These days, it seems every Tom, Dick, and Harry is named Jacob. Why is Jacob such a popular name? And further, what makes a name popular?
One might wonder if expectant parents scan birth announcements and then pick the name they see most often in the hope that their children will "fit in" and be popular. But I don't think that's a satisfactory explanation.
Having studied the results of The New Baby Name Survey, a large-sample survey conducted to discover what people think of nearly 1,800 names, I noticed an interesting pattern: Many of the most popular boys' names convey an extremely positive first impression.
Here are first impressions survey respondents connect with the four most popular boys' names:
#1. Jacob: People see Jacob as the boy next door who gets along with everybody. They imagine he gets good grades, has a fun sense of humor, and is easy on the eyes.
#2. Michael: People say Michael is an angel. He's thought to be sweet, caring, loyal, and trusting, not to mention humorous.
#3. Ethan: Ethan is known to be more of a listener than a talker. People consider him to be reserved, compassionate, and down to earth. They also say he's quite handsome.
#4. Joshua: Joshua is thought to have quiet strength and leadership. People say he's patient and soft-spoken, and he loves to help others. People also believe he's tall, dark, and handsome.
Whether they read these first impressions in The New Baby Name Survey or simply sense them on a deeper level, it's no wonder so many parents choose names like Jacob, Michael, Ethan, and Joshua, which project such positive vibes.
Of course, there is a downside to selecting an extremely popular name for your baby boy. When he goes to school, there may be several boys named Jacob in his class. He may feel the name is not uniquely his, but rather that he shares it with many boys-some of whom are sitting so close they can copy his spelling test answers.
In short, names like Jacob are popular because many parents want the same thing for their sons: a name that will create a great first impression and give him a head start in life. The fact that Jacob has been the number one name for boys for nine straight years suggests parents are willing to trade uniqueness for the positive impression.
About 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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