - 2008
by Bruce Lansky

Every year around Mother's Day, the Social Security Administration releases the latest baby name popularity information. In this article, I'll point out some of the most interesting trends I spotted.

1. The Top 10 Names

  • Girls: Emma had been stuck behind Emily in second place for years. Emma's popularity had been rising, but instead of surpassing Emily, it dropped to third behind Isabella, which rose from fourth place. In another development, it's quite possible that some parents chose Addison over the more popular Madison. Madison had been rising from way outside the top 10 to third place. In 2007, however, it unexpectedly dropped to fifth place, while sound-alike Addison rose from number 28 to number 11. One last note: The only name that ends in -y in the top 10 was first-place Emily.

  • Boys: In a nutshell, Jacob and Michael held their top two places and almost everything else changed: Ethan, Daniel, Christopher, Anthony, and William rose while Joshua, Matthew, and Andrew fell. Seven of the top 10 boys' names have biblical or religious significance.

2. The Top 100 Names

  • Girls: The biggest popularity gains were registered by Sophie (+43), Bailey (+29), Jocelyn (+23), Aubrey (+23), Sofia (+20), and Claire (+20). The biggest popularity losses were registered by Megan (-18), Stephanie (-18), Katelyn (-14), Michelle (-14), Jennifer (-13), and Nicole (-13).

  • Boys: The biggest popularity gains were registered by Jayden (+31), Cooper (+18), Brayden (+15), Wyatt (+13), Brady (+12), and Jaden (+12). The biggest popularity losses were registered by Nathaniel (-13), Bryan (-12), Aidan (-10), Brian (-9) and Zachary (-9).

3. Choice Clusters
An interesting way to look at gains and losses is to detect patterns among the top 100 names. When you contemplate the decision-making process parents underwent to select names, trends can emerge. For example, parents may have weighed root names against their variations: for example, William versus Liam. Or they may have considered names that sound the same or similar: for example, Audrey sounds like Aubrey, and Caden rhymes with Jaden. Or parents may have chosen among names with the same theme: for example, an ethnic or religious theme like Jacob, Matthew, or Joshua.

  • Girls: The most dynamic choice clusters were Sophie (+43), Sophia (+3), and Sofia (+20); Audrey (+17) and Aubrey (+23); Isabella (+2), Isabelle (+6), and Isabel (+1); and Arianna (+6) and Ariana (+5). Choice clusters in which all the alternatives' popularity declined were Maria (-8), Mariah (-10), and Mary (-12); and Sarah (-3) and Sara (-9). Choice clusters in which one name gained seemingly at the expense of others were Brooke (-1) and Brooklyn (+10); Gabriella (+12) and Gabrielle (-4); and Madison (-2) and Addison (+17). Interestingly, Nevaeh ("Heaven" spelled backward) rose twelve places while Mary (-12), Grace (-4), Trinity (-8), Angelina (-10), Faith (-12) and other names of religious/spiritual significance fell.

  • Boys: The most dynamic choice clusters were Jayden (+31), Brayden (+15), Jaden (+12) and Caden (-1), Kaden (-6); and William (+2) and Liam (+9). Choice clusters whose names' popularity declined were Nathan (-1) and Nathaniel (-13); Ryan (-2), Bryan (-12), and Brian (-9); and six of seven names of Latino origin. Choice clusters with split results were Luke (-3) and Lucas (+6); Isaac (+7) and Isaiah (-3); and Alexander (+1) and Alex (-6). I find it interesting that Aidan fell ten places while other sound-alike names (Jayden, for example) mostly rose.

4. Paired Names for Twins

  • Twin Girls: The five most popular names for twin girls were: Gabriella and Isabella (two Italian names with -a endings), Faith and Hope (two religious/spiritual names), Mackenzie and Madison (two names that start with M), Hailey and Hannah (two names that start with H), Isabella and Sophia (two Italian names that end with -a). In all, seven of the top 20 paired girls' names started with the same letters.

  • Twin Boys: The five most popular names for twin boys were: Jacob and Joshua (two Old Testament names that start with J), Matthew and Michael (two New Testament names that start with M), Daniel and David (two Old Testament names that start with D), Isaac and Isaiah (two Old Testament names that start with I), and Landon and Logan (two names that start with L). Of the top 20 paired boys' names, twelve started with the same letters.

  • Twin Girl & Boy: The five most popular names for mixed gender twins were: Taylor and Tyler, Madison and Matthew, Emily and Ethan, Madison and Mason, and Emma and Ethan. Of the top 10 paired names in this category, eight pairs started with the same letters (including the five most popular paired names).

5. A Few Surprises for Me

  • For all the news about what a religious country we are, I was surprised to discover that nine of roughly twelve religious/spiritual names on the girls' top 100 list declined in popularity.
  • For all the news about the growing Latino population in America, I could identify only one Latino name on the girls' top 100 list (Maria), which lost popularity in 2007. And on the boys' list, I found seven Latino names, only one of which (Carlos) did not decline in popularity.
  • For all the exposure that African American names (for example, Tayshaun and La' Tangela) receive via broadcasts of NBA, NFL, and WNBA games, I couldn't find any names of African American origin on either the boys' or girls' top 100 lists.

6. A Few Modest Predictions: What to Expect in 2008

  • Girls' Top 10 Names: Hannah and Elizabeth are in danger of dropping out of the top 10, likely to be replaced by fast-rising Addison.
  • Boys' Top 10 Names: Andrew and Matthew are in danger of dropping out of the top 10, to be replaced by Noah, David, or James.
  • Girls' Top 100 Names: Keep your eye on the choice clusters that gained in popularity in 2007. It's likely the Sophia/Sofia/Sophie cluster and the Audrey/Aubrey cluster will keep rising. And look for girls' names with religious significance to lose popularity as Neveah's appeal continues to rise.
  • Boys' Top 100 Names: The strongest trend is the rapid rise of the Jayden/Brayden/Jaden cluster. It's likely these names will continue to rise at the expense of Aidan, Kaden, and Caden.

Bruce LanskyAbout the Author:
Bruce Lansky is the #1 author of baby name books in North America. His name books have sold more than 9.5 million copies. He's called "The Baby Name Guru" because he regularly writes articles that provide baby-naming advice. His candid reviews of celebrity baby names have been reprinted in thousands of newspapers, magazines, and websites from coast to coast. His other name books include 100,000+ Baby Names, 60,000+ Baby Names, The Very Best Baby Name Book, 25,000+ Baby Names, and The New Baby Name Survey. He is also the editor of a successful series of children's poetry books and children's fiction books. Lansky resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys his work as a publisher.

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